Monday, June 23, 2008

Communication Applications: Embodying and Inhabiting the Subject




With everything we've discussed in class about communications--from senders to receivers to feedback to subject matter for speeches to oral and written critiques--what is the best way to learn about something you don't know, or even dislike? And how does one communicate this effectively, intelligently, respectfully and thoughtfully?

Perhaps Googling something you don't know about comes to mind, or typing it in at Wikipedia. But let's move beyond a cyberspacial understanding to literally walking in someone else's shoes--I call it embodying and inhabiting the subject. Sociologists and ethnographers think about subjects this way, as do anthropologists, marketing gurus, and even some historians.

So, what does it look like if one walk's in the shoes of someone else--literally?

Meet A.J. Jacobs. (Check out his blog here.) He's a journalist, an author, an innovator, and ultimately a COMMUNICATOR--I call him a journalistic sociologist. He applies himself to his craft in inventive, interesting ways.

A recent project of his involved taking the moral imperatives and prescriptions for living from Bible literally. The result is a book titled The Year of Living Biblically. Read and listen to an excerpt here. Read a review of the book here. Listen to an interview, too.



As you listen and you read think about this experiment in terms of what you can learn about communications from it.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What, if anything, about Jacobs's background led to his experiment? Why did he want to conduct such an experiment? To what extent did Jacobs live in the shoes of those in the Bible who preceded him? What did he learn? What was most transformative, interesting, and/or challenging? How did people respond to Jacobs? If you could ask Jacobs a question (besides "Why?"), what would you ask him? Why?

Could you ever see yourself conducting this kind of experiment? If so, what subject would you embody and/or inhabit? Why or why not? By what means would you communicate knowledge of your subject? Why?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section (post before 8:30am 6/24/08).

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jacob lived literally in Biblical times. He grew out his hair and beard. He wore a shepards clothes. Jacob really was leaving what it was to be a person in Jesus time. He learned Jewish traditions like burning myrrh in the morning etc. I think th emost challenging thing was to keep up with long hair and beard. I would ask him how he liked the expiernce of living like in biblical times.
Mircea Bucio

Anonymous said...

I also forgot to say that I would probably embody the part of growing out hear and beard. It would be very interrsting to see me like that. I would communciate by saying that its not so bad living in Jesus time. I guess you would get used to living like that.
Mircea Bucio

Anonymous said...

Because Jacob was Jewish by heritage but was secular by choice, he probably wanted to at least try religion. To grow up knowing that your heritage is one of the most religious heritages in the world, but to never experience it must have made him curious. He probably started to understand that there was something he was missing in his life. He decided that religion would probably be it. Thus, in order to try religion, and at the same time try to be as literal as possible as some people claim they are, he conducted this crazy experiment. He followed all the same rules as his forefathers. He "stoned" people, wore robes of only one type of fabric, and did not shave. He prayed every day and tried to give cash out to widows and orphans. The most interesting part of his experiment was probably the reactions that he received, especially when he was required to do something extraordinarily strange. For example, having to stone adulterers and other law breakers was a funny moment. The thing that transformed him the most would probably be the praying to God every day one. He must have thought that it was stupid, but as he did it, he grew to realize that there really was God. The most challenging and annoying part of the experiment would be the "Thou shalt not lie" command. Trying to lead a modern-day life without lying is an extremely difficult thing to do. I'm surprised he managed it. Some people were angry at him, some ignored him, some accepted him, and some were freaked out by him. He elicited various reactions based upon the people that he met. The people would be angry at him if they thought that he was mocking them. They would feel stranged if they weren't religious (Christian religion or Jewish religion). They would probably accept him a bit if they were religious. One question I would have to ask him is "Why do you still not believe in God and Jesus Christ?" I think that after leading his life that way for an entire year, he should have embraced the Jewish religion at the very least. I am curious as to why he didn't. Surely, he must have felt that he was a better and kinder man after the experience. Why did he drop religion after that?

