Re: [xmca] LCA-- transparency

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Sat Jul 02 2005 - 16:30:43 PDT

This way Michael R. looks at "transparency" - the process of tools
becoming part of a person - brings out a deeper look at the dynamics
between the concrete and the abstract - picking up on Ed's suggestion
- that I find very helpful.

It helps show how tools mediate this fundamental human process of
rising from the abstract to the concrete, on one hand, and
discovering and creating new abstracts from the old concretes, on the other.

In the case of the blind man and the cane, or anyone using such a
tool to "feel" or "see," as the fit and function of the cane in the
hand becomes more integrated and more unified and more a part of the
conscious process of being and doing on the part of the tool-user -
as this relationship becomes more certain - the tool becomes
increasingly "transparent" to the user, to use Michael's term - it
becomes more concrete, as Ed points out.

As the effectiveness of the tool to explore that which it is probing
- what is not yet integrated and unified, what is not yet a part of
the conscious process of being and doing, what is not yet concrete -
the tool doing the probing becomes even more concrete to the tool
user in the process.

For example, in the case of a good pair of new eyeglasses, with
practice, they become less of a distraction to seeing and more of an
extension of one's vision.

As tools such as eyeglasses and canes become better extensions of our
senses, the effectiveness of these tools increases, and in the hands
of the tool-user, they become increasingly *concrete*.

In so doing, these probings and the things probed become increasingly
isolated, more specific, more segregated - and therefore, more
specific, detailed and *abstract*.

Just as the probing tools become more integrated and concrete, and
the things probed become more isolated and abstract, a simultaneous
process is set into motion - the continued probings provide
increasingly concrete answers to abstract questions, provide
increasingly cumulative certainty about what was previously
uncertain, and become increasingly a part of the integrated activity
of the being and doing of the prober.

As a consequence, the things being probed begin to rise from the
abstract to the concrete.

Humans are always creating new abstracts out of their old concretes,
and then, as quick as the blink of an eye or the tap of a cane, they
begin to make these new abstracts rise, through engaging with these
new abstracts with our eyeglasses and canes, to new relationships to
activity, to new certainties, to new levels of being and doing, to
new "transparencies" - to new concretes.

Like King Midas, where everything he touched turned to gold, humans
with much ado turn everything they touch semi-transparent - only to
reach for everything new they can now sense with their
ever-increasing field of vision.

