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[Xmca-l] Blokish struggles for power
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- Date: Thu, 27 Nov 2014 00:03:03 +0000
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- Thread-topic: Blokish struggles for power
Just a push back on the idea of blokish struggle for power over particular words? (Is there anybody out there having a power struggle over what blokish means?).
There is I think another side to this, something that Vygotsky I think refers to which is that words have histories, and perhaps achieve a better understanding when we explore those words and their meanings in the context of their history. This is important I think because really interesting words with rich meanings and histories tend to suffer what might be called a regression to the mean. Somebody offers a simple, more visceral meaning and people pick up on that and then they forget the history. A short anecdote on what I mean by visceral. When I was in college the Talking Heads were at their height. My friends would talk about how good the Talking Heads were and I would argue against them, being a fan of the Asbury Park/Jersey sound (Springsteen, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes etc.). Here was the thing, I never really listened to the Talking Heads except in the background at parties and had never seen them. Why had I argued against them as a good band (late night dorm arguments) - well when I thought of Talking Heads I had this visceral picture of them as a bunch of heads on the stage mouthing New Wave lyrics. It had little to do with who they really were as a band. The ending of this little story is I finally was dragged to see David Byrne and the Talking Heads and to this day it is the greatest concert I've ever been to in my life (this includes multiple Springsteen and Dead concerts).
So why this little story. Because I worry that sometimes people hear words almost into the background and sometimes they get redefined based on almost visceral reactions to their texture. People pick up on that and adopt it as part of their vocabulary without ever seeing them or going to see them in concert. Much of the richness of the words are lost. To give an example, I have been doing a lot of exploration of Ted Nelson's concept of hypertext. What a rich, radical concept that is - really challenging to way we understand the world. And yet it seems to me the way many people use the word is sort of as a regression to the mean, without recognizing its history, the ways it developed and the reasons behind its development. If somebody comes and says, "No, that's not what Nelson meant, you should see him in concert!" Does that represent a blokish struggle for power?
It's a complex question, because of course there are always overt and covert hierarchies - and the people at the top of the hierarchy rarely recognize that they even exist. But there is also a richness to our words that can be so easily lost.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [email@example.com] on behalf of Bruce Robinson [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 5:45 PM
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Fate, Luck and Chance [Language as a form]
Your wife's question leads to another: who speaks for the silent
majority, many of whom, like me, must be getting fed up with what David
K calls a "rather blokish struggle for power over particular words'?
[Not Richard Nixon :)]
PS: You may also note that I have not changed the subject heading of
this message so that it bears no relation to the content. Something else
I find irritating...
On 26/11/2014 17:16, HENRY SHONERD wrote:
> Sister Analisa,
> Thank you for responding! I was just talking to my wife (getting personal!) about the chat. She asked me, “How does anyone get to participate in the (XMCA) chat if only a few people take part?” I wondered in my email below if too much was expected of written communication in the XMCA chat. With 800 people potentially taking turns, well…what is even possible logistically? Mike Cole has talked about this, and, I think, has some suggestions on how to deal with the bottlenecking. But even small scale communication can be daunting. I watched, with my wife, a Richard Linklater movie last night, “Before Midnight”. Two people, face to face, in a totally committed relationship, smart people, good people, trying so hard to get it right. Always a work in progress. But it’s worth it. The alternative is despair. I am sure of this: This chat, which seems to get bogged down in abstractions, pure thinking in the mud, is really consequential beyond the sensitivities of academics. I said we va
> lue Vygotsky’s “heroism”, but that’s too macho. I should have said courage.
> The Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis is a powerful idea, often called the Whorf/Sapir hypothesis. Google it. Really. See what you think. One gauge of the power of an idea is if it has found its way into popular discourse. I just this morning heard an NPR radio program (thanks again to my wife, who was listening when she heard something she thought I would be interested in) that dealt with the Whorf/Sapir hypothesis in its strong and weak form.
>> On Nov 25, 2014, at 10:11 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <email@example.com> wrote:
>> Dear Henry,
>> Thank you for your reply.
>> I don't think being personal (or even personable) requires being heated. Does this have to do with my comment of warmth as a sign of welcome?
>> To speak about culture non-personally is not something I am adept at doing. We are always speaking from where we stand, the culture that we are in or from, what-have-you.
