ritual view of blogging

I’m observing a colleague teaching Cultural Codes of Communication. Homework for the first night included reading James Carey (foundational) and a series of questions, including what might be of interest for students to explore in this course. I’ve already snatched a quote from the Carey article for teaching this spring (!), and my brain is in high gear concerning my prospectus. Wow. Did I intuit that observing this class would provide some structure and motivation?! 🙂
I’ve also got the blog on my mind. As a mechanism for transmission – it (I) seek to disseminate information, but not really. I’ve always hoped it would be more dialogic than monologic. It is true that through the blog, I organize certain symbols in a more-or-less personal attempt to impose order on my experiences. Blogging has become – for me – a ritual that positions me to/with the world in a certain way. I’ve noted several times over the past year or so that a function of writing publicly as I do is to write myself into being. By projecting a certain performance of self, of identity, into the public sphere (invoking accountability among other things), the effect doubles back, enabling me to better live up to the ideals I espouse.
It isn’t as simple as that, though. The words I write, the symbols I use, become me – rather, I become the sign of the words (see p. 12, referencing Burke). Carey says, “We first produce the world by symbolic work and then take up residence in the world we have produced” (p. 16).
Finally, I better understand some of the unease about my blogging “real life” (as perceived, experienced, and interpreted by me), because my writing establishes a context which also positions those whom I mention in particular roles or even identities. It may be a matter of establishing a “history of order” on a minute, microsocial scale. For years, colleagues and I have debated the way my blogging “endow[s] significance, order, and meaning in the world by the agency of [my] own intellectual processes” (Carey, 13). We (or at least I) was confused with the positioning of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. into roles relative to “the blog”: of being readers, nonreaders, commenters, noncommenters, advocates, and/or adversaries. That was a limited view.
I keep recalling a friend who said, “If I don’t read it, it’s not there.”
I am thinking, at this moment, that much of this kind of framing is with the transmission model of communication uppermost in mind. Surely I am taken with the ability to transmit my words across spacetime. Maybe the tension could be better explained through an overlay of the ritual lens? The transmission model is premised upon control as the goal of communication: control over distance and control over people. I resist the accusation of power-mongering, but ritually….what sharedness is at risk?

life in twelve seconds

“The…’present state of consciousness’ represents the self at any moment, the self as it is ‘now.’ According to psychologists, ‘now’ (William James’ ‘specious present‘) is a span of time lasting for anything up to twelve seconds, and represents the breadth of experience that our awareness can digest as a unified whole.
For a quantum self, ‘now’ is a composite of already existing (but ever fluctuating) subselves &emdash; our selves as were before ‘now’ &emdash; and various inputs from the external world (new experiences), each of which forms its own wave pattern on the ground state of consciousness…Personal identity on a moment-by-moment basis is formed by the overlapping wave functions of all these things, which cause ripples and patterns to appear on the [Bose-Einstein] condensate &emdash; our thoughts, emotions, memories, and sensations” (1990: p. 120).
from The Quantum Self: Human Nature and Consciousness defined by the new Physics by Danah Zohar

Winter Solstice

“What religion is that?” Alyssa asked. “Oh, it’s a complicated answer,” I replied. “I usually say pagan, but that label was given by Christians to identify those people who believed in other religions.”
“Many different peoples around the world celebrate events associated with the earth, we usually describe them as indigenous or native peoples. But they each had their own beliefs, although most of them recognize the sun in some way.”
“And,” I continued, “what people who call themselves pagan do now is different than what people did in olden times.”
“But what’s the point?” Alyssa pressed for a solid answer. 🙂
“The earth is at its furthest point away from the sun* – its apogee** – which is why the nights are longest. So we spend the night wishing for the sun to rise, in order for its return to bring longer days again.”
“But won’t the sun rise anyway?” (Such a smart cookie!)
“Yes, it will. But no one really knows if our belief makes a difference. Maybe, just maybe, us taking one night of the year and wishing wishing wishing for the sun is part of the overall balance that keeps the universe running the way it does.”***
“Cool!” (Like I said, such a smart cookie.)
*The usual way is to say the sun is farthest from the earth, which is evidence of the lingering “common sense” that the earth, our planet, is the center of the universe. Not. Even though most of us know this is not true, we still tend to act (and talk!) as if it is. The scientific knowledge – after how many hundreds of years? – is not the gut-rock basis of everyday knowledge. (hmmm…)
**The term, apogee, was originally used only to describe the furthest point of the moon away from the earth, BUT the site, “everything2”, where I first read this is some kind of spiritual/scientific mix (astrology-based?) of someone’s particular epistemology. See what they say about the Sun representing the ego or persona of an individual.
***Ever heard of a Milankovitch Cycle? Me neither, until today! I was trying to find out more info on the correct term for the earth’s distance from the sun – apogee is generalizable if we consider the earth as a satellite around the sun (which it is) – but I’m curious if there’s something more precise. Oddly, the perihelion (when the earth’s orbit brings us closest to the sun), is only a couple of weeks away! How can that be? What does this mean in terms of my own knowledge (understanding) of the natural events that are known as the Winter Solstice? It gets complicated, and I’m going to need repetition in order to absorb these facts. First, it is the tilt of the earth’s axis in combination with the rotational cycle that causes the seasons (i.e., the length of day/night and temperature changes). (Do you know, I have learned this before and even yet it has not fully peirced my everyday consciousness. Am I a slow learner or what?!!)
Then, there’s a difference between the tropical year, and the anomalistic year. Each is measured by a different starting point: the tropical year begins/ends at the equinoxes, and the anomalistic year begins/ends at the perihelion. They are not the same! I can’t go further with this now, but here’s a conversion chart showing the slight difference in length between a tropical year and an anomalous year. It is explained in the article linked above on Milankovitch cycles, which are named “after Milutin Milankovitch, a Serbian scientist who provided a detailed theory of their potential influence over climate in the 1920s.”

