Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media

I just remembered the title of this book by danah boyd and co-authors.  Here's some summary information.  Possibly good source of data.
Social network sites, online games, video-sharing sites, and gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones are now fixtures of youth culture. They have so permeated young lives that it is hard to believe that less than a decade ago these technologies barely existed. Today’s youth may be coming of age and struggling for autonomy and identity as did their predecessors, but they are doing so amid new worlds for communication, friendship, play, and self-expression. - abstract of report
Conventional wisdom about young people's use of digital technology often equates generational identity with technology identity: today's teens seem constantly plugged in to video games, social networking sites, and text messaging. Yet there is little actual research that investigates the intricate dynamics of youths' social and recreational use of digital media. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out fills this gap, reporting on an ambitious three-year ethnographic investigation into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings -- at home, in after-school programs, and in online spaces. Integrating twenty-three case studies -- which include Harry Potter podcasting, video-game playing, music sharing, and online romantic breakups -- in a unique collaborative authorship style, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out is distinctive for its combination of in-depth description of specific group dynamics with conceptual analysis. - book summary
As a collaborative author myself I'm interested in what they say about the "unique collaborative authorship style" -- what kinds of phatic behaviors did the authors use when working on this paper? We could at some point attempt a round-up of phaticity in other recent collaborations, for example this research collaboration being developed at Stanford.

Monday, October 26, 2015

comments on Informational Ontology: The Meaning of Gilbert Simondon’s Concept of Individuation (2013)

Photo of a Romanesco from the journal where the paper is published

I've been looking around at some of the secondary sources on Simondon.  This paper, by Andrew Iliadis, seems like a reasonable short summary of things that could be relevant for our work here.  The main idea is a contrast between Simondon's notion of information as that which gives rise to form -- information "as" reality in other words -- and the simplified perspective from e.g. Shannon where the problem is how to move a "message" from one point to another, leaving aside how that message will be interpreted once it arrives.  Shannon said:
Frequently the messages have meaning; that is they refer to or are correlated according to some system with certain physical or conceptual entities.  These semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem.
In contrast to this, Simondon deals with issues of morpho-genesis.  It seems to me that in this way of looking at things any fixed idea of semantics would (still) play second fiddle, since what is normally referred to as meaning would just be aggregate or derivative properties of form.  For example, a hill with a certain slope might be referred to as "steep".

Simondon did a lot of work using the term "technics", which could be a useful view on the third-term It that "mediates" the I-Thou relation.   Actually, Simondon's view is that communication is a mutual adjustment of different entities (similar to G. H. Mead); I'm not sure if "techics" per se are always involved in this adjustment or if that can happen in other ways.  Here's an extended quote from Iliadis:
Simondon offers us a new methodology from which to conduct inquiries related to communication as an empirical endeavor. An individuative methodology would seek to proceed by articulating instances of the modulation of communicative processes themselves, rather than in the simple “transmission” of meaning or data between pre-given, already individuated entities. For example, whether we are talking about empirical evidence in doctor-patient health communication or the analysis of vast quantities of data in social network analysis, an individuative methodology would seek to measure, uncover or understand those communicative structures that modulate in the act of communication and that perpetuate by virtue of an individuative flexibility. What variable characteristics of the formal “consultation” setting are responsible for trends that develop in interpersonal communication? How do reflective properties inherent in the visibility of a wiki edit history potentially alter future edits? These are the structural qualities of modulation that an individuative methodology would seek to uncover.
That certainly sounds familiar, and we might label some of the modulating activities or operations as phatic.  The same scenarios -- the consulting room, the social network, the wiki -- seem likely to arise as case studies of phatics we have or will encounter in a literature search on phatics.  Our discussion of the various "phatic functions" might give some initial idea of the "structural qualities" of the modulations discussed above.