- Steve Gabosch

At 01:52 PM 7/2/2005 -0700, Wolff-Michael wrote:
>The analogy of transparency brings out that something is being used
>but not attended to
>Heidegger writes:
>"Association geared to useful things which show themselves genuinely
>only in this association, that is, hammering with the hammer,
>neither *grasps* these being thematically as occurring things nor
>does it even know of using or the structure of useful things as such" (p.69)
>"The less we stare at the thing called hammer, the more actively we
>use it . . ." (p. 69)
>This is the same experience we have with eyeglasses. . . and I use
>this analogy to talk about tools that become part of the person. . .
>The term transparency is often used in the context of tools that do
>not draw attention to themselves
>I do note that the term is also used to denote processes that are
>easily understandable, because one can "look through" (durchschauen,
>German for understanding, durchschaubar, intelligible)
>On 2-Jul-05, at 11:54 AM, Ed Wall wrote:
>>This is not an answer to Mike's questions, but some questions and
>>comments of my own.
>> Questions re the word concrete. This comes, it seems, from the
>> Latin concretus which means roughly grown together and, perhaps,
>> carries the sense of adhering to practice (this is against
>> abstructus which means roughly drawing apart or alienation). [I am
>> not sure, by the way, what the Greek notion of concrete might be
>> as regards something like practice.] So my questions: Do people
>> mean something like this when they speak in English of concrete or
>> abstract (I am never sure)? Do words that correspond to 'concrete'
>> in Russian carry roughly the same connotations. How about abstract?
>> Comments: I am not sure about the idea of transparent as that
>> seems to connote looking (feeling, etc. ) through something. My
>> reading of Heidegger, especially Being and Time, is that this is
>> not what he is indicating. One doesn't look through the hammer to
>> the nail, the hammer is part of the hammering as is the floor on
>> which one stands, the lighting in the room, or the shirt on one's
>> back. Hammering done competently is, in a sense, concrete.
>> Something grown together with all the other. If the hammer head
>> falls off while hammering, then there is a drawing apart.
>> Abstraction, so to speak, occurs.
>> It isn't that the metaphor of transparent doesn't bring some
>> things into view (sorry, but I couldn't think of another way to
>> say it), but how about seeing around something or behind
>> something, through some opaque (or moderately opaque) something,
>> etc (Hubert Dreyfus and some others re Merleau-Ponty talk about this)?
>>Ed Wall
>>>If the journal is online, I will read with interest and if it is
>>>not, might you provide a pdf,
>>>I was starting from the cane and hammer examples, for which the
>>>glasses metaphor does
>>>not work well, at least for me.
>>>When the blind man picks up the cane, it is not transparent and
>>>the mind, in Bateson's rendering of the
>>>discussion, stops at the fingers and palm of the hand. But with
>>>habitual use, the "mind" or the "mind's eye"
>>>moves to the end of the stick, to the sidewalk at its tip, and
>>>then even further outward when walking on a
>>>habitual path.... I can find an electronic version of the example
>>>if it is not familiar. I would need to go to
>>>the library to get Heiddeger.
>>>What is it that makes the stick, as it were, become transparent,
>>>or the handle of the hammer? Or, in the
>>>case of the spike, that it is "seen through" to its source?
>>>On 7/2/05, Wolff-Michael Roth <<>> wrote:
>>>Hi Mike and others,
>>>I used the word "transparent" in analogy to glasses that I wear and
>>>that I do not notice. That is, in my practice, it is as if I was not
>>>wearing these glasses, I am looking right through, they are
>>>transparent. In the article where I develop this argument, I provide an
>>>example of a water technician who points to a spike on the graph and
>>>says, "This is a clogged pipe". Of course, what she is pointing to is
>>>not a clogged pipe, but an index pointing to the clogged pipe. In her
>>>practice, therefore, she looks right through the spike and sees the
>>>world, as if it was a pair of glasses allowing her to see the world.
>>>I compare this to the infamous painting "This is not a pipe" by Rene
>>>Magritte, and the analysis Foucault provided of it in "This is not a
>>>pipe". ([drawing of a pipe for smoking] captioned "Ceci n'est pas une
>>>I also describe how the signs become transparent, after being the
>>>object of inquiry initially, then become tools for analysis, and then
>>>disappear, seemingly. I use triangle notations to show the movement of
>>>the graphs (signs) in the process.
>>>Roth, W.-M. (2003). Competent workplace mathematics: How signs become
>>>transparent in use. International
>>>Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning, 8(3), 161-189.
>>>By the way, I started out trying to make a case for Ricardo
>>>Nemirovsky's concept of fusion, but didn't get anywhere . . .
>>>On 2-Jul-05, at 10:27 AM, Mike Cole wrote:
>>>> An extra long wait on the tarmac in New York heading home gave me
>>>> plenty of time to read the interesting articles
>>>> by Wells, Halliday, and Hasan in preparation for participating in the
>>>> discussion. But first I have started to read sequentially
>>>> through the messages and want to pick up on some earlier points.
>>>> A comnment from wolf-michael in the signs and tools discussion
>>>> touches on an issue of great interest to me. Transparency.
>>>> Here is the statement that set me off.
>>>> one more comment--if a tool such a cane or hammer is transparent in
>>>> use, then it is similar to my tongue or my arm or my leg, it is part
>>>> of
>>>> me and the world begins on the other end.
>>>> Question: what are the conditions that produce transparency? Is there
>>>> a consensual answer to this question?
>>>> mike
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