Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

“it must be unforgettable!”

by • December 12th, 2008

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on the train from Luxembourg-Brussels
9 December 2008

Fog shrouded my arrival in Luxembourg, persisting through the first day. The second morning dawned grey but sparkling.

What a treat to listen through headphones to an interpretation into English of Professor Joanna Nowicki‘s talk on intercultural communication, or – as she prefers to label it – intercultural mediation. Her critique of ‘the American way [of teaching about] intercultural communication” was quite sharp: it “becomes one dimensional very fast.” She generalized about management programs that simply direct their students: “with people of this nationality, do that, with people of that nationality, do this.” I am not convinced that my friends in the School of Management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst are receiving so stark a reduction, but I am familiar with trends in my department (Communication) that could lend themselves to such simplistic categorizations. No doubt Professor Nowicki’s critique applies in general, if not to every case. She also describes “the American way” as “very pragmatic,” explaining that, for Americans, the results of research must be useful.

Research and the real world
Personally, I am inclined to agree with the goal of research needing to have practical use: theory alone is dancing

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visual perceptions

by • May 14th, 2008

Work on optical illusions show how the distance from which one views a face alters the expression you think you’re seeing. Some constructions are creepy!
I’m intrigued with the function of distance. Part of what me and my committee need to sketch out is the scope of the lens I’ll use in exploring the practice of simultaneous interpretation at the European Parliament. Since each of our relative distances from the object of study differ, establishing a reasonable range might be a challenge.

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“2 hours talking about poop”

by • March 21st, 2008

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Pete said it, summing up the party.

We started at the UMass Sunwheel circa 6:15 pm. The clouds cooperated, beginning to clear an hour in advance of sunset. The wind was bitter, though: fortitude was required to make it through until the moon cleared the 7 degrees of forest obscuring the horizon in the East.

Dr. Judith Young from the Astronomy Department at UMass regaled the crowd (52 brave souls who stayed) with enlarged photos, anecdotes, history, and education. I was struck by the range of nuance embedded in the careful alignment of static stone with the motions of our solar system. In particular, I learned of the Callanish Stones for the first time. Dr. Young showed some pictures and explained the presence of an “extra” stone that – if one stands just right – creates a visual notch with the stone next to it that outlines the precise location on the horizon where the summer solstice sunrise occurs. “They found,” she said, “a way to let us know.”

Hmmm, a way to know – what? If there is a message in these stone circles, what might it be? Was there an active intent to leave a sign

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voices and home

by • August 11th, 2006

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“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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Vowel harmony

by • August 7th, 2006

two cats.jpg A painting, two cats in harmony, on diplay at Istavrit

This concept scared me right away. Is the Turkish language like Mandarin (Chinese), which depends on tones? I am so bad with matching pitch. 🙁
But no, it seems to do with pronunciation, with phonetics, but not tone. Whew/ (and if I’m wrong oy oy trouble on the way!) Turkish uses suffixes extensively, and has a flexible syntax, words are used in different positions resulting only in differences of style, not meaning. I’ll have to learn the difference between types of clauses better than I know them now. 🙁
The author, Hikmet Sebüktekin, of the text I bought describes the content of words and utterances this way: “Turkish is tradition-bound. The mere mention of a single word referring to a cliché, a proverb, or an anecdote, of which there are thousands, often suffices to activate complex meanings stored in the mind of every Turkish speaker” (v).
This is one of the things Marie Gillespie discussed in her presentation at Crossroads 2006 on politics and translation, translating politics, although (I think) her examples were Arabic. It also reminds me very much of Lila Abu-Lughod’s anthropological study of the Awlad ‘Ali, a Bedouin culture.

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by • August 3rd, 2006

EL:LE.jpg Outline of a hand fingers down, blue

The title of the exhibition, “El/le”, has many layers of meaning in Turkish, and it is for this reason that we have preferred to retain this title without translating it into another language. The word “el” refers to both “hand” and “stranger”, but the phrase “el/le”, its mirror image, can be interpreted as “by hand”, “to touch” or “with a stranger”
(Quoted from the Exhibition Brochure.)

