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[Xmca-l] Re: What are we doing here?



Thanks too for such a thoughtful synopsis, Rod, which I found myself
relating to deeply. And I suppose this is also relevant to the stuff on the
Gender thread, but I no longer know where to go. Fast Swim, Slow Swim,
Gender, Logic, Genesis of Gender...all spinning off of what appeared to be
a single theme. Wow! My head is spinning.

Having checked in after some time and discovered two or three parallel
conversations well underway, all the comments about time frames (including
Vera's observation about differing paces, styles and degrees of necessary
reflection time) feel very apropos. One of the realities of this format and
the quick turnaround times for posting is that if one is not conscientious
about keeping up (or just lacks the time), there is inevitably an "in media
res" effect of trying to understand the running narrative backwards while
needing to (collectively and collaboratively) live it forwards. I don't
think this is always a bad thing. In fact, I suspect it can sometimes have
the paradoxical effect of enhancing and elevating the discussion. There is
a certain humility and beginner's mind that comes with wandering into a
conversation late, a certain openness to what may not yet be fully
processed, understood and contextualized. And, coming at it with fresh eyes
can lend a different angle that shakes up the conversation a bit. It felt
this way, for instance, when Maria Cristina suddenly entered and offered a
re-contextualization (time constraints and domestic responsibilities) that
kind of turned everything on its head. At the same time, there may be a
certain responsibility on the part of those already engrossed in the
dialogue to be welcoming and inclusive towards anyone "in media res
distress." I agree with Alfredo that trying to prescribe along the
"fast/slow" dimension is undesirable; I'm not sure how much adding new tags
for posts or further classifying per se would really help to counter any
problematic dynamics, though I know nothing about these technologies. I
find myself thinking: what's wrong with the good old-fashioned initiative
of emailing individuals separately and CC-ing whoever seems interested, or
announcing that you'd like to email further with any takers?

Having looked over the last several threads (if far from reading
exhaustively), it seems to me there may be two different issues: 1) how to
do better justice to all these differing purposes, styles and uses of the
listserve, and/or clarify "what we are doing here" in order to avoid
confusion; 2) how to cultivate a fully hospitable atmosphere for those who
may end up being marginalized in various ways, and address these issues
without generating even more unnecessary distress. Of course, those two
things aren't entirely unrelated. But improving the second may not require
that we have fully resolved the first. In another post accidentally sent
from the wrong email, which bounced back and disappeared, I attempted a
preliminary list of different ways people might end up feeling marginalized
or shut out of conversations. Probably not worth resending at this point.

I am more of a peripheral member of this community and have only posted a
few times, but in each instance was very aware of anxiety over the
possibility of translating poorly or just sounding plain stupid. Trying to
negotiate complex ideas *and *respect feelings and boundaries *and *not
sound ignorant, in the absence of voice, expression and physical proximity,
sometimes feels a bit like entering a dark and crowded room. You want to
make contact without knocking someone over or banging into them, but
ultimately you must wait for your eyes to adjust to the night vision so you
can "know your way about" (as Wittgenstein might say). I think it's easy to
underestimate the diversity of cognitive and discursive styles, not just
goals and values, among people on the board. As someone who tends to
approach things very analytically and linearly, in such contexts of
ambiguity I find myself tempted to fall back on the intellectual structure
of ideas, abstract theory, content over form or use, as if it were some
kind of "universal language." Yet as we all know, this does not always help
- and sometimes it backfires. Meanwhile, as someone who like all of us has
an inner life and related experiences, I am tempted to offer something
immediate, concrete and personal. But this can feel risky and possibly
irrelevant, perhaps even narcissistic. To a great extent I am happy just to
listen and learn. But Alfredo's point about not just being a spectator also
resonates with me.

Despite all these misgivings, I'm not sure I'm ready to agree that this
format for communication, or verbal written discourse in general, is
automatically inferior and impoverished in relation to other modes. I mean,
in some ways it obviously is. But there is often a level of care and
thought -- and continuity -- that would be difficult to reproduce in a room
where people are prone to physically competing while attempting high-level
discourse in real time, yet still manages to be relational. There are
definitely tradeoffs. I think like most technology, it brings great
opportunities and big problems. And new opportunities that arise from
having to face those problems.

Chris

On Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 4:37 PM, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
wrote:

