Re: [xmca] Experience: material, ideal, real, imagined

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sun Mar 05 2006 - 16:07:40 PST

I hope others will continue to chime in with their observations and
I also agree that Peter's crack about Bush is relevant. The other day a
speaker at our department noted how Reagan used to, visibly, confuse
he was in with the new role he was playing as president and Bush sometimes
gives me the same impression (his slightly bowlegged swagger when they
let him out of the corral with jeans on being informal).

My own take on mediational theories of mind is that there can be no sharp
distinction between what we call reality and what we call fantasy. For the
paper I have written where this is taken up (if you are interested) see the
paper by Cole and Levitin on the web page.

I am posing the question because of the need to teach some about new massive
multi-user games and various cyber environments where, for reasons that
may implicate your computer screen comments, Andy, the borderlands are
particularly foggy and seemingly extensive.

This has also brought me to the topic of imaginary companions and transition
objects, the latter of which Mary has been trying to bring to our attention.
I am finding is that while there is a tone of academic work on the topic
with respect to kids becoming "more realistic" (to speak crudely) there is
too little
about the way in which adult experience is infused with the imaginary.
Hence, my query to all of you.

On 3/5/06, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
> A couple of decades ago, my job was managing a building automation system,
> a set of interconnected computers which turned building equipment on and off
> and reported back room temperatures etc. It was a matter of some concern to
> me at the time that people had real difficulty understanding the differences
> between the temperature (EG) they saw on the screen, the temp the system had
> in its memory, the reading on the physical gauge and the actual temperature,
> etc., etc. People tended to accept what they saw on the screen as absolute
> truth and get very upset when it turned out to be untrue.
> This experience led me to observe that the whole computer screen business,
> whereby software invisibly intervenes between user action, reality if any
> and screen image, was enormously confusing for people (all of us) who don't
> understand what is going on 'behind the screen'. I think Peter's crack about
> the Bush administration is not far wide of the mark. No-one knows or
> understands what lies between the news-readers audio on their TV and
> objective reality. If you're not aware of that immense chain of human
> interaction that produces a story with only the remotest connection to
> anything that actually happened in the material world outside, how can you
> have a realistic and critical attitude to the news?
> I'm sorry I can't give you references to academic studies of this Mike; I
> know there is a lot of stuff about games which goes on, ...
> Andy
> At 05:02 PM 4/03/2006 -0800, you wrote:
> The following quote from Dewey speaks to issues that have been ongoing on
> XMCA and also provide context for a question I am hoping for some help on
> (having been so successful with
> my question about references on narrative!). In particular, it concerns
> the
> conclusion that experience is a hybrid of what is termed here the physical
> and the mental. This snippet is provided courtesy of Matt Brown, a member
> of
> our seminar on mediational theories of mind.
> Here's a little tidbit from Dewey that I think is interesting for several
> reasons: it answers the question from earlier about whether Dewey is
> concerned with the social, it provides a sort of summary statement of
> central Deweyan theses, and it is exceptionally clear (for Dewey). From
> Chapter 11 of *Art as Experience*:
> Experience is a matter of the interaction of organism with its
> environment,
> an environment that is human as well as physical, that includes the
> materials of tradition and institutions as well as local surroundings. The
> organism brings with it through its own structure, native and acquired,
> forces that play a part in the interaction. The self acts as well as
> undergoes, and its undergoings are not impressions stamped upon an inert
> wax
> but depend upon the way the organism reacts and responds. There is no
> experience in which the human contribution is not a factor in determining
> what actually happens. The organism is a force, not a transparency.
> Because every experience is constituted by interaction between subject and
> object, between a self and its world, it is not itself either merely
> physical nor merely mental, no matter how much one factor or the other
> predominates... In an experience, things and events belonging to the
> world,
> physical and social, are transformed through the human context they enter,
> while the live creature is changed and developed through its intercourse
> with things previously external to it.
> Here is my question, related to this characterization of experience:
> In various situations (in particular, I am thinking of various massive
> multi-user games and related cyber-interactional meeting places)
> it appears that people can, perhaps cannot help at times, confusing what
> we
> would normally refer to as "fantasy" and "reality."
> There is an extensive literature on the development of this distinction in
> children's development, but I am seeking research on the
> distinction's presumed presence or absence among adults.
> Any and all help appreciated
> mike
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