Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Blink

by • January 7th, 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

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Language and Me

by • October 24th, 2006

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.

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Language as Motion

by • October 10th, 2006

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.

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

by • August 22nd, 2006

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

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voices and home

by • August 11th, 2006

sea reaches.JPG.jpg

“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 &emdash; in its emotion-inducing physicality [my qualification] &emdash; 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 &emdash; 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

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Comps (Question #4: “dissertaton area”)

by • July 13th, 2006

“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).

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math

by • June 18th, 2006

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

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powers of ten

by • March 26th, 2006

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.

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Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail

by • December 16th, 2005

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).

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“to be sure” (!)

by • November 22nd, 2005

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?

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