October 5, 2007

no mother tongue?

"My best language is my third;
I know five and am learning another one."

Rhona Trauvitch complicates the usual equation that the first language learned establishes cultural ways of thought. Her spoken English rarely evinces signs indicative of a non-native user, although the trace of an accent suggests she did not learn English in the U.S. or United Kingdom.

We spoke after our professor promised to make her famous. Stephen introduced us to the thought of Matteo Bartoli, the figural teacher of Antonio Gramsci.

"Bartoli says all languages are the result of sociocultural conflict. Words are in competition with one another; words and languages are grammatical structures in competition with each other and cannot coexist: language is a battleground. There is always conflict between languages, and conflict within languages. Conflict conflict conflict, that’s what language is and what language is about. Words are always vying for position in language. [Bartoli] does not mean disembodied words, but that what we are doing in language is deciding ‘what will be the word for this? what will resonate?'" {From notes typed during lecture.]

Bartoli called his work neolinguistics, and then spatial linguistics. His phrase, "pattern of irradiations" caught my attention. Whatever the limitations of mathematical thinking (particularly its assumptions of permanence and predictability), physics is an amazing metaphor for human relations. Why irradiation not radiation? My own simplification: Radiation is the (natural) medium; irradiation the (man-made) use/effect. The term is applied in risk communication regarding food safety, industry (e.g., manufacture of foam, insulation, jewelry/gemstones), and medicine. Specificallly, irradiation refers to a process of ionizing radiation intended for a purpose, explicitly in contrast with the normal backdrop of daily exposure to background radiation.

In the context of this graduate seminar, Language as Action and Performance, Bartoli's combination of geography with language use is a revolutionary conception of how language makes human interrelations visible. The patterns of linguistic survival illustrate material conquest, yet - even more so - when one stops using the mother/native tongue, abandoning the cultural language in favor of the dominating language of power, then one has truly conceded to colonization. Ouch.

We spent some time discussing solutions (from Gramsci's view, linking with Bakhtin and Burke) to the dilemma of needing to learn the language(s) of power in order to work within them to preserve one's own heritage language(s) and the worldviews and wisdoms they contain. During class discussion, Gramsci's abhorrence of Esperanto was raised. His objection is rooted in the fact of Esperanto's formal rules: its refusal to accommodate innovation - the natural flexibility of languages to adapt and grow in accordance with human experiences. Rhona's moment of inspiration was describing Esperanto being "born a dead language." Her logic was comparing its rigidification to the stale preservation of languages no longer spoken - preserved only in ancient texts.

This particular session was one of the best to date. The subjectivity of my read is based largely on the subject matter: grasping ways of conceiving of languages (specifically when, how, and where they are used, by whom) as a way of mapping power relations and imagining how the continued use of diverse languages is a necessary and vital corrective to entrenched hegemony.


Rhona presented Flying Through Walls: Magical Realism in Literature and Advertisements this past April at Cross-Over Arts: Intermediality, a seminar in Puebla, Mexico that she attended with colleagues from the Comparative Literature Department at UMass Amherst. She placed 91st in her age/gender class in a 10km Road Race in Athens, 2005.

Professor Stephen Olbrys Gencarella is (among numerous accomplishments) a co-signer of a letter to Lingua Franca in defense of Folklore, co-author of Working with Tradition: towards a partnership model of fieldwork, and is a member of the editorial board for Liminalities: A journal of performance studies. Stephen describes his pedagogy in The Ivory Tower, Apathy, and the Art of Citizenship (available as a pdf from Best Practices).

On irradiation:

I came across a description: local image structure, and some definitions. Irradiation = "treatment with, or exposure to, any form of radiation. Cell cultures are often irradiated in the lab to induce the production of mutations" (QIMR), "Exposure to radiant energy, such as heat, X-rays, or light; the product of irradiance and time" (Laser Glossary), "the application of radiation for various purposes, including reducing levels or killing microorganisms and mould in foods, killing insects and pests that infest certain foods, and sterilizing food for specific medical applications" (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), "the crosslinking process that bonds the molecules of the polyolefin resin into a structure, giving the polymer increased strength and resulting in superior properties" (The ABCs of Foam}, "The use of radiation in food processing to lengthen shelf life by eliminating pathogenic microorganisms" (Rhode Island Food Safety).

Posted by Steph at 9:51 AM | Comments (2)

September 23, 2007

In Remembrance of Alec


Christi imagined a piece of Alec's spirit in each balloon, including the parts of him held by and given to each person present. I thought of the pace of their departure, the wind picked them up so fast! I imagined their speed parallel with the way Alec lived, not that he was always in a rush, but once that boy had decided there was no hesitation. :-)

The weekend passed quickly, wedged between hectic work weeks for all of us. Yet the picnic at Alec's gravesite flowed leisurely. The steady stream of arrivals began at one pm and continued until the release an hour-and-a-half later.

The mood was at turns festive, contemplative, sad, and peaceful. The day itself was beautiful. Uncle Dick, all the way from Port Angeles, WA, offered some remarks. Many in the crowd were probably unaware that his daughter, our cousin Saundra, died of leukemia when she was twenty. (Her memory is celebrated annually by the Peninsula Tennis Club.)

Uncle Dick shared some thoughts with us from an article by Mark A. Lorenson, You Can Not Lose the Ones You Love, which challenges the "conventional wisdom" that "we miss the ones we love" (47). Applying the philosophy that "we, through our current beliefs, are actually creating our experience of 'missing'" (48), Lorenson proposes a reframing which Uncle Dick exhorted us all to try:

I love you and feel your presence.

In all ways, from everyone gathered and those whose thoughts were with us, a fitting tribute.


Posted by Steph at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2007

When and Who to tell...

We had in time in College Writing (first year writing) on Thursday to do a round of check-ins, "What's best about this class, What's worst about this class, and something random." I had not thought about participating (duh) and felt as on-the-spot as some of the students may have when it came to the end and - as a few students insisted - my turn. Alec and this trip to Kansas City was high on my mind, but I was thinking to myself, "No, that's too personal; telling them might compromise the teacher/student boundary." The students are interacting well, there was teasing and a fair number of comments and teasing about some of the things people shared. A minute or two before my turn, two of the boys had an exchange and one of them said, "Oh Snap."

That was my sign to let them know.

Posted by Steph at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2007

i think contiguously

Seriously! Roman Jakobson (Prague School Linguist, functionalist), describes a kind of aphasia that brings the distinctions between metaphoric and metonymic speech. Metaphoric speech operates by substitution - you say something, I say something about another thing that reminds me of that thing you said - it "re-fills" the same space by replacement of an equivalent. Metonymic speech jumps levels, instead of substitution, you say something, and I say something related in terms of meaning but operating at a different position within a realist hierarchy.

While reading The metaphoric and metonymic poles today (subsequent to a few other articles, too) I became convinced that simultaneous interpreters can orient themselves to the performance of interpretation as verbal art, possibly even a kind of poetry. Some already do, but I think these are possibly a minority? Or, perhaps the dominant paradigm prevents full admission of the poetic latitude often exercised. :-)

Posted by Steph at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2007

antithesis to modernity?

{I wrote most of this right after the blogpost linked below...so much of this line of thinking is percolating concerning my prospectus, grant proposal, teaching, interpreting physics....anyway, today is the Celebration Party for the Crew and Shore Support for Shemaya's Serenity Sail, 2007. More thoughts will follow, I'm sure!}

Just because sailing resists the dominant forces of modernity, does not necessarily make it postmodern, eh? I have continued to wonder if describing my deja vu moment (while sailing) as a "personal cosmology" (as I did on the boat) was the best framing, or if "personal ontology" (as I wrote in that blogpost) is most accurate.

I'm sure cosmology is what leapt to mind because of Laurence Bergreen's application of the term to those metaphysical thinkers trying to imagine the entire universe during Magellan's time. Interestingly, the wikipedia entry states that the first use of the term did not occur until 1730, more than two centuries after Magellan's voyage. Ontology, however, is more precise (for this particular usage) because the term is used to describe a set of concepts and the relationships among them. The "objects" (in this case) are myself (!), my conscious - as in deliberately chosen - epistemology, and the phenomenological experience known as deja vu.

I think the original philosophical definitions and use of "ontology" and the recent borrowing of the label by the field of Artificial Intelligence serve equally well to describe the (known, apperceived) structural framework of my personal consciousness. As John Gregg (who maintains a terrific site on consciousness) defines it, "Essentially, ontology is the study of what actually is. For most people, for most purposes, ontology ultimately comes down to physics." Yes. The structure of knowledge (paradigm) that I have adopted concerning the experience of deja vu emphasizes the aspect of its meaning which implies "remembering the future." Despite our conscious experience of time as linear (and all the physical evidence around us indicating that it only moves in one direction), the physics of temporality is much more complicated. This is related to Gregg's

"hard problem" of subjective consciousness. The hard problem is hard because it just does not seem amenable to the sort of analysis that modern science knows how to do.

The microsocial challenge is wrestling ourselves (individually, interpersonally, relationally) out of the dialectical grip of modernity's knowledge constructs; the macrosocial parallel is the institutionalization of paradigms based on the new knowledges gleaned (especially) from quantum physics, cognitive neuroscience, and language studies (e.g., voice, language-as-action).

Posted by Steph at 8:35 AM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2007


A Wordpress blogpost categorized under "teaching" led me to this timely piece: Charlotte Mason on neuroscience.

Who has "the explanation" for the relationship between language and consciousness, philosophers or neuroscientists? This debate has been going on for a long time; its competitiveness ~ as if one side has an answer or can determine the truth ~ bothers me. :-/

Posted by Steph at 8:07 PM | Comments (4)

September 3, 2007

up my alley; at my level :-)

Check out these two videos on waves and sound!

Meanwhile, Arturo sends the link to ScienceDaily, which he describes as " a humble contribution to your interdisciplinary thinking project:

This website has science related updates (in basically all disciplines!) in the form of brief summaries with links and full references. It refers to research as it happens or recently published. Thus it can be used as a very neat way to get everyone to learn about other disciplines works and spin new ideas.

Posted by Steph at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

September 2, 2007

"...a hint of menace"

Reunions with old friends and meeting new ones abound.

Last night, I had tears streaming down my cheeks during a good portion of Talk To Me, particularly through the civil rights movement portion of this film depicting Petey Greene's life as an entertainer. Not only does Don Cheadle bring Greene's uncompromising assertiveness to life, Director Kasi Lemmons does a great job with the tension of differential ambitions between Greene and his Manager, Dewey Hughes (outstandingly acted by Chiwetel Ejiofor).

After a quick debrief, Natalia split the scene. Jose, Sinead and I were joined by John at Amherst Coffee. What a talk we had! Movie culture, memories of the sixties in the US, life in Malawi and Mozambique, and interpreting. Sinead had seen me working at the Graduate Commencement last spring - which included a protest against Andrew Card.

Prior to the movie, Jose and I ate while Jin (the Muscle-Bound-Tough-Guy) exercised his qi.


Our conversation covered Tae Kwon Do, Ta'i Chi, and the cultural politics of marriage.

I was reminded of my role as "community redneck," because the previous evening a crew of Ever-Smiling Evil Indians regaled me with various responses to the typical American questions about arranged marriages. "He had two camels" is one answer to the decision-making process of the women/parents involved. We were eating at The Crazy Noodle, perhaps that inspired the round of sheer silliness? Next thing I knew there was a reprise of "we ride our elephants to school, they have their own parking lot," compete at "camel polo," and enjoy torturing valets with parking their mounts. You know they were getting to me because I became the "community ratkiller" in my notes (they give contracts to cats to kill the rats infesting every apartment) - perhaps a Freudian slip of my tendency to shine light into dark places? ;-) Is there really a sacred bull called Shambo? Maybe it was the Shiraz. Then Ambarish slipped, mentioning tunneling.

Quantum particles can penetrate into regions that are forbidden classically, leading to the phenomenon of tunneling.

We lost Ameya at this point - or did he lose us, kindof like the ball in soccer?! - and Supriya took off to find carryout containers. :-) by now, it's been ages since the Ever-Smiling Evil Indian admired my tennis shoes: "they're cool, with a hint of menace."


Life follows language!

Ambarish added a cultural element while explaining arranged vs love marriages to a new friend a week or so ago, using me as his example: "We know there will be compromises. If I want to be friends with Steph, for instance, I know I'm going to have to make some compromises."

Laughter all around. :-)

Posted by Steph at 8:25 AM | Comments (2)

August 31, 2007

Honorific: Crew

As The Captain steered and navigated us along the Atlantic seacoast and up the Connecticut River, I marveled at our isolation.


No, we were not the only people on the water (although many times, especially in the early morning, it felt this way). We were the only people sailing. Cigarette boats, smaller fishing boats and larger cruisers pounded by, sometimes slowing considerately so as not to pummel us with their wake, but not always. How is it, I wondered, that people seek to escape the frenzy of daily life by transferring the same frenetic energy to their recreation? Everyone we met commented on the "speed" (as in lack thereof) or our humble craft. There we were, two women (egads!) on a tiny boat (one kayaker who stopped to chat boasted his boat was longer than ours by two whole feet!), rejecting modernity's rapidity and its characteristic exertion of control over the environment.

Sailing is a wonder. I was blessed with spectacular weather during my stint as crew for Shemaya's Serenity Sail - a bit of rain the first night (for which we were totally prepared), otherwise sun and the vagaries of wind and current. The second night boasted a spectacular sunset, a full moon and an eclipse! We had nice long downwind sails on Day Two and Three. By Day Three I was doing pretty well with steering - having worked out how to work the rudder to keep the bow pointed where we wanted to go. In the little bit of down time just before bed, we read Over the Edge of the World. "By sailing west until they reached the East, and then sailing on in the same direction..." (p. 2), Magellan and his crew changed humanity's conception of the world. While discussing this as we tacked back and forth up the mouth of the Connecticut River (the first time!), I had a flatearther moment. I don't know how else to explain it; I was sitting in Serenity, with water stretching quite a distance in all directions around me, land rising up on two sides and the Long Island Sound behind...I tried to imagine the magnitude of the shift in consciousness required to reject the obvious evidence provided through the perception of my own eyes: the world seemed flat. I comprehended the world as flat (for all of a second or two, just long enough to register).

Our vessel is a catboat, which means it has one main sail and no jib. I thought it amusing that a Catboat could be manufactured in a Hen series: the smallest version (fourteen by six, with a twelve inch draw) being a Peep Hen.

I'm not in danger of learning any forbidden knowledge anytime soon (in the Portugal of Magellan's day, navigational charts and maps were considered state secrets (p. 14), the Captain told me most nautical knowledge was forbidden to crew on pain of death. Thus was knowledge controlled and linked with power). We got into this conversation because of my intrigue with the rivalry between cosmologists and pilots described by the author of Edge, Laurence Bergreen:

Explorers setting out on ocean voyages to distant lands needed...their inspiration from cosmologists, but they relied on pilots for execution. (p. 11)

The pilots considered the cosmologists "impractical dreamers" while the cosmologists looked at pilots as "coarse men" with "little understanding." (p. 11) I learn some crucial terminology - how long it will stick is another question entirely! The gaffe jaws gave me grief with the throat halyard, and it took me awhile to actually look at the progress of the peak halyard and adjust the gaffe to the desired position without direction. Cleats and blocks still invoke other images in my mind than the parts of the boat they refer to but I was still able to work with them according to their nautical functions. The boom gallows strikes an ominous cord, and the centerboard had a way of drifting into (and out of) consciousness. I did enjoy scrambling around. :-)

On our most mellow day, we ventured into a narrow creek.

That's the view looking back after we entered.


and this shot shows where we were heading.


Yep, there's a curve and what follows is unknown, unpredictable, a mystery, surprise. :-)

We settled into a lovely shady spot with our sail in the trees, tied to a fallen log, and whiled away the heat of the day.

The labor of sailing, however, became clear to me when I got my turn to practice sailing upwind. Once we left the protected shelter of the inland waterway and returned to the Connecticut, the current was with us but the wind agin'. I learned how to tack. This is so different than steering downwind! Instead of aiming the bow to a specific point on the horizon, when sailing into the wind one has to use the rudder to align the sail with the wind. Direction (hence, destination) are secondary to momentum. Muscle is involved with both activities, but anxiety accompanies the upwind "beating to weather" in stark contrast to the downwind state-of-mind.

I did have a deja vu moment as we approached the far (west) shore and prepared for my first tack. That shoreline was "seen" by me sometime in the preceding 24-48 hours. I was pleased by this confirmation (according to personal ontology) of my being-in-the-right-place-right-time-right-path. :-) We sought the best place to position ourselves for the next day's debarkation. Did I or did I not see a turtle poking its head up in the vicinity of the ultimately dropped anchor?!

After the Deep River Jet Ski social club finished their two-hour evening romp around the river, we had a mild evening, buffeted only by the occasional motorboat ignoring the No Wake zone. The moon was gorgeous again - third night in a row! The morning was stunning (as were they all, but this was our last, imbued with a special aura):


You'll have to tell me what you think about our other sighting that misty morn. The zoom on my inadequate digital camera could not penetrate the mist or the distance. Is it possible we encountered . . .


the loch ness heron?

Besides actual wildlife, we were privy (unfortunately) to some harbor drama (lives of the rich and infamous?), which somehow complemented the soap opera of Magellan's travails. One escapes the less appealing aspects of the human condition under no circumstances. Sailing, however, did bring many strengths and pleasures to the fore. Many people stopped to chat when we were at dock or temporary anchorage. The friendliness and curiosity of these men (and - for whatever reason - it was only men who would chat, although women would often wave or grant a smile from a distance) fed my optimism. No doubt they were on good behavior, intrigued by these "girls" and somewhat amazed at the boat itself, a type many of them had never seen.

Posted by Steph at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2007

Not only instinct, perception too?

Science, Vol 317 (24 August 2007) reports "evidence that the brain’s representation of the physical body is malleable and can be modified by information from the senses." The Experimental Induction of Out-of-Body Experiences by H. Henrik Ehrsson and Video Ergo Sum: Manipulating Bodily Self-Consciousness by Bigna Lenggenhager, Tej Tadi, Thomas Metzinger, and Olaf Blanke seem likely candidates for support of a related argument about linguistic relativity.

The question is, if we feel our bodies are where our eyes are, as further explained in this summary by the BBC, how does such a perception alter the way we imagine ourselves in the world, particularly in relation to others? Does this show up in the ways we communicate? In the ways we use language? Do such perceptions actually alter our consciousness by eliciting particular neural pathways to be broken, reconfigured, reinforced, or newly created?

Posted by Steph at 7:47 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2007


Having moved from place to place so many times in my life means there is no particular geography that grounds me, no physical location where my people are.

Returning to Albuquerque for a visit evokes memories specific to this place, tightly associated with the short time I lived here and the other times I've visited. The quality of the air, the dry heat, the spectacular Sandia mountain range and mellow (by comparison) but distinctive volcano range known as the Three Sisters outline this region of high desert. The lush vein of greenery lining the path of the Rio Grande through the city evokes a surge of joy: so much life!

I moved here for work (installing cable television), mom moved with me. Less than half-a year later my company lost its contract and I began my years on the road. While here I did some organizing for the National Lesbian Conference (which had its fair share of controversy!), was initiated into the ranks of hot air balloonists (one spectacular ride), and basked in the arid, rough landscape. None of the connections I made with local people have persisted, but I recall them fondly. Laurene and I gave a keynote presentation here at a NAME conference, which is a definite highlight of my academic/activist life.

The specificity of event, time, and location (a convergence of spacetime) strikes me in contrast to that of many of my friends who return to the same place where they and their families have always lived. What memories are elicited, by which selection processes when so much has happened within a circumscribed area? While I often bemoan the lack of such a home, it occurs to me that the ability to disperse my own memories over a temporality linked with movement might be a benefit.

Posted by Steph at 9:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2007

fundamental insecurity and frontiers of mind

“I learned something new about you!” The Ever-Smiling Evil Indian gloated after I whined (!) about having never been claimed. “Your friends claim you.” (She really did say this, obviously a weak moment.) I know, but this doesn’t mean I believe! That’s the fundamental part – not exactly hard-wired into my brain – but the synaptic patterns I cognize as “not belongingness” (electrical stimulation among dendrites and axons in my limbic system) are encoded in neuronal firing patterns that can (only?) be changed by engraining long-term memory through “changes in the strength of the synapses between the nerve cells” (p. 8, Who do you think you are? A Survey of the Brain, The Economist, December 23, 2006).

The trick then, is manipulating the strength of those synaptic patterns, “changing the way that information flows through the neuronal network” (p. 8). One time when neuroscientists have found that synaptic strength change is accomplished is, believe it or not, during sleep! They don’t actually know how: one has to accept a comparison with sea slugs and worms to follow the argument Geoffrey Carr lays forth. :-) He presents the relationship among “sleep, dreaming and the establishment of long-term memories [as] known about for awhile” (p. 8), citing in particular studies of the hippocampus by Dr. Eleanor Maguire on the Knowledge of London taxi cab drivers (p. 7) and Dr. Matthew Wilson on electrical activity - dreams! - in the brains of rats “as it learnt something about the environment, such as how to run around a particular maze” (p. 8).

Identity, extrapolating from the above and other findings of modern neuroscience, is generated from (by, through) the subtle interactions of emotion and reason. Emotions are processed through the limbic system, particularly the amygdala and hypothalamus. Particular emotions (fear, anger, disgust, sadness) are conducted by the amygdala, and others (e.g., joy) with the hypothalamus. Memory is orchestrated by the hippocampus. Organizing all of these neurochemical and neuroelectrical processes is a function of language – Carr says “many … think the evolutionary pressure that drove the enlargement of the human brain was not a need to survive the natural environment but a need to negotiate the social one” (p. 9). Intriguingly, even categories of objects are associated with certain physical locations in the brain: for instance face recognition (always and only in the fusiform face area), images of places (parahippocampal place area) and writing (left fusiform gyrus) are always processed in the same place:

Somehow, all healthy developing brains not only work out that written words are a category to which it is worth allocatings its own piece of neural anatomy, but find it easiest to accommodate that category in the same piece of wetware. (p. 9)

The how of all these layers are being worked on at the level of genetics, with researchers aiming to pinpoint which genes are responsible for which synaptic connections, and theorizing about language and the mind. “Though no one has yet proved the case, it looks as though the evolution of language and the evolution of theory of mind might not only be two sides of the same coin, but might actually be different specializations of the same basic structure” (p. 10). Carr comes down strongly in support of Steven Pinker’s language instinct (and, hence, Noam Chomsky), citing an array of behavioral evidence, the existence of a speech production area in the brain (Broca’s area), a speech-recognition area (Wernicke’s), and parallels between auditory and visual languages:

Nor is language processing merely a matter of decrypting and encrypting sound. Deaf people who communicate using sign languages (which have all the grammatical and syntactic features of spoken language) also do their processing in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. If they suffer damage to these areas, it shows up in exactly the same way that it does in those who can hear. (p. 10)

What do humans, apes, elephants, and dolphins have in common? Awareness of self. This is a feature of consciousness that sets us apart from other animals. Reflecting upon the fact of self-awareness invokes theory of mind: “the ability not only to hypothesize what other minds are thinking, but to hypothesize what they are thinking about what you are thinking” (p 10).

The evolutionary value of this is that people can anticipate the actions of others in a way that helps them. But with language, they can not only anticipate the actions of others, they can try to manipulate them. (p. 10)

Enter interpreting – oh alright, it has been here all along! :-) – and mirror neurons. “A mirror neuron is one that is active both during the execution of a particular action or the production of a feeling by the individual concerned, and also when that individual observes the same action or feeling in another individual. In other words, it mirrors the actions and thoughts of others” (p. 10). But not exactly. Mirroring, based on a visual metaphor, is flawed from the start, since “visual experience…is a complete fabrication. What is consciously perceived is not a simple mapping of the images that fall on the retina. Instead, the signals from the optic nerves are deconstructed and re-formed in a process so demanding that it involves about a third of the cerebral cortex” (p. 12). Now, let me infer beyond what Carr explicitly states.

What is “mirrored” by mirror neurons are qualia – “consciously experienced feelings” (p. 11), but these are not necessarily the same, they are dialectical. We may both feel fear, or shame, or joy simultaneously, or your joy might elicit my grief, my anger your guilt, etcetera. This is because of the mutual reinforcement of a theory called neural Darwinism, which “combines two ideas. The first, as [Dr. Gerald Edelman] charmingly puts it, is that ‘neurons which fire together, wire together’ … provid[ing] the selective pressure that is the prerequisite for any Darwinian-based theory: to those neuronal networks that have shall be given, from those that have not, even what little they have shall be taken away.

The resulting changes are the physical basis of learning. (p. 11)

While Dr. Edelman restricts his claim to the internal neurochemistry of the brain, I am suggesting that such isolationism reduces the problem of consciousness to a false basis. Perhaps an opening to extend beyond the false autonomy of an individual is provided by the second idea in Edelman’s theory: re-entrant mapping. Here, Carr’s explanation reads like a communication textbook:

The process of learning can be viewed as one by which reality (as perceived by the senses) is transformed into a representation of reality. (p. 11)

These transformations, Carr continues, are described mathematically as mapping. “In Dr Edelman’s model of the brain…the maps themselves are mapped by other groups of neurons. It is the phenomenon of different groups of neurons watching each other that he refers to as re-entrant mapping” (emphasis added, p. 11). [Tangent: see this piece re William James on the Emotions, Mimicry, and the Social Self]

The anthropocentrism of neurons “watching” each other returns us to the problems of vision and the fact that even the perceptions of our senses differ. This variability of input/reception results in diverse – sometimes even contradictory – meanings, assertions of value, or evaluations of meaningfulness. Hence, the dilemmas of communication as we labor to create systems that enable survival and improve the human condition. If the key to learning lies in changing the basic neural firing patterns of daily experience, then the ways people talk about the experiences of living provides a powerful source of information about the phenomena of consciousness. Examining discourses enables framing to become apparent as a structure of knowledge: our own as well as others. The extent and depth to which the knowledge of how our own consciousnesses are structured can be transformed into changes at individual, societal, and institutional levels is an open question. [For instance, to what extent can we manipulate fractal geometry?]

Carr describes a particular mechanism of change as the “recapitulation of experience” (p. 8). (One must be amused by this proposed definition: "What usually happens after eating a parrot sandwich.") Time and repetition are crucial components – both in terms of what has been documented with powerful technologies such as the fMRI (functional magnetic-resonance imaging – which has its critics, btw), and in securing (what I will call) the meaningfulness of memory. Taking time first, two absolutely fascinating details: rats in the experiments by Dr. Matthew Wilson “replay their experiences in their hippocampuses even when they are just resting, although, intriguingly, the pattern of electrical signals runs backward at this time” (emphasis added, p. 8). One could infer that memories are stored in chains of electrical impulses stemming from the most recent (closest in timespace) to oldest (most distant in spacetime). One can even imagine that links in this chain are not necessarily continuous through each-and-every-related experience, as what would matter is the strength and repetition of the neuronal firing pattern itself. The details of experiences that reinforce a synapse could easily be lost as dendrite firing to a specific/particular axon of another nerve fades without reinforcement.

The other totally compelling time detail involves the relationship between action and decision-making. Dr Benjamin Libet has shown (via electroencephalography) “that the process which leads to the act starts about three-tenths of a second before an individual is consciously aware of it” (emphasis added, p. 12). In other words, our synapses initiate action prior to what we imagine is our own intellectual, conscious, and deliberate choice: the mind is always playing catch-up with the brain. Does this temporal fact of physical reality seal the coffin on free will? I do not think so. Language is a mechanism for redirecting experience: not just for (attempting to) manipulate others but for reconstructing the structure of mirror neurons in our very own brains. The challenge, hidden like a seed in Carr’s prose, is not to merely repeat the spontaneous neuronal firing of new experience, but to recapitulate that pattern.

I may always be in the process of arriving just-after-the-fact of a neural firing of not-belongingness due to whatever obscure trigger sets off the conditioned synapses, but I can delay and interfere with its knee-jerk imposition of past reality. What comes out in terms of behavior may itself be warped, but at least it represents the evidence of learning, the desire for change. (See explanation of Vipasana, Camping in the Dawn Land.) Indeed, although inconsistent, I am aware of the establishment of new patterns - different responses than I've had in the past to certain stimuli. Acting in such a way as to continually reinforce these new ways of being is an effort that becomes easier with practice.

Posted by Steph at 5:22 AM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2007

on trust and systemic issues


I woke up this morning freaking out that I've shared my current work with someone who may actually "steal" my ideas. I've sent the paper I wrote for Critical Link 5 to four people (one academic, two interpreters from the European Parliament, and a fellow graduate student). It is the academic I'm worried about - only because weeks have passed, and a few emails from me, and no acknowledgement (yet).

My first wave of concern occurred within a few days of sending my article (per request of this academic) on July 25. I had just officially submitted it by the CL5 deadline of July 20, 2007.

Much has been happening in certain areas of my personal life that may incline me toward more suspiciousness than usual: I actually hope this is a case of paranoid transference! Then, this morning's headline story from The New York Times gave me more reason to consider external influences:

“Trust was shaken today,” said Thomas Mayer, the chief European economist at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. “Credit depends on trust. If trust disappears, then credit disappears, and you have a systemic issue.”

I know it seems like quite a stretch, but I can imagine my whiff of fearfulness as an example of social metonymy. Here I am in my own private little bubble of "steph-ness", dealing with the current challenges and changes washing through my life, and sensing amorphous "things".... am I picking up on a general gestalt (such as the worldwide grief - that I was surprised to share so intensely - when Princess Di was killed) and importing it into the particular performance of my own being?

I witnessed a clear instance of social metonymy the other day, observing a group during a staff meeting. The newest member of the business happened to be the last person to have a turn during the warm-up/check-in activity. I was amazed at how leisurely the group was at filling each other in on their family lives, personal successes, and rewarding experiences from the office. No one seemed bored! There was a palpable sense of caring and acceptance, indicated mostly through humor and teasing, but also through thoughtful follow-up questions and visible signs of affirmation (the nonverbals of eye contact, body posture, and nodding). The last person spoke of the warm welcome and supportive environment, sharing their decision to use this workplace as a site where (my paraphrase) "I can be me." The accumulation of individual performances of "self" in this workgroup have created a collective culture that this newcomer was able not only to say (as in describe) but to actually embody, to enact with heartfelt sentiment. The clarity of integration between intention, action, and language about the intentions and actions shows how well this person will fit into the group (a confirmation of the interview/hiring process).

Dang neat stuff, if you ask me. :-)

Posted by Steph at 7:54 AM | Comments (0)

August 4, 2007

Science Revolutionaries: struggling for soul?

"The giant brains who devised quantum mechanics, whatever that means" is the tagline for this book review in The Economist (14 July 2007.

Both Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics, and Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science intrigue me.

An adaptation of the introduction to Faust in Copenhagen is provided by the author, Gino Segre, laying out his creative use of a play by the central physicists on Goethe's Faust as the organizational framework of the book. I'm definitely intrigued by the group dynamics - especially since the blogger linked to above agrees with another reviewer's diss of Bohr's actual contribution to the field. A New York Times review summarizes how the silly play upon "Faust, who in the legend sells his soul for universal knowledge... [became] in retrospect...profound." Another review in The Sunday Times blasts Segre's effort to link artistry and science with the lives of their progenitors is "where art and science differ. For understanding their work, Joyce’s and de Chirico’s lives matter. Pauli’s is irrelevant."

It seems I should read Faust first.

Regarding Uncertainty, The Economist review says the title is wrong because much more is covered than the Uncertainty Principle (a personal favorite). [Why? Because it articulates in the hard sciences what is known about language (see Burke, Billig, for starters): "the uncertainty principle posited that in many physical measurements, one can extract one bit of information only at the price of losing another."]

The Scientific American review (linked above) mentions something quite interesting: "Niels Bohr agreed with the basic premises of [Heisenberg's] startling insights but saw the need to 'make sense of the new quantum physics without throwing overboard the hard-won successes of the previous era.'" This is interesting in light of the debate about Bohr's contribution, as well as the critique of "logical inclusiveness" that Kuhn deconstructs as "closely associated with early logical positivism" (98): "[T]he view of science-as-cumulation is [closely] entangled with a dominant epistemology that takes knowledge to be a construction placed directly upon raw sense data by the mind" (96). Another reviewer explains that Uncertainty "illustrates the collaborative nature of science, especially of physics, and how major discoveries are usually the result of contributions over time by many individuals, with one or two leading figures providing the key insights that bring clarity to a particular issue." This is the same point emphasized by John Gribbin in The Scientists (see entry: The Middle is Always Light). This reviewer (Hugh Ruppersburg) continues, describing how author David Lindley places Einstein in the category designated by others to Bohr, as "the conservative elder doubter who believes that classical physics — its ability to predict with utter precision how the world must operate — must not be undermined by a theory holding that at a certain level there is no precision or certainty." From this angle, "it is Bohr who finally provides the vocabulary through which the world has come to understand the principle" - a direct counter to the critique that Bohr's contribution has no contemporary standing. At the same time, Ruppersburg seems to agree (in a parallel fashion, not directly) with the critic (cited above) of linking scientists' lives and work: "He [Lindley] also argues that the popularity of modern cultural, philosophical, and literary theories that depend on the notion of uncertainty, randomness, and unpredictability really have no real connection to Heisenberg’s principle, other than the fact that it helped popularize the notion of uncertainty in the 20th century. Heisenberg provided a metaphor for these theorists, nothing more." (I may beg to differ on this, but am not yet prepared to argue why.)

I am struck by the use of "soul" in the title of both works. Coincidentally (?), I was just contemplating the word in other writing this morning, suggesting it is too ambiguous because of its range of meanings (27 Google offerings). One of the articulations of soul that resonates with me is from the science fiction series, Alvin the Maker, which puts the forces of Making and Unmaking at the core of life. The physicists who worked on physics were aware of the double-edged sword of the knowledge they sought to uncover; it is interesting that the dialectical (?) tension between epistemology and ontology is invoked to characterize early physicists' search for knowledge.

[Two earlier blog references to Kuhn: Holding Form and Inside/Outside.]

More (selections from Reflexivity) on Burke: Definition of Human, Creation Myth, and On Hope and Despair.

Posted by Steph at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2007

social metonymy

I'm still clarifying for myself the original linguistic context that metonymy describes, which is apparently synonymous or parallel with cognitive linguistics' use of it through (it seems?) the common conflation of linguistics and cognition.

My own conflation (!) is between language and action, recognizing in the definition (at least as I originally understood it) a label for the way certain social actions "stand in for" or "represent" or "invoke" or otherwise "call into being" other (larger?) social phenomena. I have conceived of social metonymy as a theoretical construct that names the linkage between microsocial behavior and socio-cultural behavior.

I found some online resources that use the phrase, "social metonymy" (which I think I have not actually searched for, previously. Go figure.)

Impersonal, General, and Social: The Use of Metonymy Versus Passive Voice in Medical Discourse (2007), which "shows that metonymy is another frequent strategy used to create anonymous authors/agents." (Gabriella Rundblad)

A Literature Network Forum on Joyce (07-03-2003, 06:23 AM): "The dinner (just like the Christmas dinner that would later occur in 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man') is a political and social metonymy of Ireland (metonymy because the whole of Irish culture is being symbolized by one portion of its society)." by AbdoRindbo who has since been banned. (!)

The 40th Summer School on 3U Rhetoric and Discourse Analysis by Dr Alejandro Groppo appeared on the google search with social metonymy in quotation marks. I didn't see the term on my quick scan, but obviously there is a high degree correspondence between my conception and the fantastic curriculum laid out here. (I'm jealous I will miss it - this August!) :-/

"A Bio-Critical Sourcebook" of Latin American Writers on Gay and Lesbian Themes (1994): in a review/critique by Julio Ramon Ribeyro on "Reynoso's often frustratingly cliched and stereotyped view of sexual practices as deleterious social metonymy, for liberation within a social context that is displayed as racist, classist, and spiritually-alienated" (357).

Elizabeth Keckley's Behind the Scenes in Race, Work, and Desire by Michele Bimbaum (2003): "The white glove that Lincoln wore on his right hand during the ceremony following his second inauguration is a 'precious memento' (154) to Keckley precisely because of the social metonymy of clothing: the glove bears 'the marks of the thousands of hands that grasped the honest hand of Mr. Lincoln on that eventful night' (155)."

An archived (2006) edition of Film Matters on "Kurosawa, the Emperor of Cinema" by Brian McAsey from BeatRoute Magazine: "His oeuvre, besides screenplays, soundtracks, and production work, includes 32 films he wrote and directed. From nascent director, making propaganda film to film impresario and samurai culture revivalist and master of piquant social metonymy, Kurosawa’s resume is impressive."

From Creative Loafing Atlanta, Wakeful darkness: In search of duende at the Bienal de Flamenco in Sevilla, by Cliff Bostock (09.23.2000): "The commercial success of flamenco has influenced it in disconcerting ways. It originated as noncommercial and spontaneous performances in which there was a subtle and mainly male dance with the gypsy's pena negra ("black pain"). A series of stylized gestures developed over time -- including the zapateado (heel tapping) -- but these gestures, functioning as a kind of social metonymy, were nevertheless intimate and spontaneously expressed."

Only nine returns from a Google search, and two of them were mine:

One is nonsensical (too contextual to be apprehended): "Now, you know me and my penchant for social metonymy. I was just imagining all of a person's free radicals spinning harmoniously in the same direction (the state of being at peace with oneself?) and attracting someone else who's free radicals are also spinning harmoniously in the opposite direction. At least more, rather then less, of time spent together. Wouldn't this provide a different basis of attraction than pheromones? (Some are used in pest control.) Perhaps there is a correlation between electron spin and the production of pheromones?" (February 01, 2006)

More clearly (!), Powers of Ten: "I saw this short video on the powers of ten when I interpreted a science class some years back for upper elementary school students (possibly fifth-graders). I find it a useful metaphor for this notion of social metonymy that I keep trying to articulate as a means of linking the microsocial with the macrosocial and vice-versa." (March 26, 2006)

Posted by Steph at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2007

a qualitative queer

is much more intriguing than a quantitative girl. At least that's what we decided on the way to The Shy Glassy-Eyed Indian's b'day party the other day. The highlight of the evening was the song competition, which was an outgrowth of the Bengali, Maharashtra, and Tamil intraIndian debate and cucumber war (mine was stolen). I (by the way), scored big points with "Y". Lest it be forgotten (gasp!), there was also an Oriya guy, who actually did quite well at this game.

The piece de resistance was the H(square) vanilla cake (frosted by She-Who-Will-Remain-Nameless) and quite tasty, actually. The dosa was yummy yummy yummy with and without the potato stuffing, and despite the experiment played on a certain naive american. There was no coconut curry (much to someone's chagrin?) however there was coconut rice, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Rock Star had nothing left to share with me, "Steph! Sorry! You arrived late!" Yeah, right. (Like that would have made a difference. Ha!) One of the girls broke the corkscrew and one of the boys came to the rescue. Some people had recently been partying way too much, and more than half the group paid attention to one part or another of my lesson in string theory. Time to feed your mind!