It seems worth considering the idea of normal everyday communication as being within the technical realm, but one would have to dig further into Simondon's work to know whether he thought of it that way.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

An example worth emulating

The only thing I really got done this week was a throwaway project of translating the abstracts of newest psychology articles into Estonian. I'm not exactly sure why I undertook doing it, perhaps to improve my academic Estonian, perhaps to find out what contemporary social psychology is dealing with. In any case I found one article whose example I consider worth emulating:

Carter, Dorothy R.; Leslie A. DeChurch; Michael T. Braun and Noshir S. Contractor 2015. Social Network Approaches to Leadership: An Integrative Conceptual Review. Journal of Applied Psychology 100(3): 597-622.
Contemporary definitions of leadership advance a view of the phenomenon as relational, situated in specific social contexts, involving patterned emergent processes, and encompassing both formal and informal influence. Paralleling these views is a growing interest in leveraging social network approaches to study leadership. Social network approaches provide a set of theories and methods with which to articulate and investigate, with greater precision and rigor, the wide variety of relational perspectives implied by contemporary leadership theories. Our goal is to advance this domain through an integrative conceptual review. We begin by answering the question of why-Why adopt a network approach to study leadership? Then, we offer a framework for organizing prior research. Our review reveals 3 areas of research, which we term: (a) leadership in networks, (b) leadership as networks, and (c) leadership in and as networks. By clarifying the conceptual underpinnings, key findings, and themes within each area, this review serves as a foundation for future inquiry that capitalizes on, and programmatically builds upon, the insights of prior work. Our final contribution is to advance an agenda for future research that harnesses the confluent ideas at the intersection of leadership in and as networks. Leadership in and as networks represents a paradigm shift in leadership research-from an emphasis on the static traits and behaviors of formal leaders whose actions are contingent upon situational constraints, toward an emphasis on the complex and patterned relational processes that interact with the embedding social context to jointly constitute leadership emergence and effectiveness.
I believe this is worth emulating because it covers much of what we need to do with phatic studies: an integrative conceptual review. We need to review contemporary definitions of phatics, and advance a view of the phenomenon as relational, situated in specific social contexts, involving patterned emergent processes, encompassing both formal and informal types of phatic communion. There is also a growing interest in leveraging social network approaches to study phatic communion (i.e. phatic technologies and phatic media culture, which study the embeddedness of phatic communion in contemporary technological society). The bulk of the core arguments is also not extraneous: it is not out of the question that an approach juxtaposing a view of phatic communion in networks (i.e. phatic communication) and phatic communion as networks (i.e. phatic labor) is possible. Likewise, there is a need for clarifying the conceptual underpinnings of phatic phenomena, the the key findings of phatic research, and the broader themes in phatic studies. I have yet to read the actual paper (I've been feeling under the weather and haven't been able to get anything worthwhile done), but skimming the article I found that it would indeed be a suitable way to approach phatics by creating a chronological table of various definitions.

Monday, October 19, 2015

the aesthetics of everyday life

Historically aesthetics has focussed on the philosophy of art, on the nature of beauty, and on the character of the experience of both. This tended to represent the aesthetic as somewhat rare and elevated above ordinary experience and practice. In recent decades the subject has broadened with attention being given to a wider diversity of art forms including conceptual art and land art, computer art, the cinema, and video arts. In addition there has been a growth of interest in environmental aesthetics. A more limited development has been the recognition of the ubiquity of the aesthetic within the fabric of everyday life as for example in work on the aesthetics of the built environment, of personal spaces, and on the aesthetic aspects of social life. Papers are invited that explore either the general idea of an aesthetics of everyday life, or particular topics within this general area. Of particular interest are papers relating the aesthetics of everyday life to issues in social relationships and public policy, for example in relation to clothing styles and fashion, public rituals and ceremonies, landscape design and gardening, urban planning, ambient sound, and graffiti. -- Call for papers at The Monist, advisory editor John Haldane
One more.  It's interesting to think about how many different topics phatics relates to.  On the one hand, it seems to connect with fundamental ideas about what it means for meaning to exist; on the other hand, the idea of a "phatic turn" is perhaps ethical or aesthetic in nature.

what is information?

There is a spectrum of different ways of understanding what information is. These range from quantitative analyses–which treat information in terms of uninterpreted patterns of data–to qualitative analyses, which treat information semantically, as a matter of meaningful structures. What is the relation between these different approaches? Are there invariants underlying the different uses of the term ‘information’ in disciplines such as computer science, economics, genetics, neuroscience, physics, and statistics? Is there some sort of logic, which transcends these different uses? How, for example, are we able to transform quantitative information deriving from meteorological sensors into the sorts of qualitative information that is useful for human decision-making? According to Shannon and Weaver, information refers to the degree of uncertainty present in a message. Does a view along these lines provide a viable starting point for a unified analysis of information, or must we look elsewhere? This issue of The Monist will take questions such as these as a basis for fostering new research in the philosophy of information. - call for papers at The Monist, advisory editor Luicano Floridi (due April 30, 2016)
In case we want to put the Monist in our sights again, this issue looks related to the idea of a "continuous information theory" that I've been blathering about from time to time.  I haven't yet done enough background research to say whether that's new, or how it relates to other field theories.

