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[Xmca-l] Re: What Faces Can't Tell Us

Martin, Peter,

How do we *read* facial expressions? I recently read an article by John
Shotter in the January 2014 Theory & Psychology Journal. The article
explores the concept of *agential realism* I wrote to John asking if it was
possible to access any writings that covered similar themes and he sent an
earlier copy of the article with errors. However, he did say that this 1st
draft was ok to email to others.  Therefore I'm attaching the paper and
hoping it may generate some commentary.

I want to emphasize the theme of this paper exploring an *aspect* of our
human nature and therefore acknowledging that other *aspects* are moved to
the background when *wayfinding* [see Ingold] is elevated to the
foreground. In the article even the notion of *foreground* and *background*
are put in question as stable concepts. *agential realism* posits a
fluidity between what we consider AS an 'object' and what we consider

On page 7 of this article John writes:

"But it is when we turn to events happening within our immersion in the
process of speech communication that Polanyi's terminology comes especially
into its own. For here we find the operation of something like a
'prosthetic-tool-text ambiguity', a dynamic shifting occurring within a
fraction of a second, within which ASPECTS of utterances which are at one
moment between being treated as agential, as *doing* something, as
performatives, as a *saying* are treated the next as an objective *done
thing*, as something *said* "

The way we *read faces* within our dynamic wayfinding [orienting] is
explored as INTRA-active in contrast to INTER-active ways of finding our
way.  I am cautious when putting this article forward to recognize that by
drawing attention to wayfinding as orienting does not imply that other
*aspects* [sedimented rituals for example] are not also critical as
*aspects* of our human nature. However, John is re-directing our
*attention* to realms such as *reading* facial expressions and *reading*
speech acts that are operating in plain view but go unnoticed.
I wonder how others respond to his exploration of the concept of *agential

Larry Purss

On Sun, Mar 2, 2014 at 4:16 PM, Martin John Packer

> On Mar 2, 2014, at 1:55 PM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@UGA.EDU> wrote:
> > If faces do not "speak for themselves," how do we manage to "read" other
> people? The answer is that we don't passively recognize emotions but
> actively perceive them, drawing heavily (if unwittingly) on a wide variety
> of contextual clues -- a body position, a hand gesture, a vocalization, the
> social setting and so on.
> Peter, can you say more about why this bothered you? Yes, it's laboratory
> research, but personally I find these conclusions more convincing than the
> notion that there is a universal code of facial muscle movements.
> Martin

Attachment: MARCH 1 2014 SHOTTER JOHN On Relational Things and Performative Understandings.doc
Description: MS-Word document