Rabu, 27 Juni 2007

Orientation to information

One of the questions I have is how are the children and teachers orienting themselves towards information? Clearly the information is the Qur'an is privileged; but how? How do the teachers and the students send a message to each other that the really important information is contained in the written word, or in the spoken version? What is the role of questioning and reasoning in the organization of information? What is the role of teacherly authority in the distribution and uptake of this information? Language varieties?
One of the reasons why the organization of information is so problematic in the context of ngaji 'night school' sessions is that there are so many people speaking at once and determining the organization of the information conveyed is deeply problematic in a physical, signal-processing sense. There is massive acoustic input, and trying to figure out what to attend to is extremely difficult.
Clearly the santris are not supposed to attend to one another when they are up in front of the room facing the teacher. They are supposed to be speaking out loud and listening simultaneously for any corrections that the teacher might have for them. The simultaneity is justified on the grounds of efficiency: "if we didn't have them do it at the same time," one ustada told me, "it would take a really long time to listen to them. But since we have already memorized the Qur'an, we can easily tell if they make a mistake."
There may also be a performative and ritual aspect to these events in addition to its alleged efficiency. Precisely because the signified is less important, the signifier is privileged and put on display. Thus freed of the signified, its acoustic properties are privileged and become the focus of attention, allowing the teacher to focus purely on the sounds. Once focused on the sounds alone, it is possible to discriminate the different voices more easily. The pragmatic form of the communicative event provides a kind of meta-semiotic model of responsibility to the voice of Allah. The students are individually responsible to the exact reproduction of the text, and the teacher is there to guide and enforce that responsibility.

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