Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

parallel science and other illusions

by • March 7th, 2008

I’m excused from interpreting this talk, Nanometers, Femtoseconds, and Yoctomoles: Molecular-Dynamics Simulations of Diffusion in Garnet, which means I can take notes and play!
The professor is highly billed: Dr. Bill Carlson from UT at Austin. You think I’m kidding about “play”? No way, Jose!
Scale: plates, rocks in the field, mineral grains, atoms….
Geologic Time:
Sizes from macro to nano…..
Diffusion gives direct qualitative information on rates and duration of metamorphic processes. Garnet is present in a wide range of bulk compositions, is stable, and has a wide array of diffusive behaviors that can be monitored to help us understand rates of diffusion and the mechanisms behind them. You know my parallel? Groups (of people) and knowledge/understanding (disseminated via language).
Main topic: Molecular dynamics simulations…. (microdynamic intergroup relations?)
Problem: existing theories for diffusion at atomic scale don’t explain the phenomena we observe…(sounds like social science to me!)
Novel systematics emerge from recent synthesis…
Elastic Strain Theory (EST) – diffusion by vacancy mechanism: work is required to move atoms apart and squeeze this atom in-between them….larger atom = more strain which slows down diffusion. Like all theory (!) “sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t.”
There’s a “misfit parameter” (!) = “how badly an atom

Read More

Leave a Comment

time, sightlines and the concept of visibility

by • March 5th, 2008

This semester I’ve had the opportunity to work at the extremes: one professor who has seamlessly blended me into her extensive use of the chalkboard, and another whose gaze apparently registers only empty space whenever she accidentally happens to glance my direction. The contrast heightens my belief that attempts to make ourselves “invisible” (while interpreting) are worse than “professional”: they are downright counterproductive.
For instance, the day I knew I could not possibly reconstruct the meaning for something uttered very quickly yet of obvious conceptual importance for the subject matter, and had to ask professor #2 (the one for whom language accommodation is nonexistent) for a repetition or clarification (I forget which), an expression crossed her face as if a voice had come from the woodwork. Her answer was curt (to say the least). However, I had established my presence (albeit momentarily). An interesting consequence of actually “being there” was that a non-deaf student requested my attention to a sight-line that I thought I was not blocking but, in fact, was. This had been going on for some time; the students had suffered simply because the non-verbal behavior of the professor indicated that I was to be

Read More

Leave a Comment

“the chaos of frame conflict”

by • January 9th, 2008

“If speaking for someone else seems to be a mysterious
process that may be because speaking to someone does not
seem mysterious enough.”

Stanley Cavell (Quoted in Geertz 1973)
Read in Wilcox and Shaffer 2005

I’m reading an exciting critique which includes an exposition of frame conflict, The Conduit Metaphor by Michael J. Reddy, who relies upon

Schön’s dictum that frame conflicts are “immune to resolution by appeal to facts.” As he [Schön] says, “New facts have a way of being either absorbed or disregarded by those who see problematic situations under conflicting frames.” (Reddy 1979:285)

Reddy provides radical subjectivity as one example of a “frame” (what Berger and Luckmann call a “paradigm”), in order to illustrate the problem of what Schön calls “frame conflict.” A frame conflict is an alternative way of describing the communication dynamics of mis/understanding that occur when people who think through (as in “from” or “on the basis of”) different paradigms attempt to find agreement on a matter of mutual concern.

Read More

Leave a Comment

“the rift of difference”

by • December 25th, 2007

…the difference, according to Heidegger, is pain.

“Diviners,” writes Dennis Tedlock, “Stay close to ‘the rift of difference,’ as Heidegger calls it, even a small difference. They leave us between two points, or at both of them, and sometimes three.” (1983:254)

Read More

Leave a Comment

Just like fingerspelling?!

by • December 5th, 2007

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

Ok – so “new research” is apparently untrue, although there is something to be said for “the role of letter order on reading.” Matt Davis has compiled an impressive corpus of equivalents in at least thirty languages, along with references and commentary from original and follow-up research in this area of word-form research. The number of letters in the word has quite a lot to do with whether the mind can

Read More

Leave a Comment

Fadiman on interpreting

by • October 25th, 2007

“It is one thing to read in medical school that the ideal doctor-patient-interpreter ‘seating configuration’ is a right triangle, with the patient and interpreter forming the hypotenuse, and another to recollect the diagram in a roomful of gesticulating Hmong toward the end of a twenty-four-hour shift” (272). The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

Interpreters face similar dilemmas when they move from the training ground to the field of independent practice. 🙂

When a patient refused surgery for stomach cancer, “I had expected the resident to move heaven and earth to bring in a decent interpreter. instead, I found him in the Preceptor Library, his head bowed over four articles on poorly differentiated gastric adenocarcinoma” (273).

Interesting on several levels: that there was not an interpreter to begin with and/or that the point of crisis invokes the need/desire for interpreters. Also because we see Fadiman’s priority (communication with the patient) in contrast with the resident’s (learn more about this medical condition).

“At Harvard, all first-year students are required to take a course called “Patient-Doctor I” (significantly, not “Doctor-Patient I”) in which they learn to work with interpreters, study Kleinman’s eight questions, and ponder…conundrums…” (271)

Fadiman’s commentary is on the

Read More

Leave a Comment

Catalan, not French

by • October 8th, 2007

I made a faux paux the other day, responding to Martí Cabré. S/he (as I plunge headlong into another one!) copied a photo I took of an art installation in Istanbul last summer. I was curious. The photo is evocative and in fact reminded me of the struggle some of my juniors are having letting go of being told in order to risk reaching out on their own terms. When I clicked through to see Martí’s post, I discovered text in a foreign language and – for some reason – assumed the language was French. I am not sure why, as I do have a passing familiarity with Spanish; had I looked I would probably have made that (just as egregious an) error. At least, my good friend the Wanokip tells me, French and Catalan are both Latin languages.
What I realized, heart-in-mouth, was that I did not “look.” My eyes glanced over the unfamiliar script and bounced off, catching no friction. What would have held me was not (in this instance) any quality inherent to the language or the medium (internet computer screen). I was in a hurry. My mind

Read More

Leave a Comment

no mother tongue?

by • October 5th, 2007

“My best language is my third…”

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

Read More


i think contiguously

by • September 18th, 2007

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. 🙂

Read More

Leave a Comment


by • January 8th, 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

Read More

Leave a Comment