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Re: [xmca] meaning potential and cultural artifacts
Yes, very interesting. Not sure I was saying what you said I was, but no
It made me think of this, not even picking up and using, or breathing on,
just looking at "perceiving."
"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates
it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral."
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry<http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1020792.Antoine_de_Saint_Exup_ry>(The
Little Prince <http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2180358>)
On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 8:59 PM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org>wrote:
> Leo van Lier, who currently edits the Modern Language Journal, uses
> Gibsonian affordance to talk about meaning potential. His favorite example
> is his own son, who grew up speaking Quechua and Spanish.
> When they moved to California, the little boy was around five or so, and
> refused to speak English, the way children often will when exposed to a
> completely new language. One day, van Lier was going through the local
> Safeway with the boy in a shopping cart, and a box of Coco-Puffs. They
> passed a similar shopping cart also containing Coco-puffs, and the little
> boy stood up and shrieked "That on that!"
> His first English sentence. Of course, it's really only a potential
> sentence. There is no grammatical subject, and no finite verb, and no
> predicator. In fact, there is some question in my mind as to whether what we
> find in his sentence can really be considered words.
> He has a demonstrative ("that") and a spatial preposition ("on"). These are
> considered orthographic words in English. But in many languages, including
> Korean and Chinese, demonstratives and prepositions appear as dependencies
> of other words, the way that "~s" appears on the end of an English noun to
> suggest plurality and "~ed" appears to indicate tense. That is, they are
> particles that have no real "signification" but which do contain "sense".
> They are potential, but not actual, meanings.
> The usual way we refer to this is rather structural, and always reminds me
> of early boarding on airplanes and the parts of the train that I never get
> to sit in. These are "closed class" words (that is, they are few, they
> cannot really be invented or retired from the language, and they consist of
> more sense than signification).
> Unlike the "open class" words (e.g. "shopping cart", "Coco Puffs", and so
> on), they have almost no inherent meaning potential of their own but depend,
> parasitically, on the meaning potential to be found in surrounding
> Where these affordances are not available (e.g. when we find ourselves in
> the middle of connected text) we look, as van Lier's son did, to what
> Malinowski calls the context of the culture rather than the context of the
> So we find that we CAN understand Heideggerian expressions like
> "that-ness". We even have a vague sense of an association between "on" and a
> two-dimensional plane as opposed to "in" and a three-dimensional space. It
> is just as Wallace Stevens says: when you place a jar on a hill, it has the
> knack of surrounding itself with signification.
> But what Mike is pointing to is the opposite. We may TRY to set up, not on
> a hill, but in a desert somewhere, or in a bell jar, a signification
> that cannot ever, in any situation, really be realized (e.g. "Colorless
> green ideas sleep furiously..." which I often think of enviously when I
> cannot sleep).
> But there is not, and never can be, any such thing as meaning potential
> without realizability. As soon as you moisten the meaning potential of
> signification with the humidity of human breath, you will find colorful
> green shoots of sense.
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> But you can see that as soon as that happens, teh
> --- On *Mon, 8/22/11, mike cole <email@example.com>* wrote:
> From: mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: [xmca] meaning potential and cultural artifacts
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity" <email@example.com>
> Date: Monday, August 22, 2011, 8:30 PM
> I am changing the header because the activity/practice thread was clogging
> my computer. I will respond to that separately.
> Here I want to comment on David K's discussion of meaning potential and
> cultural artifacts. David is putting into technical language an idea I did
> not have technical terms for, and have not used in print before, but often
> use when teaching. My way of discussing meaning potential was to like an
> artifact to one of our local desert flowers. It contained the dormant seeds
> of a beautiful flower that cast off many seeds, but most of the year, or
> years if need be, it was a tiny, shriveled, obscure
> bit of the local ecology. But when picked up and put to use by a human
> being, it came to life, and swelled, and, perhaps, cast of seeds, depending
> upon what awaited it.
> I previously thought of this in connection with Jame's Gibson's ideas of
> affordance. With rare exceptions, Gibson was concerned with
> constraints and affordances, but I was seeking a way to understand the role
> cultural constraints, not biological ones. I think that meaning potential
> and cultural affordances might be connected concepts.
> Does that resonate, DavidKe, or am I on the wrong path?
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