My students are the best :-)

Just look at the great material they are generating!

The “logic of meaning and action” (Pearce)
~ Lecture Four on “Nexting” ~

The “logical force” created by what one says at a given time in a particular situation is “the summation of the felt obligation to act,” as defined by Barnett Pearce (p. ??). It is this logical force that leads the editor of our textbook, John Stewart, to claim, “The most useful single communication skill is ‘nexting’” (p. 33). To “next” is to speak with conscious awareness that what one says will entail a range of possible responses. Morality is of course invoked, this is the “felt obligation” that a person feels to respond in a particular (limited) way: one can go along with the moral values implied in an utterance, resist the values in an utterance, attempt to sidestep or ignore the values in an utterance, or otherwise try to invoke a different moral obligation. From the philosophical (social scientific) stance of social constructionism, there is nothing that anyone can say that does not have moral value.
For instance, if you ask me the time, you imply that time matters. If I answer directly, “12:05,” I participate in the construction of a moral meaning that time is valuable. My answer conveys agreement that knowing the time is morally right. By answering, I also participate in the construction of a moral meaning that questions deserve answers. If I do not answer the question about time, I must provide an excuse or explanation. (Imagine the judgments made against me if I simply ignore the question altogether!) An excuse still implies agreement with the value that time is important, that I ought to be able to tell you what time it is (because I should know it myself), or I might explain why I resist an overvaluation of time, either substituting a different meaningfulness (such as, what we are doing now is most important) or minimizing the power of the clock or the importance of being timely.

In other words, no utterance is said (or typed) in isolation, and because it is inevitably and unavoidably linked with other things people have said (historically as “tradition” or recently in context), there is a “logic of meaning and action” that helps us coordinate our talking with each other. To get the full sense of a definition for “the logic of meaning and action,” it is worth quoting Pearce in full:

“We avoid social vertigo by orienting to particular events, objects, and relations in our social worlds as if they were real. We construct working definitions of the situation that include a sense of who we are (our identities…), our relationships…, the event in which we are participating…, and the meaning of what is being said and done…
“The question What do I do now? reminds us that from the first-person perspective, conversations have to be made by doing something in a temporal context after someone has done something and before they do something else. From the perspective of the conversant, these doings are not a free choice; they are enmeshed in a logic of meaning and action that makes some actions mandatory, optional, or prohibited” (emphasis in original, p. ??).

You will have to let me know if the teaching strategy (the pedagogy of experiential learning) is effective or not (!), because rather than tell you what to learn, I am trying to teach you how to look. The skill of perception (as so many of you have already noted) is crucial to communication processes working out in the coordinated ways. Already, I hope that from the emphasis on “listening”, you are already making connections between the quote from Pearce and this actual class: how have you avoided “social vertigo” here? What is “the event” of this &emdash; our &emdash; interaction? What “objects” are you orienting to? Which relationships? What is the “working definition” of what we are doing here? Which &emdash; of all of your multiple identities &emdash; are present and operational? (…and what does it mean that some of your/our identities may not be present, or at least may not be recognized?)
Given all of this, which I summarize as the social construction of our learning environment, how does your participation contribute to our collaboration? What have you offered us in-and-through your writing? Are you focused on exhaling or have you begun to consider what the rest of us might be inhaling from you? The skill of nexting is simply the balancing of these two inextricably intertwined elements of the communication process. Some of you are starting to recognize this and reflect upon it in our communication with each other; I have listed some examples from Thread 3.1.
The basic interrelationship of “exhaling” and “inhaling” was noted by Kerry reading the section on relationships, who states, “how could this not come into play after i read it.” Indeed, we are affected by everything we are exposed to, and we have only minimal control, as Brett noted, “…a lot of communication and meaningfulness is out of our hands.” We cannot rigidly control our exposure to information &emdash; what we “inhale”; and we certainly cannot control &emdash; in any kind of ultimate sense – how others will respond to what we “exhale”. This characteristic, of communication being always and forever open, continuous, and collaborative, carries across mediums. David B says, ““I used to believe online communication was a lot easier since no one knew who I was or heard me the instant I said something. Instead I find myself in the opposite position thinking ‘well no one really knows me… but that also means [now] nobody KNOWS ME’ which leaves me wondering how I should come off.”
Is it possible that no one ever “really knows me”, and that who I am is always and forever being constructed through the ways I communicate myself through “inhaling” and “exhaling” with others? Suppose I am not always clear? (Gosh &emdash; imagine I am just a flawed human being doing my best?!) Ajia offers that if ideas come out jumbled “…it becomes apparent to who is really listening. If someone was listening they can use some of my ideas for their next comment.” Tristram adds, “I have tried to post something to spark new ideas rather then post something that did not make it possible for other students to react to.”
Meanwhile, Kerry also noticed and found it interesting “…how they [everyone’s posts] all kinda loop one another: one thinks one agrees, another thinks that person disagrees.” What processes of perception might be at play for some people only to notice agreement, and others to notice only disagreement? Are the perceived agreements about the same or different topics than the perceived disagreements? These “loopings”, to adopt Kerry’s term, are what I would label patterns. What do these loops tell us about how we are making meaning together?

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