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Re: Distinguishing between information as info'mation v in*formation Re: [xmca] The distinction between "information" and "knowledge" A response to Brandom

Hi Mike, Larry, and everybody,

I'm pasting in a story from CBS that I think is interesting and relevant in various ways; but since I'm busy drafting Promotion and Tenure letters now, the most I can do is copy paste and send, without saying any more.


Sea Gypsies See Signs In The Waves
March 20, 2005

The tsunami may have lasted only a couple of hours, but it will not go away. New casualties are still being discovered: Thais, Swedes, Sri Lankans, and Indonesians. The death toll has topped 175,000. And there?s more than 125,000 still missing and presumed dead.

But there?s one group who live precisely where the tsunami hit hardest who suffered no casualties at all. They are the sea gypsies of the Andaman Sea, or as they call themselves, the Moken.

They?ve lived for hundreds of years on the islands off the coast of Thailand and Burma. They are, of all the peoples of the world, among the least touched by modern civilization.

And, as Correspondent Bob Simon reports, they miraculously survived the tsunami because they knew it was coming.
It?s their intimacy with the sea that saved the Moken. They?re born on the sea, live on the sea, die on the sea. They know its moods and motions better than any marine biologist. They?re nomads, constantly moving from island to island, living more than six months a year on their boats.

At low tide, they collect sea cucumbers, and catch eels. At high tide, they dive for shellfish. They?ve been living this way for so many generations that they?ve become virtually amphibious.

Kids learn to swim before they can walk. Underwater, they can see twice as clearly as the rest of us, and by lowering their heart rate, can stay underwater twice as long. They are truly sea urchins.

60 Minutes discovered a Moken village on an island two hours by speedboat from the coast of Thailand. It had become something of an exotic tourist Mecca before the tsunami.

A Bangkok movie star and amateur photographer named Aun was here on Dec. 26, 2004, taking pictures of Moken village life, when someone noticed the sea receding into the distance.

Aun's pictures showed the Moken on the beach crying. Did she have any idea why they were crying? "I feel like they know what bad will happen," says Aun.

Her pictures also show the Moken fleeing towards higher ground long before the first wave struck. Aun pointed out how high the water first came. And that was just the first wave. The worst was yet to come, and the Moken knew because of signs from the sea.

It wasn?t only the sea that was acting strangely. It was the animals, too. On the mainland, elephants started stampeding toward higher ground. Off Thailand?s coast, divers noticed dozens of dolphins swimming for deeper water. And on these islands, the cicadas, which are usually so loud, suddenly went silent.

Saleh Kalathalay, a skilled spear-fisherman who was on a different part of the island, also noticed the silence. He ran around warning everyone. Did they believe him?

"The young people called me a liar. I said, 'We?ve told the story of the wave since the old times,' but none of the kids believed me," says Kalathalay.

"I grabbed my daughter by the hand and said, 'Child, get out of here, or you?ll die!' She said, 'You?re a liar, father, you?re drunk.' I hadn?t had a drop to drink."

Kalathalay brought the skeptics to the water?s edge, where they, too, saw the signs. Eventually, everyone, the Moken and the tourists, climbed to higher ground and were saved. But there's nothing left in the village.

Why does Kalathalay think the tsunami happened? "The wave is created by the spirit of the sea," says Kalathalay. "The Big Wave had not eaten anyone for a long time, and it wanted to taste them again."

Do the Moken consider themselves unlucky because their village was destroyed, or lucky because they survived?

"I think they just take it as a matter of fact," says Dr. Narumon Hinshiranan, an anthropologist, and one of the very few experts who speak the Moken language.

How did the Moken know that the tsunami was coming? "The water receded very fast and one wave, one small wave, came so they recognized that this is not ordinary," says Hinshiranan. "And then they have this kind of legend that passed from generations to generations about seven waves."

It?s a legend recited around campfires, bearing an astonishing resemblance to what actually happened on Dec. 26, 2004.

