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[Xmca-l] Re: How *basic* are images?
I'm going to try to defend "mental representation" and also complain a
little about "affordance".
My first line of defense is that Vygotsky uses mental representation.
This isn't much of a defense, I know; Vygotsky uses a lot of words
that were just "in the air" at the time, and this is surely one of
them. And when Vygotsky uses a word it usually doesn't mean quite what
it meant when he first read or hear it used. For example, I am
starting to realize that Vygotsky's notion of "pedology" has very
little to do with what others meant by the term and everything to do
with what we are trying to pin down when we try to figure out what he
meant by "analysis into units". In fact, I think that "pedology" is a
really good example of what I mean when I try to figure out what I
mean by a thematic, transdisciplinary approach rather than an
object-oriented, inter-disciplinary one.
So my second line of defense is Halliday. Let's assume that Martin's
right, and that "read" is a better way to express Vygotsky's meaning.
Imagine that you are looking at Vermeer's "Christ in the House of Mary
and Martha" and you are comparing it to Velazquez's treatment of the
Vermeer is image-based, and he doesn't usually tell stories. So you
look up Luke 38: 10, and you get a dozen different translations. Some
of them look like this:
a) Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain
town, and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house."
(1599 Geneva Bible)
b) Jesus and his disciples, journeying onward, came to the village
where an older woman and her younger sister gave them hospitality.
You can see that there is a difference in meaning. A town is not a
village, and in one it is Christ who is named while in the other is is
Mary. I will say the difference here is representational, and it
produces a different image: a) is much closer to Velazquez and b) much
closer to Vermeer.
Halliday calls this difference in meaning representational. Why is
that useful? Well, compare:
a) Jesus and his desciples, journeying onward, came to the village
where the older woman and her younger sister gave them hospitality.
b) Did Jesus and his disciples, journeying onward, come to the village
where the older woman and her younger sister gave them hospitality?
Here too there is a difference in meaning, but the difference is not a
difference in representation. The image is exaclty the same, and it's
Vermeer rather than Velazquez. The difference is what Halliday calls
"interpersonal", because it's a difference between getting information
and giving it. That difference is every bit as meaningful as the
difference between producing a commodity and consuming it, but it
doesn't actually have to do with the nature of the representation; it
has to do with the nature of the relations surrounding its production.
Finally--let me complain a little bit about the term affordance, which
seems an extreme form of behaviorism to me. When Gibson tries to
explain language as an affordance, he ends up claiming that phonemes
are affordances. That is, they are actually perceivable, in the air;
they are not constructions in the mind.
Consider the following pairs of words:
Now imagine you are holding a bag standing in a cave in the middle of
maze. You are conveying a mental representation of your predicament to
someone at a distance--they are far away, so they cannot hear the
final stop /k/ or /g/, /f/ or /v/, /s/ or /z/, and even if they could,
they couldn't tell whether it was a voiced stop (i.e. /g/, /v/, or
/z/) or an unvoiced one, because your mouth is actually shut when you
provide the vocal cord vibration that differentiates them.
Nonetheless, they understand you perfectly. How is this possible?
According to Gibson, it cannot be. If an affordance is not
perceptible, it isn't there. But in fact although the phoneme is not
there, the mind has a way of supplying it, and it's very simple. All
vowels are voiced in English; no vowels are unvoiced. So when the
vowel is lengthened, as in "bag", "cave", and "maze", it means that it
doesn't stop but continues on into the final consonant. So your
interlocutor will judge from the length of the vowel whether the final
stop is voiced or unvoiced. There's an affordance, all right, but it's
not in the environment or even in your interlocutor's relationship to
the environment; it's in the language system, as instantiated in your
interlocutor's mind. In other words, it's a mental re-presentation.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
Why is it useful to call this kind of meaning representational (which
is c) In a) it is Martha and Mary who are named and
On 3 December 2014 at 03:49, HENRY SHONERD <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> I come late to this, but I was thinking this morning at the bus stop about David K’s narrative of kids learning about light. I though maybe a parallel: Representation = Reflection and Procedural = Refraction. I think of both as imagery, just that representation is sort of nouny and procedural is verby. Procedural imagery involves, depending on the angle of incidence, deviation from the the initial vector. But procedural imagery keeps things on the move. An affordance. I have forgotten my physics, but does refraction slow things down in any way?
>> On Dec 1, 2014, at 8:23 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <email@example.com> wrote:
>> Perhaps the day we stop employing the phrase "mental representation" is coming closer!
>> For me, this brings us closer to truly understanding Gibson's theory of affordances.
>> This is what it's like for me to read David's contributed article. But I wonder if it is possible for you, Martin, to explain why it is important not to use the phrase,"mental representation" in the article.
>> I suspect there is a history here, and I do not mean to pull a grenade pin, I just want to understand because I am a newcomer to the list. If you can trust that that is my intention by asking, I will look forward to your reply, Martin.
>> Let me just add that I am putting two and two together that being at UCSD and it being the home to Distributed Cognition, that that influences your position, not that it necessarily shapes it, but that you find community in it (which I suppose can still shape, but it seems more voluntary phrased that way).
>> Kind regards,
>> From: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com> on behalf of Martin John Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>> Sent: Monday, December 1, 2014 4:28 AM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: How *basic* are images?
>> An interesting article, David. One way in which it is interesting, to me at least, is that the phrase "mental representation" is not used, even once. Instead the author writes of the way that we "read" images in the world around us - material representations - and he tries to define the "interpretational space" within which this reading takes place.