I don't think that I would do this. Maybe, but I think that it is very unlikely. I don't see myself as the kind of person who would do this sort of thing. If I did do someone, maybe I would try one of chinese monks. It would reveal a lot about their culture and let me understand some of the other religions in the world. That way, you could reveal what is wrong with their religion from the inside-out, instead of attacking it form the outside-in. I think that I would just tell anyone who was interested in it about my experience. I don't think that anyone would like a book on it.
Joshua Kee.

Anonymous said...

I think that he never came to terms with his religous backround with a mature mind, and his experience of living biblically was a way to challenge what he had accepted as a child. From his interview, he lived as literally as mondern day America would allow him. Physically and mentally he had to change his life style. With anything this indepth, he had to explore himself along with the Bible. I would ask him what it is he learned about himself and what was the best knowledge that he had gained from this experience? In order for me to ever do anything to this extreme I would have to have complete ignorance of the subject or unresolved information. There would have to be a mental or spiritual drive of passion or knowedge.
Sarah McD.

Anonymous said...

I believe Jacob did these things to make sense of his heritage and everything he never knew before. It must have been extremely difficult to change your life around like that. Doing things exactly like in the bible would be impossible for me. It would be like aiming for perfection all the time without making mistakes. I could never do anything like this because it would be far too difficult and the temptations are so strong. -Sarah H.

Anonymous said...

I think the whole project is extremely challenging. Because living out bible today and living out bible back in old days is completely different. The culture and society are totally different. Its hard for me if I am doing such project. But i would walk in the shoes of present president of United States and trying to stop the war.
Chen

Anonymous said...

I think that Jacob's experience that he went through was something that most people would not be able to do. It would take a lot of discipline to live exactly like the bible says for an entire year. I know that I most likely would never have enough determination to completly follow the rules of the bible. Especially stoning people. Even though he just threw little pebbles at people, I would feel really awkward doing that. Also, if I had to wear those clothes that he wore, I would be kind of embarassed at school and in public.

Mary Martin

Anonymous said...

Jacob grew up a Jew which is probably the reason this idea appealed to him, even though he thought religion would "wither away" from his life at an early age. The reason he committed to following the Bible as literally as possible is "to find out what was good in it and what may not be relevant in the 21st century." At first Jacob tried to take the Bible literally but then he read that he would have to stone homosexuals as well as magicians and decided to keep it on the legal side of things. He would have to learn as an ultra-fundamentalist the content of all religions so that he could get the most experience out of just one year. Some rules that Jacob followed were wearing matching cloth and growing his beard. Some viewers of his actions found it impressive yet incredibly funny at the same time. If I were to ask him a question I would ask if he enjoyed the experience and why or maybe that answer is in his book so I would ask how he liked having his beard so long because I've always wanted to know what that feels like. I personally would not do this "experiment" because it requires dedication which is definitely something I do not have.

Anonymous said...

That's Ryan by the way.

Anonymous said...

His Jewish background led to his experiment and his obsession towards tasks that the world would see as ridiculous. He did it in order to find the original purpose of the rules in the bible. He lived to the furthest extent that I believe he could in present times. He found that behavior shapes our thoughts. He found that coveting is extremely challenging in current day New York and all of the minute rules. The orthodox people responded kindly to him and other people thought it was odd. Do all of the rules apply in our current day life. --------David

Anonymous said...

Jacob's Jewish background is what probably got him to do this wacky experiment. He decided to live out a typical person in the biblical days. He took this to such an extent that he didn't shave his beard or cut his hair. He also followed the old Jewish customs such as stoning people and praying everyday. Also he gave money to the poor. He must have learned a lot from that experience and probably doesn't take shaving for granted now. If I had the chance to meet him, I would probably ask what was the most difficult thing about the experiment.

I personally would not have the interest or discipline to do such a task, but if for whatever reason I did, it would probably be on someone who lived through the Great Depression. It would be interesting to see and feel how they lived.

Chris

Anonymous said...