They call it the Laboon, the "wave that eats people," and it?s brought on by the angry spirits of the ancestors. Before it comes, the sea recedes. Then the waters flood the earth, destroy it, and make it clean again.

"So basically, the tsunami myth is that the world is reborn after it is covered with water," says Simon. "So, we're back to the Biblical flood."

"Yes," says French anthropologist Jacques Ivanoff, the world?s foremost authority on the Moken. He's been living with them on and off for more than 20 years. 60 Minutes joined him on a voyage of discovery.

Ivanoff was going to the Moken islands off the coast of Burma, a military dictatorship closed to the outside world. There had been no news of what had happened to these Moken since the tsunami.

"We knew that the Moken survived the tsunami, the Moken in Thailand survived," says Simon. "We really don?t know for sure what happened in Burma, do we?"

"Nobody can know, because no information gets out of Burma," says Ivanoff. "Everybody has to say nothing happened. That means the tsunami stopped at the border ? that?s it, finished, end of the story."

Ivanoff?s boat, a converted cargo ship called the Moken Queen could have sailed right off the pages of Joseph Conrad. The captain was called ?Long Ear,? and the crew was Burmese. The deck was shrouded in nets to keep out malarial mosquitoes.

All sense of time of the 21st century seemed to evaporate into the tropical night air as the boat probed farther and farther into what often seemed to be the heart of darkness.

"You are outside of everywhere. You are nowhere, in fact," says Ivanoff.

At dawn, two Moken boats came out of nowhere. The Moken on the two boats hadn?t seen each other since the tsunami and started exchanging tales of survival. While the Moken off Thailand had been on dry ground, these Moken in Burmese waters had been in their boats, at sea.

"The water had such unbelievable strength," said one Moken man. "It was swirling like a whirlpool as if it was boiling and coming from the depths of the earth."

Like their Thai cousins, these Moken also knew what to do. Since they were at sea, they made for deeper water and were spared. Others, like some Burmese fishermen near them, were not.

"How come they knew something was wrong, and the Burmese fishermen did not," Simon asked the Moken man. "They weren?t Burmese businessmen; they were fishermen. They should know the sea, too."

"They were collecting squid, they were not looking at anything. They saw nothing, they looked at nothing. They don?t know how to look," says the Moken man. "Suddenly, everything rose up, their boats were thrown up in the air. The violence was unbelievable."

A family of Moken was living on a boat on the beach when the Moken Queen got to shore. But during the tsunami, they had also been at sea. Simon started by introducing himself.

Simon: My name is Bob.

Moken man: Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob.

We had come here to find out whether these people had survived the tsunami. We wound up captivated by their culture. We had never seen anything like it.

The Moken don't know how old they are. Ivanoff says this is because, "Time is not the same concept as we have. You can't say for instance, 'When.' It doesn't exist in Moken language."

And Ivanoff says "when" is not the only word missing from the Moken language. "Want" is another. "Yes, you use it very often," says Ivanoff. "Take that out of your language and you see how often you use it. 'I want this, I want that.'"

There is also no word for "take." "You take something," says Ivanoff. "You give or you take. You don't want."

The fact is, the Moken want very little. What they don?t want is to accumulate anything. Baggage is not good for a nomadic people. It ties you down. They have no notion and no desire for wealth.

Is there any other word missing from the Moken language? "No goodbye, no hello," says Ivanoff. "That's quite difficult. Imagine after one year, you live with them, and then you go. You go. That?s it. Finish."

And, there are no greetings. While 60 Minutes was on a Thai Moken island, a flotilla from Burma dropped by. They didn?t seem terribly excited by this. But visits from relatives, and they?re all relatives, happen all the time. And since there is no notion of time, it doesn?t matter if the last visit was a week ago or five years ago. There?s just a constant commingling. And, in the wake of the tsunami, they?re all busy now, rebuilding their boats and their lives.

"What I saw since the tsunami is yes, they take this opportunity to make the strong group stronger," says Ivanoff to Simon. "For instance, you are sitting on his boat."

"Is it OK with him," asks Simon.