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Geraldine Brooks on interpretation

by • August 1st, 2006

As I tend to do, I noted all of the references to interpreting in Nine Parts of Desire.
“I wanted to ask her if she blamed the Iranian government for not showing her son some mercy, but Janet, who was translating, s hook her head slightly and didn’t put the question. Instead, I asked gently if she felt that all her sacrifices had been worth it” (100).
“Even Hamzah [King Hussein’s young son] wasn’t excluded. Although the boy’s command of English was perfect, he preferred to speak Arabic, and would force his father to act as translater” (136).
“One British doctor, on an eighteen-month posting to a Jeddah hospital, thought his interpreter had failed him during an ante-natal checkup on a twenty-eight year old Bedouin. ‘I asked her when she’d had her last period, and she said, “What’s a period?” It turned out she’d never had one. She’d been married at twelve, before her menarche, and had been pregnant or lactating ever since” (172).
“Official translators milled among the athletes, facilitating conversations. Each of them wore the usual Iranian attire &emdash; black hood and long tunic &emdash; but with a vivid, color-coded athletes’ warmup jacket pulled incongruously on top. Indigo

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Interpretation and Linguistic Inequality (Crossroads Day 2)

by • July 30th, 2006

My own presentation was scheduled for 5 pm on Friday (July 21). Two panelists didn’t show. This was disappointing as their topics seemed closely aligned, however it gave Inka and myself flexibility and allowed time for a rousing discussion within the group. We had a whopping audience of three (!) to begin, then two more wandered in late, another one later, and three more latest: a grand total of nine. Not bad at all. Two of the audience members turned out to be translators for the European Communities (bonus for me!!) and a third had friends who worked within the European Institutions.
Our panel was called “EU: Europe Beyond Geography?” (2.51). Inka’s presentation, “European Public Spheres: Uniting and Dividing,” explored how political subjectivity is constructed in time and space through media systems and by pro-European journalists. I won’t summarize her entire talk but rather will select the parts that (in my mind) led into my talk, or provided me with food for thought about my topic. For instance, Inka characterized the pro-European journalists as the new elite because they are so close to power. These journalists are also a new

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Multilingual Cosmopoliticians (Crossroads Day 3)

by • July 29th, 2006

This panel was great &emdash; the closest of all I’ve attended to my own area of current investigation. Marie Gillespie introduced the panelists’ collaborative work as an outgrowth of two puzzles. One puzzle being “the limits of cosmopolitanism and the huge variations in how this term is used” (she listed multiculturalism and internationalism, among other contexts) and the second an imbalance within studies of transnationalism privileging “connectivity [as a] shared topic, interest, [and/or] emphasis,” with “less attention to disconnections, especially with language… [which is] not explored with enough depth.”
The overviews shared here grow out of work on two different research projects:
1) How different language communities interpreted news of 9/11 over the first three months. It seems that people with multilingual competencies were mixing, matching, and comparing a variety of different sources of information and news with CNN, Al-Jazeera etc. Multilinguals seem to share a couple of distinct characteristics, such as a profound dissatisfaction with mainstream politics and politicians and a deep distrust of media, leading them to search &emdash; actively &emdash; for alternative sources.
2) is a collaborative ethnography between Marie and Ben, a 3-year study of transnational media discourses about security.

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international family of interpreters

by • August 22nd, 2005

From a European Parliament interpreter (via email):
“I’m happy that “we” behaved decently towards you and that you’ve been
able to see for yourself that Europeans still don’t eat innocent
Americans with hot milk for breakfast….one more “homo Bushiens”
elected to become US-president, and who knows, though….;-))
Actually you did bring home to me again that we interpreters are still
this one big international family.”
I also got a hot tip on a new film about interpreters, called The Whisperers, will premiere in Berlin soon.

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