How Do You Like It So Far uses pop culture to take soundings of a society in transition, exploring intersections with civic imagination and engagement, and social and political change. Henry Jenkins and Colin Maclay are your guides on this adventure.

Episode #80: What is a Human with James Paul Gee

This week we host James Paul Gee, recently retired Arizona State University professor and researcher in a plethora of topics including psycholinguistics and discourse analysis. As we talk about his latest book, What Is a Human? Language, Mind, and Culture, Gee casually uplifts our fundamental understanding of what it means to be, well, human and how we’ve severely underestimated animal intelligence and overestimated our own. We discuss the significance of identity signals throughout anthropological history, how ideas of basing safety on certain identifiers has evolved into what we know today as cultures, religions, and nations and how they have been polarized to both unify and divide. Gee attributes the mass spread of misinformation in recent years to the human need for comfort in something regardless of veracity, though he posits an optimistic goal: to make the truth comforting and to speak the facts that engage with people’s hearts. Whether we use these methods to reform our systems or to redefine how we view our kind, they will no doubt be instrumental in getting us and our world to flourish.

Check back soon for a full transcript of this conversation.

Here are some of the references from this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

James Paul Gee’s What Is a Human?

Henry’s blog series with James Paul Gee, 2011

2011 Pullias Lecture: Games, Learning, and the Looming Crisis in Higher Education

Julian Jaynes’ Bicameral Mind

About Hampshire College, where Gee first taught

James Paul Gee’s poetry

Amanda Gorman performing her poem “The Hill We Climb” at Biden’s inauguration

My Octopus Teacher

Alpha Go

For another take on Moby Dick, listen to our earlier episode The Great Eastern with Howard A. Rodman

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