Most of the conversations I've had with physicists involve cosmology: "Was there a String Bang before the Big Bang, or did the Universe simply unwind?" We started out with gravity this night, because that's the Rock Star's area of study (supergravity?) I was trying to get a grip on what is the part of gravity that hasn't been figured out yet. Newton's version works for anything we know how to observe, but gets tricky at the quantum level: is it because of that whole indeterminacy thang? (I forget.) I should mention, btw, that at about this time Ambu temporarily abandoned his chef duties in order to post a large yellow traffic sign (symbolizing warning), saying:

area slippery.jpg

Now, my memory is sketchy, but I know gravity is actually a two-way force....yes, it pulls us down to the center of gravity but there is also another draw that orients to and/or positions us from the opposite direction. For whatever (crucial) reason that I cannot now reconstruct, the answer to my question about what is still unknown about gravity led to a minor tutorial on string theory, which is wicked elegant because it combines three other theories: Newton's (law of gravity? laws of motion?), Planck's h (a certain constant), and the speed of light into one dimension. Wow! Beautiful! Congruence! (One possible definition includes "agreement between trees." Go figure.)

Hmm. Does that elusive comprehension return? Is the unanswered question concerning gravity about the strong and weak nuclear forces? Yes....? (Maybe not, see four fundamental forces). Obviously, I am in need of follow-up instruction. I do recall (hopefully accurately), that string theory has a stronger restriction (allowing 11 dimensions in our universe) whereas supersymmetry has a weaker restriction (enabling an entire 26 dimensions). Something clicked a few neurons in my brain to imagine a parallel between symmetry (of any kind) and synchronicity. At this point, I was directed to geodesics.

{I cannot explain the next jotting in my notes: "coloring of cows." Must have been contextual.}


Posted by Steph at 9:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2007

The middle is always light

I haven’t been able to make much progress reading The Scientists since the long return flight from Sydney, let alone blog about it. I’ve gotten to the turn of 19th century (late 1700s - early 1800s), and Young’s double-slit light experiment. Assuming the laws of physics apply to human behavior (and why wouldn’t they, since they encompass everything else in the universe?), I find this experiment fascinating. It’s historic note for science is that it provided the proof that light is composed of waves, not particles, but I am intrigued by the way it interacts with itself in the double-slit experiment to create an interference pattern: a sequence of alternating light and shade. The light (from two different sources or directions, the separate slits) results from the peaks of each wave adding together, marching in step, being aligned. The dark spacings are not – as one might guess – where the valleys of each wave converge, but when “the waves from the two slits are out of step with each other (out of phase) so the peak in one wave is cancelled by the trough in the other wave” (2002: 405).

Young explained how to calculate the exact spacing of the resulting light/dark pattern based on the light’s wavelength, calculable by measuring the width of the strips. I haven’t yet wrapped my head around the formula (it seems to be a straightforward proportional equation; the interference link enables play in order to see the results). Nonetheless, two points gripped me: one, that darkness is the result of adding beams of light, and two, this elegant notion: “The middle (of the pattern) is always light” (Thomas Young, in Gribbin, p. 406).

Perhaps I stretch too far to suggest that one person’s “light” (soul, spirit, mind, intellect, intuition) can “cancel out” another’s, but it seems to me this is what occurs in relationships as individuals undulate along a continuum (wavelengths?) of intimacy. Young’s quote includes something about “bright stripes on each side…at such distances”, which I think means at the edges of the patterns. I guess the two-slit experiment is always a matter of light enclosing spaces of darkness rather than darkness at the boundaries limiting light. This is worth further thought. :-) Of course, the experiment is predicated, actually, on a single source of light that is shone through first a single slit in one barrier, and then a double slit in the second, so my analogy may break down at the most crucial point.

Unless one imagines that all life originates from a common source . . . or . . . that peak intimacy/enmity (closeness) occurs when the "middles" of each respective interference pattern overlap. There is less connection (relatedness) when waves at the trough encounter waves at the peak - interactions that cancel each other out = a zero sum?

Posted by Steph at 8:37 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2007

"Do you still know who you are?"

Strong Little Bridge teased me last month when I was off the blog for several days. I actually found it easy to stop blogging - other activities quickly fill the timespace. Imagine - sometimes "real life" outweighs asynchronicity! :-)

Several validations recently: a person nearly fifteen years younger than me telling me how much I have matured (!), another friend saying I'm much more steady. My massage therapist, commenting that my cerebrospinal fluid pulse is "surprisingly even." (Ruth, of course, laughed hilariously when I told her - who wouldn't be surprised if I was actually "even"?!)

Has Reflexivity served it's purpose? I've been imagining an expansion for awhile. There have been various conversations with friends and colleagues and other activists floating around here-n-there for ages...

I don't foresee changing my own mode of contribution all that much: I am still interested in many things, the usefulness of the blog as a research tool and memory archive still intrigues me - particularly the capacity for friends and strangers to track the development of my consciousness along with me, and the ability to concentrate conversations on particular topics and be able to recover them easily, publicly, are features I value.

I guess we'll see what transpires. :-)

Posted by Steph at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

March 6, 2007

why belief evolved

Robin Marantz Henig, in an article, Darwin's God, written for the NYTimesMagazine, states: "The debate over why belief evolved is between byproduct theorists and adaptationists." (links added)

The larger conversation involves collective action: why do some groups organize while others do not? The specific situation is the problem of enticing an individual to contribute to a collective action when there is not an obvious self-interest:

"I might contribute to my group's effort because the group ties my contribution to provision of some private good that I want, such as participation in the Sierra Club's outdoor activities or, in the early days of unions, low-cost group-insurance benefits not available in the market. Such private goods can commonly be provided in the market, so that their usefulness may eventually be undercut. Indeed, firms that provide insurance benefits to their employees thereby undercut one of the appeals of union membership. The general decline of American unions in recent decades is partially the result of their success in resolving problems for workers in ways that do not require continuing union effort." (From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on The Problem of Free-Riders.)

What interests me is that science is presented bereft of belief. "Belief" is posed as an action directed only toward "God", or as capable of being satisfied or filled only with a system deemed "religious."

"The bottom line, according to byproduct theorists, is that children are born with a tendency to believe in omniscience, invisible minds, immaterial souls — and then they grow up in cultures that fill their minds, hard-wired for belief, with specifics. It is a little like language acquisition, Paul Bloom says, with the essential difference that language is a biological adaptation and religion, in his view, is not. We are born with an innate facility for language but the specific language we learn depends on the environment in which we are raised. In much the same way, he says, we are born with an innate tendency for belief, but the specifics of what we grow up believing — whether there is one God or many, whether the soul goes to heaven or occupies another animal after death — are culturally shaped."

Bloom's maneuver is illustrated by relegating language to the realm of "biological adaptation" completely dismissing the role of language in belief of any kind.

"Belief," Henig writes a few paragraphs later, "...gains power in two ways: from the intensity with which people wish it to be true and from the confirmation it seems to get from the real world." These characteristics of "intensity" and "confirmation" are measurable only through language. Too bad she does not recognize that science also requires belief.

Her hero on the adaptationist side is Sloan Wilson: "a graduate student at Michigan State University in the 1970s, Darwinians were critical of group selection, the idea that human groups can function as single organisms the way beehives or anthills do. So he decided to become the man who rescued this discredited idea. “I thought, Wow, defending group selection — now, that would be big,” he recalled. It wasn’t until the 1990s, he said, that he realized that “religion offered an opportunity to show that group selection was right after all.”

Why can't group selection and belief in science go together? Isn't this the crux of the debate between science (with its divided disciplines of knowledge) and religion (with its disparate denominations)? The question that matters is not whether we believe in religion or science, but in the outcomes and effects that any belief system generates in human relations over time. This is a moral question: its purview is not restricted to the realm of religion.

Posted by Steph at 7:48 PM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2007


"A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." – Albert Einstein

shared by Ruth, via email, thanks. :-)

Posted by Steph at 7:29 PM | Comments (5)

February 2, 2007

about The Jacket

What would you do if your reality was suddenly altered? Would you have the presence of mind to stay calm, to assess the situation, to act strategically while facing pain and the knowledge of your own upcoming death? The Jacket presents a model in the character of Jack Starks, who also manages to act kindly even as he pursues his own preservation. "Don't act like I don't know what's real!" Starks asserts to (mad scientist) Dr. Becker. Later, he clarifies to the good Dr. Lorenson as she tries to calmly describe his court-diagnosed delusional state: "The real events that have happened to me have been f*cked up, not my mind!"

The elements of consciousness and time are interwoven to generate a metaphor for the individual human life here on earth. In certain ways, we are all "trapped" in a jacket, prone on a slab, closed within a morgue drawer. Society dictates the boundaries: if we err in our interpersonal or professional relations punishment ensues. Similarly, we encounter strangeness and surprise. Sometimes unspeakable, the horrors of what can be done to us and of what we may participate in doing to others form the backdrop of everyday tasks and routines.

The test of our humanity is the degree to which we develop our perception and awareness of always having a choice of response, no matter what the provocation. Jack's life as "Everyman" - as anyone - is stark, laid bare by events and circumstances beyond his control. Instead of resisting the evidence of his perception, Jack accepts it - he trusts what he knows. Not only does he waste no time, he works within it, generating conditions for his own and others' survival.

Posted by Steph at 8:54 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2007


Although January isn’t quite over, the winter break is. The spring semester of interpreting, teaching, and writing begins tomorrow. How have my bones handled the gift of reflection? Evil Kachina suggested the following theme:

“January 1, 2007 REFLECTION: REMEMBERING & TELLING ONES PERSONAL STORY These are my gifts for January, take them and do as you will with them. If you have ANY questions please feel free to contact me. With much love, honor and respect as we walk toward this Sacred thing (our lives).”

I remember my story not as my own, but as a member of a family. Three families, actually, the biological one in which my brother and I basically raised ourselves, a chosen one which I lost, and the encompassing ‘family’ of humanity. The weaving of these three seemingly separate tales shifts from loose to tight, compacted to disbursed, distinct to conflated.

When I was working on my Master’s degree (Social Justice Education) in the mid-90s, a professor challenged me once about how far accessibility and inclusion could go. Would the scope of my own action be reduced each time I met someone with a kind of disability that I had not encountered before? I struggled with the vast expanse of non-disabled privileges that I took so much for granted: should I give them up in solidarity? Must I plan events with strict restrictions on the non-disabled, thus enabling conditions of welcome for people with disabilities?

Focusing on the physical is crucial (we are talking basic needs), but an exclusive focus on the material is limited. As siblings growing up in a ‘wannabe’ upper-middle class household, my brother and I were well tended; as consciously-living (thinking and feeling) beings we both needed more nurture than we received. That absence, those gaps, have re-appeared in strange forms over the four decades of our existence, manifesting most profoundly in our intimate relations and core sense of self. The contemporary philosophy of mutual constitution, of the pervasive and constant interplay of “self” and “environment” (relational and material), of the social/linguistic (see online) co-construction of reality, teaches that there is no linear cause-effect relationship between “who I am” and the context of what, where, when, with whom, under which conditions…there is no ‘story of me’ that makes any sense outside of the places and people populating the experience.

How does one become when the conditions for becoming are not ideal?

My current strategy, developed over years of trial-and-error (and some days it definitely feels like mostly error!), is to keep stretching my perception of the context. I think of it as a matter of adjusting the degree of focus – at what level of awareness, which range of conditions, can I find an environment that supports me being the kind of person I seek to be? Sometimes the lens must be narrow, small, even pinpoint: ”In this stressful moment, what can I say/not say that allows the conversation to continue?” Other times, the lens must be broad and encompassing: ”How much credibility do I allow mass media accounts of politics and everyday life in the Middle East before I travel there?”

The continuum of adjusting focus applies to family life, too. The immediate intimacy of present relationships (actual and felt) constitutes the closest focus: who can I be when interacting with lovers, ex-lovers, children, the extended members of their families and all of our closest friends? A few degrees removed, the biological family is that ‘container’ where I spent the early (some say formative) years of being human. When I can make connections between present behaviors/emotions/reactions/interpretations and patterns from my vaguely dim past, then I believe I gain more capacity to free myself from habits and instincts that no longer serve. I expand the range of choice concerning what it means to be a person, to be a self, to have ‘a story’ that is uniquely my own.

Extending the lens of my awareness to humanity, to the species of homo sapiens, the phrase that leaps to mind today, is 'the human race'. This label strikes me as more meaningful than 'the human species' because all of our large-scale social (corporate, political, educational, religious) institutions are premised upon notions of competition, scarcity, and hierarchy. We have inherited a social world built by our forebears as a race. The global system of interconnected technologies and money flows is running as fast as it can: we (as a species) are in such a hurry to get … somewhere. I recognize this as a social metonymy for my own life. My parents were moving up, seeking to advance their socioeconomic status. The effort and thrill of (apparent) success distracted them from some of the tasks of childrearing. I inherited the need to rush. “Here” was never sufficient; “there” was going to be better. My chosen family suffered my impatience.

It has taken years to interrupt the pell-mell, hellbent race to elsewhere and elsewhen, to find the people and places that call me to an other self, to build the structures, conditions, and skill at shifting focus to the most conducive level for becoming other than who I was originally constrained to be. Now, instead of telling the story of an existence, I can begin to tell a story of life.

Posted by Steph at 1:09 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2007


"In his novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson uses the term [actually a name from mythology] Nam-shub to indicate a self-replicating meme." I am truly enjoying this novel. The plot involves a neurolinguistic virus - language that causes physical changes to brain cells: a radical version of the co-construction of meaning.

At the root of this tale's "philosophy of language" is binary code (computer programming is all done in 1's and 0's). Stephenson plays the mind-as-computer analogy to the extreme, suggesting that the insertion of a certain meme (Enki's nam-shub) into language altered cognitive functioning. In other words, that this "speech with magical force" (p. 211) introduced a disease into human thinking. Maximizing complexity, the argument Stephenson presents is that religious belief is the carrier of this disease.

So, what is a meme? The term was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 (The Selfish Gene): "A unit of cultural information that represents a basic idea that can be transferred from one individual to another, and subjected to MUTATION, CROSSOVER, and ADAPTATION" (Glossary based on Flake); a "viral encapsulated idea, with built-in feedback loop" (adapted from "a broad theoretical model of human communication, which [Weaver] defined as 'all of the ways by which one mind may affect another'; premised upon Shannon's foundation of "electronic signal transmission and the quantitative measurement of information flows"; and (originally) "a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one generation to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation); 'memes are the cultural counterpart of genes'" (Princeton WordNet).

Dawkins' original definition (focused at the level of the gene) has been expanded to apply to a wide range of cultural phenomena, including a particular use in blogging. I have to challenge the deliberateness of someone "post[ing] memes on a daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis" because it implies a guarantee that whatever is posted will be picked up. As I understand Dawkin's sense, what makes a meme a meme is precisely its operation at a level "below" or "pre" consciousness - at the genetic level. The question might be the extent to which such changes can be (if ever?) intentionally co-constructed through increasing attention to consciousness at the level of, say, the synaptic connections of the brain's neural net.

Posted by Steph at 9:14 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2007

"The Work"

My aunt likes Byron Katie and a method of self-inquiry "based on four questions and a process called a "turnaround."

The four questions are:

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?

The fifth step is not a question, but a kind of "trying on" by turning the statement/belief around into it's opposite and interrogating this version with the same four questions.

(I'm guessing she made her own wikipedia entry :-), as it still needs to be "wikified" - brought into alignment with standard formatting.) I'm intrigued by a juxtaposition of language (in the form of internal, conscious thinking) and an assumed external "reality" of other people's subjectivities (based on the examples given at the wikipedia site).

I can relate to what she says about her life before "The Work": "...instead of seeing what was happening, I was placing conditions on what was happening..." Yes, this is familiar. :-) But, I'm skeptical of the assurance with which she asserts that there is a "what is" when it comes to other people and their perceptions, emotions, and interpretations of "reality."

Katie's formula opens up possibilities, certainly. It provides a way of testing and demonstrating the power of language to invoke different realities, by which I mean, realities different than those we have previously enacted. More precisely, her method is a means for altering one's own identity through a process of investigating how one understands "reality" and learning to make choices for interacting with the terrain.

Posted by Steph at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2007


I've been thinking about assigning this zine to the students in Section 71, starting soon at a university near you.

Written by Christy C. Road, it is much more gritty than the selections in the Text-Wrestler.

One of the students in last fall's class loaned his copy to me. Thanks Dave.

Selected quotes:

"...we could talk about other things. We could talk about our formative heroes selling out, and about cast aside neighborhoods. We could talk about dismay and how its sometimes followed by deliverance" (Nine).

"Healing is more than spewing out remorse and asking for a shoulder to cry on. Healing is sparse and concealed. Healing is harder to come by than cheap dope, random acquaintances, and fatality" (Ten).

"I learned that while we're all socialized to tamper with the well-being of those around us, being an us is not always what its cracked up to be" (Twelve).

"Death was a difficult concept. I couldn't really talk about it, I could only think twice as hard.......I grew to see my friends and I as young and powerful, but not quite invincible. For once [when I found out Desiree had died], I didn't need invincibility. I realized that as real as our hurt is - fearlessness can be just as real. Invincibility was an attribute we entertained; as radicals, as manic-depressives, as optimists, as romantics, and as young people with whirlwind dispositions and fucked up experiences. But a boundary exists between what's true liveliness and what's unreal. What's tactical thrill and what's naive idealism. I never saw myself teasing or pressing a fingertip towards the edge of that boundary; not then, not ever. 'I'll be an idealist or a pessimist', I thought. Until one day, Desiree taught me about the difference between truly living and just staying alive. While you're truly living, you face danger's coils with spirit. You create emotional weapons and valiant tact. When you're just alive, you choose an unreal outlet to avoid distraction, whether the distraction is too positive or too negative. You wallow in mediocrity and evoke simplicity. Denial makes sense to you" (Fifteen).

Posted by Steph at 7:36 AM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2007

Time vs Matter

Time (change) vs Information (fixed meaningfulness)

I have been witnessing a fascinating discussion in the course on Cultural Codes in Communication which is helping me identify tensions between the transmission and ritual views of communication in interpersonal, communicative action (an element of group dynamics). The events in this class unfolded with the routine assignment of a solid piece of ethnographic research demonstrating one particular way of “culture talking about itself” (Cultural Communication and Intercultural Contact 1990 p. 1). (Find review via JSTOR.) The article is about the problem of recognition - how it is that persons are recognized as being of ‘this identity’ or belonging to ‘that group’ ("On Being a Recognizable Indian Among Indians"). Somehow, some students in the course understood that the authors were positioning themselves as authorities in determining, applying, and bestowing “recognition” of membership. If I had been teaching, I would have been tempted to return to a more careful reading of the text to show this is not the case, but to do so would have been to perpetuate a debate of “my” meaning versus “your” meaning (a style in the form of the transmission model) and done nothing to educate the class about the crucial differences between the transmission model and ritual model.

So, instead of returning to the article and finding the quotes that would counter accusations against the credibility of the authors, such as (I can’t resist!):

“Pratt, who collected most of the data, is an actively participating member of the Osage tribe. In becoming a participant observer of matters that he was already participating in, he did little to alter his usual activity, other than taking notes and becoming somewhat more focused in his attention…his questions were questions that he might well have asked as part of his ordinary pursuits” (47).

What are the matters that Pratt was already participating in? “On frequent occasions, the issues of recognition become a matter of discussion and ‘folk analysis.’ That is, Indians discuss the obvious Indianness, or lack of it, of a candidate Indian” (47).

The teacher, instead, invited a guest speaker to criticize the text and then facilitated a discussion among the students themselves, establishing the roles, identities, and practices necessary for an actual dialogue to take place in the classroom. Here, I’m talking about both the change-over-time occurring in any group as people become familiar with each other and the topic/task at hand, and also about the way the group learns to handle conflict and disagreement. Because difference was invited in, welcomed, and respected, a back-and-forth debate within narrow lines was avoided; instead, a broad-ranging investigation of the problem of recognition was actively engaged. [See here for a Hegelian lens, and here for a work by Paul Ricoeur.] The students are handling significant questions with depth and mutual regard.

I am gleaning some hints for my own research framing and problem-posing. I will gather as much “naturally-occurring speech” as I can, but most of my data will be interview-based. I need to learn to “hear” the transmission and ritual views in operation. I had the flash as I began to write this entry that there is a relationship (a metonymy?) between talk conducted within the epistemology of a transmission view of communication and dialectics, and talk conducted within the epistemology of a ritual view of communication and dialogics. It will take my lifetime to investigate potential ways that the transmission view shapes communication-in-the-present differently than the ritual view, and how tensions between these two views (when they are both present) play out in the process of negotiating meaning. They may contest or complement each other . . .

Posted by Steph at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 8, 2007


As I’m going about formulating a frame for my dissertation research, it becomes clearer that it matters where I draw the line between what will be “in” the project and what must remain “outside” of it. I always knew this, but the difference now, perhaps, is a better sense (?) of what is do-able, particularly in terms of promising an outcome. I don’t mean predicting a particular or specific result, because I do not know, now, the answers to my research problem. I do mean guaranteeing with some assurance that the problem is significant and the results of rigorous examination will be worthwhile and beneficial to the narrow field of language and interpretation studies as well as to (I hope) a broader social science. But I cannot say how the leap from the subfield of interpretation to larger fields will occur. Probably there are several possibilities. I don’t want to foreclose some by too close an interest in others. I cannot see any of them; I only intuit that the connections will become evident.

That penultimate goal must wait. I have been learning a different kind of trust the past few years and I must continue to exercise it. My mind is quick on a few things (sometimes too much so), medium with most, and just plain slow with others. Within my consciousness, a vague sense of understanding floats around definitive knowledge for a long time before it suddenly congeals into sharp coherency. Formulating the kernel of research into the institutionalization of interpretation and language processes has been like this: I've written nearly a dozen papers seeking clarity, all of them “promising” but insufficient. Then, last week, while taking notes of a lecture by my (!) cultural codes instructor, a foundational structure leapt into view. I apprehended what my intuition has been telling me lo-these-past three years.

My interest in epistemology (how we come to know what we know), cognition (more precisely, neuroscience), and perception (haphazardly categorized as “phenomenology”) suggests to me that understanding the productive effects of discourses might influence particular, relational communication choices. I’m going to have to wean myself away from the popular science literature elucidating what specializations have come to accept as knowledge. I resist, for just awhile longer. For now I relish the odd sensation of perceiving new synapses making new connections. There have been several specific time periods throughout doctoral coursework when I’ve experienced understanding snapping into view – ”Aha! – in a cascading sequence of minor revelations. ”No wonder,” I sometimes think, “some of my colleagues think I’m such a dweeb!” :-)

I’ve begun to read second nature: brain science and human knowledge by Gerald M. Edelman (critical review). He offers the assumption, right off the bat, that we do understand how consciousness is based in brain action. With this premise as foundation, Edelman argues “we can address the nature of consciousness itself” (ix) through “a line of thought leading to … brain-based epistemology” (2), a branch of neural darwinism. Edelman places the origin of this line of thinking with a philosopher, Willard van Orman Quine (never heard of him before), and situates himself as following the footsteps of William James (of whom I have heard), “who pointed out that consciousness is a process whose function is knowing” [Footnote 4] (p. 3).

I’m curious where Edelman juxtaposes thinking in this equation. The model I’m working with situates thinking somewhere in-between consciousness and knowing. The two reasons I can articulate right now are the arguments Gladwell makes about rapid cognition going wrong: he calls it temporary mind-blindness, citing the NY police killing of Amadou Diallo as his prime example. People still know things in situations when their judgment is impaired, faulty, or otherwise questionable, but the resources of consciousness that they are able to bring to the operation of knowing in such moments are severely reduced. Gladwell’s recommendation is to control the environment in order to control rapid cognition. He also cites the value of experience.

“…the gift of training and expertise – the ability to extract an enormous amount of meaningful information from the very thinnest slice of experience . . . . Every moment – every blink – is composed of a series of discrete moving parts, and every one of those parts offers an opportunity for intervention, for reform, and for correction” (241). The point Gladwell seeks to drive home is that “our unconscious thinking is, in one critical respect, no different from our conscious thinking: in both, we are able to develop our rapid decision making with training and experience” (237).

Interpreters must thin-slice all the time. That’s our job: to determine meaning in the blink of an eye and then to fix it for others.

The problem is that the more pressure and less time one has for rapid cognition, the more likely one is to make errors. Quoting psychologist Keith Payne: “When we make a split-second decision, we are really vulnerable to being guided by our stereotypes and prejudices, even ones we may not necessarily endorse or believe” (emphasis added, 233). In these moments, our thinking mind is overruled or impaired by something else. What?

I’m taking a leap here – but I’m wondering about the enteric brain. Someone in the Communication Department – either Perry or David – gave me a copy of a Harper’s article some time ago. Yesterday I read it. “Debbie Does Salad: The Food Network at the frontiers of pornography” by Frederick Kaufman (interviewed by Peter Morris). It parallels (convincingly) the pleasure of viewers of cooking shows and pornography: both produce a visceral “wow” in another, second brain, “a brain in the gut” (October 2005:59). Sphincters, baby, that’s what it comes down to, “enteric attraction,” a bunch of autonomic openings and closings that either feel good or feel bad. Kaufman quotes a 1907 classic: “The abdominal brain can live without the cranial brain…[but] the cranial brain can not live without the abdominal brain” (The Abdominal and Pelvic Brain).

Here’s how I’m putting all this together. Once we become conscious of the enteric brain, meaning once we know “sphincter power” drives the wow factor, our tastes, and our biases, then we can start to think about whether or not (when, how, why) we want our decisions to be dictated by the gut. I would even go so far as to speculate that this is the tangible horizon of humanity’s evolution as a species. Language (and all those other symbols we wield) might be an entry point for illuminating this choice, even for detailing when and how interactions rife with gut-level reactions can be mediated. Not by rationality per se, but to the combination of intuition/rapid cognition and thoughtful consideration Gladwell articulates, so that we can begin to deliberately move our societies away from the perpetuation of destructive decision-making cycles (I’m thinking in particular of violence to persons and our planet) and toward new modes of creativity and alternative forms of aggressive expression that preserve life and its continuing possibility.

[random fyi: Mind, Language, and Epistemology: Toward a Language Socialization Paradigm for SLA]

Posted by Steph at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

January 7, 2007


I wrote a while back about thin-slicing. I have nearly finished Gladwell’s book on rapid cognition. He spends a chapter discussing the face, linking the ability to discern emotional expression as akin to mind-reading: in his words, “the physiological basis of how we thin-slice other people” (213). Face recognition and object recognition are usually handled by two different parts of the brain, respectively the fusiform gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus (219), but more interesting to me are two things: the interplay between voluntary and involuntary facial muscle responses, and the evidence that simply making certain facial expressions generates corresponding physiological states.

All of us can control our expressions to varying degrees, but people exert this control only after our faces have involuntarily displayed our emotional reaction. He describes several examples, including a slow-motion microexpressions of Kato Kaelin looking like “a snarling dog” during the O.J. Simpson trial (211), the smirking double-agent, Harold “Kim” Philby (211-212), “I’m a bad guy” Bill Clinton (205-206), and a psychiatric patient, Mary (208-209), citing research from Paul Ekman, Silvan Tomkins, Wallace Friesen, and Robert Levenson (singly and in various combinations). “We can use our voluntary muscular system to try to suppress those involuntary responses. But, often, some little part of that suppressed emotion – such as the sense that I’m really unhappy even if I deny it – leaks out…Our voluntary expressive system is the way we intentionally signal our emotions. Bur our involuntary expressive system is in many ways even more important: it is the way we have been equipped by evolution to signal our authentic feelings” (210).

The above is based on a summary of research findings that there is a finite number of meaningful expressions and most, if not all, of these are intelligible – as in understood to express similar emotions – across cultures. These findings are gathered in a tool created by Ekman and Frisen called the Facial Action Coding System, now used by computer animators and applied in various kinds of psychological and social research (204-205).

The second point, more fascinating than the first (categorizing is cool, but inducing change is cooler), involves a claim by Ekman “that the information on our face is not just a signal of what is going on inside our mind. In a certain sense, it is what is going on inside our mind” (206, emphasis in original). They tested this claim rather ingeniously. Through some casual experimentation they discovered they could induce the physiological indicators of distress and anger: “As I do it [move specific facial muscles into particular facial expressions],” said Ekman, “I can’t disconnect from the [autonomic nervous] system. It’s very unpleasant, very unpleasant” (207). Two different teams of researchers documented that the pathway of internal emotion stimulus and facial emotional expression works both ways. “These findings may be hard to believe, because we take it as given that first we experience an emotion, and then we may – or may not – express that emotion on our face. We think of the face as the residue of emotion. What this research showed, though, is that the process works in the opposite direction as well. Emotion can also start on the face. The face is not a secondary billboard for our internal feelings. It is an equal partner in the emotional process” (208, emphasis in original).

Claims made by Gladwell are contested by Posner.

Posted by Steph at 6:39 PM | Comments (0)


I wrote a while back about thin-slicing. I have nearly finished Gladwell’s book on rapid cognition. He spends a chapter discussing the face, linking the ability to discern emotional expression as akin to mind-reading: in his words, “the physiological basis of how we thin-slice other people” (213). Face recognition and object recognition are usually handled by two different parts of the brain, respectively the fusiform gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus (219), but more interesting to me are two things: the interplay between voluntary and involuntary facial muscle responses, and the evidence that simply making certain facial expressions generates corresponding physiological states.

All of us can control our expressions to varying degrees, but people exert this control only after our faces have involuntarily displayed our emotional reaction. He describes several examples, including a slow-motion microexpressions of Kato Kaelin looking like “a snarling dog” during the O.J. Simpson trial (211), the smirking double-agent, Harold “Kim” Philby (211-212), “I’m a bad guy” Bill Clinton (205-206), and a psychiatric patient, Mary (208-209), citing research from Paul Ekman, Silvan Tomkins, Wallace Friesen, and Robert Levenson (singly and in various combinations). “We can use our voluntary muscular system to try to suppress those involuntary responses. But, often, some little part of that suppressed emotion – such as the sense that I’m really unhappy even if I deny it – leaks out…Our voluntary expressive system is the way we intentionally signal our emotions. Bur our involuntary expressive system is in many ways even more important: it is the way we have been equipped by evolution to signal our authentic feelings” (210).

The above is based on a summary of research findings that there is a finite number of meaningful expressions and most, if not all, of these are intelligible – as in understood to express similar emotions – across cultures. These findings are gathered in a tool created by Ekman and Frisen called the Facial Action Coding System, now used by computer animators and applied in various kinds of psychological and social research (204-205).

The second point, more fascinating than the first (categorizing is cool, but inducing change is cooler), involves a claim by Ekman “that the information on our face is not just a signal of what is going on inside our mind. In a certain sense, it is what is going on inside our mind” (206, emphasis in original). They tested this claim rather ingeniously. Through some casual experimentation they discovered they could induce the physiological indicators of distress and anger: “As I do it [move specific facial muscles into particular facial expressions],” said Ekman, “I can’t disconnect from the [autonomic nervous] system. It’s very unpleasant, very unpleasant” (207). Two different teams of researchers documented that the pathway of internal emotion stimulus and facial emotional expression works both ways. “These findings may be hard to believe, because we take it as given that first we experience an emotion, and then we may – or may not – express that emotion on our face. We think of the face as the residue of emotion. What this research showed, though, is that the process works in the opposite direction as well. Emotion can also start on the face. The face is not a secondary billboard for our internal feelings. It is an equal partner in the emotional process” (208, emphasis in original).

Claims made by Gladwell are contested by Posner.

Posted by Steph at 6:39 PM | Comments (0)

January 4, 2007

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?

Posted by Steph at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 1, 2007

May it Not be Boring

I'm stealing Julia's wish for the New Year, reminding me of the sentiment:

"May you live in interesting times."

2007, here we come!

Posted by Steph at 3:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 25, 2006

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 – our selves as were before ‘now’ – 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 – 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

Posted by Steph at 6:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2006

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."

Posted by Steph at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2006

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.

Posted by Steph at 10:19 AM | Comments (4)

December 5, 2006


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."

Posted by Steph at 6:18 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2006

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).

Posted by Steph at 7:12 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2006


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 – 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.

Posted by Steph at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2006

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]

Posted by Steph at 6:48 PM | Comments (0)

November 9, 2006

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 – all men, most of them big – 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 – 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.

I had to ask for clarification of Kalawai’s postmodernspeak (“and you’re in Communication?” he scoffed): “It’s a struggle between the real and who gets to decide the referent.” Context: the historical example of American Indians, who were strong enough for some time to physically battle European invaders for control of the state apparatus (the real) being established in order to govern. As long as they could fight, American Indians could contest the referents (ethics, principles, etc) guiding the government. These referents are still ‘up for grabs’ but the terms of the contest are changed and the possibility of influence seems diminished through the inability to engage in war. (I know my new friends are going to rip holes in anything I’ve gotten wrong. Please. Tear freely.)

Did you know that Hawai’i is actually a european-style nation-state? I’m eager to learn more during their presentation tomorrow (and video later this afternoon). Let me return, however, to this dynamic that developed between my friends (whom I’m calling) the peaceniks, and the presenters on the panel concerning Iraq, with whom I also hope to become friends.

Is it a question of scale? The statistics Tove shared of death and dislocation, terror and torture of Kurds in both Turkey (yes, seriously) and in Iraq are shocking. The edge of her despair is evident: “No one knows how many Kurds there are; no one is counting.” She tracked the atrocities from the absurd - banning Pippi Longstocking as a danger to Kurdish children - to the horrific: evidence of a strong and clandestine US role in training Turkish police and paramilitary forces in use of equipment and tactics for oppressing the Kurdish minority.

If the scale of violence is somehow ‘comparable’ (as if these things can be measured and equated) to the devastation in Iraq, is it a question of visibility? Surely ‘the world knows’ about Iraq and few know – or are willing to move out of kneejerk denial – about the extent of (what I know from personal experience) Turks call “the Kurdish problem.”

Is it a moral judgment on efficacy? Do those in the military look upon those in peace movements with a preestablished framework of presumed futility? Do those in peace movements look upon those in the military with a preestablished framework of assumed aggression?

Even here anger and fear hook our emotions, shunting us away from paths of dialogue under occupation.

Posted by Steph at 4:26 PM | Comments (0)

Polycentricity (DUO)

I'm not satisfied with the presentation; it was too shallow. The one question I received basically asked, What’s the point? Specifically (paraphrased), “what is the connection between the media artifacts analyzed by your multinational, multilingual team and the reflexive summary of group process?” I had thought (albeit vaguely) that I was enacting “polycentricity” by folding two presentations (two "centers") into one, tacking back and forth between both. The question confirmed my ‘read’ of the energy in the room. The 'depth' of meaningfulness I perceived while brainstorming with my colleagues and constructing the powerpoint slides was not translated into full potential by my delivery.


This situation is an example of me doing my best to ‘fly by the seat of my pants’, with less than optimal results. However the experience itself is doublesided (at least). On the one hand, I’m embarrassed to have let down my colleagues by not appearing at my best on our behalf. :-( On the other hand, I’ve stretched myself into an extended zone of being, reaching for something I cannot quite yet grasp. In this act of seeking, I understood better what it was I attempted to do. I actively resisted the monocentric desire of theoretical academic discourse by refusing to provide only a definitive description of an abstract ‘external’ object (the interaction that we constructed among four accounts of the Israeli military’s forcible removal of settlers from Neve Dekalim, a town in the Gaza Strip surrendered in August 2005 to Palestine). To the extent that I did provide selected details of our media analysis, I enacted polycentricity by ‘bouncing’ among the layered and diverse “centers” evident in the intersection of
a) a sociopolitical event,
b) media texts (four) about this event,
c) subjectivities (four) engaging in mutual knowledge construction about the event and its associated media,
d) within a particular epistemology (critical discourse analysis),
e) comparing and contrasting written text in four languages,
f) combining online textual interaction (online versions of the four newspaper articles, a socialtext webspace, email, skype)
g) with face-to-face verbal interaction using a lingua franca (English).

In other words, (and this came clear to me while listening/watching Simon Faulkner present “Re-viewing Occupation: Art, Photojournalism and Israel”), I attempted to perform a work of discursive art within (under) the occupation of the form of academic discourse - “conference paper presentation” - whose “proper” focus is theory, not practice; abstract analysis not application.

Ironically, I had intuited the (potential) performance quality of this presentation last week. I had not, however, clarified its purpose. Or, even more precisely, even as I articulated certain purposes – negotiating parameters with my colleagues, confirming understandings, and coordinating intentions – I still did not comprehend the meaning of what we set out to do.

Taking the best possible interpretation of outcome, I wonder if a learning might be that the enactment of polycentricity is a state-of-being of just this kind of uncertainty? What I found myself doing throughout this presentation (and the entire process with my colleagues) is continually turning Bakhtin’s notions of centrifugality against centripetality and centripetality against centrifugality in counter-movements to those expected from sheer momentum (tradition, expectation, dialectics). If I can become more conscious and deliberate regarding when to flag this for audiences and interlocutors, and when to let such turnings be what they are, perhaps I can enhance the performance of this art in everyday dialogue. Ultimately (!), such practices may lead to more theoretical clarity, bringing “the point” of Decentering Conflictual Discourse into focus.

Posted by Steph at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

November 4, 2006

Decentering Conflictual Discourse (DUO)


Utilizing critical discourse analysis, this paper examines the discourse of transaction in headline stories in four different languages – Finnish, Swedish, Persian (Iran) and US English – regarding the 2005 Israeli pullout from Neve Dekalim in which Jewish settlers resisted relocation. A textual analysis yields themes (indexes and icons) that are intertextual.

Intertextuality, as conceptualized by Fairclough and Foucault, refers to the way that statements always reactualize other statements. Each newspaper account generates its centering effect (Threadgold) in both horizontal and vertical ways (Bahktin) along the dimensions of time, space, place, and motion. For instance, aggression is attributed to different actors and along opposing trajectories in the Persian text than among the three western versions – which also have some significant distinctions from each other. The stories reported in these four online newspapers thus work interdiscursively to replicate and perpetuate a global, monocentric discourse of perpetual conflict. According to Irvine, interdiscursivity is “a specific semiotic effect [that] must be created in practice” (2005, p. 72). Most interesting, the examination of these media accounts reproduced similar interlinguistic dynamics among the four researchers, whose national identities align with the languages and newspapers chosen.