"No problem," says Ivanoff. "He wanted to work a bit on the boat, but?"

"But he doesn't mind waiting," asks Simon.

"Of course not," says Ivanoff, who says this is not a problem.

But the Moken do have problems. The Burmese have turned some of their islands into military bases. And the Thais are having them make trinkets for tourists, a trend that could ultimately threaten their way of life far more than any number of tsunamis.

But the Moken don?t seem terribly worried by all this. Perhaps that?s because "worry" is just one more of those words that don?t exist in their language.

© MMV, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

On Sun, 18 Sep 2011, mike cole wrote:

I am in the middle of *Being Alive* so it is little wonder that in reading
(first) tony's note I thought immediately of Ingold. This entire way of
thinking seems very important to me including the links to Bateson that you
provide, Larry.

I am in-fluenced in this matter by a trip around the Olympic peninsula where
the remnants of a number of Native American groups that are historically a
part of the numerous people's inhabiting the northwest coast of the
continent live.

One strong impression from my trip was a clearly expressed cultural antimony
between pre-European - contact peoples and the northern Europeans who
subjugated them. I was particularly im-pressed by the way in which
traditional pre-European cultures seem to embody an ethos of living "in"
nature rather than triumphing "over" nature. Ingold was very much on my

I have also been thinking about the problems of xmca being "too narrow"
while iscar is "too broad" that Volker raised in an early post-ISCAR note. I
have not caught up with that discussion, but it seems we need some way to
share texts sufficiently to take them as a joint object of attention and
discussion if we are going to get past the "drive by reference" stage in
such matters. Or maybe that is not what xmca should strive for -- perhaps
just letting people know that there is Ingold, who references Gibson,
Merleau-Ponty, Bateson, etc is enough for those who wish to pursue matters.


PS- Another impression from this trip: The local people, both those who
trace ancestry to Native American and European routes are badly exploited in
that part of the world. The only people who seem to be benefiting are the
timber companies and the (relatively) wealthy people from Seattle and
elsewhere who spend money to enjoy walking in the national park or killing
the local fish -- money upon which the locals live as it trickles through
the rain.

On Sat, Sep 17, 2011 at 6:39 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Tony
I see this line of inquiry as very promising. The notion of in*formation
that you point to seems to be the same family of ides" that Ingold is
exploring.  As I pursue this line of inquiry I keep reflecting on Andy's
caution and ask if this is "merely" interactional assumptions of
"recognition" which he is trying to include within a third level [I agree
this third level is central but I wonder if this "second" interactional
level must also be explored as also central to the formation of the third
level.]  I also struggle to include another level that points to issues
can be summed up in the term "suffering stranger" or the calling of the
other and our responding to that calling. This speaks to issues of
dependency and vulnerabity as central aspects of our human condition.

"in*formation OF attention" & "education OF attention" are  notions
to a stance that does not privilege "form" as pre-existing
attention. Ingold, in engaging with Bateson has a section which he refers
as *steps to an ecology of LIFE* in response to Bateson's "steps to an
ecology of MIND*  Ingold points to Bateson's insight that information only
exists relative to the perceiver MOVING within his/her surroundings. Stable
features of the world are indistinguishable and imperceptible unless we
in relation to these features. We draw distinctions not by representing
graphically but by "pulling them out of the surroundings" and making them
distinct. Life, in Ingold's view, "is not the realization of PRE-specified
forms but the very process wherein forms are GENERATED and HELD in place.
Every being, as it is caught up in this process and carries it forward,
arises as a singular center of awareness and AGENCY: an unfoldment, at some
particular nexus withIN it, of the generative POTENTIAL that is life
[ quoted from kindle]

Tony, Ingolds notion of in*formation as form generated within an ecology of
life as "active" [not reactive] is his answer to Bateson's question What is
"organism plus environment"? For Ingold the plus is not an addition TO the
environment with the organism and environment as PRE-existing forms but
rather the "whole-organism-in-its-environment" as the "point of departure".
Organism plus environment is not a compound of two "things" but one
indivisible unity that is a developmental system and an ecology of life
[with a history] From this perspective FORM is EMERGENT within the life
force and Ingold maintains we therefore have "no need to appeal to a
distinct domain of mind" to account for pattern and meaning in the world.
Mind and consciousness are NOT a layer of being over and above that of the
life of organisms. For Ingold, what we call mind "is the cutting edge of
life process itself, the ever MOVING front of what Alfred North Whitehead
called a 'creative advance into novelty' ".

