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



Thank you from me too, Dana, and to Chris for offering this list of potentially marginalising moves.

I am conscious, when I consider replying to a post here, that I don't feel sure about the prevailing etiquette - the done thing - and I suspect that this may be partly because there are many different things being done here all at the same time.

An image that popped into my mind while I was trying to work out what I wanted to say was the inter-alien bar scenes in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and, I believe, in Star Wars films - where beings from different worlds drink, talk, gamble and fight together (very blokey!). Is that what we have here? A bunch of Vygotsky exegetes and scholars, another group of academics who would like to know what the scholars say but who don't have the time (or the knowledge of Russian) to be able to engage with the texts in the same way, some practitioners (particularly language teachers?) and at other tables all sorts of other interesting and interested people each belonging to one or many groups which each have their own ways of doing things.

What complicates matters further is that (I suspect) most of us are not able to linger as long as we might like in this hyper-cosmopolitan melee of ideas, which means that our contributions are sporadic and cannot hope to sustain threads or even zig-gap-zags. I am deeply grateful to the 'regulars' who put in the real work to keep conversations going and most of the time I am content to listen in on their conversations but sometimes I do try to chip in.

The din in the bar makes it hard to follow several different conversations at the same time (I am listening in on the genesis of gendered expectations, dipping a toe into first and second signal systems and trying to follow the discussion about what we are doing here). I have just read a chapter by Ruqaiya Hasan, recommended by David Kellogg, which includes some lovely examples of conversations between mothers and young children - usually alongside the dailiness of getting on with what needs doing - and this made me realise how impossible it would be to transcribe a 'conversation' on xmca. One post can result in multiple simultaneous responses, each of which potentially takes the conversation in a different direction - or in none. Some of these responses may be cross-linked by traces from previous other posts so we end up with not so much a chain of linked but separate ideas as a tree of branching and spreading ones.

Hasan (http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Paper/JuneJuly05/HasanSemMediation.pdf ) writes about the way children are shaped by both visible and invisible pedagogies - by HOW others engage with them and respond to them as well as by WHAT others say - some children learning to expect others to be interested in what they think while others learn that they are expected to fit in and do and think as they are expected to do and think. And of course these differences are both socially productive and reproductive.

So what can participants in xmca learn about how we are expected to do things? Yes, we could have a set of protocols and rules - but which species would decide what those should be? Better, I suspect, to accept the diversity of cultures while recognising that we all have a responsibility to do our best to make sure we don't trample on anyone in the hurly burly.

I think there is something here about a dialectic between the critical component of contributions and their ethical component - between the second signal system, conceptual, co-generalized WHAT and the respect, trust and social sensitivity in HOW we engage with each other and I do think this is particularly challenging when we can't quite be sure what it is that other participants are up to.

I like the liveliness and I value the opportunity to stumble across bits of long-running conversations but I hope I can do something to make what we are doing here feel more inclusive - it is particularly hard to know when you have trodden on someone's toe or caused offence when there is so little real time feedback- and I am completely with Annalisa when she pointed out that it isn't the victims of a car crash who should be expected to take responsibility for making sure lessons are learned.

Too long- sorry!

Rod




-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Christopher Schuck
Sent: 05 November 2016 19:18
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: What are we doing here?

Sure, Dana - thanks for asking. It's not detailed or especially revelatory; just a simple heuristic accounting for some of the complaints that seem to have come up either directly or indirectly, and one possible starting point in the event that some new convention or unofficial policy is ever attempted. Why don't I just include it below for simplicity's sake. Perhaps it's still relevant to Rod's question "What are we doing here?" in speaking the opposite question, "Whatever else we might be doing here, what *don't * we want to be doing here?" By the way, I realize now that the second long paragraph of my prior post devoted to time frames, in media res, etc. was actually intended for one of the other threads discussing that theme, but had trouble locating that one and then forgot to separate it. Sorry if it seemed out of place here.

I wasn't aware of the Voicemail application - that sounds interesting. It was actually Greg who mentioned the phone and prosody, but it's fitting you bring it up because I had also considered sharing anecdotally (re. diverse cognitive and discursive style) that personally, I have always hated the phone and feel way more connected to people when writing or face to face.
For me, that middle ground of phone or Skype just ends up being the worst of both worlds: less organic than pure verbal *or *pure embodied interaction. But that's just me.

Anyway, here's what I wrote before, for what it's worth:

"As part of any effort to make discussions more inclusive, it might be worth specifying the kinds of problematic dynamics being targeted. For instance, off the top of my head I can think of seven ways, broadly speaking, that people might end up feeling marginalized or shut out of
conversations:

1) Someone makes a thoughtful or relevant comment that invites some kind of further response, and is roundly ignored.

2) Someone makes a comment and is responded to on a very abstract or theoretical level incongruent with the spirit in which the comment was made (including reference to concrete lived experience).

3) Someone makes a comment and is responded to concretely and directly, but with a certain degree of insensitivity or unequal power dynamic (conscious or not).

4) Someone is responded to with overt hostility, intimidation, passive-aggressiveness and/or deliberate insensitivity.

5) Someone finds it especially difficult to enter or make any initial post, due to lots of "inside" conversation or a competitive sink-or-swim environment that makes it feel unpalatable or unsafe to participate.

6) Someone comes to a conversation to find they're already hopelessly behind (e.g. 30 posts from missing a couple days), and finds it difficult to catch up or contribute anything they might still have to offer, because the thread is geared only toward those who have been there from the very beginning (and no one is willing to cut them some slack or help fill in missing context)

7) A newcomer who has never participated before would like to join one of the ongoing conversations, but has absolutely no idea what the prevailing customs are and what is appropriate, or what level of erudition and background familiarity is assumed for which fields, and as a result feels like they have nothing to hang their hat on."

Chris

On Sat, Nov 5, 2016 at 1:37 PM, Walker, Dana <Dana.Walker@unco.edu> wrote:

> Chris,
>
> I enjoyed reading your post, and would like to read the email you did
> not send, if you were willing to share it (or you could send it
> directly to me dana.walker@unco.edu), since the question of how
> marginalization is accomplished discursively interests me.
>
> Regarding your closing thoughts about face to face versus written
> communication: I think there are probably a variety of formats for non
> f2f communication that could afford a less narrow range of interaction
> than does this the email listserve.  You mentioned the phone and
> prosody: The application Voicemail does this as well. You can directly
> record either an audio or video post and include a artefactual “third
> thing,” such as photo or a slide. Participants can see/hear and
> respond to each other at either a fast or slow pace, since the
> voicethread remains in place until it is removed. It is free up to 5 voicethreads per person.
>
> Dana
>
> On 11/4/16, 7:13 PM, "xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu on behalf of
> Christopher Schuck" <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu on behalf of
> schuckthemonkey@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>     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
>     > http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
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