light and polysemous meaning

I’ve either witnessed or participated in a few intriguing discussions about light in recent days.
Dr. Demetria Shabazz analyzes the built-in ideology of television technology that, as one example, uses fleshtone as the standard for establishing the light spectrum while filming. The producers don’t start from any fleshtone, however. Instead, the industry has chosen those in the orange/red zone, not yellow or brown, hence producing an aesthetic of identity, or – an aesthetic representation that produces certain kinds of identification. Dr. Shabazz illustrates this point with an analysis of the 1968 television series, Julia, which presents an ambivalent character through the presentation of Diahann Carroll, who is literally “white-washed” through the lighting (as well as through the discourses surrounding her performance). Diahann Carroll broke ground, cracking open television for subsequent shows such as Cosby. (I kept thinking about Nichelle Nichols’ role in Star Trek, a few years previous, as a groundbreaker for Carroll.)
I wanted to follow up more on the notion of polysemy – hoping to take it further than how audiences take (and make) different meanings about Julia/Diahann Carroll (or is it how they make meanings about Diahann Carroll/Julia?!) because (as an effect of the cause of how she is represented) to the situatedness of audience members (viewers) as a factor in the construction of meaningfulness (in this case concerning race and gender, obviously, and probably also heterosexuality – and class, etc., the list goes on!)
It isn’t only what one is looking at (and how the object of sight is presented) but also where one is looking from that contributes to the construction of meaning.
Case in point, some of the students from the class I just taught, College Writing, have gotten excited enough to generate their own anonymous discussion forum (we’ll see how long it lasts!) focused on writing. The primary designer and I have been discussing the color scheme (the look), because I want to be sure the site is as accessible as possible to people with vision impairments. He tried to convince me that his first choice of orange text on a black background is less straining to the eyes over time because these colors are in the lowest wavelength of visible light. (Black text on a white background is among the most visually-straining because of the high contrast – I guess I’m just used to this form of strain: if I gave myself more time the orange/black would become “normal,” too.)
Then, there’s all the info about light that I learned interpreting a Botany class: not just photosynthesis, either….the tickle of something else won’t cohere right now. Darn. See how meaning slips? It isn’t just the fact or the exposure to the fact, it is the retention, repetition, and use to which ‘the fact’ is put. The biochemistry of light first became real to me during a conversation with a stranger on a flight to an American Sign Language Teacher’s Association conference. Steve is an organic chemist who works with the effects of light on carbon molecules.
It seems to me that light works in a parallel fashion as language. (Ah, the botany lessons return – about the relationship between the colors we see as the frequencies of light not absorbed by particular pigments in the leaves. Maybe I’m all confused (certainly wouldn’t be the first time!), but isn’t this how language works? We absorb certain elements of what is said (those “sound frequences” that we “hear” – and process! or, in the case of the Deaf, that which penetrates vision and captures attention), missing additional elements whose absence figures in to the meaning which is acted upon . . .hmmm, yes, as I “write out loud” – it isn’t even so much that meaning is made (as in fixed in some kind of stability) but that meaning is assumed as a basis for further action. The assumptions can sometimes be identified retroactively through reductive (reflexive) processes and then (!) meaning becomes more fixed and/or more rigidly contested (for purposes of fixing). The fluidity of meaning-making is vanished as competing discourses seek to impose their sense upon whatever-has-happened.