As first mentioned above, this line of inquiry of in*formation as attention
[as an intersubjective dialogical life process] has potential to re-enchant
the world and intertwine "giving and asking for reasons" within a larger
of life as orientation or wayfaring with others showing novices the way
forward and giving them the tools to use as compass points along the way.
also has the potential to construct "hearths" along the way for suffering
strangers to meet and share stories of the way forward and offer each other
guideposts to MARK the way.


On Fri, Sep 16, 2011 at 9:10 AM, Tony Whitson <twhitson@udel.edu> wrote:

My post should have connected more explicitly to Larry's very informative

A quick way to do that would be to suggest that where "Ingold refers to
this process as an EDUCATION OF ATTENTION [borrowed from Gibson]," that
sounds close to seeing the same process as an "information of attention."

On Fri, 16 Sep 2011, Tony Whitson wrote:

I am proposing a distinction based on the difference between
in its older sense, more related to "formation" in the sense of
-understood-as-"formation" (formacao, Bildung, etc.) -- a sense of
"information" that is all but lost in current English usage -- versus
sense of "information" as the word is used today.

In its older sense, I could say that his character is informed by her
influence, or that my ideas about something are informed by what I heard
from you last night. This is the information of my thinking by your
speaking, or the information of his character by her influence. Your
speaking did and DOES participate in the formation of my thinking about

The short form "info" denotes stuff, rather than active participation in
formation (of persons, ideas, institutions, concepts, customs, etc., _as
formations_). I don't deny the reality or importance of information as
"info," but I think we need to recover the older sense, which we cannot
without differentiating between "information" in the sanse of "info,"
"information" as a participatory, "informing" relationship, for which
shortened "info" does not work. I am now using "info'mation" and
"in*formation" to mark this difference.

This way of marking the difference is changed slightly from how I did it
in a book review for MCA, which has not appeared yet in a printed issue,
is available now online (pending final editing). That discussion (which
follows sections addressing each of the three books in the review)
OED definitions, but also some historical background on the relationship
between the now-prevailing idea of information and mathematical
theory at the birth of cybernetics and cognitivism in psychology.

On Fri, 16 Sep 2011, Larry Purss wrote:

Andy, Arthur
Ingold has an interesting position on the giving and asking for
Ingold suggests information may be communicated in propositional form
generation to generation. But for Ingold information is NOT knowledge
we become any more knowledgeable through accumulating information. Our
"knowledgeability consists in the capacity to SITUATE such information
within the context of a DIRECT PERCEPTUAL ENGAGEMENT within our
environments. Ingold emphasizes, we develop this knowledgeability not
through gathering information but rather by having things SHOWN to us
order that we "experience" by touch, taste, smell, hearing, seeing, by
other person so it can be apprehended directly. In that way the world
revealed or DISCLOSED bit by bit to the novice. Ingold refers to this
process as an EDUCATION OF ATTENTION [borrowed from Gibson]. Through
fine-tuning of perceptual SKILLS the relational contexts of the
INVOLVEMENT dwelling in the world are not so much constructed as

A very interesting stance on "information" and "knowlege"

The term "environment" is contrasted with "nature"  We are INVOLVED and
ENGAGED within environments but we take a stance of distance FROM
Ingold is critical of the phrase "natural environment" as conflating
very distinct notions.

xmca mailing list

Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK  DE  19716


"those who fail to reread
are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
xmca mailing list

Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK  DE  19716


"those who fail to reread
 are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                 -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK  DE  19716


"those who fail to reread
 are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                  -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
xmca mailing list