> Yes, I'm with you on that too Rod. I think that's why social media can get
> so nasty so often. It is a chilly medium that is a highly denuded form of
> communication. (e.g., when I said "I'm with you on that too", was I
> alluding to other times when I'm not "with you"? Some could interpret it
> that way (btw, that's not what I meant!!)).
>
> I marvel that there is so much that gets done on this listserve in spite of
> this fact.
>
> Also makes me wonder why so many people put so much stock in literacy as
> being a massively transformative capacity. Seems a more base form of
> communication than any form of oral communication I've ever experienced
> (even the phone gives you prosody!).
>
> -greg
>
> On Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 2:22 PM, Rod Parker-Rees <
> R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> > Thanks Helen and Greg,
> >
> > I certainly like the opportunity to hang out with interesting people but
> I
> > think it is probably inevitable in this sort of set up that wires can get
> > crossed when people feel they are engaging in different kinds of
> activities.
> > I suspect that what has kept this group going is that every now and then
> > people stand back and take stock of how it is working and that allows
> > people to realise that it works in different ways (and feels different)
> for
> > different people.
> >
> > This has made me wonder how often other forms of communication (even
> where
> > only two people are involved) can involve different people having very
> > different understandings about what they are doing and sometimes this
> > doesn't matter but sometimes it does.
> >
> > I hope we can keep it going.
> >
> > All the best,
> >
> > Rod
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@
> > mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Greg Thompson
> > Sent: 04 November 2016 19:58
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
> > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: What are we doing here?
> >
> > Great question Rod!
> >
> > As to the answer, as John Cage was fond of saying: "no why, just here."
> >
> > Okay, fair enough. But it seems like the question deserves a more
> > thoughtful answer than this.
> >
> > I suppose if I were entirely honest, I find this to be a nice place to
> > hang out and learn and occasionally I try to use the listserve to put
> > something out there in the interest of getting some feedback to help
> > develop it. I've had much more success with the former than the latter.
> >
> > I do wonder what the mission statement of this listserve would be if
> there
> > were such a thing. It seems like we don't engage with MCA nearly as much
> as
> > we should if that were to be the goal of the listserve.
> >
> > Other than that, I would guess that the mission statement would be
> > something like: it's a place for people who are interested in CHAT to
> hang
> > out and talk about stuff that they care about (sometimes CHAT and MCA
> > related, sometimes not).
> >
> > Is that too cynical? Or is that just about right?
> >
> > Perhaps someone else can give a better statement of what the listserve is
> > "about"? (and I hate to even get into the question of what it SHOULD be -
> > I'd rather live it and see what works that deliberate about what that
> life
> > should look like, but, sure, there is some value in doing the former).
> >
> > Thanks for your question/contribution Rod. Right to the point.
> > -greg
> >
> > On Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 11:18 AM, Helena Worthen <helenaworthen@gmail.com
> >
> > wrote:
> >
> > > This is a good contribution. Thanks -- H
> > >
> > > Helena Worthen
> > > helenaworthen@gmail.com
> > > Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com
> > >
> > > On Nov 4, 2016, at 2:30 AM, Rod Parker-Rees wrote:
> > >
> > > > I am an interested but time-poor lurker on the margins of xmca but
> > > > the
> > > ripples stirred by Mike's decision to reduce his pastoral contribution
> > > to our community have made me question how different participants
> > > understand what kind of activity we are engaging in here.
> > > >
> > > > It seems to me that each of us may understand the social form of
> > > > what we
> > > are doing in different ways. For some it is like a conversation and we
> > > feel disappointed or hurt if our contributions are met with silence or
> > > if the chain moves on in a different direction. For others we are a
> > > working group, collaborating to develop a practical and ethical
> > > theoretical model. For others we are something like a conference,
> > > where thoughts and ideas can be put before others for their
> > > consideration and response - and I am sure there are many other ways
> > > in which different people understand their participation differently.
> > > >
> > > > Does this matter? Would xmca be 'better' if it was more consistent,
> > > > more
> > > coherent, more tightly and predictably governed by shared social
> > > understandings? While more explicit regulation (protocols for
> > > labelling streams and posts and for timing of responses etc.) might
> > > help to make our activity feel more inclusive and more sharable it may
> > > also introduce new kinds of discomfort.
> > > >
> > > > What I have found interesting in my time around the margins of xmca
> > > > is
> > > the challenge of sustaining conversations without all the non-verbal
> > > feedback which we rely on when we talk with people. When 'wordings'
> > > float off into the ether, cast off from the body and personhood of
> > > their speakers or writers they become objects which can be scrutinised
> > > and revisited and this can be a reason for 'lurkers' to feel reluctant
> > about contributing.
> > > What we are doing is not a conversation. Nor is it even a forum, in
> > > the sense of people taking turns to orate before a crowd, because
> > > contributors often get very little phatic feedback from the lurkers
> > > and may have very little sense of how their arguments have been
> > > understood or received. But we are moved by our understandings of what
> > > it is and is not OK to do, which come from other kinds of
> > > interactions. Can I say something if I have not been part of what has
> > > gone before? Should I respond or stay quiet? What should I do if I am
> > > annoyed or angered by something someone else has contributed?
> > > >
> > > > I am already getting anxious about how what I have said might be
> > > interpreted by others and feeling I have had a long enough turn but I
> > > would be really interested to hear what others think about why we are
> > here!
> > > >
> > > > I have found what people do here very helpful but I do feel uneasy
> > > > about
> > > risking contributions!
> > > >
> > > > All the best,
> > > >
> > > > Rod
> > > > ________________________________
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> > --
> > Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> > Assistant Professor
> > Department of Anthropology
> > 880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> > Brigham Young University
> > Provo, UT 84602
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> --
> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Anthropology
> 880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> Brigham Young University
> Provo, UT 84602
> http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
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