RE: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwinand Bohr

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at>
Date: Thu Jun 28 2007 - 03:46:52 PDT

  The answer to your question:
  "who would be the person to identify the expert?"
  is so trivial as to be laughable.
  The one trying to learn identifies the expert and expertise is relative to ones own skill/knowledge in the activity in question.
  Rather than some-kind of mediation all the way down (to which mike pointed in an allusion to the turtles in an earlier "flat world" ontology), it is mediation between more and less competent all the way up that defines the continuum on which expertise is defined. But at least in the latter case one can identify the top whereas in the former there are only turtles being turned into soup by those who, in the new flat world ideology propose that all the turtles, oops -- mediations, inhabit some nonsensical horizontal and depthless space. I suppose that those who have students who have students who have students . . . might be considered experts in some more absolute sense.
  It all depends on the activity. In the activity that produces ideology, heremonic tools and power-support discourses I suppose the distinction of mastery, perhaps out of necessity, becomes blurred since the aim of the activity, as in Sartrean bad faith, must of necessity remain hidden even from the one who pursues the activity. In fact much of that activity seems devoted to denying the existence of thoughts that would permit its own unmasking. Along with new turtle, new Newspeak, an example of which we find in the current discussion's motive.
  Music provides one of the clearest examples of the ladder of expertise and also suggests something else implicit in Vygotskian theory: one who is at the beginning of learning how to play an instrument doesn't take master classes, but rather lessons from those who take classes from those who take master classes (if they are lucky, if not, just multiply out the steps). But the one who is beginning to play can clearly identify those who possess the skills toward which s/he aspires=albeit within a specific genre. And eventually all "expertise" or perhaps better said "mastery" is genre-specific, discourse specific, activity specific.
  Paul Dillon

Michael Glassman <> wrote:
  But the argument the other way around is that when you have an identified expert you also have a hierarchy, and you give the knowledge of that identified expert some a priori higher worth. We have financial experts who invest our money for us, but for many you could do just as well tossing darts at a board. You have international experts who tell us how to handle difficult international situations - and get us in to brutal wars with no end. If you are in a birthing room with a nurse and a doctor, and the doctor tells you that you must have a C-section right now, and the nurse tells you that you should wait who do you listen to? Who gets listened to? If you go to a brilliant Park Avenue heart doctor and he tells you that you need to have a double bypass, and you go to a homeopathic doctor in a four floor walk up in Brooklyn who tells you that you would do better with diet or excercise, which is the right advice to choose?

Of course the whole idea of expert is hard to shake loose. But the truth is that we never know what the next problem, the next issue will be, so how could anybody really be an expert at it? That doesn't mean we devalue the abilities and knowledge individuals already have. When I raise the idea of there being no experts to students they say, "Wouldn't you want a doctor who was an expert operating on you?" I think from what I know of hospitals I would rather have nurses that have not been overworked and an operating unit that works well together - but if I thought about it I would rather have somebody who could explain to me what they were going to do and help me make an informed decision than somebody who carried that label of expert surgeon.

We don't all start denovo, but to use Pepper's description of contextualism - we come to a river and we build a boat to cross. We will never come to that river, at that crossing point, at that particular time again. We always have to take that in to account when we meet the next crossing point. To forget our frailties and flaws, no matter how successful we may be been previously, is to invite tragedy.



From: on behalf of Mike Cole
Sent: Wed 6/27/2007 10:51 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,Darwinand Bohr

Hi Louise.

I spend a lot of my time working on creating activities where expertise is
distributed across age, class, gender, etc. So the heterogeneity of
is important to me for many reasons. It is a wonderful generative condition
of human life, or can be.

But, to deny that in a domain specific way there are people who have
attained a deep
mastery of activities in that domain: abacus users, magicians, cooks,
pre-school teachers,
invites the idea that there is no differentiation, in general, to cope well
with life challenges.Next time
you fly, ask yourself if you want to change places with the pilot......

I fear that that way lies cultural nihilism and the idea that we all start
de novo. That is a very despairing
view. Equal to the despair of the experts as unquestionable, context free
authorities, and not, as my son likes to remind
me, drips under pressure.

