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RE: [xmca] Deb Roy: The birth of a word

Hi Lauren,
Just a few words on your really interesting post.
The first is that the audience for a TED presentation I believe is intended to be much larger that the audience in the room.  I think in many ways they are just a prop.  TED videos are meant to be disseminated videos and to be highly accessible I believe in order to inspire discussion.  I know of a couple of TED groups completely separate from the actual organization that have sprung up where people meet to watch videos and discuss them for the evening.  In many ways it is perhaps a herald for a new way of communicating information that goes beyond the idea of specific audience.
The second is that when I have after watching a video and read the presenter's more academic work it has to this point been a complete reflection of what they say in their presentation.  This is actually true of non-academic presentations as well, of which there are many - that is when I have gone for instance to explore somebody who was presenting about actors - here is absolutely the most amazing TED video I have ever seen and it has nothing to do with academic ideas - Patsy Rodenber, "What I do Theater" 
I warn you at the end your throat will be in your stomach.  But the point being I was so taken by the video that I did some research on Patsy (I feel after seeing the presentation I can be on a first name basis) and the way she teaches acting and runs her theater is very much reflected in the TED presentation.
Third, if Roy is simply saying look at this technology and think about the implications it can have (which after looking at one of his articles I don't think he was doing) he was making a rather profound statement.  He is saying that technology is something that acts more or less as our junior partners and by using it that is can help us understand the world.  I think its rather late in the game to make these types of presentations, but also it is something very different from saying technology is an extension of ourselves and we should start trying to understand it in that way.  An addendum to McCluhan's famous dictum, "The media is the message" might be "The technology is the activity."
Anyway, enough for now. Must get back to basketball.  Don't know much about linguistics but I'll be interested to see how this all turns out on the list.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Lauren Zentz
Sent: Sat 3/19/2011 1:26 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Deb Roy: The birth of a word

With all due respect to all the brilliant minds on this list and in this
discussion, I have been following along here and there since this
conversation started and wondering the entire time exactly what research and
knowledge implications we should be worried about based on a 20 minute TED
Talk.  It seems that for us as researchers it is very important to know what
Roy is doing with language acquisition and development research, and who
will be buying which ideas that he puts forth; but I feel like the intended
message of his talk, which was given to a *very* broad, and generally
non-linguist, non-cognitivist, and non-social scientist audience, was
basically to demonstrate how amazing are the technological tools he is using
to do this research, and to generally inspire a larger population of
listeners regarding how complex and precious is the nature of human
(language) development.
I wonder if maybe, if we want to discuss the implications of his research,
those of us interested could take a look at the actual publications he has
written, where he has published them, and what audiences read them:

Lauren Zentz
Doctoral Candidate, Language, Reading and Culture
College of Education, University of Arizona

On Sat, Mar 19, 2011 at 9:48 AM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> I wonder if criticisms of the sort voiced in this company might not
> influence the subsequent course of inquiry. There are a bunch of critical
> comments below the Roy
> presentation that could benefit from this discussion.
> mike
> On Sat, Mar 19, 2011 at 9:14 AM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
> >
> > On Mar 16, 2011, at 9:16 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
> >
> > > I am not entirely sure I agree with Martin's and Jim's criticisms.
> First
> > of all, when I read Halliday's work on early language acquisition, it
> seems
> > MORE objective than Deb Roy's "space time worms". Halliday is looking at
> > grammar and especially at function. But I am really not sure at all what
> Deb
> > Roy is looking at. I can't even understand, when I am looking at the
> worms,
> > what is space and what is time, but above all I can't understand how it
> > helps him organize his transcriptions. (I can see how it makes for a cool
> > presentation, though!)
> >
> > Like Jim, I'd like to clarify my previous message. I didn't mean to sound
> > as though I were rejecting any use of technology for this kind of
> research.
> > Obviously videorecording and other techniques of objectification are
> crucial
> > for the study of a phenomenon as fleeting as speech. But any
> investigation
> > of children's acquisition of language has to make use of the intuitions
> of
> > speakers of that language. One needs to be able to recognize the legal
> > combinations of phonemes, and syllables, and the illegal combinations, in
> > order to plot the movement from one to the other. One needs to recognize
> a
> > word, and approximations to it, and what it signifies in a specific
> occasion
> > of use. The utility of computers, then, to help conduct an analysis of a
> > child's speech depends on ones ability to program them with the
> equivalent
> > of these intuitions. The degree of success with which we have been able
> to
> > program computers to recognize human speech is still very limited, and
> our
> > ability to program them to understand context has been even more limited.
> > Yet once one collects massive amounts of data, as Roy has done, the use
> of
> > computers becomes virtually unavoidable. My point about Halliday's
> research
> > was that he drew not only on his speaker/hearer's intuitions, he also
> drew
> > on what was available to him as a participant interacting intimately with
> > the child speaker. Roy of course had the same type of interactions, but
> > rather than build on these he chose instead the strategy of massive data
> > collection. There is, presumably as a consequence of, apparently no
> > attention to semantics in Roy's analysis - not that one would expect to
> find
> > the child showing an understanding of concepts, but knowing something of
> the
> > adults' interpretations of his words in context would surely be
> tremendously
> > helpful in understanding the acquisition process.
> >
> > I assume that the fact that in his presentation Roy could provide only
> > sound bites of the child's approximations to "water" indicates that his
> > system for automated analysis of the videos was not able to parse those
> > events. Was the computer able to judge these utterances to be tokens of a
> > single type? Or did humans still need to go through the recordings to
> make
> > such judgments? If the latter, then it seems to me that the accumulation
> of
> > massive amounts of data made the researchers' task more difficult, not
> > easier, and it is not clear to me what the benefit is of Roy's approach.
> >
> > Martin __________________________________________
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