The Built Symbolic Environment: Words To Live By

Room 42 is where practitioners and academics meet to share knowledge about breaking research. In this episode, Dr. Charles Bazerman explains how five thousand years of words have shaped who we are and where we are going as we navigate our way through the symbolic environment which has been shaped by our words.

Airdate: January 19, 2022

Season 1 Episode 25 | 42 min

Transcript (Expand to View)

Transcript in progress.

In this episode

Charles Bazerman is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Education at the University of California Santa Barbara. As a teacher of writing he started to wonder what writing was and how they learned to do it. One thing led to another and he began investigating what kind of writing people actually needed to do in their lives; what their writing accomplishes; what forms of writing have made possible the advance of science, technology and domains of knowledge; how writing has changed society since its invention; how writers develop over their lifespans; and what happens to them as people as they develop as writers. Such questions led him into many corners of writing which he gradually came to see within a larger architecture of our social arrangements and communicative infrastructure, but still wondering what writing is, how people learn to do it, and what impact it has on people and society. Among his books are Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of the Research Article in Science; The Languages of Edison’s Light; and A Rhetoric of Literate Action.

He has concluded that we live and navigate our way in a built symbolic environment. This built symbolic environment has become more extensive, enduring, and dense in the last five thousand years since the invention of literacy. Since then, reading and writing have transformed who we are and are becoming, as individuals and communities. Further, successful living in the contemporary world has come to depend on our skill in writing ourselves into the built symbolic environment, either directly or indirectly. This resource of skill in writing, however, is not equitably distributed, reinforcing disparities in being able to assert interests and power within the communicative infrastructure of society. It is, therefore, imperative that all are given the opportunity to become more knowledgeable, skilled, and intentional about the literate world so as to be able to make successful rhetorical choices and participate more fully within the built symbolic environment.

This conversation will range in unpredictable ways across such questions drawing on his textual historical, quantitative, qualitative and theoretical inquiries.


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