Talking about Texts
How does The Human Condition help us think about assessment?
What's a book by a political theorist doing in a blog devoted to Changing Literacy? Well, I find new inspirations when I read outside the field of literacy and Arendt's work offered me several new ways to think about literacy.
All of that being said, I must confess that the first time I read The Human Condition I stalled. It was only because Boni Thompson, a doctoral student of mine, developed an intense passion for Arendt's work that I revisited Arendt. Most recently, I have been using Arendt's ideas to talk about agency and relate it to the assessment of multiliteracies.
Arendt argues that everyone is born into the world with potential to create new beginnings for the world. For me, this naturally links to literacy in that every human being has the potential not only to create meanings but to create new ways of representing those meanings by working through different modalities. Of course, as Arendt says, we share in "a common world," but even though we share in this commonality, we are not defined by it.
We all have the potential to create and represent our meanings and we do so in unique ways. Arent uses the idea of a "space of appearance" to talk about a common place where we share our ideas with others who are open to them. Today, the internet offers such a space of appearance and affords users the opportunity to explore expression with images, words and sounds. In a changing literacy world, we cannot predict where our actions will lead and this too, for Arendt, defines part of the human condition.