Such social metonymy highlights the challenge of decentering dominant discourses: the same referents can be treated differently in various national and/or media discourses yet still work to generate an overarching monocentric discourse. We argue that simultaneous attention to the workings of ideology at all levels - including our microsocial interactions with each other - enables the recognition of polycentricity and the interruption of interdiscursively monocentric repetitions. Such analyses and the linguistic options they support can contribute to the decentering of present discursive hegemonies of conflict and occupation.

I'll (attempt ! to) present on behalf of Ehya, Jussi, and Karin, of Dexus Nexus 3.0 (August 2005), on Wednesday Nov 8 at 3 pm in the "transaction" thread of Dialogue Under Occupation: The Discourse of Enactment, Transaction, Reaction, and Resolution, hosted by Northeastern Illinois University.

Posted by Steph at 8:48 AM | Comments (0)

November 3, 2006

a discourse of "conversation"

Tom Atlee reviews Conversations That Shape the Future: A Review of THE WORLD CAFE, describing this book as "an exploration of the power of conversations that matter -- ALL conversations that matter. It is also an exploration of the conditions under which questions that matter can be deeply and productively explored."

I've always been intrigued by the collective intelligence movement, even as it's unimodality rubs me wrong. The language is often inspiring:

"The World Café is a midwifery gift to a future struggling to be born."

the advice and suggestions are practical:

"...the creation of powerful questions -- "What could a good school also be?"
"What would this workplace be like if it were the kind of place I looked forward to getting up and coming to every morning?"
"How can our laboratory be not the best in the world, but the best for the world?"

and phraseology that invokes synchrony with other events in my life:

"There are surprising insights into (for example)
the role of flowers and art,
the relationship between talk and action,
"the magic in the middle",
common sense,
the power of setting, itself, to govern the quality of conversation..."

The mode, however, is so earnest (whither irony?) and so pious that my pleasure cringes. It leans toward the tragic as a frame of acceptance (read this against the dialectic).

Posted by Steph at 9:37 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2006

The Queen of Torture

I see the Intuitive Acupuncturist this afternoon; I'm curious what she'll read in my body. Three weeks ago, I teased her about the pain - so not my thing. I don't recall the gist of the conversation, now, in terms of what was actually said about my psychospiritual being. (Note: "psychospiritual" is a term from the Alexander Technique. Kate would always ask, "How's your psychospiritual being today?" I don't know if the IA would use this concept herself.)

Actually, now that I pause (considering how to return from that digression, haven't seen Kate for a year or more), it might be this was the day the IA mentioned shame. It didn't resonate for me at the time and she said, "Sometimes I speak too soon." My puzzled question at the time was, "Is that for me or for me with others?" (I recall Spare Man telling me, "You make people feel bad." gulp)

That day (only three weeks ago!) the IA put needles only in my left side, ankle and wrist. The one in my ankle nearly sent me off the table, literally. Thank god the pang is brief. She left me "to cook" for however long, and what ensued was an intense awareness of "action" in my body. I explained it to her when she returned. "It felt as if the entire left side of my body filled with light. Not only was my entire internal space bright and clear, I was also light in mass." What was particularly striking was how transparent, clean, and open my left side was in contrast with my right. The right half of my bodily interior was dark, heavy, opaque. Nothing going on; no movement whatsoever. Still. When I became aware of the sharp bisection I started trying to draw light from the left side over to the right, to permeate the darkness.

"See, you're good at this shit," the IA teased back. I told her I still blog about her, and she said she thought it was an interesting bit of synchrony that her initials were IA, since her field of study is called Integrated Awareness. (Related (?) article on somat awareness.) I've been having more synchronic moments in the past month or so than ever in my life.

At my appointment two weeks ago, things were radically different. I could not stay present with my body at all. I barely even felt the needles. We spoke (ah, this is when the shame conversation occurred. The previous week I had sensed that I had re-found my ground after the disruption of my nephew's death.) I'd found myself suddenly feeling suicidal again, being barely able to cope with a round of emotional pain triggered by a new romantic attraction. ("That's an odd response," commented the IA. Later she said I had to work through some notions concerning home and belonging.)

Under the circumstances (only two weeks ago!), the IA suggested I simply concentrate on doing body scans and notice what was going on. I spent the half-hour or so laying there watching her bird mobile rotate, as I practiced counting to ward against the tears seeping down my cheeks. I could not fix on a reason for my angst. Indeed, I could not even examine it.

Lying here awake in these wee hours, the concept of an eclipse came to mind. It is as if I had my sights set clear on a particular source of light-giving energy and another celestial object moved into that visual path, obstructing the view (obliterating the original object?) and casting me into limbo. "The substance which separates dimensions. It primarily consists of delta particles. A hole in space-time is actually a hole in the limbo." (Last definition.)

I have barely dreamed since. What I have done, however (and remarkably, if I do say so myself), is 'step up' to the tumult in a consistently humane way. I know this all has to do with gravity, but I'm hoping sleep will now come and I can save that for another post.

Posted by Steph at 2:06 AM | Comments (2)

October 28, 2006

a perfect night for Samhain

Pagan beliefs intrigue me. I'm struck by parallels between the 'white/european' celebration of Samhain and the Mexican tradition of The Day of the Dead.

Posted by Steph at 12:09 PM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2006

Language and Me

Disability comes in all shapes, sizes, modes, and effects. There are legally-recognized versions and emotional varieties. These, or any number of indeterminate cognitive and psychiatric peculiarities, can interfere with intimate relationships and social interactions. For instance, people look at me and see a woman with a mullet who appears physically fit. What do they know? No, I don’t meet the federal criteria of “impairment of a major life function” (Americans with Disabilities Act 1990). I can breathe, walk, grasp, talk, feel, think, and otherwise function within the range of physicality deemed normal. Who decided to limit “normal” and impose such a measure for judging character or the potential worth of one’s contributions to society? Individuals will not claim responsibility, of course. Such boundaries and markers of difference are established ‘out there’ by impersonal forces of culture. The representations are propagated through the media, religion, and a disturbing range of incidental, informal taboos and negative sanctions. Questioning these norms is often considered problematic, disruptive, or unpleasant. When I do wonder about the so-called normal, people situate me clearly: I am deviant.

Fitting few standard stereotypes, I have learned to live through language. Sentiments not spoken affected me first. Often, the untold still wounds me. The silence of non-recognition echoes in words I hear and reverberates in perceptions left unsaid. The speech of my family was self-focused and therefore distancing, functional not relational, unaware and unreflective. My parents opposed each other on gender's fulcrum: mom never swore, dad often did. Anger was the palpable emotion of my formative years. I checked out, merely passing as present. When I woke up, twenty-seven years of my life were gone. How can one speak from pain without blame? I yearned for a language I did not know.

I needed words I could feel, a language that would bring me into my body. I sought belonging among lesbian communities and found that we were not much better at handling distinction than the dominant heterosexual society was at accepting us. Our bodies, full of longing, could not manage questions of dis/ability: our own aesthetics, potentials, possibilities. What is valuable if the body itself is constrained? I have never consistently been able. I fail much more frequently than I succeed. I celebrate small triumphs with all the gusto of athletic championships. Why not?! Yet I notice how the smallest movements can invoke urgency, feeding speed, haste, a rush to . . . where? Meaning constructed by assumption, cues missed, opportunities lost: wisdom becomes elusive. How much have I learned from friends' contemplating solitary visual horizons, or analyzing power’s most intimate nuances? Stillness inspires depth. I lament how long it has taken me to learn to enjoy listening for its own sake.

I cannot explain the random movement of the universe (or the privileges of being white and middle-class) that brought me into contact with Deaf people and American Sign Language. I spent years training to interpret others’ words, to translate their meanings into sensibility for those who could not see. Through signing, I discover my own emotions, investigating the boundaries of my expressive capacities. This practice, of sensing and conveying the intellectual and emotional meanings of others, prepared the ground for me to expand my range. Through this visual-gestural language I excavated buried wounds and static ambitions. The embodied kinesthetics of signing ASL allowed access to hidden and repressed parts of myself.

Through friendships, relationships, teaching and parenting I have observed the effect of words to inspire or deaden, enliven or thwart, create or sunder meaningful relationships. Uttered words (signed or spoken) leave their imprint yet vanish into insubstantial memory. Written down, words are a commitment. I mean this, right now. Writing was not, at first, something I felt called to do. It does not come easily, as signing usually does. The labor of compressing four-dimensional geometrical perception into one-dimensional linear text remains a challenge. I practice daily. When I write, I feel the energy of my being streaming out into the world. I am here. I matter. I want to make a difference. I care.

I sign to know myself. I write to live.

Posted by Steph at 11:04 AM | Comments (11)

October 10, 2006

Language as Motion

I wrote this piece, Language as Motion, as an example of the "Self-in-Contradiction" essay that is one of the options for the "personal/identity narrative" assigned to students in the introductory level writing course I'm currently teaching. There are a couple of friends who will recognize themselves in this piece (thank you), and I have to give some credit to Just-in-Time, who got us lost in traffic yesterday in Boston. While we were discussing writing as a craft, another part of my brain was mulling this attempt.

I am also conscious of the timing. Language set-in-motion through the last several semesters of blogging and constructing public writing environments for students is coming to some kind of turning point. The theory of language-as-action meets with (a) practical reality of language-in-use.

Posted by Steph at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 5, 2006


"We'll pass Steph eventually," they joked about my comps defense, after grilling me for two hours and deciding I needed to clarify a few things. "I want to pound this point in," says one of my esteemed professors. "Not to pile things on," says another. Yeah, right! My chair tried to make me feel better: "People take comps at all levels in this department. The questions you've taken on are humongous." There was a sidebar at one point, about how I tend to experiment in real life...

I still make too many assumptions about shared understanding that makes the reader have to work too hard. This is part of what invites so much interrogation. The interrogation itself isn't bad, although it is hard! Being questioned so intensively feels hard but it is "the ideas that fight," as my favorite antagonist clarified when I said, "You know I like fighting with you." (This, after kicking me a few times.)

Some would argue that it is not politic to experiment with comps. The stakes are rather high, eh? Yet, while we were there, I was aware that I'll never have such an opportunity again: three brilliant minds focused exclusively on whether or not I know what the hell I'm talking about and guiding me through weaknesses, confusions, and potential pitfalls. They push hard because I reach far.

Posted by Steph at 8:10 AM | Comments (0)

October 4, 2006

oral defense (comps)

We were supposed to include Robin by videoconference but the universe has decreed speaker phone. How old-fashioned! :-(

Question 1 (on theory) related Poststructuralism, Language and Power: "How and to what extent are power and language related in poststructuralist thinking? How does the concept of 'dialectics' figure in this relation beween power and language? Feel free to address the questions from any angle you choose. Be specific and precise in your discussions."

I will (so I say!! Did I really do this?!!)draw from a select corpus of continental philosophy to respond to this question: Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, Bakhtin’s Discourse and the Novel, Althusser’s essay, “Three Notes on Discourse,” and Zizek’s Sublime Object of Ideology.

Question 2 (on a speciality area) regards Critical Organization Communication: "While there is increasing emphasis among critical organizational communication scholars on intercultural communication in the workplace, there is little to no attention paid to the uses (or heteroglossic forces) of language in multilingual spaces. In this question I want you to: a) discuss the epistemological assumptions about language (its function, usage, etc.) in critical organizational communication scholarship; b) note the impact of these assumptions on our understanding of the dynamics of intercultural/multilingual workplaces, and c) explicate the possibilities for utilizing problematic moments as an alternative epistemological stance from which a theory and methodology of language use in multilingual organizational contexts might be derived."

I began, "Addressing the question of language use in multilingual work spaces remains a challenge."

Question 3 (on a research method) concerns Participatory Action Research: "For the following question you will assume that you are applying to a major foundation for a research grant. Although the foundation has previously funded proposals for qualitative research, the funded projects have been fairly conservative in their approach (i.e., providing hypotheses or research questions, criteria for validity and reliability, and a more deductive than inductive approach to the study). Your project centers around the use of participatory action research to study the interpreting process of the EU Parliament. In addition to clearly defining the participants and constituency for your research, (i.e., who is involved in the process and who will benefit from the research), you will need to present coherent specific arguments for the criteria mentioned above as well as specific need for the research and sustainability of the project."

What do I know? "Concerns with qualititative research have primarily to do with scientific rigour, particularly in the realms of reliability and validity."

Question 5 (a research tool) on applied interpretation theory: "Taking “Encounters with Reality” as illustrative of a variety of indigenous concerns related to the act of interpreting between hearing and non-hearing cultures. Recalling your responses to the questions about Critical Discourse Analysis, briefly describe what the status of such a book would have as data in your project. (specific scenarios inserted later)"

"This text is an example of what Ebru Diriker (2005) calls a de-contextualized meta-discourse."

Question 4 (my dissertation area) on Critical Discourse Analysis. "In the time allotted, please consider the relationship between Critical Discourse Analysis and what you imagine to be its utility as a tool for your project.

Part 1: Theory: What is it about discourse analysis that is particularly illuminating of the moment in which the EU finds itself? Using the discussion presented by your choice of two different theorists, address what critical discourse analysis offers to your project that a purely textual reading of what people say through translators does not (i.e., what does HOW people say things reveal that WHAT they say does not)? How do the former and the latter complement each other and what ontological status does each have as data?

Part 2: Application: Turning more specifically to your project, how do you seek to collect the two types of data and what do you think they will reveal about your concerns around power and democracy?"

Ha ha! I actually answered this! :-) "The two theorists I’ve selected for this response are Jan Blommaert and Mikhael Bakhtin."

Question 6 (a speciality area) on Democracy. "Ziarek notes that

“The ethos of becoming poses and redefines the question of agency and freedom of historically constituted subjects: no longer seen as an attribute or a possession of the subject, freedom is conceptualized as an engagement in praxis.”

Using this quote as a jumping off point, provide some reasoning first for the use of dissensus in radical democracy, potential critiques of this approach and an example, via the EU Parliament, of how agency and freedom might be enacted."

Uh oh. Longest run-on sentence in the world? "Dissensus, a term chosen by Ziarek (An Ethics of Dissensus) because of its “carnal implications” and implication of both “meaning and sensibility,” enables the inclusion of both primary forms of human living (being) in the political, decision-making realm: that of co-constructed social meanings (the relational) and that of intrasubjective phenomenology (the experiences and perceptions of/by “self” ~ however conceived). Her direct argument involves the necessity of embodiment and its valorization as a source of knowledge."

Posted by Steph at 8:24 AM | Comments (2)

September 27, 2006

Oh Snap!

"All things and all moments touch each other at every point."

Danah Zohar, The Quantum Self (1990:34)

Her particular argument is critiqued; and/but others provide alternative arguments leading to a similar conclusion: quantum mechanics has much potential to inform us about the meaning of life.

Posted by Steph at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2006

"Hug or Blow?

Blow or hug?" Zeynep wondered out loud while the birthday candles melted onto her rich chocolate cake. It was past 1 a.m. in Amherst. Not exactly the time one would expect a party, especially having just completed a cross-country flight. "Welcome back!" she said to me and Little Brother. (We spent our summers in Turkey and Romania, respectively.)

Anuj (creative visionary and primary organizer) wasn't there for the pre-party, playing chauffer while we discussed (among other things) the differences between "simply connected surfaces" (no holes) and non-simply connected surfaces (has holes). (Did you know that mathematicians begin by ignoring 3D space, collapsing everything into 2 dimensions?)

[What comes next is an exercise in mathematical metaphorics. I am probably stretching them completely out-of-shape.] [[Oh well.]] ;-) Anuj will be pleased (?) to learn that he has no holes. [Steph has a few about the size of cannonballs but that's another story!] He is not a torus (Steph, btw, is a Taurus but oh-so-close to Gemini).

Once Zeynep arrived the party rollicked on! Rajiv took pictures but I bet he didn't get one of Alenka's gift of a beaker filled with flowers. I am so jealous! I want one!!! Jake is back to being sleep-deprived. John and I compared political notes on Turkey. Tate jumped in (and was just getting ready to tell me how wonderful commutable matrices are when Zeynep arrived - next time?)

Lava looks totally manly. Ricardo spoiled Anuj's golf swing by taking video. Sue (sp?) and Clara (?) kept to themselves in the kitchen but I did walk in on some kind of bizarro knife play - I ducked into the bathroom fast. Did I miss anyone?

My evening didn't end when I left. Just to add some more excitement, someone (who is learning how to drive) decided to weave over the center yellow line. What are those flashing lights behind us? Sigh. Fortunately, the cop bought my explanation that he weaved, "Probably just because we were talking." It didn't hurt that my registration and driver's license were current. And that LB didn't say "We just left a party!" Instead he said we were going to "Amherst" and coming from "Amherst." I added, when the cop pressed, that we were at an apartment on Pleasant St. Unbelievably, the cop accepted the most ragged learner's permit you've ever seen and issued only a verbal warning. Whew!

Posted by Steph at 9:09 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2006


Or don't, but know you're often making decisions before you're conscious of the factors influencing them.

I bought the book Friday night because I took it as a sign. This review by the enlightened librarian finds a problem with its "lack of forthcomingness" but I'm not sure harder evidence will do more to convince people than the stories he tells? I guess this book didn't become as popular as his previous one, The Tipping Point.

I was out with half of Drunk-with-Power and Cautiously-Concerned-with-Confidentiality. We had a wondrous meal in honor of Robin, who is still getting settled at the University of Chicago (and planning her birthday party).

It was a sign because I wavered between titling a poem I wrote last week "Wink" or "Blink". The content/effect of the poem (both in its conception, writing, and hopefully reception) is along the precise lines of Gladwell's book: "Blink is concerned with the very smallest components of our everyday lives - the content and origin of those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that spontaneously arise whenever we meet a new person or confront a complex situation or have to make a decision under conditions of stress" (2005:16).

I don't recall that I'd heard of this book before seeing it on the table in Raven.


Gladwell goes on to ask, "What would happen if we took our instincts seriously?" (17). I've been asking this of myself for awhile now. He argues a kind of unconsciousness (not Freudian), called the adaptive unconscious.

It's fallible, of course, subject to betrayal, being "thwarted" (14), "thrown off, distracted, and disabled" (15). Hence, one must practice reading and applying it. Been there and still doing that!

ps. I really need to figure out how to add audio because reading this is not complete without hearing Marvin Gaye kicking it as I type.

Posted by Steph at 4:53 PM | Comments (0)

September 8, 2006


“I’m telling my friends I watched The Wall in my first class.”

I figure this is a sign of success. :-) Gosh, I have a great group! They came in all friendly and talkative. BAM - we had a major issue with the tv/dvd player. Since the entire lesson plan (hence, the semester!) hinged on this, I wasn’t so willing to let it go. Get this, two of the students went up to their room to bring down a different tv! In the meantime, one of the techheads finally figured out all the right settings. (I’m sure, according to Murphy’s Law, that if the others had not gone to fetch a backup we would not have solved the problem.)

I wouldn’t tell them what movie we were watching….once we got it going, the first recognition was laughter, then someone said, “You wouldn’t do this to us!?!?" I asked, “Why not?” :-) [This student had just bought the dvd and watched half of it the previous night.]

After 20 minutes or so I stopped and had them write (per David’s tip). One student who arrived late had a few questions about what to write. I kept it vague (as I had for the others but they had more time to assimilate the task). I did share one of Natalie Goldberg’s tips: “Tell the truth in detail.”

At least one student did seem to have thought about something other than the movie – I hope this comes out in the actual writing. Maybe Pink Floyd didn’t catch everyone’s attention? Or required an occasional “time out”? One student asked a specific question about the content of the film and I innovated on the spot. (Confession: it actually took me a minute or two to recognize that this was a teaching/learning moment. I had re-started the video then stopped it again, deciding it was ok to change my mind so obviously.) I asked for us to brainstorm questions (not to be answered now, but what was on their minds, what they were wondering, curious about):

*Is this based on the real experience of Roger Waters?
*When was it made? (some discussion ensued; no answer)
*Who’s the preacher with the nazi thing?
*It’s weird – lonely, images of a mob, then he’s talking to the mob, is he the cause? But he’s disgusted…?
*Why show only the downside of war? (Someone countered, it does show pictures of the Red Cross helping people survive.)
*Is the war real or merely symbolic of the emotions in his life/head? (Someone said it is WWII, and I added that it can be both factual and used for symbolic purposes.)
*It seems the message is being spread through the music?
*Is he trapped in his own head?
*Is it making a parallel of teenage culture to war? (Hitleresque, captivated teens…)

We watched some more, wrote a little more, and then brainstormed a quick list of ways that people might approach writing the 2-3 page paper. The idea of this list wasn’t to set parameters, limits, or boundaries, but just to pose some possibilities.

*Compare different orientations to school/schooling
*Differences between the decades/eras
*Now known by student ID#, in the film as bricks, masks
*Violent masses and partying kids
*Buying different stuff (new school year!) – accumulation of things, “better stuff”
*Flower thing, with sex, then the women at the concert

I’m thinking that their writing will work into the Interview Activity, in fact, it occurred to me to have each person responsible for two introductions: one based on notes that they take from their in-person interview, and one based on the sense they get of a person from reading their generative writing. This could open up a conversation about the differences and similarities between face-to-face direct interaction and text-mediated interaction.

The other way cool thing that happened was a comment about time from the student who had just watched part of the dvd the previous night. It was probably 30-45 minutes of viewing time, but "felt like I'd been watching for four and a half hours!" I asked if other students felt like time was extended or drawn out while viewing it and many agreed it was (head nods, murmurs). One said, “It’s so trippy!” Yeah, it is – much to consider. :-) There’s a scene when the boy gets rapped on the knuckles by the teacher for writing poetry during class. It then transitions to various kinds of unpleasant disciplinary events in family and schooling – then we suddenly shift back to the same boy, in the same moment or just after he got smacked. Did that whole previous sequence unfold in his mind in merely a few seconds?

This variability in temporality - of the experience of time - is an opening to a feature of contemporary identity-construction I hope to discuss. I told the students, before we watched the dvd, about my hypothesis that their minds actually operate differently than mine. Not because of age, but because when I grew up mass media was not as advanced nor as pervasive. Young people growing up now are operating with minds that have been besieged by input…a major challenge is s-l-o-w-i-n-g d-o-w-n one's thinking enough to recognize one’s own thought processes: to actually be quiet for long enough to know your own mind.

(I neglected to tell them that I’m still practicing this myself. :-) Instead, I emphasized the ways I’ve had to adapt to faster paces than my mind was originally trained to keep up with as a kind of opposite stretch to what they’ll have to do.)

Posted by Steph at 2:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2006

“Be hard by being tender!” [When Nietzsche Wept (part 2)]

So Dr. Breuer challenges Nietzsche. I wrote about the first six chapters a few days ago: my enthusiasm hasn’t dimmed. :-)

“We are each composed of many parts, each clamoring for expression. We can be held responsible only for the final compromise, not for the wayward impulses of each of the parts” (300).

“’One must have chaos and frenzy within oneself to give birth to a dancing star.’” (179-180). [oft-quoted, even by the Deaf community!]

“The key to living well is
first to will that which is necessary
and then to love that which is willed” (282).

“A tree requires stormy weather if it is to attain a proud height…creativity and discovery are begotten in pain” (179).

The notion of eternal recurrence (249-251) deserves its own post in the phenomenology thread (good section in wikipedia on Nietzsche's view, emphasizing the thought rather than the physical reality of an eternal return). There’s something of the dialectic/dialogic in there (see p. 84, too). It has convinced me that it is time to read the copy of Thus Spake Zarathurstra that I picked up in Berlin last summer.

More on interpretation (I extrapolate): “ a series of meanings folded into” [an object, fill in the blank] (247). “accommodating to [interlocturs’] rhythm[s]” (245), “a philosopher’s personal moral structure dictates the type of philosophy he creates…the counselor’s personality dictates his counseling approach…” (182),

On blogging (!): yearning for an audience, the loneliness of living an unobserved life.

On dreams: “’I wonder,’ Nietzsche mused, ‘whether our dreams are closer to who we are than either rationality or feelings’” (242).

On the unconscious: “Consciousness is only the translucent skin covering existence: the trained eye can see through it – to primitive forces, instincts, to the very engine of the will to power” (239).

On life: “Life is a spark between two identical voids, the darkness before birth and the one after death” (238). “Living means to be in danger” (199).

SAM: “Death loses its terror if one dies when one has consummated one’s life! If one does not live in the right time, then one can never die at the right time” (247).

“Live when you live!”
Did he ever! :-)

On memory: “Could there be such a thing as an active forgetting – forgetting something not because it is unimportant but because it is too important?” (231).

On good questions: They help one think differently. (223)

Dionysion passion: No need to live without magic, but you might ”have to change your conditions for passion” (222).

“…where philosophy falls short. Teaching philosophy and using it in life are very different undertakings” (209).

On volume: “If no one will listen, it’s only natural to shout!” (195).

On time and will: “The fact that the will cannot will backward does not mean the will is impotent! Because, thank God, God is dead – that does not mean existence has no purpose! Because death comes – that does not mean that life has no value” (190).

Nietzsche’s mission: “to save humankind from both nihilism and illusion” (140). [soon followed by this next, which I frame slightly out-of-context but what the hell]: “We’ll have to invent our procedure along the way” (141). :-)

“What matters
is what you will tell yourself
and what I will tell myself” (110).

Posted by Steph at 7:00 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2006

What Trees Dream of

This one thinks, let me be the slender bow
of the violin. Another, the body of the instrument,
burnished, the color of amber.

One imagines life as a narrow boat
crossing water,
a light mist of salt on the prow.

And still another – planed down to planks,
then hammered into shelter
toices vibrating through the rafters.

We do not notice their pleasure,
the slight hum of the banister
beneath our palms,

The satisfaction of the desk
as we tap our pens, impatiently,
upon its weathered surface.

They have ferried us
across rough seas
to lands that smelled of cinnamon

housed our senators,
who pace the creaky floors, debating,
carried arrowheads to pierce our enemies.

We have boiled their pulp, pressed it
into thin, white sheets of paper
on which we describe all of the above in great detail.

And when we die
they hold our empty forms
in bare cedar

until the moment – and how they long for this,
when we meet again in the blackened soil
and they take us back

in their embrace, carry us
up the length of their bodies
into the glittery, trembling movement of the leaves.

Danusha Laméris
Atlanta Review: Istanbul and beyond…
Turkish Poetry (2006, p. 18-19)

Posted by Steph at 4:24 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2006

Long live Nietzsche!

“I love that which makes [humanity] more than we are!” So Nietzsche proclaims in his first encounter with Dr. Josef Breuer (Freud’s mentor) in Irvin D. Yalom’s absorbing imagination. The protagonists, their characteristics, and the intellectual trends of When Nietzsche Wept are “grounded in fact” and “historically in place”(307, author’s afterword) although in fact “Friedrich Nietzsche and Josef Breuer never met” (307).

Breuer challenges the passion and reverence for ‘the truth’ apparent in Nietzsche’s “holy tone.” “’Truth,’ Nietzsche [had said], ‘is arrived at through disbelief and skepticism, not through a childwishing something were so.” Nietzsche rebuts Breuer’s challenge thus: ”It is not the truth that is holy, but the search for one’s own truth! Can there be a more sacred act than self-inquiry?” (68).

The two intellectuals are reveling in the directness of their discourse: “Usually what is not asked is the important question!” Breuer exclaims (67). They disagree – based on the perspective of their different disciplines? – regarding whether unasked questions ought still to be answered.

Earlier, Breuer chooses not to engage an “ex-cathedra distinction between the realms of illness and being.” Neitzche has proclaimed, “I have black periods. Who has not? But they do not have me. They are not of my illness, but of my being. One might say I have the courage to have them.” These periods are sometimes preceded by a day of “feeling dangerously good” (emphasis in original, 56).

Yalom’s genius is to illustrate the “talking cure” which becomes popularized as psychoanalysis when Breuer and Freud co-publish Studies in Hysteria in 1894. These fictional conversations between Nietzsche and Breuer are situated a dozen years earlier, in 1882. From the description of Breuer’s method, one can perceive the outline of discourse analysis: ‘[listen] carefully to the patient’s free-form description….systematically investigat[e]…..never [omit] any part [of all functional systems] … allow intuition full rein and … make all other inquiries that [the] data thus far suggest[s]” (54-55).

Notes on home: “My whole life has become a journey, and I begin to feel that my only home, the only familiar place to which I will always return, is my illness” (51) and “My home is my steamer trunk. I am a tortoise and carry my home on my back. I place it in the corner of my hotel room and when the weather becomes oppressive, I hoist it and move to higher, drier skies”(61)

on interpreters in general: “Interpreters of texts are always dishonest – not intentionally, of course – but they cannot step outside their own historical frame. Nor, for that matter, out of their autobiographical frame” (52, note: there is more).

on dreaming: “Perhaps dreams can express either wishes or fears. Or maybe both…Will a dream once dreamed change to accommodate changes in the dreamer’s life?” (39).

on neurobiochemistry: “Once the excess cerebral electrical charge responsible for symptoms is discharged through emotional catharsis, then the symptoms behave properly and promptly vanish!” (42) known as “chimneysweeping” (41)

on the labor of the intellectual: “reading…pouring all this knowledge into the brain through a three-millimeter aperture in the iris” (37).

One thing I question, based on Billig’s investigation of Freudian Repression: Conversation Creating the Unconscious, is the openness with which Breuer and Freud discuss anti-semitism. Although this imaginary conversation is many years prior to the Nazi campaign…I suppose it is possible that what was once an acceptable topic (the recognition of anti-semitism and its manifestations) could become less so over time. Billig’s fascinating argument is that Freud himself repressed his own awareness/recognition of anti-semitism, but his conclusion is even more stunning: that Freud’s investigation of the mechanism of repression illustrates that it occurs through talk (not via some imaginary structure in the brain which he invented and gave substance by providing labels – i.e. that he brought into being also through talk). The act of repetition seals what is remembered or forgotten.

Posted by Steph at 3:16 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2006

babies and math

Recep sends this article, Baby brains are hard-wired for math after reading my post about the Poincaré conjecture. (I kinda feel for the kid with a gazillion electrodes coming out of its head, but she/he doesn't seem to be bothered.)

Posted by Steph at 9:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2006

the Poincaré conjecture

"...there is a growing feeling, a cautious optimism that they have finally achieved a landmark not just of mathematics, but of human thought." Reports Dennis Overbye.

If solved, Overbye continues, the implications of Dr. Grigory Perelman's discovery will unfold for decades, but "the excitement came not from the final proof of the conjecture, which everybody felt was true, but [from] the method, 'finding deep connections between what were unrelated fields of mathematics'” (quoting Dr. John Morgan from Columbia, emphasis added).

This matters, because “'Math is really about the human mind, about how people can think effectively, and why curiosity is quite a good guide,' explaining that curiosity is tied in some way with intuition.

'You don’t see what you’re seeing until you see it,'
Dr. Thurston said, 'but when you do see it,
it lets you see many other things'" (emphasis added).
eye.JPG.jpg Arzu's tattoo

The problem has to do with the nature of space: "In effect, what Poincaré suggested was that anything without holes has to be a sphere. The one qualification was that this “anything” had to be what mathematicians call compact, or closed, meaning that it has a finite extent: no matter how far you strike out in one direction or another, you can get only so far away before you start coming back, the way you can never get more than 12,500 miles from home on the Earth."

Are there truly limited shapes of space?

"In the late 1970’s, Dr. Thurston extended Poincaré’s conjecture, showing that it was only a special case of a more powerful and general conjecture about three-dimensional geometry, namely that any space can be decomposed into a few basic shapes. Mathematicians had known since the time of Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann, in the 19th century, that in two dimensions there are only three possible shapes: flat like a sheet of paper, closed like a sphere, or curved uniformly in two opposite directions like a saddle or the flare of a trumpet. Dr. Thurston suggested that eight different shapes could be used to make up any three-dimensional space."

The Ricci flow doesn't sound fun (no thanks, I'd rather my head didn't morph into a sphere!) But Perelman's discovery is that apparently the singularities (densities) that occur in the morphing process are all "friendly" - apparently meaning they don't interfere with the eventual revelation (exposure) of the space's essential shape.

Perelman himself appears to be satisfied with having produced a monumental work and shuns the spotlight. I like the characterization by Dr. Anderson: "He came once, he explained things, and that was it...Anything else was superfluous.”

Posted by Steph at 10:34 AM | Comments (1)

a fun novel on quantum uncertainty

I definitely need to read this, Schroedinger's Ball, by Adam Felder. Reviewed by Richard Eder.

"As for a message, I suppose it would be, “Uncertainty transfigures.” To be taken no more seriously, and perhaps no less, than the “love will find a way” of a Strauss or a Franz Lehar. Which is also Mr. Felber’s message, come to think of it."

Do I resemble myself? Perhaps this kind of thing is what's being represented in the tattoo on Arzu's arm:


Posted by Steph at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

“the untended garden”

The Drummonds are implausible, but not quite. Every strange and random thing Coupland invents for them is evidence of the absurdities made possible by modernity (by which I mean individual consciousnesses – especially the much-revered quick wit – and bizarre social relationships and structures enabled by urban anonymity and all kinds of technology). The story, All Families Are Psychotic, unfolds mainly from the viewpoint of sixty-five year old maternal Janet, self-described as a dumb bunny, who had accepted the simplistic myths passed down by adults and advertisements.

tiny flowers.jpg at a farmstand near Sile

The novel covers terminal illness, illegal drug marketing and manufacture, sadism, babies for sale, and a million schemes for making money. It includes affairs, drugs, alcohol, space flight and Princess Diana. It is also about family, memory, and philosophies of life. Janet's father once explained, “We do so many things and we don’t know why, and if we do find out why, it’s decades later and knowing why doesn’t matter any more’” (51).

Midway through a series of events that most people would consider more-than-plenty for a lifetime, “Janet sensed that her opinion of her life was changing. Two days ago, it had felt like merely a game of connect the dots – a few random dots, spaced widely apart and which produced a picture of a scribble. But now? Now her life was nothing but dots, dots that would connect in the end to create a magnificent picture – Noah’s Ark? A field of cornflowers? A Maui sunset? She didn’t know the exact image, but a picture was indeed happening – her life was now a story. Farewell, random scribbles (2002: 173).

She rebuts her oldest son’s proclamation, “my past is no longer the issue that it once was!” Janet laughs, explaining, “Your past isn’t something you escape from. It’s what you are” (193). Later, she muses to a new friend, “Funny how you only realize how deeply events have affected you years and years after they’ve occurred” (235). She does learn how to change her orientation to this knowledge though, because she moves beyond the reaction of becoming “angry at the way the past was always inserting itself into the present” (164).

Thinking of Sam (as I have been), I think he would have loved this book for its mix of serio-comic: “The accelerated perception of death quickly eroded many of the traditional barriers between her and others, and she found she had a talent…” (123) and “Our lives are geared mainly to deflect the darts thrown at us by the laws of probability. The moment we’re able, we insulate ourselves from random acts of hate and destruction….The dull day is a triumph of the human spirit, and boredom is a luxury unprecedented in the history of our species”(86).

This, just before confronting a gunman during a robbery in which he has already shot a couple of people. “’I’m sixty-five, you twerp. Shoot me, but I’m going to help Kevin here. I’m sure your buddies would really respect you for shooting an unarmed sixty-five-year-old lady,’ Janet sat down beside Kevin and held his hand” (86).

There’s much more.

On the mass media: “Her eyes and ears were tickled and molested by screens and speakers, all of them heralding the birth or death of something sacred or important” (259).

On political economy: “Lots of fat people means lots of happy farmers, happy agrochemical makers, happy teamsters, happy fast-food staffs – happiness and joy for all. Fatness ripples through the entire economy in a tsunami or prosperity” (234).

On accomplishment: “There are simply these things that need to be done, and it’s simpler to do them than to not do them” (73).

On silence: “I’m so tired of people never saying things. Silence reminds me of when I was growing up. Stifling” (81).

On the moon: “If human beings had never happened, that same moon would still have been in that very same position, and nothing about it would be different than it is now” (69).

On physical abuse: “When Dad hits me, it’s not like he wants to hurt my outside. He wants to hurt me on the inside. He thinks he’s King Shit, and he wants to let me know it” (60).

On talk: “After the [disappearance of] the jam, the rest of Janet’s life seemed to be an ongoing reduction – things that had once been essential vanishing without discussion, or even worse, with too much discussion” (11).

Posted by Steph at 8:45 AM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2006

voices and home

“A voice belongs first to a body, then to a language” (52).

Negar told me about an Iranian saying, that learning another language adds a new person to your self. Yes, new capacities, new zones of expression and perception, yet what Berger says is also true, the voice – in its emotion-inducing physicality [my qualification] – remains the same. This use of the word “voice” is different than Blommaert’s conceptualization of “voice” as the operationalization of intersubjective, discursive power. The intersubjective part is the part between real individuals engaged in real time (face-to-face synchronic time or asynchronous technologically-mediated time – as in the turn-taking among myself, Yasser, Jeff, Amanda, and . . . you? wink! Why not?!!)

The discursive part is the larger framework of relationships in which each of us is embedded and all of us partake. Every time we speak (via our physically-embodied voice or through written text), each utterance spins forward along a dialectical trajectory as an outgrowth of previous exposure and knowledge. Simultaneously, each utterance opens onto a potential new vista, an unknown dark zone. “Dark” because not yet lived: unexperienced, and therefore unknown. (Thanks Negar; and original thanks to Chris Baxter, who played with calling me a "dark ally" during the 2005 Supporting Deaf People Online conference.)

sea reaches.JPG.jpg

I read Berger and translate his words into mine. “It is prudent to believe that the large is more real than the small. Yet it is false” (53). He is discussing the myth of scale, the myth that suggests that the macrosocial is more real (e.g., more powerful) than the microsocial. “If we are trapped, my heart, it is not within reality” (53). He writes to his love as I wish to write to mine. :-) The point, however, has wider application: let me attempt to articulate it precisely.

If we – for instance Muslims, Christians, Palestinians, Israelis – are trapped it is not exclusively because of impersonal institutional forces grinding out grim realities such as the devastation in Lebanon. We are “trapped” also within our own individual, personal and private (dialectical) trajectories. Our “hearts” (our loves, passions, dreams and visions) are constrained by “a vestige of the fear reflex to be found in all animals, in face of another creature larger than themselves” (53).

A major factor that feeds this fear is the loss of home. Berger ties the loss of home explicitly to emigration. More words about emigration are necessary, Berger claims, “to whisper for that which has been lost” (55). Emigration can be understood as the driving feature, the essential characteristic, of global transnationalism. Whether one chooses to move to another country temporarily or permanently, for purposes of education or work, or is forced to move for literal survival (to work or to seek asylum), what is threatened by this move is home. Edward Said discusses this too, in the extraordinary re-ordering of his conception of self that was required when he was sent to boarding school in the US.

“Originally,” Berger explains, “home meant the center of the world – not in a geographical, but in an ontological sense” (55). He continues, “To emigrate is always to dismantle the center of the world, and so to move into a lost, disoriented one of fragments” (57).