>> Respectfully, I do not know what "linguistic relativity hypothesis" is. So please be patient with me while I connect this academic idea you have offered to this conversation so that I can relate that to my personal experience speaking on this thread, though clearly I'm not speaking literally right now, but it is speech from me, not a sock puppet with my voice thrown from the position of objective reality.
>> You are talking about speaking two languages. But it seems we are all speaking English on this list. So I'm a bit lost right there what you are trying to say to me.
>> Then, you speak of metalinguistics and how it represents different worldviews, if you don't mind me swapping your use of "perspective" for worldview. There is a lot of time clearing muckups to get it right. I'm not sure that it ever gets right though, which troubles me. I have found that many people who have different worldviews communicate by "talking to," rather than "talking at." I feel, for example, you and I are talking to one another, despite our likely different POVs.
>> I don't know what the "perish and dapple of Andy" means when you say that. From what I can tell he's trying to define something for himself asking for the help of others. That's fine and I'm learning that definitions are very bas-relief for him. I think my interests are a little different. So I'd prefer to orient to my interests, if that is OK.
>> Speaking of metalinguistics, rather than debate over definitions, I'm more interested in speaking to the very different people who are on this list. The rumor is there are 800 folks out there. Where are you? :) To reference a highly academic quote from the Wizard of Oz:
>> "Come out, come out wherever you are, and meet the young lady who fell from the star!"
>> --Glinda, the Good Witch from the North (waves magic wand)
>> I'm curious how others have been inspired by Vygotsky and sociocultural theory, and even other manifestations of his ideas, such as CHAT, etc and how people are using these approaches in their work. What is that like for you? And to be more specific, what is that like for women and people of color? I'm also interested in thinking-out-loud with others about Vygotskian concepts that are not easy to understand; to employ in real time dialogue and social interaction to leap over zopeds together. Isn't that what a listserv is for? Or am I being too idealistic?
>> I have tried to speak in an open, easy, and immediate manner, to allow others to engage. But I fear that engagement is never going to happen because all that persists are conversations about definitions, or whether nothing can come from nothing, and voila! subsequent debates ensue. Or someone will say, "We already discussed this 20 years ago!" Which means I missed the party, I suppose. Unfortunately, if I disagree with a position because I interpret differently, then I'm told to go read something without really a clear explanation why I'm supposed to go read something.
>> I don't really agree with the approach of "read this," as an academic argument. Anyone is free to use it, and I have myself, but because I know how obtuse that can be, I couch it with my reasons why I think it would be a good read for that person, and what I think there is learn from reading. I think the "read this" approach, when it is offered with the tone of "now go eat your vegetables!" fails in the making of speech between people. All it does is shut things down.
>> If the reading truly is relevant, it seems far more productive in the moment of speech to cue a person what to look for, to supply a context, especially when referencing an entire book, for example, or the link to an entire website full of texts.
>> Your assessment in the physicality of language is something with which I am completely in agreement. Especially since we all seem to agree with the material aspects of language. So the question at hand is a matter of form. Form has an aesthetic but also has a purpose. Are we throwing ropes or throwing boulders? If throwing boulders, where does that need to throw boulders come from? If throwing ropes, then at least connections are being made for those who might not be very clear about ideas and who may require a helping hand.
>> Then there's the old, but handy, elliptical comment, something like a boomerang... meant to be subtle or ironic at the expense of someone who may not understand.
>> At this point, I'd to emphasize that being ignorant is not being stupid, but it seems someone who is ignorant is frequently treated as stupid (um, on this list). This "phenomenon" has made me reflect upon how little time is spent upon the nature of ignorance in education and the dynamics of ignorance in speaking. Every one of us is ignorant about most things in the world. And yet being ignorant is seen as an embarrassment, a deficiency, a lapse in character. I vehemently disagree with this reception to ignorance. Even Einstein said something like, "The more I know, the more I see how much I don't know." Such an aggressive position toward ignorance is nothing but hurtful, even arrogant. Arrogance is a blister, a defense mechanism from previous hurt. A person who is honest about one's own ignorance is a very strong person and is showing a willingness to learn something. I think all teachers will agree that a person who knows one doesn't know is an easier student to teach than
> one who doesn't know one doesn't know.
>> Iconicity is something I can hang my hat on. I see it is related to pointing. What I like about pointing is that it is a gesture, which implies movement, in the way the word is also movement. I hope I have made sufficient personal connections to your concepts without the heat. Thank you for offering them to me.
>> Kind regards,