On 6/27/07, Louise Hawkins wrote:
> I also find issue with the distinction between expert and novice, as if
> the expert has something to give and the novice something to receive.
> How many times is it the student who poses a question that raises a
> point that the 'expert' learns from?
> Louise
> ________________________________
> From: []
> On Behalf Of Michael Glassman
> Sent: Wednesday, 27 June 2007 04:37 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: RE: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
> Darwinand Bohr
> Martin
> Why this distinction between expert and novice? What does it really buy
> us? And who gets to make the distinction? It seems to me in an
> expert/novice scenario all power lies in the hands of those who get to
> make this distinction on whatever level, and get to define the two
> classes. Take a look at the political class in the United States, we
> define experts as those who have the right cultural capital, wear the
> right type of ties and suits, who speak in somber, modulated voices with
> a weary sigh of resignation, suggesting "of course you cannot see what I
> can see, but trust me."
> This is not to say every generation starts from scratch. Every
> generation starts with the tools that they have, but then they figure
> out how to use those tools to solve what invariably must be new
> problems, or they develop new tools out of the old tools. Let's say we
> have a set of spears we use to hunt food. There are great spear
> throwers who use those spears and teach others to use them as well.
> Their "expertise" in spear throwing gives them great power within the
> community. But things change, and the spears that were once used on
> larger animals are not as good for smaller animals. Are the spear
> throwers going to give up their place in the community as "experts?" Or
> are they going to say, well if we just wait, or if we use the spear in a
> different way, or it is the fault of our lazy children who do not train
> in spear throwing the way previous generations did. Meanwhile the food
> supply dwindles for the community. A young person examines the spear
> and says, hmmm, the arrow head pierces the skin but it cannot reach the
> skin with these new animals that we hunt. Perhaps I can create
> something else - a bow and arrow perhaps. But she is not an expert.
> Who, in a hierarchical system of knowledge development would listen and
> adopt the work of this young innovator? This is always the danger of a
> heirarchical system of knowledge development.
> In a more lateral system of development information is everything. As a
> species were are problem solvers, but our problem solving is based on
> the easy access and flow of information. I just read the most
> fascinating article by the economist Amriyat (sp?) Sen. In it he talks
> about famine. He makes a really good argument that famine is almost
> never about food. There is always enough food even in some of the major
> famines of the twentieth century. It is about the lack of capability
> for getting to the food. At its core the lack of information as a tool
> in obtaining this basic human function. What else is there other than
> information. When we define information as static and give it value
> separate from the problems we are working on, isn't that when we find
> the most trouble, have the most difficulties in problems solving?
> I watch my son play his World of Warcraft game. I wish I knew more
> about it. But I see him adapting and recalibrating constantly,
> developing strategies and processes that see incredible to me. It is a
> virtual world in which there are no "experts." The world and my son and
> the other players co-exist.
> I don't know if I've done such a good job trying to explore this.
> Perhaps a problem that needs greater consideration.
> Michael
> ________________________________
> From: on behalf of Martin Packer
> Sent: Tue 6/26/2007 2:04 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
> Darwinand Bohr
> Michael, you would have each generation start on their own, from
> scratch? No
> experts, just novices? That really is a post-apocalyptic vision!
> My point was there is more to life (and education) than "functioning"
> and
> "information." The danger with the tool metaphor, and the emphasis on
> artifacts as tools, is that they reduce all of life to the production
> process. That is not just a conceptual mistake, it is a political
> agenda. To
> argue that thinking is not important, only tool use, is not to argue
> against
> formalization, it is to promote a purely instrumental conception of
> human
> action and interaction. It is to promote an extreme version of the
> division
> of labor, in which only a tiny elite get to think about the nature of
> thinking, and everyone else is simply using tools skillfully but
> thoughtlessly.
> On 6/26/07 12:40 PM, "Michael Glassman" wrote:
> > But if this information is so important, and it exists as part of the
> problem
> > solving tools of humanity, don't we trust humans to discover it
> through their
> > own activities?
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Received on Thu Jun 28 04:16 PDT 2007

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