When the physical site of home is lost (left, taken away, inaccessible) one resorts to “the habit which protects” (64) and “the psychic level of turning in circles in order to preserve one’s identity” (63).

”Home is no longer a dwelling
the untold story of a life being lived” (64).

In the absence/loss of my own home, I turn in circles to preserve my identity as a lesbian (resisting being positioned by others as a heterosexual woman), and for some years now I have tried to tell the story of my life being lived. This is the other side of de-centering fragmentation: “Not out of nostalgia, but because it is on the site of loss that hopes are born” (55). “The very sense of loss keeps alive an expectation” (63). Berger argues romantic love is one of the things that can grow from this soil. Meanwhile, “we live not just our own lives but the longings of our century” (67): “the century of banishment” (67).

I embody these longings, as do many of my friends. It is evident in their/our words. What shall we together make of them? Berger is optimistic:

“Eventually perhaps the promise, of which Marx was the great prophet, will be fulfilled, and then the substitute for the shelter of a home will not just be our personal names, but our collective conscious presence in history, and we will live again at the heart of the real. Despite everything, I can imagine it” (67).

Posted by Steph at 6:37 AM | Comments (0)

August 8, 2006


It is impossible to convey the sounds and images of Sufi ritual through words. The most I can attempt is to describe my experience. I am a sucker for mysticism. :-) [Sucker: (2b) "One that is indiscriminately attracted to something specified."]

AMP dervish.JPG copy.jpg

[Painting by Ayten Mungen Polat.]

The visit to Mevlevihanesi began with a gift. (Later, as I checked into my hotel for the evening, I received a compliment: “That is a beautiful scarf. Very Turkish.”) Beautiful tiling and religious inscription adorn the entry, a long hallway with four windows opening onto several richly-embellished coffins: the lineage of teachers at this particular temple (architecturally it is not a mosque). Adherents pause at each window to offer greetings and respect.

The hall opens onto a small courtyard with trees and the obligatory public water spigots. Among the various decorative tiling is a symbol I have not seen before.


We remove our shoes and pass through two rooms before entering the place of worship. The singers have already begun. I am gestured to sit with a few women at the far end of the space. I settle down and observe the surroundings. The walls are dense with script.

Immediately in front of where I sit is a large open space. The man who welcomed me with his eyes, indicating where I should sit, is spreading small fuzzy carpets around the edges of the wooden floor. The singers are clustered at the other end, squeezed into another room separated from the dance space by pillars and a low wall. They face the same direction as I do, so their backs are toward the dance space. They sing in unison, striking the same notes but at various pitches: a melodic blend of tenor, bass, and baritone.

The sound is low and quiet yet it fills the space. It is pleasing, rhythmic, soothing. I continue to look around and realize there are onlookers in the balcony, women and children. They have the best seats in the house. :-)

More people enter. I am distracted by two women who sit in front of me (their male companion sits with them at first, then is directed to the men’s section). They talk. Is it instructional? Perhaps, but it interferes with the singing. The woman doing most of the talking checks her cell phone. I am annoyed by the disrespect to the service and the auditory interference. But people move continually in to and out of the worship space. Late arrivals filter in throughout the service: some join the singers, others the audience. Some people depart at irregular intervals. The annoyance is only mine. I let it go.

Suddenly the dancers enter. After the first three I am surprised when the fourth steps into the room, then realize I’ve seen many depictions of five…yet they keep coming. I count nine. The dance space seems small to me now: how will they manage? They line up in front of the audience space; I can’t see much. The singers are in their third or fourth song now. A very few times a single voice has deviated from the chorus, usually in a sharp or punctuated manner: obviously deliberate. Upon occasion a soloist would sing a prayer. These seem to have been short and subtle because I had not noticed when they began: my consciousness would gradually register their presence as “having been there for awhile.” I was oddly alert while simultaneously being lulled.

The dancers, individually, bow. There is no rhyme to it, no pattern. If there is a cue as to who should bow when, I cannot discern it. Are they being visually directed? My view is obscured. Some time passes. When will they begin? How will they start? The singing provides me no clue: the chants seem to vary yet the overall sound remains more or less the same. A dancer moves into view to my right. Ah, there has been a leader, someone whom (I assume) the dancers have been facing.

Now the line of dancers bow in unison and remove their black robes. Except the first one in line does not remove his. I count again, ten plus the leader, eleven in all. Two in black, nine in white. They kneel, prostrating themselves in the typical Muslim prayer position. Suddenly they strike the floor forcefully with their hands, startling a young woman near me. The volume of the singing also rises simultaneously, an accentuated coordination of the singers and dancers.

The friend who brought me had encouraged me to take pictures but I was uneasy about it. This was real worship, not a show. Still, I took some surreptitiously. Then, the first man in line - who had not removed his black robe - greeted the leader and moved to a more central place some two-three meters away from the leader, yet facing him (and me). I took a picture of them but our eye contact dissuaded me from taking many more.

The white-skirted and jacketed dancers now proceed in a line to greet the leader and begin. The gesture of greeting involves a bow, a nod and kiss to the chest of the leader (his heart?) who responds by a nod/kiss to each dancer's head, another bow, and then a slow step away into the first twirls. Each dancer follows in turn and they unravel their straight line into a graceful constellation across the floor.

The singing continues. I am surprised that the singers do not turn to watch the dancing. The coordination is managed on some other plane of sensation. The second leader walks the dance floor, presumably checking on each dancer. Satisfied, he stops near the leader and they watch. The dancers twirl for a long time. There is still only slight variation from the singers. Perhaps the content of the chant has changed, but the effect of the sound, its quality, remains steady, constant.

After what seems like both a long and a short time, a loud beat occurs and all singers and dancers stop. They are all prepared for it: there is no perceptible delay. Time has ceased to matter much, except I am hoping there will be more. :-)

Two more songs/dances ensue. For the second round there is a change of two dancers but the movement of the dance varies little. I notice more details: the slow raising of the arms with hands brushing one's own face before extension into uplifted, open arches. There is a rotation...I think it increases from dance to dance. One can't really see it happen, at least not from my angle. One just realizes the faces are different, in different positions than they were originally. The singing is more robust; the singers have begun to sway. Volume increases; the soloist is more marked. When it's over I am let down, but it is gentle. I have been privy to something quite special.


I linger, but am gestured to leave. They are preparing for the next service! I want to stay, but am told there is someone who speaks English who can explain and respond to questions. In a small room with half-a-dozen other English speakers, I realize I'm in a devotional group. I remember the feel of this - bible study! - from my Nazarene days. :-) They really are trying to convert me! (More on this later, smile.)

I meet Edip, Alistair and Cyndee, Nureddin, Gulliame (sp?), and others. We are quite a collection of nationalities and language competencies! We introduce ourselves casually, only in response to questions about background and/or what has brought us to Istanbul. The air is strong with comraderie (and cigarette smoke!); I am comfortable. Relaxed. A question: "How does one find god if one does not believe in god?" I want to say, "Look elsewhere! 'god' is not to be found as 'god.' 'god' is in whatever moves you, feeds your passion, nurtures your desires. Pay attention to what turns you on! Therein you will find 'god'." But I hold my tongue, wondering at myself. :-) Edip answers. There is some back-and-forth. I'm unsure of the sequence of conversaton now, at some point Alistair provides a beautifully-gestured description of how he and Edip had met earlier that day and Alistair realized, "Here is a man I can talk to."

At some point I say, "It is a matter of belief. You're here because of a random set of events. You can consider them simply random. If you weren't here, you'd be somewhere else, but that would also be because of how you interacted with those random events."

Edip, turning to me, gestures to a stained print on the wall, "What does it say?" he asks me. I read it out loud. "There is your random. That is your field."

Cyndee, Alistair and I maintain a conversation that ambles around, sometimes merging with others in the group, sometimes diverging to a pair or engaging us as a trio. What brought you here, she asks. "An academic conference," I respond, "A good opportunity to share my interest in language and the European Union. The conference is over now and I'm still here." It is an answer open to many possible hearings, as I discover when she responds with a comment about me becoming Sufi. I let that go, but there is another implication that I've decided to stay long-term in Istanbul. Have I? ;-) Or has it decided me? (I ponder.)

Posted by Steph at 6:25 AM | Comments (0)

August 6, 2006

Berger on philosophy

Berger argues “there has rarely been a more optimistic philosopher” than Hegel because Hegel believed in history as a positive force (38). [I might need to read him!]

Then he goes on to describe Marx’s genius, which was “to prove that this force – the force of history – was subject to man’s actions and choices” (38). [Finally – a concise, pinpoint definition of Marx’s main point!] “The always present drama in Marx’s thinking, the original opposition of his dialectics, stems from the fact that he both accepted the modern transformation of time into the supreme force, and wished to return this supremacy into the hands of man” (38).

[I read this with a flutter of panic. Have I misunderstood, still, and will this destroy the argument I began to make in my comps answer for Briankle? But I think not, because Marx in use, the discourses I’ve heard of Marx, the times and moments when the term “dialectics” or “dialectical” is used, consistently refer only to the former part of his equation. If there is an implication of “returning supremacy” to persons it is buried. And buried so deeply that no one, until Berger, of all the people I’ve had this argument with, has been able to articulate the latter empowering part of the equation. If it is so seminal, why is it not easier to say? Why are there so few examples? Which is why I argue that Bakhtin’s conception of dialogics serves better – it is premised on the future, on possibility. Dialogics acknowledges the past but does not confine itself to it. I would argue, that when Marxist dialectics is invoked as the explanation for some human success over institutionalized systems, it is coopting the more precise and more accurate conceptualization of dialogics, it is trying to colonize it and claim credit for something it has not adequately articulated. In Bakhtin's terms, dialectics ıs monologic. sigh. Do you think I will be ready for my defense?]

Berger continues: Marx’s “thought was – in all senses of the word – gigantic. The size of man – his potential, his coming power – would, Marx believed, replace the timeless” (38). [No wonder he was and is so compelling. But this message is not evident to an outsider, it has been coded within a discourse that takes it for granted. Not only coded, but I would say obscured by the very term, dialectics, clearly coming from dialect, which is a variation of a particular language, a derivative, another version of the same thing (with unique, local modifications).]

<two fish.jpg A painting of two colorful fish, displayed in a window at an angle with the sun leaving one partly in shadow

The wikipedia definition (linked above) defines dialectics as "an exchange of proposition (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses) resulting in a synthesis of the opposing assertions, or at least a qualitative transformation in the direction of the dialogue" (emphasis added).

:-) Only a step in the direction of dialogics - which puts logics into a process of exchange, not just ideas.

Posted by Steph at 6:02 AM | Comments (0)

“brief as photos”

John Berger on time, imagination, and love.

“The modern transformation of time from a condition into a force began with Hegel” (38).

Summary: Berger argues there is a phenomenological problem with conceiving of time as a unilinear and uniform flow; this is an unchallenged residue of the 19th century. It is a phenomenological problem because only human consciousness can conceive of time in this way. Such “remorseless time” causes the past to be lost, to fall into nothingness (37). “It follows that one no longer counts what one has, but what one has not. Everything becomes loss” (38).

“That life may be seen as a Fall is intrinsic to the human faculty of imagination. To imagine is to conceive of that height from which the Fall becomes possible” (emphasis added, 39).

It was imagination that enabled the invention of linear time, and imagination that can reclaim a dimension of time that remains intractable to it. Berger explains:

“…hidden within the conceptual system that allows man to measure and conceive of such boundlessness [i.e., the distance which light will travel in one year] is the cyclic and local unit of the year, a unit which can be recognized because of its permanency, its repetition, and its local consistency. The calculation returns from the astronomic to the local, like a prodigal son” (37).

At the local level – of you and me experiencing the passing of time – are “two dynamic processes which are opposed to each other…The deeper the experience of a moment, the greater the accumulation of experience. This is why the moment is lived as longer. The dissipation of the time flow is checked. The lived durée is not a question of length but of depth or density” (all emphases added, 35).

As a natural example (countering artificial limits of “culture” or “subjectivity”), Berger describes the accelerated growth of plants in spring and early summer: “These hours of spectacular growth and accumulation are incommensurate with the winter hours when the seed lies inert in the earth” (emphasis in original, 35).

“If there is a plurality of times, or if time is cyclic, then prophecy and destiny can coexist with a freedom of choice” (34). Berger ties the exercise of choice to language:

Perhaps at the beginning
time and the visible,
twin makers of distance,
arrived together,
battering on the door
just before dawn.
The first light sobered them,
and examining the day,
they spoke
of the far, the past, the invisible.
They spoke of the horizons
surrounding everything
which had not yet disappeared.

John Berger
(emphasis added)

Time is linked with death, because if time is a cycle it must move in one direction against a force moving in the other direction. “The body ages. The body is preparing to die. No theory of time offers a reprieve here. Death and time were always in alliance. Time took away more or less slowly: death more or less suddenly” (36).

Against death, with time, is the sexual urge: “The impersonal force of sexuality opposes the impersonal passing of time and is antithetical to it” (41). We are all biological. :-)

“Differently, the ideal of love is to contain all. ‘Here I understand,’ wrote Camus, ‘what they call glory: the right to love without limits.’ This limitlessness is not passive, for the totality which love continually reclaims is precisely the totality which time appears to fragment and hide. Love is a reconstitution in the heart of that holding which is Being” (emphasis added, 41).

“History…has changed its role. Once it was the guardian of the past: now it has become the midwife of the future…thus people live a new temporal dimension. Social live which once offered an example of relative permanence is now the guarantor of impermanence. Given the actual condition of the world, this offers a promise. But equally, it means that people find themselves more alone than they used to be, before the enigma of the two times of their lives [the time of the body and the time of consciousness]. No social value any longer underwrites the time of consciousness. Or, to be more exact, no accepted social value can do so. In certain circumstances – I think of Che Guevara – revolutionary consciousness performs this role in a new way” (12).

Posted by Steph at 5:36 AM | Comments (0)

August 2, 2006

"Heaven on Earth"

I was thinking this morning about reincarnation (whether or not, under what conditions I choose to believe in it or not), so it's odd (in an oddly-reassuring kind of way) to peruse the art and sentiments of Maira Kalman linked from today's New York Times headlines.

Some of it verges on the too touchy-feely but then hey, it is about emotion: death, love, hate, living.

Posted by Steph at 9:29 AM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2006

the nucleosome code & the middle east

"The pattern is a combination of sequences that makes it easier for the DNA to bend itself and wrap tightly around a nucleosome. But the pattern requires only some of the sequences to be present in each nucleosome binding site, so it is not obvious. The looseness of its requirements is presumably the reason it does not conflict with the genetic code, which also has a little bit of redundancy or wiggle room built into it."

Now, don't you think it would be cool if this biological wiggle room could find its way into human political (war)fares?

I was warned about going to Iran last night by a non-american. First time that has happened. Not that I'll be going anyway. :-( Just received the offical "no" from the university that tried to sponsor my visit:

"I hope you are well. Thank you for your e.mail. Please note that
unfortunately due to new regulations, visa applications from US citizens needs to be sent to the Foreign Ministry many months in advance and this was not the case with your application.

I am sorry for this matter and I hope that there will be another chance for you to visit Iran sometime in the future."

I'm bummed but have had plenty of time to adjust to this possibility. :-/

Meanwhile, there's been much energy toward the "unwanted war" in Lebanon which is devastating the national economy and hundreds of thousands of people's lives. My friend Yasser sent information a few days ago, including these statistics:

"the recent Israeli war on Lebanon and Gaza has killed more than 400 civilians, injured several thousands, and displaced more than 500,000."

Activists at the recent Crossroads conference designed and distributed a petition (which I signed) to end the violence. Here's another one: Academics against Israeli Aggression on Lebanon and Gaza. Meanwhile, here are some links for detailed information about what it's like from "their" side.

Updates on the Israeli Aggression in Lebanon, a blog reported the headline news from Lebanese television.

Electronic Lebanon, self-described as "publishes news, commentary, analysis, and reference materials about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from a Palestinian perspective. EI is the leading Palestinian portal for information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its depiction in the media."

Sanayeh Relief Center in Beirut, affiliated with Lebanon Updates (above) are humanitarians who were all working in Beirut when this latest round began.

Gizem's father (who hosted me to a spectacular dinner in a well-appointed Turkish apartment) spoke at length about the history and politics of the region, emphasizing that humanity has lived here – with and against each other – longer than anyplace else. He described the current situation with Iran as "delicate," and suggested I might want to wait. I have no choice now, of course, but I wonder if humanity will be able to collectively turn this tide around? Everyone needs to feel safe, at least safe enough from random explosions, accidental and deliberate early violent death, and such incredible mourning.


Those of you with loads more bucks than me might want to check out UrbanSurvival.com.

Posted by Steph at 4:38 AM | Comments (2)

July 13, 2006

Comps (Question #4: "dissertaton area")

"Community interpreting," said one interpreter educator, "is a condensed form of all the communication problems that can happen between people. It can teach you a lot about what it means to be a human being."

Amitav Ghosh on interpreting (excerpts from The Hungry Tide).

four problems of interpreting ~ Seleskovitch 1978

“Bourdieu views zones of uncertainty as contradictory and potentially liberatory spaces within a social structure in which contradictions emerge from a convergence of conflicting worldviews that momentarily upset the relevant habitus” (Inghilleri, p. 72, 2005).

Exclusively at stake in translation is meaning; in interpretation meaning, understanding, and relationship intertwine. This is evident in “the constant overlap between target and source environment” (Wadensjo, p. 105, 2004). While the process of crafting a written translation can focus narrowly on the means by which linguistic meaning in one language can best be rendered in another language; live interpretation must equally consider the ways in which relationship is crafted through language. An interpreter cannot limit their attention to literal dictionary definitions (and neither will skilled translators) but must also consider the 1) functions and effects of particular language use (choices of diction, phrasing, restructuring) in a 2) specific situation shaped by a 3) particular context as well as the 4) possible aims and goals of each participant in the conversation.

particularly in regard to the role of the interpreter as a participant (group member) in this process. (cites – SL and Diriker) [quotes] Building upon Bourdeau’s notions of habitus, field, and capital, Inghilleri theorizes “interpreting as a norm-governed translational activity” in which meaning is generated through the interplay of microsocial and macrosocial factors (2003, p. 243) and further argues that “interpreting activity can be seen…as a concrete site for the recontextualization of inter-locking fields and their accompanying habitus” (emphasis in original, p. 72, 2005). This is another version of the same point: when languages (and language users) come into contact with each other, change, growth, and learning can occur. If there is a “problem of culture,” it will show up as a “problem of meaning.” Culture will appear in the language (discourse) of the group.

Posted by Steph at 6:01 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2006

Does your spirit squint?

Some months ago I was nearly skewered at the pinpoint of a rapier. I deflected the blow and mine enemy did retreat. I was accused of Nietzschean ressentiment, of being an unwitting participant in “the revolt of the slaves in morals” because of my “depriv[ation]…of the proper outlet of action” and thus particular behaviors were perceivable as reactive attempts “to find [my] compensation in an imaginary revenge” (“Good and Evil,” “Good and Bad” p. 19).

I hadn’t yet read Nietzsche then, so wasn’t aware of the extent of the insult. Reading The Genealogy of Morals now, I can readily perceive two constitutive/constituting elements that brought forth the judgment:

1) the rationale for characterizing me as having succumbed to the so-called slave morality at the sublime ideological level, and
2) that the epistemology which justifies this judgment of my character was motivated dialectically – as an essential response to certain unfortunate dynamics that played themselves out in the beginning of “Communication in Crisis” conference planning. (Which, let it be duly noted, was a resounding success.)

I’m working on point one: the accusation of slave morality. Being of a more heteroglossic rather than essentialist bent I’m less inclined to accept Nietzsche’s polemical terror at what he calls the victory of the priestly-aristocratic caste (using the Jews as his exemplar) as a death knell for humanity. My own self-assessment now is thus a combined yes-and-no affair. (In fact, it seems evident to me that Nietzsche drops hints that he himself is not quite so disdainful as he deliberately seeks to appear.) Indeed, there is an important distinction to be made between stereotypical labeling of aristocratic or slave morality and recognition of the typical characteristics in diverse individuals. I did react - on the basis of emotions Nietzsche valorizes as aristocratic - and I did react - on the basis of another, uncontrollable situation in regards to which my emotions were unresolved.

As to the 2nd point, regarding a dialectical essentialism, my opinion is also dual-toned. Yes, in the "first" instance (during initial conference planning, counted as "first" in others' external perception of my behavior; rather than from that point with which I would initiate the chain of events) I was deprived of action in the proper zone – that zone (alluded to above) had nothing to do with school or the department in any way. Events (dynamics of group relations) within that initial configuration of the conference group triggered certain visceral memories from the other zone and my lack of power there was transferred and projected by me into the conference group – definitely improper. So the dual overlay was between two entirely different situations and contexts – some would (and did, as I recall) suggest that I violated certain boundaries. Of course, reducing the analysis of the "first" incident to this conflation on my part neglects recognition of the actions that called forth such a response of resistance.

In the second instance (regarding a procedural proposal for departmental student governance), which incurred the accusation of resentment, something else was going on. I am less confident in hypothesizing what that “something else” might be, as doing so requires making generalized attributions: please read them as tentative and provisional. I am not claiming to know, only speculating. It seems possible that my earlier “bad” behavior (“bad” because it was sanctioned) planted certain seeds of doubt and/or suspicion among some peers, which possibly lay dormant until triggered by a new situation with a somewhat similar context – many of the same individuals, at least.

This will seem like a tangent, but my dentist’s office made me a present today. I’m in the midst of having two teeth crowned. They offer certain discounts depending upon how one makes payment. I wanted to minimize my cost and had proposed paying for each crown separately using two different modes of payment. This would take maximum advantage of what I could afford. I was told separating the bill wasn’t possible; the discounts only applied to a certain overall minimum. This occurred last week. Today, I was back for a routine cleaning and the office manager told me that they had revisited their decision and now wanted to make me a gift of the discount, in keeping with their policy of providing exceptional customer service. Of course, I was delighted! She explained what happened as me giving them “a proposal that was a little bit foreign to us.” No one had apparently ever wanted to pay in the configuration I proposed, so they needed some time to think about it (and – to their credit and my benefit – they took that time.)

With that framing in mind, if we return to the second instance (in which I was proposing a particular addition to the operating rules of the department’s student government which - as the discussions unfolded over a few all-department meetings and several intermediary conversations - invoked questions of overall organizational mission), it seems possible that what transpired was something along similar lines? I proposed something “a bit foreign” and explained it in possibly even more foreign/obscure terms (a theoretical language not shared by everyone as well as in an atypical discourse for this kind of setting) and there was a reaction from the group that stunned me with its force. I would be surprised if anyone intentionally meant to blow me out of the water; rather, I speculate (emphasis on speculate!) that there were enough similarities between this situation (with the CGSA) and the previous one (with the conference planning group) that it opened up or called forth a reaction from some who had possibly (I’m just guessing, hypothesizing!) felt deprived of suitable methods of action (punishment?) to sanction my improper behavior in the first go-round. (I simply withdrew – a solution that seemed satisfactory enough at the time but perhaps not sufficient?)

I think this logic makes sense only dialectically, because it relies on certain essentialist assumptions. Such as, if I acted up/acted out once then I’ve always got that capability, i.e., it must be my nature. Where the logic breaks down, (I’m more confident about this), is dialogically. If language is alive and meaning is always heteroglossically co-produced then what necessitates essentialism? At this point, the accusation of resentiment can be as easily turned the other way? In this regard, dialecticalism has the characteristics of a sublime ideology. I think what I felt in the second instance, overwhelmed as I was, was the juxtaposition of both dialectical and dialogical possibilities. A dialectical reading requires (relies upon and reinforces) stereotyping; a dialogical reading enables the possibility of a shift in established (dialectical) dynamics. Happily (at least for me!), such a small-scale shift appears to have occurred among some of my peers. I am grateful. (Does this make me a sublime slave?!)

Rise up mine foe! (Dr. Metropolis advises, however, that I should not be too eager. Chapter Twelve, in How to be a SuperHero.) Ok, so, like, whenever.

But note the call of aristocratic morality: “it acts and grows spontaneously, it merely seeks its antithesis in order to pronounce a more grateful and exultant ‘yes’ to its own self” (p. 19).

Posted by Steph at 5:13 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2006

Brian Weatherson

this guy's hot, and I've been delayed finding his blog.

I don't know if his work might correlate with Neil's interest in Roger Penrose or Francis Crick on consciousness....

Finally, the GC has recommended A Hole in the World to me at least twice, in particular the passages on play.

Posted by Steph at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)


is starting to make sense. I mean, as a language of space and spatial relationships. Who knows if I'll ever actually remember all the rules and how to do various kinds of problems (!), but the logic is finally getting through my thick, thick skull. It may be because I've developed enough depth in the visual/kinesthetic/spatial mode of ASL now for that to provide a cognitive bridge? Or it could be simple repetition. (I won't confess how many times I've taken and/or interpreted algebra, geometry, and other advanced math classes. No, no, I won't!

In Wanda's, mine, the deaf student and non-deaf teacher's on-going discussions about meaningfulness and sign choices, we landed upon the same sign (use of the "B" classifier, moved conceptually in space) for symmetry and reflection. The English definitions use the terms to define each other! I distinguished symmetry as a characteristic of shape (the teacher agreed it's static, not moving) and reflection as an action (the teacher embellished this a more but in general agreed).

In terms of interaction, the deaf student has - on a few occasions - asked us not to sign something as she wants to have a private conversation with us. I feel fine with this except/unless I'm otherwise formally "on" - for instance, standing in the front of the room as the teacher pauses between problems. Norms have developed around the table when the students are working on problems either on their own or in teams in which Wanda and I might chit-chat with non-deaf students or the deaf student depending. I think it's a necessary break from the intensity of the learning process. The teacher commented during one of the first sessions that it must be hard for a deaf student to work (think and learn!) while they're being watched (the interpreter's gaze, eh?).

Another thing I've become more conscious of is really putting myself into the role of the speaker. It's easier to do when the role is one I'm already familiar and comfortable with in other contexts - such as being a teacher. I know how "to do" that. It frees me from the literal, too, and enhances the product of interpretation. :-) The non-deaf students at the table often take on the role of teacher or encourager - or distractor, clown, etc - like normal students. :-) Those interactions are fun and build connection & relationship across the language/culture divide.

Part of fully taking on the teacher role is that it creates more time/space for me to utilize some ASL discourse features such as repetition and emphasis. The linearity of English (any spoken language?) conditions the non-deaf mind to follow thoughts in a linear manner, recognizing when tangents occur - although some folk tend to speak in tangents more than anything else! The simultaneity of ASL, as a visual language, means they perceive information in/on a broader plane - there is no automatic prioritization of 'a line' (theme, subject, topic) that is conditioned by language. The line-of-thinking has to be built, created constantly through direct reference that re-anchors the topic, subject, etc.

Now we're discussing functions. [Note: a positivistic way of knowing (there are other ways to know, smile).] No lexical equivalent here, only a code. :-(

Inverse is not exactly opposite, btw, and a regression - WOW - we were way off on that one! It is not a simple reduction or decrease (such as indicated by a "decline" down the arm).

"regression. A mathematical relationship between two variables (eg, the height and weight of women in Australia). For simplicity, the relationship is often taken to be a linear one (ie, a straight line when plotted), but it can also be a curve. When the regression relationship for the variables is known, we can predict the approximate value of one variable from the value of the other."

"Regression: A form of statistical modelling that attempts to evaluate the relationship between one variable (termed the dependent variable) and one or more other variables (termed the independent variables). It is a form of global analysis as it only produces a single equation for the relationship thus not allowing any variation across the study area. Geographically Weighted Regression is a local analysis form of regression."

Posted by Steph at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2006

a rogue? :-)

I had more fun yesterday evening than I have had in a long time. :-) I'm not convinced of my own skill as a conversationalist, but I'm pleased that I know so many people who are talented in this regard. It also felt good (!) to be wished well on my anticipated travels by so many. Of course, such is returned to all! (Hmm, kinda mushy, huh?!)

I'm reading Bakhtin, experiencing a string of those phenomenological moments that lend themselves to a more mystical form of epistemology. Check this out:

"The chronotope of the encounter; in such a chronotope the temporal element predominates, and it is marked by a higher degree of intensity in emotions and values. The chronotope of the road associated with encounter is characterized by a broader scope, but by a somewhat lesser degree of emotional and evaluative intensity. [thank heaven!] ... The road is a particularly good place for random encounters. On the road ('the high road'), the spatial and temporal paths of the most varied people - representatives of all social classes, estates, religions, nationalities, ages - intersect at one spatial and temporal point. People who are normally kept separate by social and spatial distance can accidentally meet; any contrast may crop up, the most various fates may collide and interweave with one another. On the road the spatial and temporal series defining human fates and lives combine with one another in distinctive ways, even as they become more complex and more concrete by the collapse of social distance. The chronotope of the road is both a point of new departures and a place for events to find their denouement. Time, as it were, fuses together with space and flow in it (forming the road)..." (Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel, in The Dialogic Imagination, 1981, p. 243-244).

In addition to this coincidence, I was given the best belated (by two years!) birthday present imaginable. I investigated some of the tips on choosing a name ...my first choice is already taken. Here's Bakhtin again:

"“Essential to these three figures [rogue, clown, fool] is a distinctive feature that is as well a privilege – the right to be ‘other’ in this world, the right not to make common cause with any single one of the existing categories that life makes available; none of these categories quite suits them, they see the underside and the falseness of every situation…” (p. 159).

There's a bit of "full circle" magic to reading all this now as it was the first place I went outside of the assigned curriculum of courses. And you know what? It got blogged! Leda Leda Leda, it seems you knew where I was headed . . .

Oo Oo Oo - "News from the Profession discusses tutoring with ESL students!

And an application to Henry James The Golden Bowl.

Posted by Steph at 8:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2006

Menippean satire

Bahktin is a fan of Menippean satire, which he describes as "dialogic, full of parodies and travesties, multi-styled, and does not fear elements of bilingualism...Menippean satire can expand into a huge picture, offering a realistic reflection of the socially varied and heteroglot world of contemporary life" (Epic and Novel, p. 27).

Posted by Steph at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2006


My dentist told me (as he ripped out some seven ancient fillings to make way for two new crowns) that my bite is eccentric. (He'll have to tell me if bruxism is at fault.) He used the term, properly spelled eccentric but pronounced e-centric, to simply mean off-center. We couldn't help but notice, however, the common use of eccentric to be a potentially apt descriptor of yours truly. {gasp!}

He gave me quite the hard time for my "thrilling" reading material. (We'll see if I go back to him again, hmmph!)

My new roomie and his pals are into it, though. Not that it was a subject of discussion last night, instead, as we ate our scrumptious dinner last night Smita and I both noticed the gender division: men at the table, women in the living room. We teasingly applauded ourselves for having a higher order conversation. Within minutes, while we were discussing the 1970’s Emergency in India, the men become quite animated regarding hairstyles.

That sums up the meterosexual portion of the evening. (Perhaps I can inspire more political discussion?) Prior to this, however, Sourya tried to set me right regarding quantum mechanics...a "pillar" of physics that I think can be a metaphor (and vice-versa?) for human relations.

He introduced me to the concept of commutability. The article linked mentions Bose-Einstein . I'm not sure how those figure in to our conversation. I was trying to explain my understanding of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, in which (supposedly) energy and matter are both dually present, and what you get is what you look for: the fact of observation in-and-of-itself changes the manifestation or "reality" of the object. Sourya explained that really matter and energy are "the same thing", but that some things don't commute. His example had to do with location and velocity. One cannot both pinpoint location and accurately measure speed at the quantum level. If you get an accurate measure of velocity it is impossible to fix a specific location at any given time; if you fix a particular location then the speed becomes indeterminate.

Aren't people like this too? :-) Here are a few quotes I culled from recent reading to provide a minimal sketch of what I study:

“…the fragility and ineluctably historical nature of language, the coming and dying of meaning that it, as a phenomenon, shares with that other phenomenon it ventriloquates, man” (p.xviii).

[dialectics, I argue] goes for “a general voice” which Bahktin says doesn’t exist in isolation from “a specific saying…..Language, when it means, is somebody talking to somebody else, even when that someone else is one’s own inner addressee” (emphasis in original, p. xxi).

These are from Michael Holquist's introduction to four of Bakhtin's essays. Another one to follow up on some day - in relation to me and the act of blogging - is this:

“...the way intimacy with our own voice conduces to the illusion of presence” (p. xxi) – Holquist links Bakhtin with Husserl and Derrida on this point. I have become more real to my own self through writing; is this an illusion or a delusion?

Kinda puts me in mind of "the working-class solution to sideburns."

Posted by Steph at 4:13 PM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2006

the dixie chicks

Not only were they identified in the Time Top 100, the Dixie Chicks are receiving prominent coverage for their new album, Taking the Long Way. A feature story on NPR, and now the cover of Time.

Posted by Steph at 6:05 AM | Comments (2)

May 19, 2006

The Real

The notion comes from Lacan (with whom I have substantial disagreement), but Slavoj Zizek explains it in a way that makes sense to me in his book, The Sublime Object of Ideology.

The link above goes to a summary of the book's ideas as they can be applied in film analysis, but it seems they can apply to any venue. He's one of the few philosophers I've read who manages to address both mass media and other large social structures and interpersonal relations.

I've found two of his examples particularly instructive: Pride and Prejudice and the sinking of the Titanic. Zizek claims Austen's novel illustrates a "double failure, this mutual misrecognition, [which] possesses a structure of a double movement of communication where each subject receives from the other its own message in the inverse form....If we want to spare ourselves the painful roundabout route through the misrecognition, we miss the Truth itself: only the 'working-through' of the misrecognition allows us to accede to the true nature of the other and at the same time to overcome our own deficiency - for Darcy, to free himself of his false pride, for Elizabeth, to get rid of her prejudices" (63).

The example of the Titanic is more complicated because it involves time in a way that is extremely challenging to conceptualize. Zizek writes of "overtaking ourselves towards the future and simultaneously retroactive[ly] modif[ying]...the past". He is still discussing misrecognition and its necessity, arguing that "the error is internal to the truth" (69). Fourteen years previous to the sinking of the Titanic, "a struggling author named Morgan Robertson concocted a novel about a fabulous Atlantic liner..." with characteristics so close to the actual Titanic that the coincidence seems nearly prophetic (quoted by Zizek, p 69-70, from Walter Lord). Zizek's point is that the conditions for the wreck of the Titanic and the cultural impact of the tragedy were already anticipated: "at the turn of the century, it was already part of the Zeitgeist that a certain age was coming to an end", hence when the Titanic actually did sink, it was "a form in which society lived the experience of its own death" (70). The implications of this line of reasoning are more than I can work out right now, except to say that Zizek uses this event to expose the relationship between ideological fantasy and the Real.

A few things I came across that I'd like to spend more time with: The Desert of the Real and The Symptom.

Posted by Steph at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2006

time for a brain scan?

I'm reading one of my favorite student's essays. She's writing about the hazards of teen driving, actually, the hazards of teen drivers. One of her points of evidence is underdevelopment of the cognitive mechanism for impulse control, the "dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, the so-called executive branch of the brain that weighs risks.” Maybe I take so many risks because my dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex never fully matured? :-o

Posted by Steph at 9:04 PM | Comments (0)

May 8, 2006


Broughton is visiting and has given me a raft of grief about "overshooting" while driving. If I recall correctly there was the road this morning (two choices, I was trying to time breaks in the flow of oncoming traffic); a driveway into a shop (just drifted a little far ahead); and another turn (somewhere?) as the navigator couldn't decide if I should or should not turn "here".

We speculated on this as a possible personality flaw.

An English irregular verb (!), to overshoot means simply to go too far.

Guilty as charged. :-/

This puts me in dubious company with ecological overshoot (E.O. Wilson has calculated that humanity is currently operating at 120% of earth's sustainable capacity), telecommunications overshoot (transitions that (somehow?) exceed a final value and convective overshoot (dealing with instability, which goes without saying).

Posted by Steph at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 6, 2006

spectrum of belief

Here's a radio broadcast from some folks countering the Intelligent Design movement with Evolutionary Spirituality. Let me clarify, this movement doesn't arise only in resistance to ID, but it does seem to come from the opposite end of the religious spectrum. I played it as I worked on the previous post. I found it interesting because the hosts, Connie Barlow & Michael Dowd, do engage in direct discourse with the ID folks. I find myself in agreement with many of their ideas but part of me recoils at the tone: it is proselytizing. (I guess their intent is "only" to evangelize but the line between the two is blurry.)

Tom Atlee sent the link and excerpt:

"Can evolutionary science and religious faith ultimately find common ground? And moreover, is it possible that evolution might not only be reconciled with religion, but in fact become the very foundation of a rich, new spiritual vision? For Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd, the answer is an unequivocal yes. For the past four years Connie and Michael have been traveling continuously throughout the U.S. and Canada sharing their passion for what they call evolutionary spirituality, with religious and secular audiences across the spectrum of belief. Michael Dowd points out, "Understanding a new directionality to the flow of evolution as a whole is leading to an emergence of greater complexity, interdependence, cooperation on a larger and wider scale." In addition to being life partners and perpetual travelers, these evolutionary evangelists share a commitment to helping birth a hopeful new paradigm, in which science and spirit come together and give us the inspiration to transform the world. (Hosted by Craig Hamilton)

A biologist by training, Connie Barlow is best known as a writer of popular science books, including Evolution Extended (MIT Press 1995), GreenSpace/Green Time: The Way of Science (Copernicus 1997) and The Ghosts of Evolution (Basic Books 2002). Michael Dowd is a former pastor and the author of EarthSpirit: A Handbook for Nurturing an Ecological Christianity (Twenty Third Pubns 1991)."

Posted by Steph at 2:02 PM | Comments (0)

May 2, 2006

the irreplaceable "aha" moment

I was just reading Kara's essay on What's Wrong with Writing. The junior Communication majors in this writing class have been wrestling with me all semester to convince me of the fact that writing sucks. :-)

I'm waiting on Kara's confirmation (or anyone else's, for that matter) to verify that I finally understand something that has not been clear to me for the past two months. Kara wrote:

"The process of writing has come to be extremely time-consuming and restricting as rules of standard writing have expanded."

I've always read this to be a general criticism of writing, the writing process, not to mention reading, and the reading process. As such, I've understood it more as a misunderstanding of what writing has always been about - as if students are "just now" getting on board with "the way it has always been." But (!), what just clicked, is that their phenomenological experience and accountability as a writer has been expanded to include more things (that were always there) which many of them (as students) have not been required to address before (for whatever reasons - deliberate pedagogy, poor instruction, low expectations, etc.). In other words, it does feel to students as if "the rules" for "standard writing" have changed. They have! (Ok, so maybe I'm a little slow. Sometimes.)