About Floridi -- here are some of his works:

Floridi, Luciano. The Philosophy of Information. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
—. The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
—. Information: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

And another shorter one that I looked through: 

Open Problems in the Philosophy of Information

Sunday, October 18, 2015

ruth c. cohn's dream of a pyramid

«After many months of an apparently futile search, I dreamt of an equilateral pyramid. After awaking, I interpreted the dream as follows: An equilateral pyramid has four basic angles. My group work is based on four elements.  They are interrelated, and my hypothesis is that they should be treated equally.»

“I”: A single individual, “We”: The group, “It”: The theme or assignment the group is concerned with, and “Globe”: The environment which the gathering takes place in — both the direct surroundings, weather, timing constraints, and the whole universe.


There is a similar breakdown due to Ken Wilber who writes about "I/We/Its/It" in

Wilber, K. (1997). An integral theory of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 4(1), 71–92.

and another related sequence "Socialization/Externalization/Combination/Internalization" due to Nonaka and Takeuchi, in

Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company: How Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

I used Wilber and Nonaka & Takeuchi material in a paper about how the different roles in education could be "deconstructed" and reorganized in a wiki-like way.  Each of these "roles" is a little semiotic object that is meant to hook together with other related objects.  A nice idea, in principle, but I think the weakness of this earlier work was that it remained "in principle".

In my thesis I extended I/We/Its/It with a fifth term, Context, similar to Cohn's Globe.  The point of this extension is that it doesn't sit well for it to remain "just" theoretical.  Things play out in real time at the contextual or global level.  This is related to what Rasmus was tentatively calling "transcommunication" in a recent note, though I suggested "epicommunication" or "episemiotics".


Often, groups steadily lean towards one of the four factors “I”, “We”, “It”, or “Globe”. This disturbs Living Learning.  In educational groups, for example, in general the “It” is emphasized, whereas those groups fall short of the other three factors. - Philipp Bachmann, Theme-Centered Interaction. Ruth C. Cohn’s pattern language for facilitating groups (PLoP 2015 conference version)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

aorist - definition and example

If we posit that our "phatic functions" are useful for telling stories, then it is worthwhile to note this little tidbit on greek grammar:
The aorist and the imperfect are the standard tenses for telling a story. The ordinary distinction between them is between an action considered as a single undivided event and the action as a continuous event. Thus, for example, a process as a whole can be described in the imperfect, while the individual steps in that process will be aorist. [...] The other chief narrative use of the aorist is to express events before the time of the story. -Wikipedia
[Cyrus] was playing in this village... in the road with others of his age. The boys while playing chose to be their king this one.... Then he assigned some of them to the building of houses, some to be his bodyguard, one doubtless to be the King's Eye; to another he gave the right of bringing him messages;.... [Here the imperfect ἔπαιζε "was playing" is the whole process of the game (which continues past these extracts); the aorists the individual steps.] Now when the boy was ten years old, the truth about him was revealed ( ἐξέφηνέ ) in some such way as this... -Herodotus (quoted at ibid.)
It seems that there is a function in the story that holds everything together, as one story.  This is similar to the sociopetal force that we discussed earlier on.  The French dudes often write about a "master-signifier" and maybe the "imperfect" function does something similar; defining a space in which the different terms of the story, the "aorist" elements, are able to relate to each other.  ("This ideological point de capiton or master-signifier is not some underlying unity but only the difference between elements, only what its various mentions have in common: the signifier itself as pure difference." - lacan.com)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Phatics and the Design of Community - notes

