Notes from Dr. Laura Otis’ LMC Distinguished Speaker Presentation at Georgia Tech

Dr. Laura Otis presenting in GT Library's Ferst Room.

Dr. Laura Otis presenting in GT Library’s Ferst Room.

Today, Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication invited Emory University’s Dr. Laura Otis to give a presentation in the Library’s Ferst Room. Dr. Otis’ presentation was titled, “The Surprising Antics of Other People’s Minds” [read the abstract here].

In Dr. Otis’ work, she aims to show with data that she has collected from interviews with an admittedly small number of English-speaking people from the United States that:

1) visual thinking and verbal thinking are not opposites and they cannot be separated,” 2) there is no such thing as a visual thinking type or a verbal thinking type–every mind is unique, and 3) visual and verbal inclinations are not destinies. Anyone can develop visual or verbal skills with practice.

She also offered two suggestions for literary studies:

1) refer to visual imagery in readings, because this might help include more students who may feel excluded by verbal readings, and 2) take reader’s visual imagery seriously, because this might help reconnect the reader to creative writing as co-creator of its imagery.

You can download my handwritten notes on Dr. Otis’ talk and the Q&A session from the event as a PDF from here.

I enjoyed Dr. Otis’ presentation, and it provided me with a new insight into something that I had already read and thought about but in a more biological sense: we each think differently, because our brains are wired differently. Our experience of the world and life, which includes our biology, environment, and culture, leaves its indelible trace on our brain’s physical wiring. As we live, our brains wire themselves to accommodate new memories, abilities, and ways of thinking. It makes sense that all of these experiences would shape our thinking, but more importantly, we can exert our own conscious control over our thinking by adopting reflective practices and training/practice to improve abilities that we already have to greater or lesser degrees.

Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole Episode on Consciousness

I sent this out to the Neuroscience and the Humanities Workgroup earlier today, so I thought that I would share it here, too.

Today, the Science Channel is running a marathon of Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole pop science series. There is one episode that I wanted to share with you if you can spare 45 minutes to watch it on Youtube (it is divided into three parts):

The episode, “Is There Life After Death?” could have been alternatively named “What is consciousness, and what happens to it when we die?” There are good (albeit short) interviews with Stuart Hameroff (the anesthesiologist who collaborated with Roger Penrose on a quantum theory of consciousness), Douglas Hofstadter (Godel Escher Bach), and Steve Potter of Georgia Tech (he has built computer chips that interface with rat brain cells that control robots | http://www.neuro.gatech.edu/wp/labs/potter/).

The discussions of anesthesia and consciousness might be the most enlightening ones for our recent conversation about consciousness.

Also, it is a good show. Freeman is a long advocate of science and education, and I believe that his series (he is executive producer) now in its second season demonstrates his commitment to these things.

I have written about Freeman’s Through the Wormhole series before here.

Kathleen Ann Goonan Speaks at Georgia Tech on “Consciousness, Literature, and Science Fiction”, Oct 12, 2010

Lisa Yaszek sent the following announcement out about the upcoming talk by award winning science fiction author Kathleen Ann Goonan at Georgia Tech on “Consciousness, Literature, and Science Fiction.” The presentation will take place on October 12 at 11:00am in the Library East Commons. I wish that I could go, because I think this Ms. Goonan’s presentation would be useful for my dissertation. She’s also a kind person with amazing ideas. Unfortunately, I am far away in the environs of Northeast Ohio, and I have job applications to prepare and a dissertation to write. I highly recommend you go to the event if you live in or around Atlanta!

The School of Literature, Communication, and Culture presents

critically-acclaimed science fiction author

Kathleen Ann Goonan

“Consciousness, Literature, and Science Fiction”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 11:00 a.m.

Library East Commons

Meet Kathleen Ann Goonan at a reception and book signing to follow the reading.

The author’s works include:

QUEEN CITY JAZZ

British Science Fiction Award Finalist

MISSISSIPPI BLUES

Hall of Fame Darryl Award Winner

THE BONES OF TIME

Arthur C. Clarke Award Finalist

LIGHT MUSIC

Nebula Award Finalist

CRESCENT CITY RHAPSODY

Nebula Award Finalist

IN WAR TIMES

Campbell Award Winner

ALA Winner, Best SF Novel

THIS SHARED DREAM

Forthcoming from Tor Books, 2011

Kathleen Ann Goonan, presently a Visiting Professor at the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Tech, is an award-winning science fiction writer.  The author of seven novels as well as myriad short stories, talks, essays, and commercial articles, she is interested in and writes about emergent trends in science and technology and their influence on culture.  Her web page is www.goonan.com.

Kathleen Ann Goonan’s lecture is part of the 2010-2011 LCC Distinguished Speaker Series. Visit www.lcc.gatech.edu for more information about Goonan and other Speaker Series events.