The argument, (if we could call it such) between me (representing the junior writing requirements for the university) and the students in this course, has been about this fact: I would say "the rules for quality writing" have not changed at all, but the measure of acceptable quality is higher now than it has been in most of their previous experience as writers. This feels like a change in rules, yet I'd say it is a change in expectations. Students say (!) that changing the expectations is changing the rules!

Here is a real life example (that belongs in a textbook!) about why diction matters so much! :-) I love having this kind of brainstorm. Thanks Kara!

Posted by Steph at 12:21 AM | Comments (1)

March 26, 2006

powers of ten

Here's another item I'm sure I've posted before but obviously didn't catalog or code correctly for later retrieval. At any rate, I saw this short video on the powers of ten when I interpreted a science class some years back for upper elementary school students (possibly fifth-graders). I find it a useful metaphor for this notion of social metonymy that I keep trying to articulate as a means of linking the microsocial with the macrosocial and vice-versa.

Posted by Steph at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2006


Did some research on honeybees this past week and found the Latin, Hymenoptera Apis mellifera.

I'm wondering about etymology of hymen, because Derrida plays with its inside/outside doubled nature. It appears to have only minimal crossover from referring to a thin skin or membrane to ... the wings of a genus of insects.

Honeybees have two kinds of dances to indicate the location of food: the round dance and the waggle dance. Waggling (!) involves fixing the coordinates of the sun with the hive and the pollen. Awesome.


Posted by Steph at 5:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2006

problematic moments (theory)

As James and I have discussed and theorized the role of time in group interaction, I think a PM might come down to the incursion of a diachronic element into the synchronic. As long as the ritual elements of an essentially linear unfoldment of moment-after-moment occurs as expected (familiar) then synchronicity secures enough stability and predictability that one can exercise various forms of control (over self, over an interaction, over a process, perhaps even over an outcome). When the synchronic is disrupted by the diachronic, however, unpredictability and instability emerge, threatening the established order. [I'm not sure "order" here must necessarily invoke power; it could just be regularity, routine.]

Hmmmmm, it could be that diachronic emergences at the individual level are able to be subsumed into 'the routine' - even if they are disruptive to the group - and thus don't constitute a problematic moment at the level of the group's operational constitution. But if there is a synchronicity of diachrony among several members then it becomes a group-level event, which necessarily evokes the power structure and calls it into question?

There might be some equation between the scale of perceived threat and the intensity of backlash....

Posted by Steph at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2006

Bleep II

"Many physicists today say the waves that symbolize quantum possibilities are so fragile they collapse with the slightest encounter with their environment."

This is the central point of a fairly scathing critique of What the Bleep, Down the Rabbit Hole, the successor to the first badly made, overly proselytizing What the Bleep film about quantum physics and consciousness.

The point is that connections (a.k.a. dialectics?), as shown more in "I heart Huckabees" are the roots of structure, rather than any configuration of disparate elements. I would argue, though, that fragility in and of itself doesn't rule out the possibility of intentional change. It does rule out the possibility of controlled or directed change: outcomes might be probable but they are never, ever certain, most especially in human affairs.

Posted by Steph at 8:04 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2006

wikipedia (research references)

Wouldn't you know that Wikipedia has a link on discourse? :-) I followed some of the debate on the Association of Internet Researchers Listserv (last fall). There was a strong bias to traditional sources. Not because they're traditional (which doesn't hurt) but because of the peer review process (which has plenty of its own problems, eh?). I came down on the side of allowing students to use online sources for data and as a beginning for research, but that "facts" should be verified through an academic library.

Then I read the Wired 14.03 ping by Joi Ito, who said:

"I wish people would stop comparing a living organisim to deadwood."

Posted by Steph at 8:37 PM | Comments (0)


"People can't distinguish, it seems, between describing dissent and being dissent." Celia Farber, journalist for Harper's, in an article about the link between HIV and AIDS, which she reports is questioned by some.

I've no clue about that debate, but I do know that publicly voicing concerns about possible disagreements is punishable. How to pursue a line of critique without succumbing to personally-directed aggression is the challenge. I've actually managed some humor this time around, trying to enact Burke's comic frame instead of the tragic one. We did it in Stephen's class some time back, when Shannon presented on defamiliarization. In particular I'll repeat the quote on perception; it uses vision as a metaphor:

"Humans, too, are victims of selective blindness. We often fail to see things around us because they are too familiar and seem to convey no new information, or because we are focusing our attention elsewhere. We don't know nearly enough about attention though it's a vital survival function. Visual attention seems to be a pair of processes. The first, the process of focusing on a stimulus or idea, has received a lot of research. The other equally important process involves concurrent decisions about which stimuli to ignore. Let me emphasize that. Visual attention is always partly, and often largely, selective blindness to other stimuli considered to be irrelevant at the moment" (from How a Poet Sees).

I'm being told (in no uncertain terms, mind you) what has fallen outside the range of my vision, beyond the blinders of my focused attention. My actions have been psychologized and my intentions impugned. My own ear has been sculpted over time to certain tunes and pitches, to frequencies that rub (push, pull) in conditioned ways.

It has been suggested that my style of presentation appears "teacherly", as if I am trying to convey something that I know which others don't. Oy. If this is how I've been read (heard, received) no wonder the rejection is so intense. I imagine myself more as an explorer. I suppose this is problematic as well? But one must understand my orientation - I do not think I'm leading, rather I'm one of many on a journey together. I guess I'm not convinced any of us is actually qualified "to lead" this journey, so I'm not willing to submit passively to authority or procedures that strike me as arbitrary or simply conditioned by precedent.

So, I dissent. Not only that, I dissent incorrectly. She can't follow the rules for anything, can she?!! Because my conformity quotient is so low, I have to describe my dissent as dissent, instead of as .... whatever attributions it garners. In my case, does this mean that describing dissent and being dissent are indistinguishable? I name the interpellation. Someday, I might have to work out the distinctions between interpellation (as a function of ideologies) and valence (as a function of group relations). I've equated them before.

Posted by Steph at 9:42 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2006


Now, why does Nietzsche (or the translator?) need to use this word, acroamatic oral would suffice? Is it because he needs to emphasize both the speaking (oral) and hearing (auditory)? Or because it is confined only to the Aristotelian method? But what delineates this mode as necessarily esoteric?

Derrida clarifies (if it can be called that!): "Abstraction itself: the ear can close itself off and contact can be suspended because the omphalos of a disjointed body ties it to a dissociated segment of the father" (1985:36). Ok, the omphalos here is the scar where the umbilical cord used to be attached. Is he arguing (metaphorically) that the ability to 'turn off listening' is an act of death/dying comparable to cutting the umbilical cord to one's mother, a.k.a. "life"? And, therefore, that this ability (to not listen) is only possible through some "tie" to a similarly-scarred feature of male parentage/parenting?

(The whole mother-father dichotomy is so riddled with heterosexuality I find it somewhat awkward to wrap my head around.)

Posted by Steph at 2:09 PM | Comments (0)

what the heck is an exergue?

Derrida argues that Nietzsche borrowed his fame in advance (took on a debt) by extending credit to his name. He argues the unfixability of the date of the signing of this loan despite the fact that Nietzsche did date and sign "an outwork, an hors d'oeuvre,, an exergue or a flysheet whose topos, like (its) temporality, strangely dislocates the very thing that we, with our untroubled assurance, would like to think of as the time of life and the time of life's récit, of the writing of life by the living – in short, the time of autobiography” (11).

The whole passage puts in mind of that song about the Cherokee: Indian Reservation.

Posted by Steph at 1:23 PM | Comments (0)

March 6, 2006


Second lesson today. Ten degree improvement in 20 minutes. Supposedly (!), this means my "psychological system is very elastic". With practice, I ought to be able to warm my hands at will, regardless of external (or internal) stressors: this is known as field independence. This paper by Musser places field independence/dependence firmly within cognitive studies and examines its affects on learning.

These definitions seem limited - bounded by the assumptions of cognitive science. They are useful, in context. My first association of the term, field independence, is with Gestalt theory and group relations, particularly the ability to self-authorize.

Posted by Steph at 11:15 AM | Comments (1)

February 20, 2006

The Probable Future

I confess. I liked it. I wasn't so drawn in at first, but it grew on me as I listened. I think the reader's voice may come across too cheerfully? I'm not quite sure how to characterize it. She was consistent though, and pulled some nice tonal inflections which did add to the storytelling, especially near the end.

I can't locate my notes, which is kindof a bummer, so I can only report the line I remember:

"Love is not a mistake,
even when it is not returned."

I agree.

What's interesting about the story is that the women all expect their gifts to somehow protect them from ... something. Maybe it isn't that they're afraid, actually, but that the gift seems so sure and steady that they believe it will guide them into making all the right decisions. Which I guess are decisions without consequences? Hard to say. We don't have much motive from the author, only the characters' experiences.

This is the 'true to life' part, I think. What Annmarie recently described as "the universal value...the difference between a scream and giving form and rhythm to a scream so that your scream can become anybody else's scream..."

Each of the main characters has to make choices, in-the-moment, that have ramifications for the future whether or not they're aware of this temporal fact. Many of their choices, we infer, are predicated upon past experience - the link back. A lot of the choices seem, in retrospect, to not have been so well-considered? And yet, ultimately, these characters find that their impulse to love does lead them eventually to someone who can meet them where they are and participate in creating a mutual happiness.

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February 9, 2006

"presence" conference

I might have to check out the International Society for Presence Research. Conference in Ohio this fall. Online publication and print publications... focused more on what they describe as "(tele)presence, commonly referred to as a sense of 'being there' in a virtual environment and more broadly defined as an illusion of nonmediation in which users of any technology overlook or misconstrue the technology's role in their experience."

Posted to AoIR by Cheryl.

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February 1, 2006


This is the most appropriate Romanian way to say "Good job!" (It is left to the imagination what a literal translation might mean...) It was some kind of bowling night. Anuj opened with a strike - although this might surprise you if you came in on the 8th frame of game two when he was crowing about his score: "22! Twenty-two!" Luscious Larry got another turkey and even rolled a strike with his left-hand! I think he does deserve honorifics for it, since he's a serious righty. Let me note, however, that I pulled off four (cont 'em, 1, 2, 3, 4!) left-handed strikes tonight. Unfortunately, they didn't help my overall scores too much: at one point I was told, "You're a disgrace to The Final Countdown." This was before LB managed NOT to beat me in the last frame of the last game, even though I'd told him it was his game to lose. We ended up tied, 109-109.

Zeynep started collecting high fives before her turn, leading to apparent improvement, Cesar and Cata played with characteristic understated style, and Claudia pulled off a couple of strikes in her very first games! Luscious Larry thinks, superstitiously, that he bowls best when there's a new woman joining us who has never bowled before. He also said, "Green is out; blue is in." This does not account for the pink ball he was using near the end of the evening.

Burcu also managed a very strong showing, considering she's still recovering from the sledding mishap that is apparently all Don's fault. Or the fault of Don's shoes. Or some other agentless whimsy of the universe.

Luckily Elena was there to make sure I knew when it was my turn. I'm not usually (?) so distractable. Or perhaps I am and last night it registered? :-) Somehow I found conversation more engaging than actually bowling...the topic? Organic chemistry.

Ok, maybe you're not so thrilled about it, but I was fascinated. Did you know they're working on making plastic magnets? Seriously! If they can just get enough molecules stripped down to one electron - a free radical - and get them all spinning in the same direction and somehow combined, these can produce enough force to function as a magnet, attracting substances with it's solo electron spinning in the opposite direction. Such would lead to innovations in all kinds of fields where iron is now used, because plastics are lighter and take up less volume than iron.

Now, you know me and my penchant for social metonymy. I was just imagining all of a person's free radicals spinning harmoniously in the same direction (the state of being at peace with oneself?) and attracting someone else who's free radicals are also spinning harmoniously in the opposite direction. At least more, rather then less, of time spent together. Wouldn't this provide a different basis of attraction than pheromones? (Some are used in pest control.) Perhaps there is a correlation between electron spin and the production of pheromones?

Now, who in their right mind would think a turn at bowling is more important than such romantic speculation?!!

Posted by Steph at 12:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2006

life following art?

I've been reading Orhan Pamuk's novel, Snow. Imagine the jolt of recognition when I saw the story about his arrest and subsequent trial, reported in todays NYTimes, A Way Forward for Turkey. His novel grapples with the precise forces and laws that have now impinged - most forcefully - upon his life.

The editorial in the Times uses this freedom of speech case to leap to larger context, as a means of framing the politics regarding Turkey's ascension to the European Union. Interestingly, one of the issues regards Cyprus - I saw a presentation on this last December by one of this year's European Field Studies participants. She was focused specifically on the border between Greek and Turkish Cypriot and the interactions and flow of people back and forth across it. I'm sure there must be some analogies to be made between the on-the-ground realities there and the abstracted political maneuverings of various groups for national power.

Posted by Steph at 9:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 29, 2006

problems or puzzles? (the purview of philosophy)

I finally read Wittgenstein's Poker, a book that's been on my shelf for far too long. What I most liked about it is how readable it is: one does not need any background in philosophy to enjoy the story, which does a nice job detailing the battle of ideas at the introductory level.

The poker incident is presented as a symbolic enactment of the clash in philosophy between two schools of thought: Karl Popper's embrace of problem-solving rationalism in the form of a principle of falsification - "I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer the truth" (240) vs Ludwig Wittgenstein's linguistically-generated puzzles, "what many in the [Vienna] Circle misunderstood was that Wittgenstein did not believe that the unsayable could be condemned as nonsense. On the contrary, the things we could not talk about were those that really mattered" (158).

These philosophers followed (and to varying extents) diverged from the analytic philosophy of Bertrand Russell.

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January 13, 2006


Or, the occult, meaning "hidden" or blocked from view. In terms of relationships, this is captured in the contemporary philosophical notion of intersubjectivity.

Mugwort (artemisia) can be used for strength, power, prophecy and healing (from The basis of magic in Harry Potter. Lest you distrust the source, Wikipedia agrees: "Mugwort was used from ancient times as a remedy against fatigue and to protect travellers against evil spirits and wild animals."

Mugwort is also known as common wormwood and has many wormwood relatives. Wormword has been used symbolically to denote bitter characters or realities, such as in The Light of Other Days, which I listened to on tape and continue to mull.

There is a physics discussion that is intended to lay the scientific foundation for the technology of the wormcam - a fictional device which allows remote viewing of any place, any time through miniature, stable wormholes. A wormhole "is essentially a 'shortcut' through space and time. A wormhole has at least two mouths which are connected to a single throat." Wormholes haven't yet been proven or disproven: they are hypothetical.

Curtilage, is a term used to describe the area encompassed by the limits of movement. The way I heard it was as the space of possibility within definite boundaries. A major challenge is pinpointing the parameters of the boundaries themselves.

Here's a legal use that's quite interesting because the case involves questions of privacy and surveillance:

"Respondent argues that because his yard was in the curtilage of his home, no governmental aerial observation is permissible under the Fourth Amendment without a warrant. 1 The history and genesis of the curtilage doctrine are instructive. "At common law, the curtilage is the area to which extends the intimate activity associated with the `sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life.'" Oliver, supra, at 180 (quoting Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 630 (1886)). See 4 Blackstone, Commentaries *225. The [476 U.S. 207, 213] protection afforded the curtilage is essentially a protection of families and personal privacy in an area intimately linked to the home, both physically and psychologically, where privacy expectations are most heightened. The claimed area here was immediately adjacent to a suburban home, surrounded by high double fences. This close nexus to the home would appear to encompass this small area within the curtilage. Accepting, as the State does, that this yard and its crop fall within the curtilage, the question remains whether naked-eye observation of the curtilage by police from an aircraft lawfully operating at an altitude of 1,000 feet violates an expectation of privacy that is reasonable.

That the area is within the curtilage does not itself bar all police observation. The Fourth Amendment protection of the home has never been extended to require law enforcement officers to shield their eyes when passing by a home on public thoroughfares. Nor does the mere fact that an individual has taken measures to restrict some views of his activities preclude an officer's observations from a public vantage point where he has a right to be and which renders the activities clearly visible. E. g., United States v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276, 282 (1983). "What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection." Katz, supra, at 351."

Intersubjectivity remains.

Posted by Steph at 4:06 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2006

change the narrative

Bumped into a couple of colleagues yesterday and was telling them about the audiobook I just finished, "The Light of Other Days." However it happened, I mentioned the part about the past being immutable and one of them immediately shook her head in disagreement. "Just change the narrative," she said. Of course, I said, leave it to comm majors to disagree! There wasn't time then (we were going separate ways), but I want to pursue this a bit, because I don't think one person changing the narrative changes much of anything ...

We could get technical about what constitutes change, and then more picky about what it is that gets "changed" ... the book's premise is basically that everything can be watched as it unfolded in real time - this unfolding is what cannot be changed, what is immutable. Changing the narrative about what happened is certainly possible. These are interpretations of what happened, what it meant, what was intended, how it came about as the result of something prior, or how it seemed to causally lead to something later can certainly be changed, but these stories - however rational or descriptive or moralistic - don't change the unfoldment as it was. These stories can, however, change the future, and perhaps they can change the present but only if there is some cooperation between the teller(s) and listener(s).

There was a legal scene (one of the first court cases involving evidence gathered by the time-travelling surveillance device) that really caught my attention because of the fact that even though scenes from a person's life could be replayed exactly, the dialogue wasn't necessarily any more clear in retrospect than it was at the time - and possibly (?) even less so, as contextual layers fade from memory.

It's a domestic scene. The prosecution brings a certain conversation as evidence that the defendent deluded herself about the import of some crucial moments in a former relationship. There is dialogue between the woman (defendent) and the boyfriend. While the fact of the impending break-up is already known to these future viewers looking back on this conversation as an event in time, the meanings of the words spoken are largely ambiguous: they could be interpreted with a range of alternative meanings by different persons, depending upon which element is prioritized. Indeed, even the woman and her boyfriend might view it years later and understand what happened in different terms than what they thought it meant at the time.

For me, the question of change enters as a thought experiment. IF both parties were present "now" and viewing this scene from their past together, would they constitute its meaning in the same way that they did then? If so, there has been no change. If they constitute the meaning differently, then there's a chance - but no guarantee - of change. As they discuss the differences in meaning that they perceive "now" as opposed to "then", they might reenact the same dynamic, the same pattern = no change. It would only be under the circumstance of both parties understanding the difference in meaning and relating anew on the basis of this difference that a new story could be told, a new narrative constructed, that produces actual change.

An individual engaged with this process by themselves as a meditative or reflective practice can grow internally but for this to constitute change there must also be a behavioral element, something that affects sociality, which necessarily requires the participation of others. Perhaps "the change" is found by replacing persons with other persons but this is symbolic not structural. In other words, if all my lovers leave me, each lover leaving becomes symbolic of all the others leaving, each lover loses her individual personness and becomes a part of the structure of a system in which I always get left (this is a hypothetical example, btw!). The system is the structure that keeps me getting involved with women who won't stay ... change - to be changed, to be different in essence - means the structure has to change. Structures are always relational. My changed narrative means nothing as an agent of change unless and until it is 'picked up' - until others engage with the new/changed story - thus making it possible for the uncertain possibilities of the future to overrule the fixed patterns set by the structure of the past.

Posted by Steph at 1:38 AM | Comments (0)

January 7, 2006

parameter space

This notion comes up in Clarke and Baxter's book, The Light of Other Days, which expands upon a short story of the same title by Bob Shaw written in 1966.

Parameter space is a notion in statistics; Clarke & Baxter apply it to physics and space/time. This link provides a couple of examples.

It seems a Henon Map is how one gets a visual.

There are all kinds of other maps (scroll down Henon Map link above), but this one is more simple in comparison (at least, so it appears). One of the parameters it measures is "the rate of area contraction (dissipation), which must relate to "the connectedness locus" (in the visual link above). I may be grotesquely incorrect, but is this similar to when a quantum wave collapses?

Here's my thinking: An event-in-time unfolds through a series of oscillations between possibility and probability. "Reality" occurs at each instant the wave collapses from its dynamic energy/matter state into something fixed: phenomenologically known as arrival, or in Briankle's terms (?), a gift.

(In looking for an older blogpost on "arrival" - which doesn't exist, *sigh* - I came across this one regarding entelechy. It also has to do with the collapsing of a quantum wave. Yes?)

Here's a nice overview with a brief summary of phenomenology as a field of inquiry and useful explanations of phenomenological thinking.

I'm just thinking (as I get tired of blogging today), that parameter space is a notion that applies not only mathematically to the measurable objects of perception and experience but also, perhaps, to the intangible and ephemeral possibilities of human connecting.

Posted by Steph at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

January 5, 2006

The brain-gut connection

I revisited the article I found after Shemaya mentioned the enteric brain to me. It’s densely biomedical, and I wouldn’t pretend to understand the actual chemistry involved, except that motility (the digestive action of the stomach and intestines) is linked to serotonin in some way. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has a lot to do with mood. Again, I don’t understand the actual reactions that stimulate sensation, but what I’ve been thinking about is the frequency with which – in my darker moments of the past couple of years – I’ve had the impulse to want to cut out my stomach. Rich said something similar the other night, about sometimes wanting to take a knife to his gut.

“Provided that the vagus nerve is intact, a steady stream of messages flows back and forth between the brain and the gut. We all experience situations in which our brains cause our bowels to go into overdrive. But in fact, messages departing the gut outnumber the opposing traffic on the order of about nine to one.”

In other words, just by quantity, the enteric system associated with the digestive tract produces many more messages than the brain. This leads me to think that the function of mind is to reconcile all of these messages. A task complicated by innumerable factors of genetics, socialization, exposure to various kinds of knowledge, and personal experiences.

The article is focused on physical phenomena, the material system that can be traced through careful scientific experimentation. I’m drawn to it because of the (oft repeated) phenomenological experience of emotional distress (grief, mostly) being accompanied by the urge to remove a part of my body. The article only mentions one example of an emotional-enteric connection:

“Correlation or Causation? Whatever the exact connection, the relationship between the cerebral and enteric brains is so close that it is easy to become confused about which is doing the talking. Until peptic ulcer was found to be an infectious disease, for example, physicians regarded anxiety as the chief cause. Now that we recognize Helicobacter pylori as the cause, it seems clear that the physical sensation of burning epigastric pain is generally responsible for the emotional symptoms, rather than the other way around. But because most ulcer patients, if questioned, will admit to feeling anxious, the misunderstanding persisted for decades.”

Posted by Steph at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

January 4, 2006

Ila's recent reading list

Kafka romanticized failure, and sadness,

so did Albert Camus: who "viewed a failure to act as a choice to surrender".

as well as Herman Hesse (actually a bit more positive about things; perhaps a good place to begin?), and Nietsczhe and Milan Kundera, one of whose novels was made into a movie: The Unbearable Lightness of Being....

Ila's Heartthrob On Romance: "The day the thought of me doesn't bring a smile to your face we'll split."

Ila On Blogging: "What are you doing?"

Ila In The Morning: "I can't believe you said, 'Rise and shine!'"

Ila on Classes: "What the heck! I won't go!"

Ila as Ila: "Tell them that I boss you around!"

Posted by Steph at 8:03 AM | Comments (10)

December 31, 2005

"Hope comes back"

The Korean acupuncturists wanted me to come back for a second treatment so I did. An indulgence. "Your chi is depleted," said Mrs. Kim, "Your spirit is wandering. We need to help it come back."

I received more moxa in the same places, needles in the same and several more new sites, and an extravagant, custom blend of medicinal tea. I asked for the names of the "more than twenty" goodies placed in neat piles on a tissue paper before being bundled up for brewing. Instead, Mrs. Kim told me what each one is for:

large intestine
stomach - at least 3 different herbs in "combination - grow strong, help your stomach better"
blood clear, produce blood, strong blood
"memories coming back"
strong bone
"heart calm down"
your eye
chi coming back, chi circulate
dragon eye - which she squeezed open with a load crack - "for your concentration better" (Longan?)
menstruation (2), liver, together and for kidney
"control your water"
"face shiny"
"decoration for your altar"

I received detailed instructions for brewing and consumption for a ten day treatment. I'll start when I arrive back east.

Posted by Steph at 2:18 PM | Comments (1)

December 30, 2005


Both of them are a trip. Separately and together. Austin took us on the scenic route to Waid's for breakfast that just happened to take us by GameStop where the new release of DOA 4 awaited. :-) I really enjoyed watching him play last night, shifting between female and male characters and winning every single game. He explained a lot to me. Very interesting discourse involved with gaming. I asked Alec last night about whether he felt himself thinking in the ways of the games during his real life. "It doesn't make me violent, if that's what you mean." No, that wasn't where I was going. (Obviously he's aware of that interpretation.) He's articulate and concise: you don't solve problems in real-life like you do in the game. I know. What I meant was, there are parts of the games - especially the commercial elements - that are quite optimistic. They point toward possibilities. Austin acknowledged this: some things are just cool, but part of what makes them cool is that they demonstrate potential.

Alec was playing Conker's Bad Fur Day this morning. There are squirrels and teddies. "The teddies are evil but they're better." What does that mean? "The teddies don't take fall damage. Squirrels do. Squirrels can run fast but I don't care about that cuz I'm a good sniper."

I haven't learned much about Runescape yet. "It's a mythical game. You know what runes are? They're not just used in that game."

I'm having a great time. :-)

Posted by Steph at 2:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2005

Consent: A densely-textured life

Little Brother calls during bowling (affection flows back). Blood brother suffers. Parental pathology is passed on. I dream randomly.

SEMP subjected me to the most intensive grilling I’ve yet received over the Informed Consent form for Reflexivity. :-) The beginning point was this “favorite sentence”:

The guidelines used for selecting material have to do with intrasubjectively-perceived salience in the moment,…

The individual words make sense, but what do I mean by stringing them together in this way? Most simply, what I mean is, “I decide”. Yet the consent form puts limits on this power. The different choices people make concerning their own consent establish certain conditions that I commit to operate within – each individual’s decision contributes to a structure of accountability for me. Why do I need to be accountable to others in this way? Why not just rely on my own personal integrity? Because any kind of integrity requires a supporting structure and I’ve had no other. The academic language adds (hypothetically) a precision that seeks to specify the rationale justifying the choices I make.

I’m quizzed about “public” and “private”. “There’s no such thing as privacy,” says Jesus Evil Kachina. Intersubjectivity theorists (whoever these might be, smile) agree: we all mutually co-construct each other through acts of calling (instead of/in addition to "mission", also identity: interpellation). In commonsense terms, one could say we do this through culture (norms, values, etc).

“I don’t know if I want to be a blog! “ A log? A bog? “It sounds like a glob.!” A lob?

Why do I need a “weird computer” representation? Because I’m lonely and ambitious. Who does the representation invite? “Maybe the comments are just computer programs!” Understanding the blog as a representation means part of the selection criteria is the production of my own story – which moments lend themselves to the kind of person I want to be? Which anecdotes establish accountability? “The problem with writing stories is that the rough edges get rounded.” Maybe (just maybe), what I’m doing with this blog that is a wee bit different than other blogs is how hard I try not to round too much. I also deliberately intend to reflect the multiple aspects of my life experiences. I’m most invested in the long-term patterns – which I dearly hope (!) show development (growth, change). Ambition competes with pride. While the selfish ego wishes I could be (or appear) flawless; the trained social scientist grasps for objective description: how I understand life as I/we live it…

There was some tease about how communication majors communicate – or not (!) . . . something about thinking too much. Who? Me?! :-)

Posted by Steph at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

Spiritual Guidance

You can pick your nose.

You can pick your friends.

But you can’t pick your friend’s nose.

Put that in your blog and smoke it!


Jesus Evil Kachina tested me. Do you want world peace? I do. Are you at peace with yourself? Getting there. The last eight days, yes. Thank you.

While driving, I talked with Shemaya about gut feelings and the trick of learning to distinguish between the “gut” that’s reactive defensiveness and the “gut” that’s intuitive guidance. She explained “the enteric brain” to me (note especially the section on The Third Neurotransmitter: serotonin), which I hadn’t heard about before. We agreed it’s probably connected (somehow) to the biochemical pathways in the mind that channel consciousness.

I actually arrived a bit earlier than announced yesterday evening, so drove past the road to S.E.’s and on toward Wellington. Turned around when I made eye contact with a young Great Horned Owl perched on a road sign. She made eye contact with me again when I returned and slowed down to pull onto the shoulder, then launched herself lazily in front of me, flapping ponderously over to a less exposed branch in a nearby tree. Her gaze pierced me as I continued to watch. After a bit, she moved another ten feet and decidedly looked the other way.

I was reminded of the older owl I watched in the Reserve in Montana the last time I was there . . . the consensus was that poor girl hadn’t caught anything for awhile otherwise why would she be out in the middle of the day? I sat by myself and watched her for a good half-hour that long and lovely midday hike.

Last night, the sighting was just at dusk after a rosy sunset.

Almost finished listening to Prodigal Summer. Deanna offers up this childhood prayer in a moment of astonished gratitude:

Thank you for this day
For all the birds safe in their nests
For whatever this is
For life.

Posted by Steph at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2005

Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail

This ethnography, subtitled Geographies of Race in Black Liverpool, is amazing. In addition to superb analysis that grounds complicated theory with real day-to-day living, there are bits that might relate to my study on interpreters in the European Parliament. An obvious connection is with RP, Received Pronounciation, also known as posh (p. 14).

The author, Jacqueline Nassy Brown (who will give a talk at UMass in Feb), is interviewed (briefly) on the BBC radio program Thinking Allowed (interview starts about 8 1/2 minutes in). In the book, she provides a two-page summary of phenomenology that's quite useful (p. 9-10). Interestingly, she distances herself from it as representative of her own epistemology, stating "my point is not to endorse ... but to lay the groundwork for one of the arguments that follows..." (p. 11).

Her argument is fascinating, involving the ways "people make sense of place-as-matter, a practice that includes reading landscapes and acting on the view that place acts, that it shapes human consciousness" (p. 11).

Broadly, Brown's argument is situated to engage the question of "how we might theorize the local in view of increased scholarly attention to transnational processes of racial formation" (p. 5).

Posted by Steph at 9:19 AM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2005


Cosette "just a finance person" mentioned this quote the other day and I couldn't quite recall it, but look! She posted it in her blog:

"I am "the overeducated in pursuit of the unknowable." - Solow (1997) paraphrasing Oscar Wilde. Why didn't they tell me that in the beginning?!"

Yet now we know, and we still don't stop!

Posted by Steph at 11:29 PM | Comments (0)

December 8, 2005

holiday spirit

politically incorrect glad tidings to all!

White Trash Xmas

The Fringe City promo after it is much better. Clever sequence. "...everything here is theoretical, every motive may be ulterior....this is the undefined medium between before and after, just as far from never as forever..."

shared via email from my favorite anonymous spiritual (!) guide. :-)

Posted by Steph at 8:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 4, 2005

Definition of Human

"Being bodies that learn language
thereby becoming wordlings
humans are
the symbol-making, symbol-using, symbol-misusing animal
inventor of the negative
separated from our natural condition
by instruments of our own making
goaded by the spirit of hierarchy
acquiring foreknowledge of death
and rotten with perfection"

Also by Kenneth Burke. Check out the cool plaques too.

Posted by Steph at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

theory of the spectacle

This piece by Guy Debord (1967) is wicked dense stuff, but it lays out its logic regarding "Society of the Spectacle" in a compelling and articulate way.

I find Baudrillard depressing, but his thought is useful, nonetheless. Here's a peek, "Spectacle, Currency, Bits -- Baudrillard, Postmodernism, and Power.

Posted by Steph at 2:28 PM | Comments (0)

dealing with MS

A friend is adjusting to the news of a MS diagnosis. Life's randomness, in the face. :-/ Seems to me there's been a lot of that going around, or maybe I've just become more sensitized? Less in my own bubble? Here's a "hero", one of those incomparable persons who becomes extraordinary in the face of something that scares most people quite a bit: David Krolich.

Posted by Steph at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2005

spiritual justice

"I don't meet that many people who are awake enough to understand what I'm doing."

She said this to me after explaining a bit about the book she's writing, in which she details the last 16 years spent seeking justice for her murdered brother and other children who've been abused by a group associated with a very well-known political figure.

It was an intense and surprising encounter, to say the least. She must have overheard me talking with one of my students, because she opened the conversation asking what I teach. I was a bit taken aback - how did she know I was a teacher? But there wasn't much time to adapt as it only took a few pleasantries before she was deep in her story. Maggie said she's devoting her life to obtaining material justice but that she also works with juju (if I've spelled it correctly?) and is "spiritually marking" the men responsible for harming so many children: "I represent a quarter of a million children."

It reminded me of the woman I met in Brussels who I thought might be deaf because she was so articulate with gestures. Shirley was operating on a very different phenomenological plane - one that doesn't mesh too well with so-called 'normal' modes of behavior. I paid for her drink and I remember the waiter's eyes just about popping out of his skull he was so stunned I was being kind to her.

The woman I met today was not as disorganized as Shirley but she was operating on one of those different planes - and implied that I was, too. (I bet there are quite a few folk who might agree!) ;-)

It was an odd encounter: intriguing and a wee bit spooky, too.

Posted by Steph at 11:54 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2005



Copied with gratitude from here. :-)

Posted by Steph at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)

November 22, 2005

"to be sure" (!)

we're having a good time in Briankle's class, discussing Walter Benjamin, The Task of the Translator and On Language As Such. Thinking together, as it were. :-)

To be sure, we're not the only ones. Others have been thinking too. I disagree with Sarah Dudek's assertion that "Benjamin’s thoughts cannot be understood without having a closer look at his concept of language". I thought we did a good job of imagining such a separation - or was that just me in my own head? I realize as I'm invoking the royal we (!) that of course you were thinking differently than me, but I'm using the "we" in the sense of the shared discourse - what was said out loud among us during class. :-)

The rest of Dudek's thought: " -'pure language' seems a rather vague term. [Benjamin's] whole project is so remarkable because it has an all-embracing notion of language as its basis: the world is made of language and the final aim is to understand this “textus” of the world, to achieve harmony between the inadequate human languages and the language of God."

David was right on top of the mysticism, eh? :-) Cabbala more precisely than Sufi, although there does seem to be a convergence of mystical spirituality from various religious traditions.

Dudek: "Benjamin posited a universal sphere of concepts, which he called the “intellectual part”, totally self-sufficient and distinguished from the “linguistic part”. The two components of the human being are connected to some extent, but the linguistic part never covers the whole conceptual sphere."

Looks like Cartesian dualism to me. Or traditional Freudian psychology. Neither of these conceived of the degree of "interplay" (Chang) between any so-called 'self' and the communication processes that constitute "it" (fancy term = subjectivity). Elinor Ochs argues that research on the practices of language socialization link "poststructural sociological paradigms that portray social structures as outcomes of social practices ... and to psychological paradigms that portray cognitive structures as outcomes of speaking ... and of social interaction" (p. 407, citations deleted).

Dudek's interpretation of Benjamin downplays this interactivity, describing the connection minimalistically, as only "to some extent".

We've also argued the following point sans theology: "Translation is the decisive means to reach the final end: it completes languages, puts together the disintegrated “modes of intention”—as Benjamin calls the sphere in semiotics termed “signifier”—and works towards the perfection of the original, which can be considered incomplete, requiring translation: “Thus translation, ironically, transplants the original into a more definitive linguistic realm”, Benjamin states."

We would argue (wouldn't we?!), that "transplantation" is too definite, merely transmissional. Instead, we'd emphasize the in-betweenness where understanding occurs as the translation substantiates or fixes meaning in the original. Dudek (it turns out) is anti-Benjamin, but this doesn't become clear until the end of the essay. She denies any practical value of his thinking because of it's messianic motivations, yet they seem - to me - to be not so difficult to strip away. In making her case, however, Dudek misrepresents (or misreads) Benjamin.

For instance, I think Dudek is way off, here: "Thus the extraordinary task the translator receives in Benjamin’s theory tends to reverse to an exceedingly binding restriction imposed on the translator lacking any granted creativity." Did anyone else get the feeling that Benjamin's endmodel was extraordinarily limiting? I guess we didn't talk too much about the boundaries of a text, but don't you think it's constituted in the same way the boundaries for deconstruction are? Just as deconstruction seeks to identify the ways a text betrays itself, doesn't an interpretation seek to identify the ways in which a text is true to itself?

None of us commented upon Benjamin's neglect of the reader, but Dudek is surprised by it: "Benjamin does not consider the reader." Here is a point of distinction, I think, between written translation and spoken/signed interpretation: a translator simply can't - realistically - "consider the reader," because the reader could be anyone and everyone. An interpreter, however, does consider the receiver, the audience, in addition to being concerned with authorship.

In practice, I bet interpreters are not uniform in the balancing of authorship and receivership ... hmmmm!

”The end of any consideration for the reader of a translation provides freedom to the translator. The transmission of content is superfluous: if there is not receiver there is no demand for information. It is possible to focus only on aesthetics—as incomprehensible as the result might prove to be." First, did anyone get the sense that the information didn't matter at all? I thought the point was that it's not really worth going to the effort of translation if there is nothing in addition to "information" - call it aesthetics, intention, desire, culture. Did I get this wrong?

Second, just because one doesn't consider the reader doesn't mean there isn't one.

Here's something we didn't discuss, I thought I recalled we'd had some discussion about the title last year. Again quoting Dudek: "the German title “Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers” could also be translated as “The Surrender of the Translator”."

Yes, this is the immersion in the text. The plunge, as it were, into the other language. To be sure, this is how one knows there are boundaries: one must submit.

Posted by Steph at 9:09 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2005

evolution of language

While it's never been extremely popular, as far as I know, among the Deaf to be enamoured of gorillas learning sign language, wouldn't it turn the tables a bit if it became widespread knowledge that all language evolved from gestures?

There certainly is a different kind of (intrasubjective) phenomenological experience when one signs instead of speaking, but according to The Salk Institute argue there isn't much difference: "The capacity of brain systems to subserve language, regardless of modality, is a striking example of neuronal plasticity."

Posted by Steph at 9:55 PM | Comments (0)

November 5, 2005


One of my students asked on Friday if we could have a fiesta at the end of the year. Of course - complete with a pinata? This seemed to throw him - is it my stereotype or his monolingualism? He used a Spanish word to convey the idea of a party. Should that necessarily have conjured up an image in my mind of a pinata? I actually had a flash of memory in that moment. We had a pinata at one of the BM's early birthdays - I think it was when she turned 4, but maybe it was her 5th. ;-)

The kids were out of control, ohmygosh I had to go wading in there and holler like a drill sargeant to keep anyone from getting clocked! It was an awful lot of fun, but the moment it began it was clear there was potential for an accident. Whoa! So, this is flashing through my mind, as I'm also wondering, how does he not associate a Spanish word with its cultural event? Is this because English has colonized the term so completely it's original semiotic relation has been severed?

