RE: abstract-not-situation or abstract AND situatied

From: White, Phillip (
Date: Fri May 06 2005 - 15:55:22 PDT

          ah, the great bb king in the sky!

          i appreciated this explication - the soothing rythmn of working class blues -

          cool borges quote at the end!


-----Original Message-----
From: bb []
Sent: Fri 5/6/2005 3:28 PM
Subject: abstract-not-situation or abstract AND situatied
Authur quoted:
"Situated theories of cognition emerged in part as a reaction to fundamental assumptions regarding knowing and learning in mainstream cognitive theory. The notions of abstraction and decontextualization have been particularly problematic for situated theorists, and as a result are often rejected from situated analyses. Rather than dismissing abstraction, a few researchers have begun to reformulate abstraction so that it is compatible with situated theories."

And I wonder how it is that one cannot be both situated and abstracted simultaneously, since indeed, physicists (I used to be one) engage in a practice that is highly situated, while their work is -- to others -- highly abstracted. My conjectures are that:

1a) a red herring lay in part by seeking abstraction as occuring only in-the-head,

1) the red herring also lay in part by construing "situated" as only meaning "here-and-now",

2) when abstraction emerges from difference and heterogeneity in social practice,

3) which includes the particular/unique forms that the mediational artifacts take in the target social practice,

4) and includes the particular/unique semiotic processes of that practice,

5) both of which are built up over long time scales.

The mediational elements and processes in "abstract thinking" are built up through many generations of others participating/creating/communicating in that practice (I'm holding in mind my own participation in Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy). Consequently, what one has "in mind", i.e. what is situated, actually spans many here-and-now episodes. In my past practice, these included Michelson's development of the interferometer, John Strong's creation of the front-surfaced mirror, Herberg's reformulaton of the relations between atomic and molecular structure and spectral emisions (which builds upon Bohr, Heisenberg, Rydberg, Oppenhimer, etc.), and many others.

Yeah, like try to make sense of what they did without being a physicist! But it all makes sense to me, I was there, and still am.



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