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um, ah: a short filler story about maps and territories

One of my coauthors described his participation in a psychology experiment where he was supposed to navigate a maze of some kind. But, as with most psychology experiments, the question wasn't whether he would make it through the maze, but something else. Namely, the experimenter wanted to see how many times, as well as, presumably, when, and where, the research subject said "um" and "ah" when tracing through the maze. The only problem was that my coauthor was very slow and deliberate in his tracing, so he never said "um" or "ah" and had to be ruled out from the dataset as an "outlier."

It occurs to me that "um" and "ah" ("filler" words in linguistics terms) might be usable examples of phatics, a bit similar to the example of applause that we talked about recently. I suspect that - outliers like my colleague notwithstanding - some interesting psycholinguistics work has been done to describe the functio…
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"from words to worlds"

This short historical anecdote -- from an introduction to the Open Dialogue approach to psychotherapy, seems relevant to our interests here: Developmental psychologists Lev Vygotsky and Colwyn Trevarthen describe a process by which the caregiver and baby enter a dialogue straight after birth. Communicating through verbalizations, facial expressions, movements, and mutual attention to the world of objects, they begin to influence each other’s emotional states and behaviours.  There is a gradual maturation of this dialogue, from the use of objects, to signs, and then to language. The mother’s voice is gradually internalized by the child, forming an inner speech through which it regulates its own emotions and behaviour.  Throughout this process, words become building blocks for complex, higher mental functions. From words come our thoughts.  The words that form our thoughts are not static symbols. For Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, words carry only fragments of meaning, with a mor…

one of god's own prototypes

There he goes, one of God’s own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die. - Hunter S. Thompson, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Now this, from "Experiments on the role of deleterious mutations as stepping stones in adaptive evolution" (PNAS, 2013):
Provided that a deleterious mutation is not lethal, the genome carrying it has some expected “half life” and a corresponding chance of reproducing one or more times before going extinct. Occasionally, the mutant subpopulation might acquire a second, hypercompensatory mutation that provides a net advantage. Although such mutations are expected to be rare, new detrimental mutations are constantly generated, thus providing a multitude of potential stepping stones. If the second mutation would also have been deleterious had it appeared without the preceding mutation, then the beneficial combination is said to have a “sign-epistatic” interaction —…

zizek: (phatic) violence -- review

There is a lot of recycled material in this book and a lot that is off the point altogether. So a typical Zizek book. The one idea I found interesting is his explanation of street protests that turn violent, as well as the kind of thing that went on in Paris in 2005, as 'phatic' violence. That is to say, it serves the sole purpose of saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. But Zizek doesn't take it far enough because in fact the phatic requires two interlocutors and its purpose is to keep open the lines of communication. So the obvious point he missed is that the police response is also phatic. By brutalising the protestors, they too are saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. Moreover, if this in fact the case, then this type of protest action will not bring change because it is a routine exchange. -- from a three-star review of Violence, 2009 This is (perhaps) similar to what's going on in Netherlands recently.
Brainstor…

badgers, boundaries, and regicide

Bullock, S, 2016, ‘"Shit Happens": The Spontaneous Self-Organisation of Communal Boundary Latrines via Stigmergy in a Null Model of the European Badger, Meles meles’. in: Tom Froese (eds) Artificial Life XV: Proceedings of The Fifteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems. MIT Press This reminds me of a display I saw in the Archaeology museum in Dublin when I first arrived in the British Isles in 2010. The old Irish fiefdoms would often have burial sites at their boundaries, and especially at their corners. In particular, corners where several of these territories met each other would often be places where executions, and, according to the theory, ritual regicides, might be staged.
Badgers are incredibly clean and will not defecate in their sett – they have special latrines (communal toilets) comprising of shallow pits placed away from the setts on the edge of their territory. They will not bring food into the sett either. "The k…

paths in the grass: a visual metaphor for virtual architecture

This image from my PhD thesis uses a minimal stereotyped image of a college campus as a visual metaphor to describe a space of emergent learning.  This idea is expanded upon in the "Patterns of Peeragogy" paper, which uses a similar metaphor: This image is of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I've been several times.  It still looks somewhat similar to the picture, though a bit more built up!
The concept here is that the common-place architectural structures that have emerged at the university represent meaningful "patterns" that apply in more general learning-and-production settings. Collegial and convivial peer support via remote collaboration or short-term meet-ups may fill some of the requirements of “student life”. Peeragogy can also happen in neighborhoods, and among persons sharing long-term co-habitation. While a traditional Dormitory may not be necessary, a shared rented or cooperatively-owned living/working environment could be an asset for …

History of communion (Discourse on Inequality) (pt. 1)

"Il retourne chez ses Egaux" (pt. 1) In a recent post here I mentioned that I need to read Rousseau's Discourse upon the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality among Mankind (1755[1761]) sooner rather than later. Since I've been handing out lately with a young lady who studied French at some point, I took this up sooner than I anticipated. I regularly abstain from reading translations but consider this one's age and availability (particularly during the 19th Century) a personal justification.The thing is, I'm not sure if I can make reading it a jeesusjalutasallveelaeval post since my recent readings have taken a looser form. I've become somewhat disillusioned with my habitual style of blogging. Blockquotes and comments don't do my memory and comprehension as many favours as I would like them to. Presently, I see little point in lining up quotes by themselves. Instead, I'd go over some verbiage from the book here, essentially listing the stuff I…