Posted by Steph at 3:38 PM | Comments (8)

"You're checking my stats?!"

Another work(ing) encounter...

I've been having more/continuing laptop stress: "there is not enough space on your startup disk to complete that operation."

I understand why folks can become convinced by the mind = computer model. Basic physics - if there is only so much room, only so much can fit. If the start-up disk is full to the limits of quantum mechanics, no room to jiggle things around and make space for that next priceless video clip. If my mind is full to the brim with whatever neurochemical reaction is playing out from memory, no room to incorporate an alternative interpretation.

thanks, Matt, for all the reassurance there's only a 1 % chance this Lacie hard drive will crash. I want at a ten-year guarantee!

Posted by Steph at 3:26 PM | Comments (0)

"say hi to your uncle for me"

"Do you know about me?!" I have a couple of "uncles". There's the fictional one, and then there's the non-biological but infinitely real one.

I met Leon Trainee at work today. He had to figure out how to answer my mundane and persistent questions: what time can I catch the bus? Will it really be there at 6:55 am? Do I choose time asleep or time with my friends?

It's all about timing. Well, and having something to say. ;-) How much of my life has been spent "out of time" with others? By far and away the bulk of it. Even many of those times when I *thought* I was "present" and "reasonable" turn out, in retrospect, to have been projections of emotional events past. Part of feeling "happy" might be the experience of moving into the temporal now with a minimal trace of the subjectively imprinted past. (Or maybe feeling happy is only possible in the "now" and in the "future" if there are glimpses of it in the "past"?)

Posted by Steph at 3:16 PM | Comments (0)

November 3, 2005

Global Fear

by Eduardo Galeano.

Those who work are afraid they'll lose their jobs.
Those who don't are afraid they'll never find one.
Whoever doesn't fear hunger is afraid of eating.
Drivers are afraid of walking and pedestrians are afraid of getting run over.
Democracy is afraid of remembering and language is afraid of speaking.
Civilians fear the military, the military fears a shortage of weapons, weapons fear a shortage of wars.
It is the time of fear.
Women's fear of violent men and men's fear of fearless women.
Fear of thieves, fear of the police.
Fear of doors without locks, of time without watches, of children without television; fear of night without sleeping pills and day without pills to wake up.
Fear of crowds, fear of solitude, fear of what was and what could be, fear of dying, fear of living.

The preceding is from upside down: a primer for the looking-glass world (p. 79). If you want more: "Fear of unemployment allows a mockery to be made of labor rights."

Posted by Steph at 7:05 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2005

"non-monologic unity"

This would be Mikhail Bakhtin, and somehow I'm going to make it clear that interpreters make this happen. Google could only find one reference to this idea, in a paper on the possibilities/problems of cybercommunity/ies, Digital Waco.

Here's what Morson & Emerson say in their intellectual biography, Creation of a Prosaics:

"Lives are not works of fiction. Meetings full of promise do not always ripen into friendships, and ideas rich in potential sometimes lead nowhere. Important people and concerns enter our lives and thought early and late, for various lengths of time, and then depart, never to return. Although in retrospect we may trace causal lines between events and see direct linkages between thoughts, in doing so, we may misrepresent the connections between them. The work we do to make events cohere in a sequence is easily underestimated. Overlooking the role of contingent factors that need not have happened, we imagine only the outcome realized to the exclusion of others equally possible. ideas that seem to anticipate others might in fact have led in another direction, and apparent resemblances across time may testify to little more than characteristic habits of thought. Memory and biographies tend to be obsessive in excluding accident and insisting on patterns, but lives and intellectual careers, as Bakhtin maintained, are not. Rather, they are wasteful, producing not only diverse achievements, but also unrealized or only partially realized potential" (p. 3).

Posted by Steph at 8:30 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2005

Phantoms in the Brain

(As if I have time for leisure reading, but when I do, Phantoms in the Brain : Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind looks like a winner.

It's definitely timely, as I wax and wane between what can only be empirically described as fantasy yet feels, phenomenologically, like a vision of the future. I know it's only a potential future, but I cannot shake the conviction that if I find the proper alignments it could come to pass. Could be a text book case of what neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran explores regarding hallucination? There is external stimula, which I don't think I'm misreading (that would be an illusion according to the Wikipedia definition) - empirically observed behavior. "A hallucination is a sensory perception experienced in the absence of an external stimulus..." seems more on target because the moments of perception (possibly an example of insight?) occur in spatial and temporal distance from the stimulus.

Posted by Steph at 8:48 AM | Comments (0)

October 9, 2005

way of the warrior

"The human dilemma of communication is that we cannot communicate ordinarily without words and signs, but even ordinary experience tends to be falsfied by our habits of verbalization and rationalization." Thomas Merton, Zen and the birds of appetite

Way of the Warrior

Opens with a quote by Inazo Nitobe, author of Bushido: The warrior's code

In Zen in the Art of Rhetoric: An inquiry into coherence by Mark Lawrence McPhail.

"We tend to view the word warrior as peculiarly masculine and aggressive, but we might also think of it in terms of a transformative sensibility, one that can help us address the problems of fragmentation and negativity that confront us daily in our families, our classrooms, and our lives." 1996: vii

Posted by Steph at 9:27 PM | Comments (0)

The Collaboration Cafe

I read two different accounts of "Intersubjectivity in an organic pub", In Johnnie's (the first one), there was a link to the second one, David's, which led me to The Collaboratino Cafe.

Posted by Steph at 8:56 PM | Comments (0)


Trying to guide students from the notion of subjectivity, through co-construction, to intersubjectivity. I've posed the question to a few of them to define "co-construction." I jumped ahead, to intersubjectivity. The stuff I'm coming across is pretty dense. :-(

Intersubjectivity in an organic pub

The (above) Blog for Collective Intelligence looks like a Tom Atlee site, except it's a bit more witty! (Tom writes more like me, or, I write more like him. Basically, not so funny. Don't tell me you guessed?!) Actually, I'm pretty sure I recognize George's name from among folk Tom has recommended in the past.

Intersubjectivity: Exploring Consciousness from the Second-Person Perspective

Identity, Intersubjectivity and Communicative Action

Posted by Steph at 8:42 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

knowledge mgmt and development

"This issue [of KM4D, on "Approaches to promote knowledge sharing in international development organizations" presents papers on experiences with knowledge sharing in international development organisations, highlighting strategies and approaches used to foster knowledge sharing in diverse settings and presenting their results."http://www.km4dev.org/journal/index.php/km4dj

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September 18, 2005

abduction (more on method)

Because part of my funding for the EuroParl interpreter research came from anthropology, there's been a big push to do ethnography. I've really only collected discourse at this stage, which I will look at through a critical discourse lens because I'm interested in language hierarchies and linguistic inequality. There is plenty of evidence of these things in EuroParl interpreters' talk about their work and working conditions. Rather than deduction (coming up with an hypothesis based on theory) or induction (making what I find fit some theory), abduction is about invention. It requires applying imagination to generate theory, to come up with categories based on the combination of characteristics discovered (the expected and the unexpected). My next task is to distinguish between what Agar calls rich points (the surprises) and those things that meshed with my expectations.

The piece on abduction linked above focuses on the element of surprise in epismetic production. Peirce formulated this into a logic equation:

The surprising fact, C, is observed.
But if A were true, C would be a matter of course.
Hence, there is reason to suspect that A is true.

The inventive, imaginative part of this formulation is coming up with A. What A could be possible that consistently explains C? This is the generation of hypotheses, which can be evaluated for their potential utility on the basis of being "explanatory, testable, and economic." As a (phenonmenological?) process, abduction occurs "as a flash" and has two elements: intuitive and rational (Anderson 1986; critiqued). It is apparently a big concept in artificial intelligence.

"In Peirce's epistemology, thought is a dynamic process, essentially an action between two states of mind: doubt and belief." In this view, "belief is a habit, doubt is its privation" and the term "knowledge" does not come into play. Atocha Aliseda, the author of all these quotes (unless otherwise credited), says Peirce argued that "genuine doubt is necessary to break up a habit" and doubt is generated by the experience of surprise. I'd say surprise doesn't always lead to doubt (which might be unfortunate), and I wonder what other triggers might instigate doubt? Surprise may be a blanket term for a continuum of bio-emotional responses...nausea, sweating, insecurity, puzzlement, etc. Aliseda discusses Peirce's two varieties of (what she calls) abductive triggers: novelty and anomaly.

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September 16, 2005


history of the term, originally referred to the "truth-evaluable" and was intended "to re-introduce belief and desire into psychology".

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September 14, 2005

developing collective wisdom (countering collective stupidity)

Here's a chart Tom Atlee has put together that "shows a big reason to prioritize developing our macro-scale (societal and global) collective intelligence and wisdom." This is necessary, he argues (and I agree), because our individual intelligences are insufficient to solve the problems our social structure instigates.

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September 5, 2005


Yep. Left Carolyn’s (with a pang, I confess) :-( and hustled all my stuff to Florence. This room is going to work out well, been getting it together this morning and I like how it feels. :-) Meanwhile, school officially begins for me tomorrow: “off to the races” as if I haven’t already been!

My overall orientation to time is different, though, as well as my awareness(es)…. it’s kinda cool to witness my own development leap. :-) Will it last? We shall see. I've been dreaming like crazy - all kinds of relationship stuff, theory, even about the convergence of themes in the blog (!) - looking for a link, I found this on babies' consciousness: it's pretty darn cool.

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August 28, 2005

Emmitt Till

The photographs of his mutilation by white racists helped to galvanize the civil rights movement in the US.

Now, a documentary: The Murder of Emmitt Till.

The violence done then ripples out in waves of emotional and psychic pain. And then we wonder why people are as warped as we often are. Trying to grow straight again Lillian Smith), impossible as its ultimate achievement be, must remain among our highest priorities.

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August 23, 2005


Shemaya reminded me today of an incident from way back - a decade or more ago (probably more). It was a gathering at Mary Frances' place on the lake in Pelham. I was distressed about some situation or other. A woman who hadn't met me before observed my trying to deal with the emotions: "You look like Spock."

Upon relaying this story to Raz and another bud (who totally cracked up), Raz quipped that "ten years later you became Worf." From Vulcanism to Klingonism, now that's something! Raz has seen me rage a few times. His observation of me today was that I'm "quieter." Is this indicative of a real change or merely jetlag? We'll find out. Can anyone who's known me imagine me as "soft-spoken"? :-)

I kinda like the notion myself.

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August 1, 2005

Click Moments

Blog-a-thon tag:

If there’d only been one "click moment," I’d be set! I conceived of using a weblog as an attempt to produce an interface between face-to-face and computer-mediated communication. My experience teaching online had alerted me to the fact that the conditions of cyberspace enabled thoughtful, more evenly participatory group discourse about the topic at hand. I was enthusiastic – full of inspiration! – and unprepared for the contingencies of a (voluntary) public online space created for an already established (not anonymous) face-to-face group. I openly identified my desire to analyze our discourse in the blog as a means of tracking stages of group development. I was (narcissistically?) surprised, then, when others weren’t as enthusiastic as me (hello!); moreso when there were indications of resistance (especially after everyone had given consent). Funny how I knew, intellectually, that all kinds of things “go on” beneath the surface of what people say, but was (am still?) unable to apply it when my own ambition is at stake!

My professor was blase:

“The blog was not (intentionally) constructed by you—you are part of the surveillance as both subject and object. You have inserted yourself as a type of mediator/interpreter of the discourse.”

Yes, I had set myself up to be watched doing the work of watching (Andrejevic, M. (2002). The work of being watched: Interactive media and the exploitation of self-disclosure.) And others were not so happy about being watched! I persisted, made a presentation, wrote a paper, the course concluded. But I was hooked. Since, I’ve encountered a range of forms of social censure. I understand that when I continue to blog in the face of this, my choice can feel aggressive. Maybe it is? I am definitely resisting conformity to a widespread social code that seems (to me) to structure a kind of permission for ignoring/avoiding the implications of knowledge at the level of (our very human) social interaction.

Yet, I persist because it is my consciousness, my intrasubjective phenomenological development, that is most on display. I exploit myself. Others come and go, leaving a mark or not. I wish to preserve the marks that mattered to me when they occurred, for good or ill. I always hope to be joined by others similarly inclined. The first click moment, then, was my response after reeling from the real-life implications of doing public work (Sunday, October 27, 2002; the first parts of this blog have somehow been lost). Subsequent click moments occur when I face, for whatever imminent reasons, the fear of incurring social penalties for whatever I expose by writing here. The risk or threat of being accused of intentionally producing public data for the purposes of exploitation is always going to accompany this site. Should this prevent or inhibit my doing so?

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July 30, 2005

to be or not to be ... suspicious

“People look around and wonder which backpack will change or end their life…” – Annmarie Sauer for the Chloride Epitaph

I haven’t felt suspicious, or under suspicion, too much, myself this summer. Yet the question of whether or not I ought to be is often there, just below the surface, straining for some subtle signal to spring it loose.

For all the differences that I can recognize, I don’t feel so far from my own cultural foundations. The pace is slower but the punctuation of events, the rhythm of daily life, seems about the same. I have not felt constrained in expressing myself, indeed perhaps I have been a bit more free to do so? Or is the sense of this the unconscious privilege of ‘americanness’ that keeps me unaware of people’s reactions, of their sense of being overwhelmed? At least I’ve been getting some coaching, lately. :-) One of these days I'll get to Claim [My] Treasure.

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Dexus Nexus

Discourse for 30/7/2005:
We live inside the act of discourse.
~ George Steiner, Language and Silence, 1967

This conference is coming up in about two weeks. I finally began work on the presentation I'd like to share....if it's not too late. I've had more logistical difficulties navigating my participation there...from postage to wire transfers to confirming with my long-suffering roommate-to-be...

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July 26, 2005

The Swell

Imagine a life where one's awareness of the world is measured by knowledge of "wind and swell". Is it only romantic to picture the waters of the world connected in one fluid system? To pursue a life on the basis of low-pressure systems?

I learned that until ten years ago the swell was very predictable. Surfers could predict, seasonally, where the largest waves would be, where the storm systems tend to develop, and when. Now, these rhythms are much less reliable. They were historically so consistent that ancient (?) Hawai'ians could navigate by feeling the swell and orienting to the stars, sun, and moon.

Do the tides actually figure in? Yes: "the right tide can sometimes make or break an epic session". Spring, neap, and dodge tides each have their own character.

Although a biological unified theory (part of E.O. Wilson's proposed consilence) hasn't yet been adequately explained, one can certainly see how geology informs oceanography.

It appears there also may be a temperature component to the ocean's movement but I'm not sure if there is a direct application to surfing. It's appealing though, to think of the metaphoric possibilities of swell and communication.

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July 22, 2005

Alastair Reynolds

I devoured Absolution Gap on the flight back to Germany from San Antonio. Contemporary physics and intrapersonal recognition hooked me the most. It’s the last book (?) in an epic SF series by Alastair Reynolds; I read the others while in Europe last summer. The characters really grew on me, I have to say (I didn’t find them all that compelling at first, they weren’t very nice). I was a bit unsatisfied with the conclusion though, as it’s given as if the right choice simply takes care of the current (huge) threat. That’s why I wonder if another book might be in the making? For the conclusion to be sensible one had to recall the vast scale of interspecies interaction Reynolds invokes. If I put it in Goffman’s terms, the levels of lamination generated by transformations of the frame are as big as anyone I’ve ever read, including classics like The Foundation Trilogy by Asimov, and you were on your own to keep events in context. (My memory might be improving with age (?) because I was actually able to do so....!)

I did appreciate the three page summary of brane theory (333-335). Note this site which contrasts the two perfectly legible and completely contradictory theories of the universe. And I had that twinge of association with Rashmika when she acknowledges her affinity with Dan Sylveste, the archeologist who understood/predicted how much trouble a previous species, and hence humanity, were in but wasn’t believed (99). :-/ Same as the sense I had with Kassandra, the lead character in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Firebrand. Am I dramatic or What?! NO doubt someone will soon put me in my place -again! :-) Goffman (here summarized as a Durkheimian) might call it “the manufacture of negative experience”, but I haven’t read that chapter yet. :-)

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July 21, 2005

degrees of realism and consistency

I’m more than halfway through Goffman’s Frame Analysis, subtitled “An Essay on the Organization of Experience” (described by Brian as “not an essay, that’s a f*cking tome!”). Robin’s recommendation was right on target. (As was the other text by Deborah Tannen, Framing in Discourse.)

Goffman uses the obvious changes in stage props over time as evidence to “alert us to the expectation that framing does not so much introduce restrictions on what can be meaningful as it … open[s] up variability” (emphasis added, 238). Here I am chafing against the limits when the natural capacity to adjust to all manner of framings and transformations indicates possibility! “Differently put, persons seem to have a very fundamental capacity to accept changes in organizational premises which, once made, render a whole strip of activity different from what it is modeled on and yet somehow meaningful . . .” (238). To wit, teaching “experientially” instead of traditionally, and the capacity of Jeff at UNH to apply communication theory in practice vs the inability of others to recognize the possibility of recasting teaching in an as yet meaningful way. Others (going unnamed to protect the innocent and the guilty) mistrust: “. . . that these systematic differences can be corrected for and kept from disorganizing perception, while at the same time involvement in the story line is maintained” (238). Right? Goffman is saying that the differences between the model and its reorganization are systematic and therefore sensible. “Correcting for” doesn’t indicate “fixing”, rather it indicates the ability to adjust to a different logic without losing one’s perceptive connectivity to the situation and persons in it.

I’m thinking of the degrees of realism and consistency imposed as standards for interpreting practice. In the enactment of interpreting, there seems to be a quite narrow range of acceptability (a tight frame?): EP interpreters and SL interpreters both talk about realism (as measured by the disappearance of the interpreter). To become visible, to appear as one’s own person (or even as the character of the interpreter?), is a violation of consistency, marked in SL interpreting by natural criticism of INTERRUPTING and TAKING OVER.

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July 3, 2005

review: Batman Begins

bicyclemark recommends radiohumper, and the first post I read makes it clear why. Gotta see this one!

He also recommends Ashbloem:

again, such wit! The conversations I've been having with my mom lately have been retrospective, if not downright archeological. Not in the sense of historical (physical, material, environmental, officially documented) archeology but in terms of memories.

I may have to fiddle with Tulvings model distinguishing episodic and semantic memory..."The information in the semantic memory is very consistent as compared to the data in the episodic memory which is constantly changing. There is stable knowledge about the world, such as abstract knowledge, knowledge that is necessary for understanding and using language, knowledge of principles, laws and facts, and knowledge of strategies and heuristics (Lefrancois, 2000)." The premise of 'consistent' (stable? resistant to change?) semantic memory is of course intimately linked to language and discourse.

to read? An Archeology of Home. Mom spent some time growing up on a Kentucky farm - I wonder how many differences there are between the midwest and the south: both are in the bible belt, yes?

Randomly, here's info on the Nipmuc of Western Massachusetts.

Not to mention the fact that I may have a (brain) hemispheric advantage (!) because my dad and borther are both lefties!

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June 21, 2005

Warts, the Lonelies, and Others

"Witches didn't fear much, Miss Tick had said, but what the powerful ones were afraid of, even if they didn't talk about it, was what they called 'going to the bad'. It was too easy to slip into careless little cruelties because you had power and other people hadn't, too easy to think that other people didn't matter much, too easy to think that ideas like right and wrong didn't apply to you. At the end of that road was you dribbling and cackling to yourself all alone in a gingerbread house, growing warts on your nose" (19-20).

"It's always surprising to be reminded that while you're watching and thinking about people, all knowing and superior, they're watching and thinking about you, right back at you" (348-349).

A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett

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June 13, 2005

Ghosh: perception

“…she sensed that this project would consume all those years and more: it was the work of a lifetime. . . . here it was – and she stumbled on it by chance, exactly when things seemed to be going wrong. . . . at least she could see what it was about, how it happened that an idea floated unexpectedly into your mind and you knew in an instant that this was an errand that would detain you for the rest of your life. . . . it was true that whatever came of it would not revolutionize the sciences, or even a minor branch of them, but it was also true that if she were able to go through with it – even a part of it – it would be as fine a piece of descriptive science as any. It would be enough; as an alibi for a life, it would do; she would not need to apologize for how she had spent her time on this earth” (126-127).

“She imagined the [dolphins] circling drowsily, listening to echoes pinging through the water, painting pictures in three dimensions – images that only they could decode. The thought of experiencing your surroundings in that way never failed to fascinate her: the idea that to ‘see’ was also to ‘speak’ to others of your kind, where simply to exist was to communicate. . . .” (159).

”Every silence is preparation. . . . How better can we praise the world than by doing what the Poet would have us do: by speaking of potters and ropemakers, by telling of

‘some simple thing shaped for generation after generation
until it lives in our hands and in our eyes, and it’s ours’”

“What could I write . . . what . . . would be the form of the lines? …would they flow, as the rivers did, or would they follow rhythms, as did the tides?” (216)

“…speaking in the voice of the Poet: ‘life is lived in transformation’” (225).

“…the mudbanks of the tide country are shaped not only by rivers of silt, but also by rivers of language: Bengali, English, Arabic, Hindi, Arakanese and who knows what else? Flowing into one another they create a proliferation of small worlds that hang suspended in the flow. And so it dawned on me: the tide country’s faith is something like of its great mohonas, a meeting not just of many rivers, but a roundabout people can use to pass in many directions – from country to country and even between faiths and religions” (247).

“Words are just air…When the wind blows on the water, you see ripples and waves, but the real river lies beneath, unseen and unheard” (258).

“Words are like the winds that blow ripples on the water’s surface. The river itself flows beneath, unseen and unheard” (335).

The Hungry Tide, by Amitav Ghosh

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A Hobbit House

From the description, I thought I was on my way to The Shire yesterday: a house “totally covered in ivy and Virginia creeper” with “green round windows.” I had no idea the magic that was in store. I received so many gifts!

First, the show: a musically accompanied oral telling of Uit Spelevaren, from Camera Obscura by Hildebrand. Note: Hildebrand is the pseudonym for Nicolaas Beets, and there are few web pages in English! Most are in Dutch. ”Figuren uit de oude doos: afgestoft en in een proper en modieus kleedje gestoken. Wie kent ze niet? Hildebrand, de familier Stastok, Koosje van Naslaan, Dolf van Brammen en anderen. Pieter Stastok is waaratje verliefd. Hildebrand wil zijn neef een handje helpen. De bende gaat uit, niet met de trein, maar meet een schuitje …” I thought I did well to catch some of the names. :-) Amazingly, I didn’t feel any diminishment in pleasure for not knowing Flemish. No doubt it would have enhanced my appreciation, but this way I concentrated on the sounds – they were marvelous!

My only point of reference is Peter and the Wolf, and I did have a brief stretch close to the beginning when I thought this was the story. However it didn’t take too long to realize the rhythms and moods weren’t right. The character of the girl didn’t come across as a sleazy old wolf. :-) (And I was wondering how Annaleen was going to pull off all the different instruments!) It was later explained to me that a piece of 19th century petit bourgeois literature was chosen especially because it was written at the time of the bass clarinet’s entry into the orchestra – allowing Anneleen to compose and show off her talents (bass clarinet, clarinet, foot pedals and laptop mixer). She will perform this for her Master’s defense this upcoming Friday; Raf will expand his oral art to shadow play (the makeshift facilities didn’t allow for the curtain and light effects that will emulate the technique of camera obscura).

I have no doubt it will be spectacular. Note this article on the phenomenology of vision applied to film: Cinema and Embodied Affect.

And this, my friends, was only the beginning of the day!

The artists and I spoke afterwards about the difficulty of earning a living with art, be it music, oral expression, or some other form of transient experience instead of a material consumer product. Raf also said something about on-going education as “a confrontation with yourself.” I relate (!), considering my own education a process of continual learning via encounters with my own shortcomings and limitations. Then - talk about random! – Bert the lorry driver/translator told me about the text he is currently translating from English to Dutch: John Holloway’s “How to Change the World without Taking Power.” Now does this sound like a book I need to read or what?!!? “He’s not a Marxist,” says Bert, “He’s a Marxian.” I’m intrigued. A summary and critique down on john:
Change the world - without taking power?

It only gets better! Tony Mafia’s paintings cover the walls of this dwelling. They are simply phenomenal. Several took my breath away, and I was treated to a tour and narrative of their origins. If I ever do publish a book on interpreting, I now know what I’d like to have on the cover! :-) Stunningly beautiful and evocative. Some of the works are haunting, many speak of a love so deep I can hardly imagine. A few of the paintings foretold Tony’s death. In one, a pale white horse enters boldly and threatens to dominate the entire scene. My host, Tony’s “Loved,” explained with her voice trailing off: “Art does what it can in the face of . . .”

There was The Sentinel, looking over the Mojave Desert, interrogating (?) those who would pass through. Not to mention the one I gazed upon for the hours of our afternoon conversation in the living room, which we spent talking about books, beliefs, life, living, and learning. You wouldn’t believe it, but my lap was occupied by first one, then two, Brussel’s Griffons!

It was indeed a day of “constant astonishment.”

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June 9, 2005


OHMYGOSH Jan Blommaert is only a short train ride away at Ghent University!

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June 4, 2005

“How do you move your thinking?”

I told my host family last night that I’d been able to move my thinking forward in terms of the kinds of questions to ask interpreters going into the week in Strasbourg. Helena asked how. It’s actually still a bit vague in my own mind, so perhaps I can write out loud and gain clarity. I’ll use Van Manen as my reference point, because the notion of phenomenology - interpreter’s consciousness and their awareness of self/other consciousness - is a move that the discourse enables. (This reflective writing doubles as a note-taking exercise clarifying my phenomenological research methodology.)

Van Manen’s object is pedagogy – teaching and parenting; so whenever I quote or paraphrase one of his ideas, I’m either substituting interpreting for pedagogy or generalizing. In pursuing knowledge, he says we should always refer questions back to the lifeworld “where knowledge speaks through our lived experiences” (46). One way I’m moving my thinking then, is being responsive to the knowledge(s) evident in the experiences interpreters tell – which (type of?) stories, what (kind of?) examples, which adjectives, as well as how they seem to relate to the experience of talking with me and responding to my questions. Van Manen talks about the iconicity of questions – such that the question itself serves as an example of it seeks to clarify (46). My questions are not yet this honed. I am struggling with the asking, but what is exciting is the sense of my interlocutors struggling with me – there are many close-to-the-surface responses, but as the conversation goes on it often deepens and some interpreters begin to articulate less formed, more-or-less “new” thoughts, generating their own questions. The extent to which I can facilitate this kind of reflection will enrich the whole process – at the immediate level of the face-to-face conversation, the discourse’s trajectory, and any results or findings that come out of it.

Of course, this shows how deeply involved I am with the entire process, which many might criticize as “un-scientific” on the basis of “not being objective.” But this is the essence of phenomenological inquiry. I have not posed a static question to carry forth and ask in the same way of every interlocutor in order to demonstrate some kind of proof. I’ve posed, instead, a living question which interlocutors and I experience together. The methodological challenge, then, is not “how consistently I hold to the original formulation of the question.” Rather, it is, “how attentive and responsive can I be to the nuances and shades of relevance in the things interpreters actually say?” This is an issue of my flexibility and skill at allowing myself to be subjected to the discourse, instead of seeking to guide or direct it, while not losing focus on the core question: what do interpreters know about the world and the place of language in it?

Van Manen refers to Gadamer (1975:266) who said the essence of the question is the opening of possibilities – opening them up and keeping them open. “To truly question something is to interrogate something from the heart of our existence, from the center of our being…. research [is] going back again and again to the things themselves until that which is put to question begins to reveal something of its essential nature” (43). As I continue to return, I live the questioning and it lives in and through me. To discover what it’s “really like” to be an interpreter, I must stay attuned to what it’s “really like” for me to investigate interpreting (40).
In this regard, there is “a distinction between appearance and essence, between the things of our experience and that which grounds the things of our experience…phenomenological research consists of reflectively bringing into nearness that which tends to be obscure, that which tends to evade the intelligibility of our natural attitude of everyday life” (32). Movement in thinking, therefore, is the effect of reflection. Such movement responds to the dialectic between appearance (particular words, phrases, descriptions) and essence (the feelings accompanying such).

Perceiving this dialectic is, I think, a function of esoteric epistemology. In contrast with poetry and literature, which leaves its wisdom implicit and particular, Van Manen argues that “phenomenology aims at making explicit and seeking universal meaning” albeit in still evocative and animating ways (italics in original, 19). A qualification on universality is necessary: “The object of a phenomenological interest is [according to Merleau-Ponty, 1964a] “neither eternal and without roots in the present nor a mere event destined to be replaced by another event tomorrow, and consequently deprived of any intrinsic value (p. 92)…phenomenology [continues Van Manen] consists in mediating in a personal way the antinomy of particularity (being interested in concreteness, difference, and what is unique) and universality (being interested in the essential, in difference that makes a difference)” (emphasis mine, 23).

[Note: return to the phenomenology/hermeneutic debate on p. 25-26.]

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June 3, 2005

David Chalmers

Has (re)organized an online list of papers on consciousness and related topics.

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May 31, 2005

More on methodology and theory

I´m quite enamored of Blommaert; I hope I can locate him and make direct contact. The notes on "Text and Context" I´ve generated include ruminations on tentative "findings" of the conference interpreter discourse to date and more sharply defined research questions. Also, Van Manen is being extremely useful and timely with his explanation of a phenomenological approach to research - NOT the usual social scientific mode (and who would I be if I did anything in the "usual" way?!!

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May 30, 2005

“A language that sings the world”

I was asked by one interpreter if there was a difference between what I’m trying to do with my research and what journalists do when they research and publish stories. Many of the points I considered possible distinctions were persuasively argued as not that different, but the one point which seemed most different is the notion of participation in the writing/publication process.

I started reading this book Leda loaned me, Researching Lived Experience by Max Van Manen, which describes the phenomenological angle in terms that reflect my ontology. Van Manen says, “phenomenology attempts to explicate the meanings as we live them in our everyday existence, our lifeworld” (11).

Phenomenology is a focus on consciousness, broadly conceived: “anything that presents itself to consciousness…whether…real or imagined, empirically measured or subjectively felt. Consciousness is the only access human beings have to the world” (9). Necessarily, then, it is through consciousness that we are related to the world; hence a phenomenological approach is always concerned with the dialectic between consciousness and things of the world. Van Manen adds the term hermeneutics to capture the continuous, cyclical nature of phenomenological experience: “We might say that hermeneutic phenomenology is a philosophy of the personal, the individual, which we pursue against the background of an understanding of the evasive character of the logos of other, the whole, the communal, or the social (italics in original, 7).

One key distinction, I believe, between a phenomenological approach and a journalistic approach is that phenomenology is not concerned solely with the so-called rational. “Knowing is not a purely cognitive act” (6). Because phenomenology is inherently dialogical, “to do research is always to question the way we experience the world, to want to know the world in which we live as human beings. And since to know the world is profoundly to be in the world in a certain way, the act of researching – questioning – theorizing is the intentional act of attaching ourselves to the world, to become more fully part of it, or better, to become the world” (italics in original, 5).

Van Manen continues: “Hermeneutic phenomenological research reintegrates part and whole, the contingent and the essential, value and desire. It encourages a certain attentive awareness to the details and seemingly trivial dimensions of our everyday…lives. It makes us thoughtfully aware of the consequential in the inconsequential, the significant in the taken-for-granted” (8). As a science, phenomenology “attempts to articulate, through the content and form of text, the structures of meaning embedded in lived experience (rather than leaving the meaning implicit as for example in poetry or literary texts)…it is self-critical in the sense that it continually examines its own goals and methods in an attempt to come to terms with the strengths and shortcomings of its approach and achievements. It is intersubjective in that the human science researcher needs the other (for example, the reader) in order to develop a dialogic relation with the phenomenon, and thus validate the phenomenon as described” (italics in original, 11).
Consciousness can only be studied in retrospection: “Reflection on lived experience is always recollective; it is reflection on experience that is already passed or lived through” (10) and as such (here’s the unnerving part!), “does not offer us the possibility of effective theory with which we can now explain and/or control the world, but rather it offers us the possibility of plausible insights that bring us in more direct contact with the world” (9). In this regard, phenomenology views “the experiential situation as the topos of real pedagogic acting” (7), and the “textual reflection on the lived experiences and practical actions of everyday life with the intent to increase one’s thoughtfulness and practical resourcefulness or tact” (4). Van Manen refers back to the trickster Diogenes, who believed “a human being is not just something you automatically are, it is also something you must try to be” (italics in original, 5).

In sum, “phenomenological research has, as its ultimate aim, the fulfillment of our human nature: to become more fully who we are” (12). “Phenomenology…is a poetizing project; it tries an incantative, evocative speaking, a primal telling, wherein we aim to involve the voice in an original singing of the world (Merleau-Ponty, 1973). But poetizing is not ‘merely’ a type of poetry, a making of verses. Poetizing is thinking on original experience and is thus speaking in a more primal sense. Language that authentically speaks the world rather than abstractly speaking of it is a language reverberates the world, as Merleau-Ponty says, a language that sings the world” (italics in original, 13).

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May 29, 2005

sgraffiti (more on art nouveau)

Dramed of stained glass last night. :-) And sgraffit, or modern petroglyphs. Saw a frieze I really wanted to take a picture of but hadn´t bought a camera yet: it was in the gymnasium of an Ecole Primaire that was on the art nouveau tour. It said, "Refuge."

"Instead of copying the classical forms of the past, designers turned to nature for inspiration, using the shapes of flowers, plants and insects." This summarizes the architectural movement, which specialized in combining wood, stone, metal and glass.

In addition to the school, the other three stops included: the Comic Strip Library, the Hannon House (also saw the facade of Saint Cyr House), and a restaurant, De Ultieme Hallucinatie.

Here´s an article on the phenomenality of architecture.

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May 28, 2005

late to art; later to architecture

I just began being interested in art the past few years. Never knew enough about it to understand what could be so compelling to folk. Am definitely into symbolic uses - particularly of the ancient kind such as Dan Brown details in The Da Vinci Code (yes, it nurtured my soul) - and also of the protest kind, such as Néstor García Canclini describes with academic and theoretical zeal.

Today, art nuoveau.

We went into four buildings, but what got me hooked was the contrast between art nouveau and art deco in the very first building we saw. Seeing the two styles juxtaposed on the same facade, and hearing them described as pre- and post-WWI did it. My imagination leaped to the level of subjectivity and a totally different consciousness before and after "the war to end all war."

This isn´t exactly the case, as L´Arau guide explained: there are two peroids in art nouveau, an early and later period, each roughly a decade apiece (the movement spanned 1890-1910 here in Bruxxelles). The later period anticipated the straightening of lines and rejection of fluid flourishes that is the most prominent characteristic of art nouveau.

In addition to the splendid buildings and styles, this particular tour provider, L´Arau brings a deliberately political bent. I learned an incredible amount of political history and current political structure of the city and country. It´s strongly Catholic in heritage (although few go to church these days), the liberales are the right wing political party (think free market neo-liberalism), and the socialists are the left (Christian/Catholics in the middle, more-or-less). These three politicql "families" each have two groups, a Flemish (Dutch-speaking) group, and a French-speaking group. The Greens are a recent - and important - addition to local politics.

Our guide explained that the city was quite poorly managed after WWII, and pointed out evidence of same, including the location of the European Institutions where much downtown, residential demolition has had to occur with the ongoing EU expansions. Things are looking up these days, at least partly due to the efforts of this and other activist groups interested in preservation, heritage, and sensible urban planning.

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May 25, 2005

I´m in - again!!

I am feeling blessed. Got my badge to the European Parliament here in Brussels; already had one interview today and have another one lined up for tomorrow. And there is an AIIC meeting tomorrow evening where I will meet a bunch of interpreters and hopefully arrange more interviews. Phase two is off to a great start. :-)

I´m still toasted, though, from the past weeks´ marathon of travel, plunge into "the field", paper-writing and all. Mentally and emotionally I am feeling IT. Lucky I have Dan Brown and The DaVinci Code to grant some respite. Here is a tidbit on The Rose Line, which is "believed to emanate a certain spiritual frequency - one that sustains feminine energies and the search for unbiased truth."

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May 19, 2005

Do not disturb

“Artists who inscribe in the work itself the questioning about what the work should be … exclude the spectator who is not disposed to make of his or her participation … an equally innovative experience” (27).


“Should we admit – along with disenchanted artists and theorists – that autonomous experimentation and democratizing insertion in the social fabric are irreconcilable tasks” (27)?

Néstor García Canclini

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May 4, 2005

holding form

Last week, Briankle gave us a karate lesson, emphasizing over and over again that it is the form that matters.

"The perfection of the form of a thing is its entelechy in virtue of which it attains its fullest realization of function (De anima, ii. 2)."

Entelechy "denotes realization as opposed to potentiality."

What I'm thinking is that entelechy is the achievement of a form's skopos. In order not to lose form - in other words, in order to realize something, to bring it into being - one must train diligently, vigorously. Training is the practice of moving into position, of choosing the form that best responds to contingency, of enacting the form spontaneously, at the level of instinct because it is so deeply ingrained.

Karate is an analogy for life. For communication. For theorizing about communication and life? To theorize is to believe especially on uncertain or tentative grounds. From theoria, a latin term meaning "to see, to stage, theatre, scene, spectacle" (class notes, 4/27/05).

Here's an explanation: "Theoria, in contrast [to phronesis], defines a very different rational capacity, traditionally translated as "contemplation," and by Irwin as "study," particularly theoretical study. Theoria is the activity which expresses nous, "understanding." One understands origins‹origins are not demonstrable, one cannot prove them syllogistically‹however, everything has an origin, and it is through theoria that we know these. It does not lead to "an answer" to a problem. Aristotle does not see theoria as necessarily equivalent to philosophy, then‹I can think philosophically about a number of things, however, rarely do I do theoria. I might, instead, wonder about various applications of ethics to problems in the real world, or about theoretical issues of translation, or what it means to have knowledge‹but this is not theoria. From what Aristotle seems to be saying here, theoria would be strictly reflecting on the knowledge of origins‹almost like meditating on the idea of a god." (from EUDAIMONIA AND THE ACTIVITY(IES)OF THE SOUL IN ARISTOTLE'S ETHICS.

This article, The Place of Phronesis in Postmodern Hermeneutics, discusses Lyotard's suggestion, based on Kuhn, "that scientific knowledge involves a search for instabilities rather than consensus." This reminds me of Immanual Velikovsky. Enoch tried to show us this movie about him yesterday. (Note: he is still being critiqued, but at a level that is incomprehensible to me.)

Juan noted that Velikovsky's theory sounds like Eldredge and Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium. The difference, I think, is that punctuated equilibrium refers specifically to evolution, whereas Velikovsky's theory has more to do with geology and astronomy.