Found this four-page article from a well-known human-computer interaction conference (CHI) which is mentioned in a succinct student essay about phatic communication.  It talks about the non-dichotomous relationship between strong and weak ties, among other things.  It's interesting as an example of a proposed approach to studying phatics empirically.
Outcomes will be directed toward the general application of relational-cultural theory, to critique the interface design of sociable features in systems.
From googling around it seems the work is still developing.  The paper is mentioned in another CHI paper (the lead author is someone I've co-authored with a while ago as part of a multi-author meta collaboration, and cited recently in writing on serendipity).  The inclusion of phatics in this paper seems to be a bit of an aside, but they raise some interesting points:
We might say “Walking from airport, train is delayed, late for meeting,” but whether because of character limits, social convention, or an unwillingness to talk about emotion rarely add “I’m very busy, enjoying this work but starting to get stressed, and feel a bit under the weather.”
These things seem to offer a few simple ideas about the question: how should we study phatics?  The idea that we could do simple human-computer interaction experiments and get somewhere is worth considering (at some point).  In the mean time it is also interesting to think about how this "virtual" community of scholars works -- with different people citing each other and reading each others' papers, say five years after the fact, but not necessarily having direct conversations with each other.  (In a typical "meta" reflection, something we've talked about a while ago, I wonder if we could ping a bunch of the people who are studying phatics and invite them to collaborate, and what that would lead to.)

On another note: One thing I like about the student essay was that it mentions "negative phatics", which I rarely see mentioned, so that I sometimes have wondered if I made it up.
The purpose may be to prolong communication, to discontinue communication, to check whether the communication channel is operational, to attract attention, or to confirm continued attention.
- quoting from "Phatic Interactions: Feeling Aware and Being Connected".  So I guess it's a recognized "thing"!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

new shit has come to light

I'm in Thessaloniki and I've taken the opportunity to query one of my
Greek colleagues about the root words of "phatic". She takes it
beyond "tell" and "show" to "light". So the phenomenon is somehow a
"coming to light."

Proposal for a Phatic Glossary

A List of Keywords and List of Names would be two wonderful magical devices that could help us navigate into this area. (Joe)
This is a good idea. I've been considering doing something like it for my own blog for a while now because it's getting more and more difficult to navigate through all the clatter and clutter of phatic this and phatic that. My thought was to create a quasi-chronological listing of all sources that say something significant about phatics. I'm sure I'll get around to that when I've exhausted the materials I'm currently working on, but for our current paper I think a list of main terms could actually be useful.

Here's a preliminary list from the top of my head:
  • phatic communion (Malinowski)
  • phatic function (Jakobson)
  • phatic communication (La Barre)
  • phatic image (Virilio)
  • phatic text (Schandorf)
  • phatic negotiation (Coupland, Coupland & Robinson)
  • phatic interpretation (Žegarac & Clark)
  • phatic technology (Vetere et al., Wang et al.)
  • phatic labor (Elyachar)
  • phatic community construction (Blanco)
  • phatic culture (Miller)
This is by no means exhaustive list, but these come to mind first. The question now is: how deep should the list of keywords go, because almost all later authors invent a whose host of phatic sub-terminology, like phatic design, phatic technological habituation, etc. It can get pretty absurd, because phatic exchange and phatic talk are basically synonymous, just like various terms like phatic utterance and phatic statement Not to mention non-canonical terms like phatic act (Austin) and phasis (Wescott), which have been called out by a renowned scholars but whose interpretation of "phatic" almost no-one nowadays subscribes to.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Another outline draft