Jacob's Jewish heritage most likely led to his experiment. He wanted to know what it was like to live like Jesus and in the biblical times. He grew a beard and wore the clothes that they wore. He learned many new Jewish traditions and the most difficult part would be standing out in the crowd so much. I would ask him how much he learned because it would be interesting find out the interesting information. I could not see myself conducting this kind of experiment. Because it is such a radical idea it would be hard for me to do so.

Alexander Chae

Anonymous said...

"Jacob's background and his career really got him interested in doing this experiment because since he is a journalist and author, he probably looked up information about Biblical times and probably wanted to experience those times for himself. When he conducted this experiment, he learned the rules of the Bible, how lives were lived, people's occupation and their creativity. Exploring these times, the most difficult thing he had to do was walk around NYC wearing a robe! He must of had A LOT of GUTS! People's response and beliefs about his experiment were positive and truthful. People believed that what Jacob learned and did was possible and true.(even in interviews) If I could interview,A.J. Jacobs, I would ask him, "Was it hard walking around New York dressing up as a person would had in Biblical times in Jerusalem?" and "Was it interesting learning about the rules and discovering possible beliefs in the Bible?."

"If I were to follow Jacobs' idea of learning about history and religious beliefs, I would like to learn and experiment the times of The Holocaust. I would want to experiment how it felt to be a prisoner and how horrible it was to be locked up in the concentration camps. I would communicate by saying how horrible and terrible The Holocaust was and how awful it was to be tortured and held under the German rule. This subject/event would not be easy to experiment me I could imagine how difficult it was for those prisoners to experience that depressing life." -Addie Brandfield-Harvey

Jason Blades said...

Jacobs is of Jewish heritage so it is natural that he be interested in this subject. I suppose he wanted to conduct this expirement for the very obvious reason that he wanted to know what it was like to live in Biblical times as literally as possible. Obviosuly Jacobs could not live exactly like those who lived in biblical times due to the technology and advancments of modern day. He mentions renting a car from Hertz and im sure he had to type his book on a computer of some sort. Aside from the obvious, he learned how people feel when they are set apart because of their religious status or their appearance. The hardest thing to cope with would probably be the ridicule, ecspecially from the ones who he didn't expect it from like family and friends. If i could ask him any question it would be "What did the editor of your book think when he/she first read it?" I would ask him this because, if i were the editor i would be confused and amazed at the same time and i am curious how he/she responded.
Jason Blades

Anonymous said...

Jacob had never truly been exposed to religion. He came from a Jewish family, however the closest the family came to practicing religion was putting a Star of David on the Christmas tree. Jacob needed a new project and decided to live the "sandles of his forefathers". He felt it was a fascinating journey but it was impossible. He lived it as literal as he could and tried to follow every rule in the bible. He felt that "no coveting" was the most difficult. He felt it was difficult to deal with the physical changes such as his beard. People would stop and stare at him and would even call him names such as "ZZ Top". If i could ever meet him i would ask why didn't this have an effect on him?

Caroline Ross

Anonymous said...

Jacob was brought up in a Jewish family but was never really exposed to the religious aspect. The point of his experiment was to see the literal rules of the Bible and live like the Bible says. He wore clothes that were worn in the Biblical times. He learned and lived out the Jewish traditions. He gave money to people and was kind. I personally would not have done anything like that because it would take a lot of discipline and changing of my current ways of life.

-Lena Allouche

Anonymous said...

This guy was cool. He went out for an adventure and it made him a wiser and smarter man. I think want he did was wonderful because it actually served a purpose and it put his life in perpective for him. We do things 24/7 but do they mean anything? Do they really teach us anything? If i had the chance to do this, or something else, I would so do it!! Having him as a friend would be extremely cool because emagine being with him somewhere, you could start a conversation with anybody because of him. I respect the man for his commitment. Also, I found the "dont sit where a menstrating women has sat rule" kind of bizzar and dificult to follow.

Jorge Cruz