What intrigued me about Velikovsky is the notion that there may be forces larger than the institutionalized, macrosocial social, economic, and political processes that cultural studies and political economy takes for granted as the biggest patterns that matter. It reminds me of that basic science movie, the power of ten. Here's an interactive web site that does essentially the same thing. Take, for instance, 10 to the +12 as a Velikovskiian "level", compared with 10 to the +7, which shows continental geography (roughly the level of political economy?) Both macrosocial and microsocial perspectives originate from the position of our own perspective.

Our own perspective is grounded in our body and the social mileau we operate within. The flower bed which composes the example could analogically be my immediate peers, colleagues, friends, professors, etc. Microsocially, the first increment "down" distinguishes individuals, 10 to the -1. The next level isolates features and characteristics of an individual. At 10 to the -3, we're dealing with perception, and next at the perceptual apparatus, then to the unique characteristics of each biological element of functional perception.

At 10 to the -8, we arrive at the level of DNA and the capacity for reproduction. At 10 to the -10, we encounter electromagnetism. Arguably, somewhere at this level are the operational structures of consciousness.

This is (if my analogy holds) the level where knowledge is constructed, where language occurs.

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May 2, 2005

out of phase . . . ?

I'm catching a lot of heat for being on a different page than a vocal segment of my colleagues working on a joint project...it's a little stressful. :-/

I've been toying with the notion of bi-temporality. I came up with the term a few days ago to describe/explain why I'm not expressing as coherent and clear an argument as my peers would like. It was an individual discovery, but of course I didn't invent the term or the concept.

I would like to see Bitemporal Vision: The Sea.

This essay on time lays out some of the complications. A possibly worthwhile resource: Temporal Patterns. Here are a quantum physics angle and something on the gravitomagnetic field.

The math equations are beyond me, although an explanation helps (a little): The work will proceed as follows...

I downloaded a pdf from bladerunner, and there are two Chinese sites that came up on Google. One article, time variation and patterns includes this quote: "A pattern is an idea that has been useful in one practical context and will probably be useful in others."

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backward chaining

I'm not sure if this is what I'm doing, but it's possible:

"Backward Chaining" Learning Methodology.

"So, what does one do in backward-chaining learning? It is really very simple: we start by finding something about life, or about the world, or about culture, that we are fascinated with. We disregard everything we think we know about learning, and find a question that really fascinates us, a subject we would really love to understand, or a form of creative expression we would really love to master. We don't worry about having the necessary "background" or "prerequisites" to understand this question or topic. We begin to hunt down everything we can find out about it.

Soon enough, we will find ourselves in the position of being unable to progress any further, because we lack the necessary understanding of some conventionally antecedent subject: e.g., my attempts to understand how the brain works run ashore due to my limited understanding of physiology.

What happens now? I take up the study, not of general biology, or even general physiology, but of neurophysiology. I cannot help but be aware of why I want to study this, and how each piece of knowledge I gain about it serves my overall purpose of understanding the brain. At some point in my study of neurophysiology, I run aground again, this time because I do not understand organic chemistry. I begin to study organic chemistry and find myself chaining backwards into general chemistry. Then, perhaps, I unwind the path I have taken, finish learning what I need to know about organic chemistry, finish learning what I couldn't learn about neurophysiology because I didn't know organic chemistry, and arrive back at the brain again."

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April 24, 2005


"I take gods and spirits to be existentially coeval with the human, and think from the assumption that the question of being human involves the question of being with gods and spirits" (Dipesh Chakrabarty, 2000:16).

I would call this an example of esoteric knowledge, to be contrasted with the exoteric kind.

Yes, I know I sound/look/appear as a lunatic. But I'm not the only one.

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Just read this word in the introduction to Dipesh Chakrabarty's Provincializing Europe. In the particular context it reads negatively, as though "necessary" and "incipient" are inherently contradictory (p. 15).

I'm thinking, though, that an aesthetic life lives on the edge of incipience. It anticipates what will appear, what could appear, if contingency allows. It arrives simultaneously with an appearing. This is how intersubjectivity operates - myself and an other(s) meet in temporality, in a particular place, producing a certain space of action.

"But I might die tonight."

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April 23, 2005

beginning . . .

Thoughtful questioning is more important than construction of systems (Moran summarizing Heidegger 246)… can thoughtful questioning itself be structuring in a systemic way? Seeds are sown – production, address, negation, accessibility – a trajectory will unfold, its velocity overdetermined by dissent, assertion, resistance, negotiation. A group forms within the limits of language, guided by what ideology/ies? A Marxist view juxtaposes persons with historical movement; Marcuse claims Heidegger accounts for the bourgeois deconstruction of social life from within (Moran, 245). Are we transcendentally homeless?

“We are caught up in a structure of care…it is not a matter of indifference to us” (Moran, 241).

Heidegger’s project is not problem-solving, but descriptive of “falling” in (to?) the world. When, where, how can we catch our thrownness? At what moments does it matter, and when is the flow of existing trajectories generative in their own right?

Dasein, existentially, is care, and “names human being in so far as it is individualized as myself or someone else and in so far as questioning is its essential mode of relating to Being” (emphasis added, Moran 238, ref Being & Time, § 41).

Not only do the questions we ask cast certain patterns and presuppose certain boundaries on the discoverable, these questions will be shaped to some extent by our mood when inquiring, and are imbricated with the performative. We will co-enact and co-construct a kind of knowing; could it be a knowing-together?

“Heidegger,” according to Moran,and me, according to me (!), “is coming to see that the essential disclosure of things takes place through Dasein’s concernful dealing with things in the environment, that it takes place essentially in expression. Relating to things, disclosing them, always relates to our concerns in advance, our relation is primarily interpretative, or hermeneutical” (emphasis removed, 234).

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April 15, 2005

it will NOT be boring!

Oy. I just bailed on the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness conference. None of the presenters were bad, it's just that they conform to the structure of making academic presentations ABOUT the object of study, rather than doing/being the subjects of study. Highlight? Meeting VJ. :-)

I'll go to the liminal lecture by Carlos Tanner tonight - hopefully it will be better.

I went to the plenary at the World Systems Conference this morning, and it was dynamic as all get out! Saskia Sassen turned me on. :-) Immanual Wallerstein set an important tone for the conference with his keynote last night, but he's not the most dynamic speaker. He might be in Spanish, but his pacing in English was a bit tough.

Of course, I'm envisioning the COM dept's proposed/potential conference for next year...

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April 13, 2005

solipsism and stochasticism

Is solipsism an attempt at control - to order the universe, refute or seek to deny the effects of stochasticism?

For instance, I know someone who occasionally describes themself as "insular", which may be true. It's one thing, though, to hold one's own counsel, and another to create a worldview and interpretation of events and others that excludes other viewpoints. I think this is what solipsism really means? This piece, Solipsism and the Problem of Other Minds. I have to grapple with how this relates to and interacts with intersubjectivity. Or plural singularity, as we discussed in Briankle's class last night based on Jean-Luc Nancy's piece, "Banks, Edges, Limits (of singularity)".

I can't find any reference to this online, it comes from Angelaki, hournal of the theoretical humanities, vol 9, no 2 August 2004.

Note: do a web search on "singularity."

As for stochasticism....

For consideration:


New Religions, Science, and Secularization looks like it dabbles with esoteric knowledge?

Life After Newton: An Ecological Metaphysics

any relation to sacred geometry?

Far afield yet informative:

Running Regressions: Some Psychological Constraints

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April 8, 2005

David Chalmers

This is the analytic philosopher Bern was talking about who argues against materialism.

He even has his own weblog - lots of stuff relating to perception. Hunju!

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cipher of genesis

I've been trying to track info on Carlo Suares, but can't find any details about his background, training, etc. I am finding other interesting things!

Some physics from way beyond.

Info on Sufism.

The International Conference on Science and Consciousness

Worth investigating more, Esha. I like the sound of this name!

Hmmm...another thing I've been curious about is the source of Enoch's info on Pythagoras. I, being schooled in the traditional U.S. public way, never imagined any other source of education for him than his own society.

This site, The Hermetic Garden needs more time. I'm intrigued that it has French and Portuguese versions. :-)

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April 5, 2005

how we got capitalism

It's all because of western science. Really! "Mathematics, vision, philosophy. And the next thing you know we have capitalism!"

Maybe you had to be there, but it was the heartiest laugh in Enoch's class tonight, that and going down the Juan path.

We did the Hebrew letter-numbers, the archetypes of 1-9.

These sites all interested mein one way or another; all I can do at the moment is list them.








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March 30, 2005


I've heard this term, and maybe used it once or twice. Hoping I had it "right". :-) did you know there are many different techniques? After reading this explanation, I'm not sure I've used it correctly OR understood it right. Alas!

I think I had it sortof backwards - more of a "putting together" rather than a "taking apart." Might these be two sides of the same spinning coin?

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March 29, 2005

1 + 1 = 3

Exoteric - Esoteric. Are these in opposition or in conjunction? This is one theme in Enoch's class on consciousness.

Another is number. I can only find definitions on the www that privilege its material, conventional construction. From this view, 1+1 can only equal 2. Another view, that of sacred geometry, poses a different answer.

A geometrician takes us through the vesica piscis, which is where the equation 1+1=3 originates.

After 3 comes 4, the square.

The Egyptians were the first to figure this out, but you have to do a bit of intellectual sifting to give them due credit, as Pythagoras is most often associated with it (the Greeks claim many "origins" which were borrowed or learned from other cultures - this is Enoch's claim, and it seems sensible to me, although I haven't done my own research to verify such and un-do my own socialization into historical origins of knowledge). The vesica piscis has been adapted to various symbolic meanings.

What really got me jazzed up was the discussion of there being a whole (1), which becomes divided (where else would another number come from?), and this division occurs because of desire: the desire to know oneself. Division casts a gaze upon itself, becoming two. Subject becomes subject AND object, and the result (function) of two-ness is the generation of knowledge - creation (and now we have 3).

Multiply this a bunch of times and we have the interlocking, co-creative play of desires withing the whole producing the flower of life (scroll down to the end). Looks an awful lot to me like intersubjectivity. :-)

The whole was conceptualized way way back in the original Hebrew as the ayn soph. Here's one explanation that comes close to what Enoch provided: "Emptiness, Ayn Soph, God. Use "God the Father" (better: substitute the unspeakable name YHWH) as placeholder for the ineffable emptiness that transcends subject/object dualities; for Nirvana, for the Real. This is expressed in Kabbalistic jargon as the notion of God ayn soph. The consequence of this is an ultimate principle that cannot be grasped, comprehended, or communicated except through meditative kenosis, the miracle of its direct self-disclosure to an enraptured spiritual being, or the apprehension of apophatic riddle in a moment of spontaneous insight. In any event, that which is "revealed" is not a datum, but the meaning event itself; that enlightenment in which one perceives the non-duality of phenomena, their emptiness, the absence of subject/object distinction." from Meta-Mythological Template.

I'm having trouble locating the original ying-yang-yuan symbol with the red dot. Found one that sort of hints at it - using a red star. There's a bunch of pages in Chinese...might have to pester a friend to help with this. :-)

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March 24, 2005

tell me I'm not a phenomenologist!

Briankle was in a rare mood last night - he inquired about my oh-so-close-to-psychological thoughts. Well, he asked me to "say something" at a moment when I was thinking about my own theoretical problem - of trying to enact a consciousness premised upon an epistemology that accepts the principles of relativity and quantum mechanics. (btw - I'm not very good at it.)

I think the psychological is a contamination of my language that contradicts my intellectual bent. It's gotten me into trouble numerous times, however, and I've simply got to get more clear. I think timing has been unfortunately anti-synergistic (if such is possible?) because my general depression (yeah, its still here, as if you couldn't tell, sigh) comes through more "loudly", I think, than whatever I say. At least this has been operational, recently, more often than not. I have had glimpses and moments of life beyond the pale ... is that too extreme a metaphor to use? It has truly and totally sucked, that's for dang sure. :-(

At any rate, reading about Husserl's Logical Investigations in Moran's Introduction to Phenomenology, Moran quotes Husserl:

Phenomenological study is "...a turning of intuition back towards the logical lived experiences which take place in us whenever we think but which we do not see just then, which we do not have in our noticing view whenever we carry out thought activity in a naturally original manner (p. 93)."

Now, here's where intersubjectivity enters. My hesitation when Briankle asked me if it wasn't too simplistic to say that I was just interested in empathy, in understanding the other, was because it is only a third, or maybe even a quarter of the "object" I wish to examine. Yes, my desire to know another, to put myself in their shoes and perceive through their worldview can be extrapolated as a strand out of a rope of intention which equally and simultaneously must include their desire to know me, my shoes, my perception/worldview. Before I complete the equation, let's ponder: am I prescriptive or descriptive here?

Perhaps prescriptive, since my desire to be known belongs to me as much as my desire to know others, and others may not wish to know me at all, or not at this level. (Would we call this intimate? Private? Public? (overlap with another debate.)

Yet, there is a reflection in the absence or rejection of desire just as much as in the presence of desire. And here is where I see description as the actual aim because it encompasses all forms and - I need to make the case - can do so without disrespect. Again, it seems I'm not too skilled at this yet (shall we hope there is hope for improvement, smile), and I might need help with the double negative. I often think of "honoring" as the act of recognition that perceives the other as "other" and just leaves be, but it seems too culturally-laden to serve as a theoretical term.

In other words, a choice not to engage me (I'm being particular for immediate social and interpersonal reasons as well as theoretical reasons) carries no intrinsic value. Because I've communicated my desire - Briankle's basic conception of communication, as I understood it from his explanation tonight, being that what is communicated most effectively in each and every act of communication is the wish to communicate; and the subsequent "demand" this puts on "the receiver" (to put it in linear giver-receiver terms) - does not mean there is a moral obligation on anyone to respond.

If I/we respond psychologically, I'd suggest that this is the combined result of our interaction and, as such, is "the effect" of the communicative interaction (no one will dispute that silence is also communication). The challenge, in my mind, is to continue to work (via experimentation, I'm afraid) to reduce the psychological so that we can get at the phenomenological. Uh oh, does this bring me back 'round to prescription? You see how much trouble I'm in . . . . !

Back to the equation. If my "acts of meaning-intention:your acts of meaning-confirmation" are a third or quarter of the equation, and your "acts of meaning-intention:my acts of meaning:confirmation" are the constitutive parts of a whole, then the "sum" or "product" or "effect" (obviously no clarity here, yet, or even a pretense at one!) is "the answer" - yet these three "things" are braided together in such a way that one cannot appear without the other.

Any reduction then will be one-sided unless and until subjectivities mutually engage the act(s) of reduction together. I suppose my desire for this experience provokes prescription...I am not clear if this can be avoided! Or, at least, not within the limits of my present vocabulary.

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March 23, 2005

the dissident now

Radhika asks if one can be liminal, really, ever - "in any context."

If time is, then existence is pertually liminal, always becoming, what Enoch called "the dissident now."

Now is described as "dissident" to emphasis the notion of existence continually coming into being (in a quantum mode, and/or in keeping with ancient mystical epistemologies) against popular "commonsense" linear conceptions of temporality.

The problematic, then, may not be where/when, but rather how. (Ah, cyberdiva is ahead of me on this, too!) :-) "...wondering how "how" figures into all this..."

"How" is the relation to context...

If now is always becoming then context does not preexist. No determinism whatsoever. Context is itself a relation, is (co?)constructed by the relation rather than providing limits of contingency for a relation.

If it ain't discourse, it's dialectic (follow up on this link)! Hmm, note the archaic definition of discourse: The process or power of reasoning. Here's another definition arguing that use of the term, "discourse", presumes an intellectual component is involved in the interaction.

Too many tangents! I wanted to note the different applications (epistemologies?) of the term, relation:
binary. I can't even do this now (!), but here's more on binary relations which might hint at the difference between "number" (ref. Pythagoras) and "mathematics" that Enoch mentioned....(maybe).

This online poetry journal, Voice in the Wilderness: art and the shame of being human, looks hot.

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March 22, 2005

on desire

Enoch challenged us to problematize desire. Is it possible that desire itself is an evolutionary cause? Did fish grow legs over millenia because of desire to leave the water? Or small mammals wings from desire to fly? Or humans consciousness out of desire to understand?

Here are some quick results of a google search:

Painless Civilization
: A Philosophical Critique of Desire (2003) by Masahiro Morioka
. The full text is still in translation, but the opening reads: "I would like to deliver this book to those who are in the midst of anxiety covered over with pleasure, in the midst of repetition without any joy, and in the midst of an endless labyrinth without exit, but are nevertheless willing to live their lives without regret in a corner of their minds."

We were discussing repetition in class tonight in reference to Vasistha's Yoga and life in general.

This book,
Philosophy of Desire in the Buddhist Pali Canon
is described as "addressing the idea of a paradox of desire, whereby we must desire to end desire, the varieties of desire that are articulated in the Pali texts are examined."

This essay argues that desire has taken two predominant forms in the West: sex and power.

This looks interesting, someone's compilation of musings on philosophy and desire, including a section on unconscious desires. If I'm not mistaken, he makes a similar argument to that which Enoch made: ' It seems, then, that even when we intensely desire things, the desires themselves are not making up consciousness. Instead, the desires cause other things feelings of knots in stomachs, feelings of pounding hearts, mental imagery and these other things are what actually make up consciousness. They tell us that we have a desire, and they even help us know what the desire is, but they are not the desire itself. The desire itself remains outside of consciousness."

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March 21, 2005

Althusser v habermas?

We (thankfully) postponed Habermas for a week, and I'm trying to prep for Mass Comm this afternoon - have finished Gramsci and now onto Althusser, which I did read before (last year, Li gave it to me thinking it might relate to the mentoring project, hmmmm. :-)

There's a section here that has me thinking back on the private-public debate between me and Stephen (last entry February 21).

Althusser writes: "The distinction between the public and the private is a distinction internal to bourgeois law, and valid in the (subordinate) domains in which bourgeois law exercises its 'authority'" (1971, 137).

Continuing, Althusser explains how there can be no "public" or "private" without the existence of "the State, which is the State of the ruling class" because the State is "the precondition for any distinction between public and private" (emphasis mine, 137-138).

I will definitely be thinking about this as I read for next week. In particular, the function of education as an ISA (applied to us, smile), and the way it "function[s] massively and predominately by ideology, [and] secondarily by repression, even if ultimately, but only ultimately, this is very attenuated and concealed, even symbolic" (italics in original, 138).

Althusser's claim reverberates for me: "the Ideological State Apparatuses may be not only the stake, but also the site of class struggle, and often of bitter forms of class struggle" (italics in original, 140).

Note to self: Be sure to follow up on this link to A Critique:
Competing Interpellations and the Third Text

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Liminality. Who will I be? Who do I want to be?

In LinguaMoo I want to be rewind. (I wanted to be endless reflexivity but it wouldn't accept that - I think I needed an underscore. Oh well. rewind is better.)

In pmc2 - a different space. How do these relate to each other? LinguaMoo is e-theory...experimentation and application of/with theory (or so I gather...)

pmc2 is ... for play? Or, perhaps, for plurking? (although I wager such is welcome in LinguaMoo, too).

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March 20, 2005

Berkelian philosophy

Matter does not exist, according to George Berkeley, "one of the three most famous eighteenth century British Empiricists" (along with Locke and Hume), who utilized "strictly empiricist principles in defence of the view that only minds or spirits exist."

Motto: esse is percipi, to be is to be perceived.

Did I ever read Sophie's World? The story is familiar, I guess what's more to the point, is did I learn anything from it? Can't say as I recall a single durn thing. Either it was prior to me actually arriving - phenomenologically - in my own body (after an early disassociation that exceeds memory) or those long-term memory banks never did their thing.

This entry extends the sa-cyborgs google group discussion and marks my virgin entry into pmc2. Some nice ballet dancers held my hands and didn't let me fall. :-)

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Careen says:

"You're not outside what you want to be inside of."

I'm holding this despite all evidence to the contrary! ;-)

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Dang. Have I had metonymy all wrong? Hall describes is a linguistic term in which a part is substituted for the whole inadequately because, as a one-sided or single moment it can never provide or capture a process (or object or event or . . . ) holistically, in all its dimensions, moments, and aspects.

I've been considering it alternatively as a representation or symbol in which the whole enacts itself within the part.

". . . it is not attempting to classify something by placing it as a species within a genus.

Worth a serious follow-up while I'm there this summer: The Metaphor and Metonymy Group.

Wikipedia has multiple links and at least part of explanation that seems more in keeping with where my head's been: "... is the use of a single characteristic to identify a more complex entity." And there's this, which is contexted as a rhetorical use: "Metonymy works by contiguity rather than similarity. Typically, when someone uses metonymy, they don't wish to transfer qualities (as you do with metaphor); rather they transfer associations which may not be integral to the meaning." I have to think on this more, because I like the continguity but need to be clear on the difference between "associations" and "qualities." And how associations might not be "integral to meaning."

Ah - this looks even closer: "In cognitive linguistics, metonymy is one of the basic characteristics of cognition. It is extremely common for people to take one well-understood or easy-to-perceive aspect of something and use that aspect to stand either for the thing as a whole or for some other aspect or part of it." The Wiki site (link above) includes links to cognitive linguistics and cognition. Do follow up! (There are several more leads there - gesture, sign language, perhaps links to consciousness...)

ps. Don't forget Hall's contrast of metonymy with fetishism (37). First time THAT's made sense (too?)! ;-) "

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identity politics

Interesting NCA paper, on Reading Identity Politics through Marx.

Critique of Althusser and also of Foucault: A Lover's Discourse: Using French Social Thought for Media Criticism.

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March 19, 2005


According to Raymond Williams.

I'm trying to find the full text of a quote excerpted and ellipsed by Stuart Hall (1986). The closest I've found is:

"...apparently more neutral sense of ideology in some parts of Marxs writing, notable in the well-known passage in the Contribution to the Critique of Political Philosophy (1859):

"The distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of productionand the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out."

Hall (a busy man) starts with "ideological" and deletes the hyphen right after it - which makes the rest of the sentence seem much more definitive. Also, he has deleted "this", which refers the entire point back to the transformation of production and its conflict (his word!) with the institutions (and their institutionalized discourses?) listed above. Except there is another ellipses preceding the list of so-called "ideological forms" which is why I'd like to see the whole dang thing!

Mick Underwood's awesome summary of uses and definitions for "code".

Includes a much needed definition for discourse!

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March 18, 2005

the lifeworld

Working with James (we are going to get this piece published!) -

"According to Husserl, intersubjective experience plays a fundamental role in our constitution of both ourselves as objectively existing subjects, other experiencing subjects, and the objective spatio-temporal world. Transcendental phenomenology attempts to reconstruct the rational structures underlying - and making possible - these constitutive achievements."


"Husserl's notion of lifeworld is a difficult (and at the same time important) one. It can roughly be thought of in two different (but arguably compatible) ways: (1) in terms of belief and (2) in terms of something like socially, culturally or evolutionarily established (but nevertheless abstract) sense or meaning.

(1) If we restrict ourselves to a single subject of experience, the lifeworld can be looked upon as the rational structure underlying his (or her) "natural attitude". That is to say: a given subject's lifeworld consists of the beliefs against which his everyday attitude towards himself, the objective world and others receive their ultimate justification. (However, in principle not even beliefs forming part of a subject's lifeworld are immune to revision. Hence, Husserl must not be regarded as an epistemological foundationalist; see F�llesdal 1988.)

(2a) If we consider a single community of subjects, their common lifeworld, or "homeworld", can be looked upon, by first approximation, as the system of senses or meanings constituting their common language, or "form of life" (Wittgenstein), given that they conceive of the world and themselves in the categories provided by this language.

(2b) If we consider subjects belonging to different communities, we can look upon their common lifeworld as the general framework of senses or meanings that allows for the mutual translation of their respective languages (with their different associated "homeworlds") into one another."

Excerpts from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/husserl/.

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March 9, 2005


Here is an excellent primer on Foucault.

The author, John Haber, poses Foucault vs Sartre: "For Sartre, a self-assured fighter who violently distrusted revolutionaries, alienation is normal. For Foucaulta homosexual who died of AIDS in the midst of composing an ambitious, unfinished History of Sexualityaccepting normalcy as others define it is out of the question."

"In Discipline and Punish, he finds the discovery of individuals to parallel the development of some areas not of increased freedom, but of increased authorityprisons and scientific analysis of behavior.....see[ing] deep connections between the parallel trends that he identifies: individualism and central authority ... argu[ing] that individualism has a lot to do with the individual point of view, and I take the word "view" literally indeed."

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art as a screen

This "light, little book" that Briankle assigned us for pleasure and a change of pace is striking me heavy. It's fascinating, and fun, as some of my colleagues have said. And... its full of resonance for me - so many overlaps with my last relationship and the extended circle of "friends."

Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us From Seeing, by Darian Leader, has taught me more about art (to which I've "come late", as I once said to the FP, not all that long ago) than anything else I've ever read or heard or discussed.

It's the density of the relationship between psychoanalysis and art that is weighing on me. I've not read Lacan, but as used by Leader in this book I'm intrigued.

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March 8, 2005

"some freaky shit"

One of my classmates said this today, describing an experience she had during meditation ("sitting") when she felt the two lobes of her brain widely separated by "the void" of the universe. Of course it sounds like a drug trip, illustrating the subsequent conversation we had about the academically-sanctioned search for causality - as if a knowledge of material causality is the only worthwhile epistemology.

Materialism rules. This seems to be true in much of the curriculum within the Communication department. Political economy, quantitative analysis, media effects...all are concerned with what can be empirically demonstrated. I haven't delved into cultural studies yet (soon!), but what little exposure I've had leads me to it also leverages materialism in its arguments. I'm compelled by materialist arguments, however I'm not convinced of their exclusive claim to the constitution of knowledge.

Enoch mentioned four theories of causality which we'll discuss in next week's class, noting that only physical causality is widely accepted within anthropology. I came across this piece on cultural materialism, whose "theoretical principles" seem quite in line with traditional Marxist thinking (as if I know so much about that!), asserting: "there is a universal pattern of sociocultural systems which consists of three components: infrastructure, structure, and superstructure." The author, James Lett, quotes Tim O'Meara's critique of cultural materialism's inability to " explain peoples behavior in current circumstances or predict them in novel circumstances."

This Wikipedia article on causalityprovides a great overview. I think I'm going to have to follow up more on David Hume (who came up in Briankle's class last week), who "could see no more reason for hypothesizing a substantial soul or mind than for accepting a substantial material world."

An alternative to the dominant paradigm of physical causality is that of replicate causality, posed by Gregory Bateson. This article, GREGORY BATESON, CYBERNETICS,
, "delineates the fundamental principles underlying the cybernetic paradigm as it was employed by Bateson." I'll have to come back to reading it later.

Then there is the Copenhagen School of quantum mechanics, which accepted the uncertainty principle as a complete theory limiting the range of deterministic knowledge. "They made no distinction between reality and our knowledge of reality." Much more here to read later, too. :-)

Finally, the fourth version of causality theory is formative causality, proposed by Rupert Sheldrake (interview describing morphic resonance!). His notion is distinguished from Aristotle's emphasis on essential form which doesn't consider the universe as dynamic and evolving. As summarized in the preceding link by James Arraj (note: this review of one of his books mentions critiques and cautions about meditation): "the forms of things would no longer be determined by eternal archetypes or universal laws, but by the actual form of previous similar organisms which effect the present forms by morphic resonance, which is a "non-energetic transfer of information."

Fun blog entry on morphic resonance.

Perception and judgement of physical causality involve different brain structures "provides evidence for brain regions involved in a conscious level of inference about the presence of causality."

Physical causality and brain theories dismisses quantum mechanics as a source for theorizing about the brain.

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March 3, 2005

can i get a witness?

I'm just wondering. Are Koreans always late or is it just HUNJU?!!!! I can handle it though, because I am getting The Best tutoring on philosophy a person could possibly wish. :-) We had an awesome talk about the first two chapters in Moran's Introduction to Phenomenology. It's pretty complicated stuff, but fascinating. Sheer downright absa-tooting-lutely fascinating. Folks are welcome to join us, if you want, we're reading fairly big chunks every two weeks then meeting to hash out understanding. Today we went over the Intro and the chapter on Brentano. It's wild to imagine being back in the day just figuring these things out, like how to separate and/or integrate and/or comprehend the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity. "Objectivity-for-subjectivity" is the formulation that stuck in my mind... meaning (if I can wrap my head around this one more time)....whatever we experience or perceive as objective is always already conditioned by subjectivity...the question is "how the world comes to appearance in and through humans," or, as Husserl put it: "how does objectivity get constituted in and for consciousness?"

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March 2, 2005

sound in the forest...

Oh dear. I am going to worry this one for awhile. Why is it staying on my mind? (Attachment?) :-)

Im talking about the damn tree. Its still falling. Making noise. Im reading about Franz Brentano, who invented descriptive psychology and inspired all kinds of folk, including Edmund Husserl. The book is Introduction to Phenomenology. The discussion Im just now reading is about intentionality.

The author of this book, McDermot Moran, states: Intentionality is the doctrine that every mental act is related to some object (47). The relational element is what just jumped me, and this example quoted from Brentano: There is no hearing unless something is heard, no believing unless something is believed; there is no hoping unless something is hoped for . . . and so on, for all the other psychological phenomena (48). (I keep coming around to what Enoch said, that the sound, if we can't hear it, doesn't exist for us, but I cant seem to rest there, so let me pound on this a bit longer.) I think what Im resisting is the human-centricity of this construction, which poses objects and existence as only that which is perceptible to human consciousness. I think there are things out there! Outside of my limited awareness, beyond my perception, exceeding what I can comprehend. Now, in terms of consciousness, there is an object of my intention. It is unnameable, unperceived, unknown, but I believe in it. Does it matter, then, if I cant hear it?

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March 1, 2005

What's a chiasm?

Merleau-Ponty uses this term to describe the inevitable and inextricable intertwining of consciousness with being. The phenomenological challenge he undertakes is to describe this mutual imbrication of selves and the world.

There is a medical reference, the optic chiasm, and a literary reference. Most simply, it means "an intersection or crossing of two tracts in the form of the letter X", and is reference to form.

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February 26, 2005

mobile personality

I'm kinda liking this Lerner dude's take on the evolution of subjectivity through modernization. Seems to me like a way of describing factors that go into the construction of a post-structural self - one that is adaptable to both deep structure (say, culture) and structure more palpable to perception (such as microsocial interaction).

Daniel Lerner (1958): The passing of traditional society: Modernizing the Middle East. New York: MacMillan: 43-75. Contextualized here.

What does Lerner mean by empathy and mobility?

Empathy is a psychoanalytic term referring to two processes by which an individual identifies with or incorporates others: projection and introjection. Projection perceives self in other and introjection imagines other in self. Lerner suggests these processes are the operational mechanisms by which individuals adapt themselves to the demands of a changing environment. The more efficiently (and selectively?) a person utilizes these processes the more mobile is their subjectivity (49). Mobility is the internalized (socialized) comfort with the experience of and adaptability to change as the normal way to be (48). This high capacity for rearranging the self-system on short notice based on the ability to see oneself in anothers situation, to see oneself as the other (or an other), is a style cultivated by modern society and complemented by emphases on notions of participation - taking up new roles, and having opinions -identifying personal values with the public sphere (50-51).

What role does the media play in Lerners formula for modernization?

Mass media are the great teachers of interior manipulation because of their multiplying presentations of a simplified and organized perception of life in another land, sans the complicated overload of sensory stimuli one has to manage by actually being there (54). This has had the effect of increasing non-traveling peoples imagination about other places through exposure to an infinite vicarious universe (53). The packaging of the mass media conveys a mediated sense of other places, the are composed and orchestrated version[s] of life outside ones familiar milieu (53).

I was tickled to read the comment about people in the early days of the movies trying to intervene in them, as Hannah did that once, quite dramatically, when she was about six. She had not been exposed to much prior to that time (videos of the Teletubbies, Sesame Street, Arthur). I don't remember what we were watching, but there was a scene, well into it, when the protagonist was in danger but didn't yet know it, and Hannah started yelling at her to pay attention! It was amusing, on the one hand, but also a bit freaky to see how deeply she was engaged with the story.

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seeing and looking

Briankle assigned us a terrific book: Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us From Seeing, by Darian Leader. (Another pro and a con critique are posted here, scroll down.)

I'm interested in the way Leader describes the difference between looking and seeing. One may look and not see. Simply, this is perceptually similar to hearing but not listening, however Leader is really dealing with consciousness and what it means to know that one is being looked at without ever knowing for sure what (who?) is being seen.

And what if seeing is the primary receptive sense? Of course I'm thinking about the Deaf, and of my involvement with ASL. Of knowing that one is being watched. I wonder if one of the factors in the differential success of varying ASL students has to do with the willingness to be seen? Because one certainly is! I recall many instances of horror when I was in my beginning and intermediate ASL courses. The self-consciousness of attempting production, the discomfort of generating inadequate performances. And the pleasure of adequacy. :-)

As I think about it, there was (is!) satisfaction on two levels: the achievement of linguistic meaningfulness and of relational acceptance. If I can be looked at when operating at what often feels like my most vulnerable (as in, most exposed) mode, and accepted as a person doing a good job at her profession, that carries a lot of validation. Note: I'm not talking about the adulation that is sometimes expressed by people who do not know the language (which I consider generally superficial), but with Deaf persons and colleages.

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February 25, 2005

a practice of public reasoning

"I was really impressed with your latest blog posting. Lots of self
discovery going on there."

"How do admissions of psychological/emotional vulnerability contribute to getting people to move to action? It's very easy for people to say, "Ah ha! I knew it wasn't about the department; she's having personal problems and using the department as a scapegoat."

Probably this is what Stephen's been on my case about - does acknowledging the personal (what he has been defining as "private" and labeling "psychological") move people to action? ? Perhaps not, but maybe it depends on what kind of action is desired

We recently clarified a conflation in the discussion we've been having (in the DRP category for the past couple of months). Stephen had not remembered a classical distinction between the "private" and the "intimate." My mulling of this since our talk about Habermas Monday evening has been complemented by some reading material on "Functional Roles of Group Members" in the small group communication course. First, I've been pushing for acknowledgement that whatever one person considers "private" or "intimate" is a social construction. We can approach the construction from perceptual, sociological, ideological, rhetorical, or epistemological lenses, each of which brings different elements into view, but we have to admit at base that each of these frameworks presuppose no "real" (objective, positivist, materialist) existence of a concept of privacy or intimacy outside of human imagination.

If we accept this premise, then it becomes clearer (to me at least!) that what I've been arguing against is Stephen's insistence on selecting out only those elements of my arguments which "fit" his stereotype (?) (!) of where the boundary between the public and private "ought" to be drawn. This is where I have suggested that our debate has the quality of a power struggle: between the imposition of his (historically based) model of categorization, and my attempts to bring a critique of this model's contemporary applicability into focus. The model influencing my analysis today has to do with a heuristic division of roles in a group (which is equally rooted in white male rationalist epistemology).

Where I agree with Stephen about the need to delineate a boundary regarding what is appropriate or not in the practice of public reason (especially with the intention of generating a public sphere) is whether an individual's contribution leans most heavily toward self-serving (individual) goals or whether an individual's contribution leans more in the direction of accomplishing the group's stated task and/or maintaining the communicative and relational practices necessary to hold a group together through difficult stages or periods of time.

From this angle, I would suggest that if there is suspicion about a self-serving motivation for any particular action (which could, for instance, be manifested through criticism of that action) then the "issue" is already public, it has simply not been acknowledged as such. My argument is that only via self-disclosure of so-called "personal, private, or (possibly even) intimate" details, can such suspicion be confirmed or denied. Further, I argue that such disclosure is a necessary precondition for any kind of intellectual separation of personal (as in selfish) motivation from potential value to the (public) collective effort.

In other words, public reasoning needs to be flexible enough to include elements of human be-ing that have hitherto been proscribed.

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February 24, 2005

"we are still monkeys"

I am so jealous of anyone who's already done with Paula's paper! And, I'm kinda....having fun (!) re-reading Mumford (1963) after Chris made more of it legible to me with his presentation yesterday. :-)

I'm just over half done with the paper. I'm enjoying what I now see as a merger in Mumford of the material and the ideological, to wit:

"...instantaneous personal communication over long distances...is the mechanical symbol of those world-wide cooperations of thought and feeling which must emerge, finally, if our whole civilization is not to sink into ruin" (241).

The recordability of such instantaneous personal communication is one example of "the new permanent record" which "suggest[s] a new relationship between deed and record, between the movement of life and its collective enregistration: above all, they demand a nicer sensitiveness and a higher intelligence. If these inventions have so far made monkeys of us, it is because we are still monkeys" (245).

;-) Gimme a banana!

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February 22, 2005


I looked up some of the things Enoch either shared info from and/or suggested we read:

The Descartes Error by Antonio Damasio seems like an intriguing read. The author, Antonio Damasio, has been interviewed by The Harvard Brain and for some publicity from his publisher.

According to Damasio, Descartes' mistake was to separate the brain from the body. Damasio proposes the somatic marker hypothesis to explain a connection he believes exists between emotion and the exercise of reason.

An opposing view. This looks similar to the stuff I did for Nelson's class oh way way back....on pre-conscious perception. The intent of the study I read was to debunk Freud (fine with me) but it was intriguing because of how I thought it fit in with Billig's notion of dialogic repression. (Have to check up on it again to be sure.)

We had some discussion about whether the notion of a self is an internally generated phenomena or an interactively-generated one. While there seemed to be some agreement on the interaction part, it also seems problems of "what a self is" are no more easily solved in anthropology than they are in communication. :-)

Geosophy was a new term for me. It reminded me of Ley Lines and Chaco Canyon.

Then there was a hint about the body recently being "discovered as an electromagnetic device". And some interesting parallels: that the earth and the human body are composed of the same percentage of water (70%), and also have the same base resonate frequency (7.8) - and rumors are this may be shifting up. There's two types of stuff on the 'Net: astrobiology, psychic sites, etc., and electronics, but I couldn't find a basic definition. (I can deduce it but always like to verify my deductions.)

What intrigued me most about class tonight, though, was our group dynamic. There was no way I was gonna leave Juan hanging out there all by himself!

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February 19, 2005

antiphysis to pseudophysis

Roland Barthes may be beyond me, but his critique of myth is fascinating.

Physis "was the Greek word for the material cosmos we sense and measure and attempt to predict."

Here's the quote in question: "[I]n the contemporary bourgeois society, the passage from the real to the ideological is defined as that from an anti-physis to a pseudo-physis." From The Bourgeoisie As A Joint-Stock Company. "Antiphysis" is linked to "the real"; and pseudophysis is linked to "ideology." I get the latter, but not the former. :-(

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My buddy Carole is a gem. This afternoon she told me she'd never met anyone like me and wonders how my life will turn out. So do I! We were talking about the things I do. I keep trying to figure out what it is, actually, that I "do." :-) And why! Since what I do often results in distress (for me and for others, to varying degrees and intensities, situationally). Is there something I bring that is actually an "asset", and if so, what is it? Am I misusing or misapplying it? Are there other ways to "use" it than the ways I currently know?