I couldn't think of a way of inserting my own thoughts into your structure without making it too clunky. I'll present my interpretations, and then we could probably proceed with what you suggested in your draft's comments: that we break each item into a different post. OR we could make a Google Document and attempt co-writing (not just drafting, but actually writing) the paper so that each item takes one page. If we can agree on the approximate content of each point, we can probably start hammering out a single page about each. A 8-page article is already an article. But we can go through several rounds of elaboration of this structure until we have a consensus about what we want to say. So here are my thougths:
  1. Characters in a comfort zone. In academic writing it's probably not that important to introduce ourselves, but we can definitely add a footnote about how we ended up entangled in phatics. (It would have to be pretty formal and concise.) That is, we need a footnote on our research and background.
    The real characters here are probably "phatics" (plural), that is, phatic communion, phatic function, and phatic communion (in chronological order: Malinowski, Jakobson, La Barre). These character-terms actually represent somewhat divergent lines of research (of which La Barre's line is least known and developed, stretching from him to Wescott and Austin). I have a whole argument (that can be fleshed out with meta-analysis of phatic studies) about how Malinowski-inspired phatic studies focus on "communion", "sociability" and "bonding" while Jakobson-inspired phatic studies focus on "speech", "utterance" and "contact" (compared to these, the third strain focuses only on the vocalization and emotional communization in phatic communion).
    Stoneking31 comments: "A dramatic character is only dramatic when confronted by a problem (or a problem disguised as an opportunity in comedy) that carries with urgency an increasing risk." - The problem with our characters, these terms, is that they tend to be un-examined (Coupland et al. meritoriously point out that the underlying assumptions of phatic communion are rarely touched upon), which leads to various simplifications ("talking for the sake of talking", or phatic as an "attention-getting device"). There is also a poignant risk that if no meta-level unifying effort is taken, "phatics" will continue to be a disintegrated collage of particularities with the overarching importance of it all remaining merely intuitive. Our task is then to ovecome simplification and particularization. This leads us to "need".
  2. We want something. We want to understand this perturbing concept, "phatic", and make it more understandable for further research. There is a need for generalization, outlining the main features of phatic phenomena, and illuminating their importance for not only face-to-face interaction, but also digital communication in modern society.
    The potential explanatory power of phatic studies stems from the fact that it can illuminate the connection between micro- and macrosocial interactions, including but not limited to, social networking, community construction, group formation, collaborative work, not to mention the role of phatic communion in everyday interactions and interpersonal relationships.
    That is, there is a need to alleviate the poor understanding of phatics in various quarters of academic research (where "phatic" is sometimes used in a pejorative sense, meaning non-communicative or meaningless speech), and consequently a need for updating the conceptual domain of phatic studies so that we could understand the role and functions of phatic communion in modern society. This is difficult because phatic studies are so diverse and dispersed that it does not present a single line of inquiry but a hodgepodge of branches in various fields.
  3. The field of phatic studies is currently unnavigable. The sheer amount of different forms of linguistic, sociological and anthropological research that operates with the concept of "phatic" is unfathomable. It is impossible for a researcher anchored in a single subject to breach it all. Phatic studies requires a transdisciplinary ethos in order to cover all the divergent interpretations and to contextualize the empirical findings of so disjointed investigations.
    The unfamiliar situation here consists in the difficult terrain of studies that are unified only by the term "phatic" and some intuitive assumptions about what is phatic. At every step you meet strange variations of phatic phenomena, and unexpected interpretations of what they are and why they matter. Not least of it is the somewhat cryptic etymological history of "phatic" and the ambiguous definition that Malinowski gave us, which has lead different researchers to focus on different aspects of the original conception (for example, going on Malinowski alone it is possible to emphasize greetings, small talk, gossip, sociability, affirmation, communion, fellowship, atmosphere, etc.).
    I'm not sure it would be wise to proceed with a list of keywords, because the sheer amount of phatic phenomena is inexaustible - I believe it is impossible to collect them all, nor is it really necessary in order to get to the heart of the matter. Rather, instead of focusing on the "distinctive features" of various interpretations, we should focus on the "unitive" aspects, i.e. the common features that make it possible to designate something as "phatic". These broadly include something like "meaninglessness" on the one hand and a "willingness to communicate" on the other.
    At this point we're still in the "conscious" pole of the story. Things are still "well-lit and regularly swept" - we're dealing with stuff that still makes intuitive sense. In the introductory part of the paper (which these first 3 points seem to consist of) introduces the problem, why it matters, and what can be done about it. Or, in other words, we are dealing with phatic studies, we feel that there is a need for a unifying effort, and recognize that the diversity of phatic studies presents an unfamiliar situation into which we must enter.
