Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Loudspeaker on the Tower

I had heard that Illich rejected the use of a microphone.

Earlier this week I thought to attempt a talk about the ideology that comes with technology. I ended up talking about something different, as I could sense the business audience was not the right place to raise the question unfortunately.

Here is a short essay by Illich, that I would happily give to those who try to reject online and networked learning on an intuitive basis of it disturbing their sense of place and intimacy. It might be useful in understanding the ideological assault felt by these people, and develop more empathy for them.
For a quarter of a century, now, I have tried to avoid using a microphone, even when addressing a large audience. I use it only when I'm on a panel, or when the architecture of the auditorium is so modern that it silences the naked voice. I refuse to be made into a loudspeaker. I refuse to address people who are beyond the reach of my voice. I refuse to address people who are put at an acoustic disadvantage during the question period because of my access to a microphone. I refuse, because I treasure the balance between auditory and visual presence, and reject that phony intimacy which arises from the distant speaker's overpowering "whisper."
More often than not, both host and audience have accepted my decision. The auditorium is hushed, people strain to listen, the few who have impaired hearing move to the front. Several young persons have told me by letter that, since the evening we first met, they have trained their voices to increase their reach and timbre - as rhetors have done for a long time. 
But there are deeper reasons why I have renounced the microphone - its use in those circumstances in which I am physically present...

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