Maybe I'm trying "to do" what Arturo Uslar Pietri prohesied during the height of technological determinism, believing communication would solve all the major world problems: participation "in everything that happens [to which] we will react accordingly, outside the bounds of ideology, models, and commands" (in Mattelart, 127).

Briankle was talking about "the double play of ideology" in class the other night. How the real bite of ideology, where it does its work, is upon those who profess to "see" the system, or have the privilege or subjective means to withdraw from it temporarily (for instance, via meditation), and yet continue to participate in it. I do not at all believe that I'm operating outside of ideology, but I do wonder if part of what I do by living in a kind of "resistance" (I use the word guardedly, for lack of an alternative) is to somehow identify the work of ideology in us? Oy I am going to get in so much trouble for this!

On Democracy Now this evening, Amy Goodman interviewed Ward Churchill about his description of WTC technocrats as "little Eichmanns". I didn't hear the whole interview, but I did hear the part about Arendt's experience of going to see Eichmann, whom she had imagined as evil personified, and discovering what a typically ordinary person he really was - loved by his children, active in his community, doing what he was told as a function of his bureaucratic job with a sense of detachment from the actual outcomes of his labor.

This essay, Eichmann, the Banality of Evil, and Thinking in Arendt's Thought applies Arendt's argument about the banality of evil, and includes a discussion of the difference between the commonplace and the banal. Maybe that's where I need practice? In distinguishing between these two? Or maybe this is something that can't be known (recognized?) until called into question?

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I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I've actually had a few wild perceptions of being potentially able to alter reality - especially time - (and no, I wasn't under any influence), but they always seem ... out of ken. Not real. But here I am reading Mattelart for Paula's class, and he quotes McLuhan...

Participants and actors seek to program events rather than to watch themthese effects appear before their causes. At instant speeds the cause and effect are at least simultaneous.this dimension naturally suggests the need to anticipate events hopefully rather than to participate in them fatalistically (1974, in Mattelart p. 125-126).

Now, McLuhan was referring to the perceived (at that time) power of media to spread a message and instigate deep social change (especially outside of North America). It's a deterministic view in which technology is perceived as neutral and the message would automatically produce the intended or desired effect.

What catches my attention about this is the temporal element - that effects and causes are "simultaneous". Which means neither one comes "first" or "next" but they co-occur. I think this is what happens in group communication too. For instance (beating a dead horse?), complaining could lead linearly to a protest but the moment of "protest" is both cause/effect - not just in the linear sense of what came before and what comes after, but in the meaning made in the moment of production/reception. I can reflect back on everything I "brought" to my actions and intentions in the moment, but inevitably that reflection is only upon a part of the whole that generated the event itself as "an event."

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February 11, 2005


"Until we know what others think they know, we cannot truly understand their acts." Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 13.

I recognize Lippmann's context is mass media, but the example he provides is what I would characterize as group dynamics/group relations: a 1919 argument in the U.S Senate in which partisan Republicans and Democrats engage in a discourse that develops from the recognition of a rumor to an assumption of truth. Lippmann argues this incident "reveals how difficult it is...to suspend response until the returns are in. The response is instantaneous. The fiction is taken for truth because the fiction is badly needed" (emphasis added, 19).

The intriguing question (to my mind) then becomes, what motivates the need? Lippmann goes elsewhere - although it may be a step on the way to mine :-) - saying we can't generalize "about comparative behavior until there is a measurable similarity between the environments to which behavior is a response" (25). Does Lippmann refer here to a synchrony of pseudo-environments (mediated) or to some external, objectified "real" environment? And how does one assess such?

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February 10, 2005

the Quarrel

between the Ancients and the Moderns is described by Joseph M. Levine as, "how far to imitate the classics and how far to risk the freedom to innovate."

However, another view, by Rosen, argues that "the quarrel that is significant is not between ancients and moderns but between philosophy and sophistry, for the continuous attempt of Western civilization to prevent playfulness from degenerating into frivolity constitutes the unity of historical experience."

Here are some additional links to authors with an online paragraph or so of commentary on the Quarrel, including Schiller: "Antique poetry now is equated with the naive mode of perception (naive Empfindungsweise). Naive poets live in inner harmony and unity with nature, and their works of art are produced spontaneously and in the absence of poetic self-consciousness. The poetry of modernity, on the other hand, is sentimental in outlook (Schiller's German term is sentimentalisch rather than sentimental). Sentimental poets are self-reflective and skeptical of inspiration, they are apprehensive of the psychological abyss that dissociates their own age from antiquity, and they feel their cultural and moral self cut off from the harmony of senses and from the union with nature that they ascribe to the writers of antiquity."

Terms I'm still struggling with:

synchrony, as in "an idealization of synchronic modes of understanding" (3). Locke is described by Labio as "almost exclusively synchronic" (10), which must mean that "knowing" and/or consciousness itself is taken to be a simultaneous event?
Later, "Descartes's narratives also have a definite static, or synchronic, as well as visual quality" (31).

This is opposed to diachronic views.

I think this is a different argument than the "absolute/transcendent" vs "contingent" truth argument, right?

asymptotic, as in "humanity, which has given birth to itself by severing itself from its aboriginal nature through that first flash of consciousness that marks it as secondary and asymptotic" (62). This is in reference to the first naming of thunder (what Enoch might call a "decree"?) which separated the human from the un or a-human who preceded us evolutionarily. I think what asymptotic means is that the approach can never be consummated - perhaps an example of what Briankle might call a promise? One can get closer and closer and yet never actually touch (arrive at) the desired object.

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February 9, 2005

human choice

Vico defines philology as "the doctrine of all the institutions that depend on human choice; for example, all histories of the languages, customs, and deeds of peoples in war and peace" (in Labio, p. 47).

The academy is an institution; rhetorical discourse is an institution. War is an institution. Peace is not. How does one exercise choice that invokes an institutionalizing of peace without negating half the human experience (aggression, desire, passion....in short, sensation itself)?

What does an "immanent metaphysics" entail? Labio affirms meditation as a narration of an ideal that one makes for oneself (48). Unless I'm reading her wrong and I pray someone will correct - or at least argue! - with me if I am.)

I'm straddling what Strawson (1979, 9) describes as descriptive and radical metaphysics (as paraphrased by sofiatopia in the link above on "immanent metaphysics). Descriptive metaphysics "is content to describe the actual structure of our thought about the world." Radical metaphysics "is concerned to produce a better structure."

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February 6, 2005

Gabriel Tarde

This may be one of my new guys. The blogpost cited before (The Pinocchio Theory is a great summary of Tarde that winds up exactly where I've been trying to be, believe it or not! (I loved Ripley's as a kid.)

This article by Bruno Latour about Tarde is about interrupting repetitions - think problematic moments! (and Latour looks interesting in his own right: Making Things Public).

Wikipedia shows his work turned to unsavory purposes (Le Bon) but also taken up by others who may be less scary....I'm not sure yet, because Mattelart lumps him in with the psychopathologists and (despite dysfunctionality) I really don't think humanity is hopelessly pathological, but more investigation is on the horizon. I wonder if I can get the Encyclopedia Brittanica article on him from school?

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emergence of technical networks

I'm thinking, only on p. 30, that it makes sense to me why so many intellectuals commit suicide. The quote by historian Douglass McKie suggests a hands-off policy from government toward business until business goes bad, when a moral discourse is invoked. The blatancy of fear-based policy decisions in the relations between nations is no less today than it was then.

I'm puzzled by this though: "The tension between the logics of negotiation and those of security/insecurity was too tangible to render credible the first efforts to construct a system for regulating international relations" (30). Meaning it was so real that it couldn't be faced? Or accepted as requiring significant, deliberate, and direct mediation? I'm not disputing Mattelart's judgment, but wondering about the intensity of denial, and how that still plays out in so many ways and places.

There is an intellectual imperative to hold both the "bad" and the "good" in some kind of phenomenological tension in order to stay sane. For instance, the fact of so many agreements which do curb "the impulse to war" (27) countering the ways in which war is still an acceptable option for conflict resolution. But the depth of governmentalist hegemony is distressing. My naivete is shocking. What a sucker I've been for the discourses of western civilization and democracy ~ even as I constantly increase my knowledge of their duplicity I do still believe in human evolution as (at least potentially) ascendant...maybe that's a different discourse altogether? I may have to learn better how to separate them, without going overboard into new ageism (which is equally susceptible to cooptation and misuse).

It looks like here's a clip of Mattelart speaking at a conference; I can't view it from my dial-up...

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February 2, 2005

revising...independent study

Hunju prefers Merleau-Ponty and that would be nicely synergistic for me, since my first encounter with phenomenology was through a popular rendition based largely upon M-P's work.

Also, it's Max Scheler (not Schuyler), and this looks interesting: On Feeling, Knowing, Valuing.

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independent study

Here's my thinking (finally) for the critical phenomenology with Briankle:

Problem 1: what's the difference between epistemology (ways of knowing) and phenomenology (consciousness)?

Problem 2: the role of perception. How is perception articulated/understood within these two fields?

I like Labio's book on aesthetic epistemology (he's assigned to for COM660).

"Phenomenology." Translated by C. V. Salmon. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed. vol. 17 (1929), 699-702. is recommended as "one of the best of Husserl's short works."

Then, perhaps the Logical Investigations? Probably the longer version?

The two texts for Anthropology of Consciousness might fit in, somehow: Why God Won't Go Away and (less sure of this one) Vasistha's Yoga, but only because it seems more methodological - a "how to" rather than a "why". We'll see. :-)

From Husserl to....Heidegger? I have reservations about him. I know his thinking is important. And, I'm not sure I want to promote the thinking (however insightful) of someone who was an active Nazi.

Briankle mentioned Schuyler but I can't pinpoint any works - need more directioin to check him out.

What about Hegel? Not critical? (Briankle didn't mention him.) Phenomenology of Mind. He also wrote <a href="http://hegel.net/en/eb1911.htm"Phenomenology of Spirit which might compliment Enoch's insistence on spirituality as the foundation of knowledge.

Finally (as if this isn't plenty!) - Merleau-Ponty? For instance, Phenomenology of Perception.

This reference page on Husserl is awesome, btw! And this one on Hegel.

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"a forbidden conversation"

This is how Enoch Page framed the course, Anthropology of Consciousness. His critique of academia is based upon a combination of personal experience and a theorizing informed by Gregory Bateson. I haven't read any Bateson, but his name has been mentioned occasionally in COM, and now I know I need to read him.

The quotes here are from "notes" that Enoch has written and read to us. Some of them are Bateson's own words (I think) and other's are either Enoch's paraphrasing or his own contributions. The gist of the argument vs conventional academia (which I believe characterizes most of the approach in our COM dept) is an overemphasis on "purposive conscious activity." As I understood it, its the reduction of knowledge to only what we consciously intend and conceptualize; leaving out anything unintended or otherwise out of consciousness. Taking only the overtly conscious into account "lacks systemic wisdom" and means that whatever action taken on solely "purposively conscious" bases will "always require a remedy." In other words, the results of action that doesn't acknowledge or take into account the presence/infuence of non-rational, non-purposive, non-conscious factors will always be flawed.

The problem is "what would entail a rigorous study of unconsciousness without psychologizing it?" Page argues we need to study the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity, not just assume we've somehow transcended Cartesian dualism (which he asserts is the foundation of societal pathology in the U.S.). He wasn't familiar with Michael Billig, who I think does provide a way to study unconsciousness through the mechanism of dialogic repression.

What's forbidden about this conversation? I'm not sure exactly which aspect(s) Page would privilege, but I'd wager two specifics: "the unconscious" as a topic of intellectual inquiry, and notions of collectivity applied to the unconscious. Page mentions Jung's theorizing about a collective unconsciousness (which he has some problems with) and also discourse among people who meditate about a collective consciousness. Page refers back to Durkheim's neglected work, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (original translation 1912) and a notion of "collective representation." This was the first step (so says Page) toward getting the first glimpse into master narratives, such as "sacred national fictions" (Robert Bella).

What's distinctive about the collective representation of Durkheim is that it goes beyond ideology (exemplified by Althusser) and incorporates perceptual patterning. Perhaps the "ideal type" (I'm reaching) is "collective effervescence." Page says Durkheim meant something more than the "communitas" of Victor Turner, because he thinks Durkheim was referring to a "level of emotional intensity and shared intensity" that exceeds the "I know everybody" of community. Eduardo offered "levitas" as an opposition. :-)

Anyway a search for collective effervescence leads to some interesting pdf's, and this book review. The summary of the first chapter of Sacred Revolutions: Durkheim and the College of Sociology captures the points of main interest to me.

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January 28, 2005

discourses in tension?

I had a great day working today. My teammate was (is!) awesome. :-) We had the best conversation at lunch, about her workshop on discretion (which gets as much of a plug as I can give it), and a quasi-update on where I am with the research on role.

Our conversation was fascinating because it was going along just fine, full of investigatory questions and comments, and then it got tense! Why? It was right before we had to get back to work.....and then didn't come up again....but was really on my mind. Why? Was I presenting my hypotheses and tentative findings in an ethnocentric or oppressive way? It worked out that we walked to our cars together, and the moment arose for me to ask if she'd felt the conversation get tense. (Maybe it was just me?) Yes, she had noticed! And she thought it was about something she was doing! Being too questioning or too .... something (I can't recall her word - persistent, maybe).

Fascinating! We both sensed the tension, and both of us thought we were the cause of it! I thought I must be doing something "wrong," and she thought she must have been doing something "wrong"!

Hmmm. That really got me thinking. I have a partial/quasi/VERY tentative hypothesis - that it wasn't about "us" as individual persons at all (although we don't know each other well even though we've known OF each other ever since I moved to VT....twelve years ago) - but rather, about the discourses each of us was invoking/enacting. Really, I am just plumb guessing, but as we "de-briefed" the tension, what seemed to be the point of most affect was (what I can only describe as) a "contest" between the current/contemporary most "fashionable" discourse about the interpreter's "role(s)" (term used advisedly) and responsibilities, and a .... oy, how to characterize this ....

A "new" discourse that seeks to question some of the hitherto unquestioned assumptions about the interpreter's role. Such as whether or not the reproduction of a "monocultural" environment for Deaf interlocutors is really "the best" or most ideal Vision for what we ought to produce.

AND - this is the key (I think!), it didn't seem to be the whole discourse or even the specific question itself (might a bicultural model of/for interpreting be a more appropriate and/or effective model than the monocultural one?) but the fact that there's no answer for what this "alternative" might look and feel like!

I think what this means (based on my huge sample of one, grin) is that it is the unknown itself that is scary (and not the notion that maybe the current "ally/cultural mediator" model isn't the full or ultimate answer).

Gosh. I'd LOVE it if my team would like to respond (!) and of course if anyone else wants to chime in.....

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January 17, 2005

why blog?

Todd sent me these (among other) questions awhile ago. I think the timing is good to answer them now because I basically threw down the gauntlet to my blogmates from DRP.

1. Do you remember the first time you thought, "hey I want to create a blog!" That is my "!" You might not have had a "!" when you thought of it.

When I learned about blogs, my "!" was the ability to combine two things: group dynamics (including discourse) and publicity (like Peter Wiggins of Ender's Game). Not that I identify with him in terms of personality or scale of ambition!

3. Do you think your "voice" or "identity" as changed since you started your blog?

My "voice", perhaps, but not my "identity." I think of voice more like representation, and I've tried to spice things up a bit. Early reviews found my writing dry, dull, and deadly. :-) I always wonder if people experience my writing as pedantic. (Do you?) As for my identity - in terms of my presentation or performance of self, I think I'm pretty consistent, but again, I don't know if others agree...?

1. (extended answer) The moment of "!" was in Leda's Information and Technology class. I was getting ready to drop. Couldn't find anything that turned me on enough to write about for a paper. We read about blogs and I immediately started one for the class. It received sporadic attention from my peers (mostly cohortmates) but generated enough "data" (!) that my attention was hooked.

2. How long have you been blogging? Two full years! I used to miss days pretty often in the beginning, now hardly ever.

3. (extended answer) I think teaching online before I started to blog helped me develop my online style. I do envision a "group audience". Depending upon what I'm blogging, the group-in-my-imagination is composed of various individuals. Some categories in my blog are specific to particular groups, so I write to that configuration. I am usually cognizant that others' might also read - but I don't write to them; I try to add enough information so there's a chance what I'm writing is clear to those not immediately involved or addressed (so that it - hopefully! - makes some sense if they do choose to read it).

With some posts my orientation to audience is very general - vaguely including some specific individuals up to and including non-specific or anonymous persons. All the posts I've amde in the "Oh, just me" category for the last several months are from "duty" or a sense of "mission" to keeping the intellectual commitment to see how the blog functions as a means of recording subjectivity and subjective development over time. I don't think subjectivity can be compartmentalized by cordoning off the "private" and "public", or picking and choosing which parts of my life count for the record and which don't. I certainly don't "tell all", but the integrity of the task requires me to tell something when I'm aware that its relevant.

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January 3, 2005


"incredulity toward metanarratives" ? - Jean-Francois Lyotard This essay says NOT.


the "age of indeterminacy" ? - Ihab Hassan It's not so keen on this either...SOME things are random, but maybe not as many as we think.

characterized by "indisciplinarity, working outside of the parameters of one's own body or field of knowledge" ? - Charles Jencks

"Wittgenstein, a modern precursor to many postmodern philosophers, is creating a space for incredulity, not of Napoleon, but of the very existence of the earth. In mathematical terms (set theory), Wittgenstein in suggesting that in order to call into question one member of a set (Napoleon), one must question the entire set (the earth itself or history). According to this, for Lyotard to maintain his incredulity of science, he would have to be incredulous, not just of such notions as Grand Unifying Theories, but also of such basics as Isaac Newton's Law of Gravity and Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution. So, either Lyotard's postmodern exists as incredulous of all science, or it posits science above the level of master narrative, as a kind of ueber-narrative, towards which one does not have to maintain the same kind of incredulity."

"this overriding of our first impulses -- the visual, in Plato's example -- that is necessary for science to maintain some degree of objectivity. "

"language/theory precedes "reality" (discovery)....having the theory precede the discovery is not truly postmodern, considering that Neptune was first "discovered" mathematically in 1845"

"It appears that the "belief" in quantum mechanics requires the suspension of "common sense." We postmodernists are placed in a paradoxical position over this; in order to validate Feynman's postulation, we must acknowledge that it represents the absurd over common sense in order to maintain the integrity of the master narrative -- quantum theory. To paraphrase: incredulity of the narrative (observations of light) is required to maintain the credulity of the metanarrative (quantum mechanics). "

"if we are to insist on locating incredulity, it would not be at the metanarrative level, but would have to be at the narrative level. Incompleteness is an important idea in postmodern thought because it suggests a lack of totality, but Gdel's theory is more concerned with reflexivity, and thus its importance is in the need for meta-languages. "

"In order to understand the underlying differences between the humanities and the sciences, we must again investigate the differences in meaning in another key term: theory. In the humanities, one uses the term "theory" to designate any idea that circulates, regardless whether it has been subject to systematic experimentation. In the sciences, there is a hierarchy of hypothesis (idea), theory (hypothesis that has been supported repeatedly but not disproved), and law (a theory that has undergone extensive testing and has been shown accurate every time)."

"Physics equations replace god in the sciences, while in the humanities, god is replaced by humans: it seems quite clear why one group insists on the rejection of master narratives while the other assumes they underlie our universe's evolution."

" One of the leading chaos theorists, John L. Casti, explains chaos in his book, Complexification: Explaining a Paradoxical World Through the Science of Surprises: "Basically, a chaotic system generates behavior giving the appearance of complete randomness by means of a purely deterministic rule. . . . Scientifically speaking, chaos is only the appearance of randomness, not the real thing" [32]. This understanding of "chaos" is integral to Sokal and Bricmont's definition of postmodern science as well: "One characteristic of postmodern science is the stress on nonlinearity and discontinuity" and "the new sciences stress the dynamic web of relationships between the whole and the part" [33]. "Chaos" is not disorder, but is not linear either; similarly, complexity focuses on the relationships between parts and the whole in a manner far more involved that simple cause and effect."

"Shortly into Gut Symmetries, Winterson explains the difference between contemporary science and the humanities: "As a scientist I try to work towards certainties. As a human being I seem to be moving away from them" [48]. This is the crux of the postmodern problem: how does one reconcile one approach that is incredulous of all masternarratives with another that assumes a universal coherence?"

"As humans, other humans surround us: the variables in any interpersonal equation are profound, so that we cannot be certain about much. However, our universe has evolved as it has and continues to function as it does precisely because there are certain laws govern it. We live our lives as we do because we do believe that the earth will keep spinning around the sun. Contemporary science and the humanities have different subjects, and thus we should not assume that theories in one field will automatically translate into another. It seems more prudent to examine the uses of scientific theory by contemporary writers than trying to contort scientific theories to explain contemporary texts. A novel is not a photon."

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January 2, 2005

Sreela's comment

Sreela posted this but the comment function is screwed up. :-( She wrote:

I am thinking of the relationship between micro and macro seen through the metaphor of the body politic. The phrase "the king is dead, long live the king" suggests that a larger organic whole (monarchy)goes on despite the the component(king)missing/dead. Yet the king/micro is what the macro (kingdom) derives its value from. I am not sure that made sense! But microcosms have always been celebrated, I guess, like the Romantic poets who visualized a unity in the micro scenery representing the universe.

I like the idea of postmodernism as a "preoccupation." Interesting choice of words, implying a tendency toward obsession?

I respond:

I took "preoccupation" to be a state of attention or focus. I looked it up to see if it's semantically related to "obsession." Which does use "preoccupation" in its definition! (Of course, the preoccupation definition uses preoccupied, which goes against all sense and convention!)

What draws my attention (!) in your example is the notion of value. Because what makes the king valuable to the notion of monarchy is the ATTENTION the king gets, which is an ongoing interpellative interaction between the (now already established) notion of monarchy and the body of the person bethroned. "Originally" (Briankle might take issue with this concept, smile), a person became king because of both the attention demanded and the attention given.

If such is true, then the current scientific preoccupation with postmodernism is likely (?) possibly (?) co-generating a world in which postmodernism gets institutionalized in a similar fashion as monarchy.

(And I realize that you may have just been teasing me about being obsessed. Grin.)

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" What we call "postmodernism," whether we refer to the sciences or the humanities, is a certain preoccupation with the role of the human observer in the composition and perception -- perhaps even construction -- of reality."

~ To See More Clearly and Broadly: Science and the Postmodern Sentiment

This is the best, most concise explanation I've come across to explain postmodernism (I'll have to read more of this online journal, Reconstruction to see if/how they distinguish this from poststructuralism).

The Body Observer Model sums up the "the terms of our collective postmodern endeavor. The only appreciable difference is on what scale the observer interacts; even then, as we can see in the following, the farther one moves up or down the scale of observation the closer one moves to the opposite scale in time. Thus, the observers of the smallest (quanta) and largest (Universe) are dealing with material originating in the Big Bang."

What's cool about this model, is how it illustrates the zone I'm trying to work - close in time, body, and observation: body natural - system is the microsocial interaction of a small group; body social - organ is the immediate social and historical context; body politic - tissue is the institutionalized macrosocial system and its ideologies. In fact, this is a summary of the layers/levels worked in group relations theory.

One component of group relations theory is object relations, which is in many ways too deterministic for me, and no doubt overpsychologized.

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December 31, 2004


Charles Taylor 1991, via Gerard Hauser 1999:

"The metaphor of moving together through conversational space can be sustained only if that space accommodates the appearance of the individual's I as a source of contribution. The presence of the I, however, invites us to understand the space and the we it contains from our own stance. The conversational partners qua individuals, or relata, must not be subsumed by the relationship or the relationship itself is lost. Their separateness is mutually necessary for differentiation. The relata and relationship, the separate I's and the we, are mutually constitutive of each other's identity within the space they create through conversation. But the I must continually grasp the intersubjective meaning that is always and exclusively a part of the we. Although personal and intersubjective meanings are always matters of perspective, mutual understanding requires that these independent points of view be linked. The we perspective is jeopardized when discourse partners jointly cease to grasp their common space of norms."

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December 26, 2004

phenomenology of deafness

"It was a mistake to assume that my cousin's universe was a tenuous universe of silence or emptiness. In fact it was a fluid universe of movement, affinity, alliances, sublime extravagances, evanescent pleasures, rendezvous with first-blush auroras, mornings, voyages, mercurial vagrancies, and a momentum forged in rampant elevation, up, up, standing on my shoulders in the water, vaulting circumfusion bubbled forth, embodied in a gulp of waves. His feet slipping from my shoulders and we both fell. It was a mistake to assume his silence was a heaviness, when in fact his silence was a gravity balanced light against the ballast of the world."

Nasdijj, the blood runs like rivers through my dreams, p.170

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December 1, 2004


A site


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November 21, 2004

continuing to procrastinate...

I was looking for another link to What the Bleep and I found a link to a review board that looks pretty interesting: OFFOFFOFFfilm. We'll see if they vet my comment through or not. :-)

Thanks for the neurolinguistic programming part, Brad. John - you seem to be on your own in here! I think the claim that internal changes affect the outside world is exaggerated, but as a first step of getting people to even consider this kind of thinking the movie does some good.

diggindeeper - I appreciate you putting all the background info here too. I'd heard that there was an unnamed organizational affiliation and it's good to have that cleared up. Too many things are promoted without any kind of clarity about who's behind it, to what ends.

I agree the movie made me extremely uncomfortable with its evangelistic tone. But its "honest", I think in its argument. It marshalls facts in a way that is designed to persuade. Its clumsy, yes. But a waste of time? That seems extreme to me.

I think about the concept of interpellation that althusser came up with to describe how institutions condition us...how we come to "recognize" a "calling" into "roles" and certain "ways of living". I think this happens between individuals too - and that's where this movie could have gone (I wish) a lot further. But maybe we lack the language or experience or perceptual abilities to lay this part out yet. But, if I'm being conscious of what I put out as an "invitation" to others, how I "hail" them, AND they are mutually engaged in a similar endeavor, that's when I think the leap from quantum physics to social realities can come into view.

At least, that's what I'm hoping! :-)

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connected & separate knowing

I was thinking about the two movies, Huckabee's and Bleep, and what it is that makes people react so differently to them. Perhaps, its in the way they "structure" the message? Because I did read essentially the same message in both but they are packaged quite differently.

Huckabee's presents a mainly connected knowing view of the world, and Bleep is almost totally separate knowing.

In Huckabee's, the "message" of the movie is discernable only by making "connections" among the variety of disparate, random, meaningless and meaningful incidents occuring in several people's intertwined lives. While the film is framed as a "battle" between two philosophical views - nihilism and infinite interconnection - the way that nihilism and meaningless is portrayed through gaps, breaks, and disjunctures, ultimately serves the purpose of illustrating connection.

In Bleep, the "message" is presented in separate, fully-developed and well-supported "chunks" of "factual information."

And both movies make the point that where you direct your focus matters. If you focus on the gaps - trouble! If you focus on the connections - drama! Actually, connectivity seems to come out with a slightly more positive slant than nihilism (perhaps this is inevitable). It's the interplay between the two that compose life as we know it. Pain comes (from my current stance as a phenomenological expert) from a failure to resolve or productively work with different stances of each party to the encounter. In other words, the stances can be different, but if these differences are unable to be addressed...


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November 20, 2004

dangers of a post-structural self

(Switching back and forth between Balibar and mullets has complicated my intellectual experience this afternoon.)

Labeled one of the "extremes," Balibar marks the boundaries of possible identity- construction:

"...we find infinite multiplicity, the continual passage from one identity to another, which has become an ideal for a certain postmodern ideology of liberation from authoritarian figures of the construction of personality, at the risk of lending itself to another form of subjection: that imposed by the model of t he universality of 'exchanges,' that is, the market and its own 'libidinal flows'" (2004:27).

The footnote (242) is dense as hell, but looks like stuff I might want to follow up on someday:

"It is important here not to conflate all discourses abusively. In particular, it would be appropriate to devote detailed readings to the analyses of 'becoming a minority' in Deleuze 9see Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987], pp. 291-93 or of the 'performative subversion of sexual roles' in Judith butler's Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990), w hich constitute esthetic-philosophical inversions of this tendency. The problematization of these questions is also at the center of the important work of Zygmunt Bauman, which is just beginning to be known in France."

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November 15, 2004

maybe I'll submit

an updated version to the First International Conference on Qualitative Research. Jung Yup shared the call, and I notice the first theme is autoethnography and performance. It occurs to me that this weblog in toto is a form of autoethnography....not to mention some of the specific categories and uses to which I've put it, most specifically with my interpersonal comm classes...

Other themes are relevant to me as well: critical ethnography as performance, critical pedagogy, democratic methodologies, discourse analysis, decolonizing the academy (!)...indeed, this is just a sample!

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November 14, 2004

How Far will it go?

One person (thanks Nadine!) approached me after the panel on Saturday saying she'd like to know how things turn out. I don't know, yet, but I'm mapping a possible path....

The overall audience response was ... remarkable, now that I stop to think about it.

There were definitely some contemplative (?) moments, but we spent most of the time laughing. At what?

I know that I presented the information in a humorous way, and even as humor. "This is the funniest part but we can't spend too much time on it..." or something to that effect. Tina emphasized the risktaking - of all of us - repeatedly in her response....Bonnie was the only panelist I really spoke with....Katie and I smiled at each other before we started and when the panel ended we were off on our separate orbits. Leda was probably off to her third appearance of the day...Tina did come over to suggest that I consider the angle of power in the study. Yep, I've been noting some of these junctures (like this one!) all along.

Coming back to the laughter, I'd already told some individuals about some of the things my students had said. About me being capable of podiatry, but not brain surgery or law. About the visceral impact of the haircut. I've consistently presented this as humor, being amused and pleased that the students/co-researchers felt comfortable to tease me so much. I also want to honor and recognize their honesty and willingness to make themselves vulnerable to me and each other.

It probably doesn't matter, except for vanity's sake, that I never knew about mullets until 3-4 years ago, when my FP talked about her students' reactions. Some teenybopper mag she gets had a spread on them. I thought I'd come up with it practically on my own! I saw a woman with a somewhat similar haircut at a women's music festival (down south, years ago, near Atlanta?), and then there was the impetus of the mohawk at the '96 Olympics...anyway, my pop cultural knowledge is widely known to be practically non-existent.

If the sharing of strongly negative feelings is framed and embraced as humor - what does that laughter point toward? Vernon is right, I think, when he says not enough emphasis is placed on the forward-in-time aspects of communication. Am I inviting you to laugh at me, or at some widely shared recognition of...something, or at.....what?

Sharing the limelight (!) was interesting. Most of the comments were directed toward Bonnie, if my memory serves. Pregnancy anecdotes, suggestions for further research....just discussing pregnancy in a group of (by visibility, anyway) non-pregnant women (24) and four men (and one person whose gender was indeterminate to me) over a period of 12 minutes as part of a larger conversation seemed to invite some of the same kinds of messages as those Bonnie was reporting from her semester-long classes.

I hope Leda actually felt teased (as she should have!) by my comment about her acting on an intuition about my horizon and inviting me to do this panel probably before I would have sought out such an opportunity on my own. While my "experiment in progress" currently runs on unarticulated theory, after listening to her talk about her paper I wanted to just say, 'ditto on that'. :-)

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October 31, 2004


I dunno. I'm just wondering. Can one "hail" oneself? Can I call forth the valences in "me" that I choose, rather than those that are called forth from others? Of course, I'm pondering the whole parent- and partnerhood thang. The more distance I have (and I don't think I'm talking about the aesthetic kind!), the more able I become to disengage from the less appealing valences and personalized history that has fed them and perceive "where things went wrong" and hypothesize about why/how. And....this makes me a bit more capable of recognizing when those same valences are being triggered (silence just flips me out; it can be so aggressive and diminishing) and - while being pulled into "old" (repetitive, familiar) emotional patterns - I can imagine that maybe this silence isn't a disciplinary silence (one designed to let me know that I have transgressed some communicative/relational code) but a "silence" of another kind, for instance, of gathering one's own resources, of "dealing", of coming to terms with one's own subjective tendencies and "choices". Then again (see here comes the drift!), maybe it's just an opportunity to solidify the suppression of any residue of affection...no no no, here is the moment....I call to the better parts of my own nature and banish suspicion.

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October 30, 2004

intellectualizing "the gaze"

I've been getting clearer about some of the academic impulses (indoctrination?) that I've been resisting. This, from Paul Claudel on Bourdieu's principle of aesthetic distance, sums it up:

"This typically intellectualist theory of artistic perception directly contradicts the experience of the art-lovers closest to the legitimate definition; acquisition of legitimate culture by insensible familiarization within the family circle tends to favour an enchanted experience of culture which implies forgetting the acquisition. The 'eye' is a product of history reproduced by education."

While I understand the need for some distance, for some supposed "rationality" (As Chakrabartty argued is necessary in history), I am not willing to let go of the embodied sensibilities, and the phenomenal experiences and implications of the topics we choose to study and the methods we choose to go about such study. I think the way that I'm usually seeing (reading about) ethnography's use in mass media studies, political economy, and cultural studies, is as evidence to support assertions of institution's influence upon individuals, as if the institutions and their policies and practices exist a priori, within their own boundaries and autonomously of any human agency. My desire is to step back another step in the ongoing cycle of cultural reproduction, to the choices of decision-makers in these institutions which shape their impact upon the world.

So, I'm critiquing (I guess!), intellectual tendencies to study those whom we have easiest access to - general "publics" (in Habermasian or other terms), instead of the elites. Gaining access is of course the issue. I need to find people who are even trying.

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October 25, 2004


Benjamin sucked me right into that trick question at his presentation today! Of course I assumed that if he was showing us a certain example it had to mean something. :-)

A couple of the new cohorters got right in there - but what was up with all y'all marching in late and disrupting the whole show, eh?! And did anyone besides me notice the faculty member dozing off and on throughout?

Overall, though, it was cool. I like having monolingual thinking pointed out to me - that we have these base assumptions that people "ought" to speak "one" language and not codeswitch. That its often the observer who "makes" meaning out of it when bilinguals are just using a tool at their disposal to do the same kinds of things monolinguals do with the tools at their disposal. Nifty!

That bit about identities being "dimensions of ongoing processes of differentiation" really caught my attention. Sounds like interpellation to me! And I didn't quite catch the whole statement, but Benjamin also said something about the meaning of language use (such as codeswitching) between individuals being "a phenomenological question that is ideologically mediated." While "meanings are tethered to structures", histories, specific social scenes and situations....the person who says something (the author) may arguable be the author of the text but quite possibly - and most likely! - not the author of the meaning. Benjamin shared that last idea with us from an obituary for Derrida.

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October 24, 2004

What the &^^&%$$##?

This was a bad movie about really fascinating stuff! Too evangelistic for my taste, but a useful compendium of cutting edge theory in quantum mechanics, human biology and chemistry, and consciousness studies. I was fascinated by the whole neural net/nerve connection scenario in the brain - where repeated emotional experiences sortof install routine pathways that lead to a kind of "addiction" in which experiences that will stimulate those same pathways are sought....over time the biochemical pathways for other emotional experiences are impaired and eventually cut off. Its reparable - one can shift one's neural nets - but requires concentration, deliberation, time, and repetition.

I had a couple of revelations while watching this movie - particularly around the notion of possibilities and that focusing the gaze "collapses the wave". There is a scene in the movie when the protagonist (Marlee Matlin, not at her best) looks "away" while a bunch of basketballs and the wise kid (Rudy?) pepper and bounce about in numerous "places" - existing in all these spaces simultaneously. It's the "wave" part of quantum mechanics - the energy of possibility. When she turns around - "looks" or focuses her gaze - the wave collapses into one "possibility".

The ephiphany for me was that in this group dynamic that I sortof unleashed (dunno how else to describe it briefly), I "collapsed the wave" on a "possibility" that was an overlay of previous experience (the "past") on this experience (the "present"). Here's how I think it worked:

I sense the energy of the quantum wave. This "energy" is meaningful to me, potent, and "calls" me to engage with it. (There's a tangent here about concentration of wave energy - the interactive part - that I think intensifies at given moments in a group: it was this intensification in particular that I sensed.) The energy is amorphous at this point - rife and ripe with possibilities. What does it mean? Where could it go? Anywhere! Literally - the possibilities are (were, sigh) infinite.

I respond to the call. I engage with the energy of the wave. I focus my gaze. And goddamn it but I "focus" based on previous experience and essentially "import" an interpretation into the group that has nothing to do with this particular, uniquely-configured, historically-situated and socially-specific group! The wave collapses. Possibilities vanish, evaporate. A chain of events is set in motion stemming from the things that my importation "calls" to in others. Who respond as they are "called".

One keen observer who has pushed me hard on this noted that they found a problem with a "certain displacement in the lineage of your argument for change that appears problematic." That "displacement" is, I think, exactly this "importation" or "overlay" of my neural net on the wave - which I can see all too clearly (now, painfully, in hindsight), and absolutely was damaging and hurtful to many, if not most of the members in the group.

It gets worse. Because I have now invoked a certain frame (race) it invites, more accurately "hails" others to interpellate me through the lens of race. And then, forthwith, all my entitlement and privilege as a white person becomes the most visible "cause" of "the problem." Which leaves me, perhaps others, with little room to maneuver "out" of enacting an awful and painful pattern.

And - more humble pie - perhaps my entitlement and privilege as a white person IS embedded deeply in this scene because I felt "able" to bring my concerns to the group; I felt it was "allowable" to advocate for certain things that would benefit me and (I thought) others; and I felt it was somehow "ok" to do this generally, publicly, instead of privately.

I am working hard to reconfigure my neural net into an acceptance/belief in the possibility of a different ("new") outcome (than me being "killed as the messenger" - which is the - my - historic pattern). [I do want the current race-based "hailing" to stop - to be "killed"; but I'm referring to the original "message" which was, most basically, about the presence of a concentration of energy...and THAT is another revelation!] The thing about the wave (the energy) is that it is fresh, new, untainted in each moment: it could be "collapsed" in a different direction at any point in time, however, this can only be co-produced through the interaction process itself, and if the train's got enough momentum, it's pretty dang tough to stop it in its tracks.

Posted by Steph at 10:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 15, 2004

sound vs vision

Heard a story on NPR's All Things Considered two days ago about the speed of sound and the speed of light, which concludes that the human brain processes sound a teensy tiny bit quicker than it processes vision. I think this is evidence in support of my recent "revelation" :-) that Deaf people experience the passage of time differently than non-deaf people.

Extended coverage on Protein Key to Human Hearing. I might have to get the transcript.

Posted by Steph at 9:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack