Re: the role of externalization

From: Etienne Pelaprat (
Date: Sat Jun 05 2004 - 20:27:26 PDT

This discussion of gestures, externailzation and mediation brings up
another thought. Oftentimes, I discover myself rubbing my chin, shuffling
my feet, or boucning my knee, and not randomly, but often quite
rhythmically. cyclically, and predictively. In other words, I often
discover myself fidgetting.

I think this example of fidgetting touches upon something which has not
been articulated as yet in this young discussion of extenernalization and
gesture. The first is that fidgets are often not explicit to the one
performing the fidget. Usually, someone points it out to you and asks you
to stop because it is annoying them. I fidget, but I also find that
people fidgeting is _indeed_ annoying, and so I point it out to them.
Interestingly, then, fidgeting seems to be a very individual or personal
action, albeit one that seems at some level divorced from the individual
since they are not aware of it.

The second observation about fidgetting is that they _appear_ quite
useless and non-functional. Though I often feel quite calm when
fidgetting, people tell me to stop fidgetting and to stop being such a
nervous wreck, as if boucning my knee up and down a lot articulates some
sort of stress. In any case, it is unclear what their functions are given
the activity at hand. That said, I'd like to propose (as many others
have) that actions like fidgetting, especially because of their cyclically
and rhythmic nature function to maintain some sort of balance, or
homeostasis. Perhaps boucning my knee up and down -- as body in
interaction with environments -- provides some mediation to my brain as
something like "steady background noise" that we often find comforting. I
am thinking here of the sometimes soothing pleasures of very low frequency
tones, such as ocean waves crashing, which are also predictably cyclical.

This discussion of fidgetting relates to externalization in the following
way: what sort of mediation does such fidgetting, as perhaps "unaware
gesturing," provide? Do they establish baseline mediation with the
environment in situations where mediation is lacking. For example, I
notice that I often fidget when reading a difficult text, writing a
difficult paper or, generally and crudely speaking, am "thinking hard" and
internally. Are such motions, then, invitations to mediation of a
particular kind; are they a kind of gruonding for thinking when a
grounding feels remote, difficult, or not easily apparent? Does such
mediation provide a kind of elemtary catalyst for perhaps different,
marginal or rare types of mediation with the environment? In what way,
then, could the described as gestures, and to what extent could we explain
what functions they serve in externalization (I am thinking here of
_coordination_ of body, mind and environment)?


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