Spark posted a great summary of a book I think I’d like to read. It critiques the role/rule of experts, a phenomena which caught my attention when a history professor whose class I interpreted frequently mentioned the rise of experts with disdain.
I tried to post a comment but my Korean is insufficient for decoding the directions:
“Great summary! I’m intrigued, especially by the conditioning of excess, the separation between reality/representation effected by the new logic of economy, and its location/operation as a source of power.”

The Golden Compass

“…hold yourself in readiness…” (149).

One of my students referred to Philip Pullman; I was intrigued.
“…fighting the forms in the air, those dark intentions…” (392) “…a catastrophe of flame…” (385) “…no one thought it would ever be possible…Well, we were wrong…we had to learn to see it…” (376) “…at last there was a physical proof that something happened when innocence changed into experience” (373).
“Everything out there is alive, and there are grand purposes abroad! The universe is full of intentions, you know. Everything happens for a purpose” (330).
“But you cannot change what you are, only what you do” (315).
“We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not,” said the witch, “or we will die of despair” (310).
“And how do you know where these meanings are?” “I kind of see ’em. Or feel ’em rather, like climbing down a ladder at night, you put your foot down and there’s another rung. Well, I put my mind down and there’s another meaning, and I kind of sense what it is. There’s a trick in it like focusing your eyes” (151).
“It only works if the questioner holds the levels in their mind…without fretting at it or pushing for an answer, and just watch…” (126).
“She remembered what she had to do
and tapped on the glass door.
It opened almost at once” (72).


The One We’ve Got by His Balls accused us of a) not knowing what power is, b) not knowing that we don’t know, and c) certainly not being able to trace its definitions.
“Are you going to blog this class?” I said no. I lied. Sortof. I meant “no” at the time. Things change, although I am still not going to blog “the class.” I’m gonna blog me in the class. Hot damn it feels good to be able to measure my own progress in de-piousification! (Yeah yeah, it’s been a long time coming. FYI &emdash; it’s not about you!) I’m still as self-righteously intent on reproduction as I’ve ever been, however I am much clearer that I’m interested in the cultivation of skills rather than duplication of choices.
Durkheim on power: the result of multiple actors behaving consensually. Social justice language, which typically frames (all) interaction in the dichomotous terms of oppression based upon social identities, understands this power in terms of collusion. My own frame of group relations broadens the basis of collusion from stereotypes of identity to include the huge range of roles (socialized, resistive, psychological, interactional) that persons take up in groups. I’m in mind of those who argue that WAR (conflict) is the most sophisticated form of social cooperation.
The tricky art of critical discourse analysis offers a means by which to trace the patterns of cooperation/collusion in conflictual social interaction. Durkheim’s distinctions among force, authority, rule, and control add a framework for making sense of particular junctures in a group’s discourse when the moves of cooperation/collusion can be brought into view.
Force: going along with the general will rather than one’s personal/selfish will. “Durkheim, following distinctions made earlier by John Stuart Mill, used the idea of forced versus natural division of labour to illustrate an aspect of social power. The hierarchy of society is natural if individuals tend towards occupying the positions that they are best suited to. It is forced if there are barriers to people entering positions other than their abilities.” (Hierarchical power)
Authority: “the right to enforce obediance.” Authority is legitimized by law.
Rule: the functional harmonization of law and morality in society. Robert Merton says, “Functions are those observed consequences which make for the adaptation or adjustment of a given system, and dysfunctions, those observed consequences which lessen the adaptation or adjustment of the system. There is also the empirical possibility of nonfunctional consequences, which are simply irrelevant to the system under consideration.”
Control (gleaned from the wikipedia site on Durkheim): how social order is maintained (based upon Durkheim’s 1893 work The Division of Labor in Society). Control theory has grown from Durkheim’s study, Suicide, published in 1897. Control theory brings to mind Tuckman’s stages of group development.

thin-slicing (DUO)