>> On Dec 1, 2014, at 1:53 AM, David Kellogg <email@example.com> wrote:
>>> Larry, Annalisa:
>>> People sometimes ask my wife if it was "love at first sight" when we
>>> met. She answers--quite truthfully--that she has no memory of anything
>>> except the price of the shoes that I wore (a kind of shoe available
>>> for a standard price all over China) She does not even remember
>>> whether they were new or old (they were pretty new; it was the
>>> beginning of the semester). I think I would describe this as a
>>> non-image based mental representation.
>>> As Larry says, the issue of whether all mental representations are
>>> images was a very hot one--back in the late nineteenth century. In
>>> fact, it was the key issue for the Gestaltist revolt against Titchener
>>> and against Wundtian psychology: for Wundt and his disciples,
>>> everything was image based, and the Gestaltists demonstrated that
>>> many, if not most, of our mental operations are genetically anterior
>>> to images, and have more to do with processes, else we would not have
>>> time or ability to process complex problems in real time.
>>> I think it is even more true that of forms of thinking that are
>>> genetically posterior to images. I hesitate to recommend more reading
>>> to anybody, because of course Larry is far more well read than I am
>>> (particularly on phenomenology) and Annalisa sometimes feels like
>>> she's being sent to sit facing the corner with a book. So do NOT read
>>> this article--instead, look at Figure 11.
>>> The artist, Robert Pepperell, uses the general color structure of
>>> Michelangelo’s painting to suggest images without using any actual
>>> images: by color and shape, which some part of our cultural experience
>>> associates with Renaissance paintings. Pepperell then deliberately
>>> frustrates these guiding images by refusing to give them any
>>> recognizable figures upon which to focus.
>>> However, the child staring up at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco
>>> for the first time finds himself in the opposite situation. He or she
>>> can discern quite clearly the fighting figures in the painting and
>>> wonders who they are and why they are fighting, but does not notice
>>> the color structure or see anything particularly meaningful in it.
>>> David Kellogg
>>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>>> On 1 December 2014 at 10:39, Annalisa Aguilar <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>>> Hi Larry and David,
>>>> Am I butting in? I hope if I am, it is a welcome butting in!
>>>> I don't know that we can say that "basic guiding images" are at the root of all thinking.
>>>> Perhaps it is safer to say that people think differently, based upon previous conditioning and interactions with their caretakers, in combination with their biological makeup? Vera has a coined a phrase I like a lot called "Cognitive pluralism." She has written a paper on it by the same title and you may find interesting it if you don't know it.
>>>> With this in mind, it is possible that _some_ people think as Hackett describes, but I don't know if it is how all people think. Have you already given an example of Hackett's work that you recommend? I'd be willing to take a look.
>>>> As I understand, the topic of mental representations is controversial. It is likely controversial because no one likes it when someone says "this is how all humans think." Of course, that is just my humble observation.
>>>> It may just be that thinking is a dynamic process and whatever that process is, is particular to the necessity to the situation at hand? Just a thought.
>>>> What is it that appeals to you about this model, metaphoricity?
>>>> (BTW, a metaphor need not be image based!)
>>>> Kind regards,
>>>> From: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org> on behalf of Larry Purss <email@example.com>
>>>> Sent: Sunday, November 30, 2014 11:33 AM
>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture Activity
>>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] How *basic* are images?
>>>> David K
>>>> I mentioned Chris Hackett, and I recently referenced Peirce. My reason for
>>>> exploring these authors is I have been following a path pursuing a basic
>>>> Are basic guiding images at the root of all thinking?
>>>> Chris Hackett's answer is: "thinking never EXCEEDS the basic guiding images
>>>> upon which thinking rests"
>>>> The recent dialogue between Andy and Martin exploring appearances and
>>>> illusions was also exploring this theme.
>>>> Hackett is outlining what he understands as a new phenomenological path
>>>> that places guiding images at the root of thinking. He names this process
>>>> Hackett believes metaphoricity names the irreducible image-character of the
>>>> *spontaneous event* of meaning.
>>>> He goes on to suggest that the "intending subject" - which he brackets -
>>>> finds itself implicated in this guiding image.
>>>> it is *in* this guiding image that the *intending subject* finds the
>>>> meaning of its very self.
>>>> Exploring the notion of "first things* Hackett proposes this
>>>> image-character IS a new *objectivity* that only the notion of metaphor can
>>>> invoke. In other words the notion of *seeing as* is implicated in
>>>> This new objectivity for Hackett is the root of thinking.
>>>> Reason at the point of becoming conscious and in command of itself *in* the
>>>> mode [path] of the concept
>>>> occurs AFTER the *constitution* of meaning through guiding images has been
>>>> In other words meaning through guiding images mediates the path of
>>>> conscious verbal thought in command of itself which is derived from the
>>>> image-character of the guiding image.
>>>> I hesitate to open this thread because of how controversial this topic may
>>>> become [again]
>>>> However I will take the risk as I continue to be held by this basic
>>>> question. I want to repeat that Hackett is exploring these images as
>>>> occurring as *events* and in his speculations the images emerge
>>>> spontaneously prior to intentional consciousness.
>>>> This is not the phenomenology of Husserl [which is transcendental] and is
>>>> not the phenomenology of Heidegger [which is hermeneutical]. It seems to
>>>> have an affinity with Peirce and speculative musings.
>>>> I also realize this question may already be answered in Vygotsky's writings
>>>> and may be pulling us away from the historical concerns of XMCA. I
>>>> personally am following this path for now.