I made many quick decisions based on brief encounters during this conference – about people’s character, ambitions, and intentions. Reciprocally, many of the people I met made similar judgments about me, particularly in regard to “being blogged.” This was “thin-slicing” in action.
One of the examples used by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Blink, on the ways our unconscious makes rapid decisions based upon accumulated experience is the fist produced by Morse Code telegraph operators. ”’Fist” refers to the individual style in which a ham operator transmits Morse code.’ Gladwell relies on mathematical modeling from John M Gottman (“The Mathematics of Marriage: Dynamic Nonlinear Models“), who describes two
possible states
in a relationship: positive emotion override or negative emotion override.
I haven’t come across anything yet that addresses cultural constructions of emotion, and marital relationships are obviously not the same as those between friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. I do wonder, however, at the extendability of the basic dichotomy (and hierarchy) Gottman poses of five “positive” to one “negative” emotions for a successful relationship.
There was a great deal of affection evident among various groupings of people at the Dialogue under Occupation conference, and a few serious splits. Some people’s “fists” became evident as the conference unfolded into the second, third, and fourth day. I’m extending the metaphor of the Morse Code fist to refer to ways I witnessed certain emotional reactions when ideas were questioned, disagreed with, or challenged. In other words, how did scholar/activists manage conflictual discourse among ourselves? What kind of dialogue was enacted under the terms of our own ‘occupations’?
I am wondering if the splits I observed can be mediated by choosing discursive strategies indicative of positive emotion override. I don’t mean bullshit hypocrisy (which I did not witness), but rather a ‘positive’ valuing of discursive engagement with those who hold counter-view, perspectives, and experiences than our own. The ’emotion’ triggered by these differences might be ‘negative’ on its surface (or even its depth), e.g., anger, pain, perhaps even threat or fear (which I did not sense personally directed but seemed omnipresent in a vague way). Can a ‘positive’ overlay transform initial gut ‘negative’ reactions? Is there value in examining those ‘blink’ moments of unconscious thin-slicing?
Can we develop a discourse of critical engagement premised upon interrogating our own accumulated experiences? I propose that by doing so we can collaboratively tease out some of those instant thin-sliced convictions based on environmental conditioning and move more productively into a joint ethics that can be more effective in promoting the large-scale institutional changes many of us hope to effect.
(That is a mouthful!)
[Tangent: Pavements as Embodiments of Meaning for a Fractal Mind]

Turning disagreement to dialogue (DUO)

I watched with dismay as the “peaceniks” broke off into a huddle after Fred Odisho‘s presentation on “Discourse During Insurgency/Counterinsurgency: The Importance of Achieving Communication Superiority in Gaining the Support of the People.” In the front of the room was another huddle &emdash; all men, most of them big &emdash; talking with this Iraqi military officer. I joined the huddle up front. “You’ve got guts,” I said to Fred, “an army man coming to talk in a nest of peaceniks.” He gave me a wink, “Someone’s got to do it,” he said, “otherwise people only get what CNN gives them.”
I’m not convinced that the academics gathered here only get their news from CNN, but it was obvious to me that here was a split in the conference body. Ruth opened the questioning of Fred, his father Edward (“The Iraqi War: A Typical Example of Cultural and Linguistic Dis-course”), and Russell Zanca (audio report May 17) (“Losing Hearts and Minds in Iraq? Cultural Competence and War”) wondering how it is that people who are otherwise so smart could have made the mistakes detailed in this panel. Tove continued: ” are we as researchers, in some way supporting the occupiers to become “nice occupiers” through training in intercultural communication?”
I took her question seriously. I share her frustration. Every time I hear someone mention Iraqis killed because they didn’t understand English and thus couldn’t follow directions, I am reminded of similar tragic incidents with police and people who are deaf. One can’t “stop” or “raise your hands slowly” if you don’t hear the words. Tove invited me to join the gang for lunch…I hesitated over whom to join because I had already been engaged in banter with the Hawaiians. These were the guys I’d observed in “hypermasculine homoeroticism” with the Iraqis. NO! Not really, but it is a good line, isn’t it? 🙂 (Not my line, alas, hence the quotation marks.) I told Ruth I was going “to infiltrate the enemy.”
The blatant gender division (five-on-five) was disrupted only by (husband) Robert in the peacenik huddle and the comment by a woman in the audience who had noted that the military might explicitly want not to promote intercultural understanding because such capability humanizes the enemy, making them harder to kill. In this regard, she suggested that intercultural training conducted by/for the military is actually quite subversive. Is this as simple as men vs women? I don’t think so, but gender is difficult to dismiss completely. Tove’s morning keynote addressed “Kurds in Turkey and in (Iraqi) Kurdistan &emdash; Comparison of Educational Linguistic Human Rights in Two Situations of Occupation.”
Perhaps it is not surprising that a champion of the Kurds might be drawn into conflict with champions of the Iraqis? The Hawai’ians, meanwhile, made identifications with the Iraqis on terms of literal occupation while recognizing the “legal brief” being constructed by Tove to present a case for the violation of Kurdish linguistic human rights. These political scientists, Kuhio, Keanu, Kalawai’a, and Stephen (I think he’s honorary, and an actual lawyer, of some kind, not above bribery), kept my pen flying as they discussed international law’s definitions of insurgency, occupation, sovereignty, genocide, and human rights.

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