  4. We are faced with phatic eclecticism. Although there have been efforts to make "phatic communion" more concrete by specifying it's place in the communication model (Jakobson's "function set on contact"), this has actually exacerbated the problem, since now the definition of "phatic" shifts from speech to communication, and consequently everything that can be understood from the standpoint of communication can also be said to have a phatic component.
    Thus we find the "phatic image" and the "phatic fountain", that is, we find phatic studies now dealing with the extremes of holding and maintaining attention all the while being inherently pointless. Left to its own devices, the phatic function becomes dysfunctional, and even more pejorative than before (cf. "the phatic man" poem).
    But at the same time we find that there are those who elaborate the functions of phatic communion, such as John Laver, and broaden its horizons in a positive, productive way. For example, it turns out that phatic studies can illuminate how communication and human relationships are interdependent, and how relationships depend on phatic communion in order to begin and develop. We find operational definitions of what a relationship even is.
  5. We find that the concept of "phatic", despite all its problems, is still useful. Despite the great variety of phatic studies they do seem to have something in common: the emphasis on communication itself. Just like after a row with your spouse and three days of not speaking to each other, you say something, anything, and re-discover the pleasure of communicating, of affirming each other in the very act of communicating, even if the semantic content of said communication is irrelevant.
    We find that man is a phatic animal, a social being, who has a need for communication even for the sake of communication. We find, in La Barre, for example, that our ability to make and maintain contact with others is important for not only our happiness but for our survival. The heavy implications of phatic communication become apparent: that in our modern world we are increasingly more and more in informative communication with endless sources, but have trouble maintaining relationships, of holding on to the human component of information, the source.
    This is where we attempt to comprehend the true extent of phatic communion and its necessity for the individual, for families and groups, for social integration and cultural cohesion, for the continued existence of the species in general. The "phatic man" on the train does not shut up because "The worst illness that a human being can know is not to know that he belongs" (La Barre 1954: 244-246). We, as a species, ache to belong.
  6. Once we acknowledge the immense role of phatic communion, we are faced with the difficult question of how to study it. It is not enough to understand what it is and why it is important. As scientists we should be able to know how to study it. But what methodology could possibly approach such a broad subject? The field is far too wide, far too inclusive, for a single interpretation and single approach. The inevitable conclusion is that at best what we can do is point the way.
    At this point is seems inevitable that that is indeed all we can do - list the most common terms, show how they are related with each other, outline the lines of research that seem most promising, and hope for the best that someone else working on something phatic will stumble on this article and understand the breath of the undertaking, and come away from the shell shock of possible variations with mind set on something concrete that might advance all of our knowledge.
  7. We exit the chaos of phatic studies and perhaps introduce something new. Meltzer & Musolf (2003: 142) point out that various conceptions about the nature of phaticity are divisible into three types: consensually-accepted (what I call these "intuitive" after Žegarac & Clark (1999)); debated characteristics (i.e. the eclectic interpretations); and derivative concepts, which in my mind includes the sociopetal and sociofugal phatic disposition interpretation.
    In this sense we "bring it home" by being "rescued from without" - by researchers like Morris, Ruesch, Sommer and Bateson, who in effect worked on phatic issues without calling it such. At this stage we have returned to the orderly "conscious" pole and discovered that the eclectic stuff we have downstairs in the eclectic unconsciousness of phatic studies actually makes sense in light of semiotics and communication theory.
  8. In the end we have not only looked into phatic studies and attempted to understand it but have changed it. By going over such a variety of phatic studies we should now be able to reformulate the phatic function. Out of eclecticism should arise an all-inclusive, broad-minded, generalized definition of phatic. Actually, I did not use the word "eclectic" in the correct sense above. What I meant was that the current picture of phatic studies is disparate (various lines of research are so unlike that there is little to no basis for comparison). The end result should be an eclectic definition in the sense of "selecting what seems best of various styles or ideas".
    From a story-telling perspective, the conclusion should enable us to say something definitive on the subject because we've done the legwork - we've gone through the trouble of reading through all those papers, taken note of the similarities and differences between various phatic terms, etc. - and consquently have a better and broader understanding of phatic studies than anyone else at this point in time. That is our licence.
And now, in pairs:
  • We are (1) dealing with phatic communion, phatic function, and phatic communication, these disparate terms with different lines of development with only slight convergence; and we will ultimately (8) produce a unified view of phatic studies which no longer subscribes for a particularized version of "phatic communion" but takes a broader, inclusive stance.
  • We want to understand (2) the concept to the fullest, to outline its main features and to update it for modern forms of communication ; and contend with the difficulties (6) related with the scientific study.
  • The current terrain of phatic studies offers numerous resistances (3) such as the sheer number of different viewpoints and definitions but we nevertheless take it up; and find that there is something we can contribute (7) that is still new to the field.
  • And although there is a great diversity (4) in various phatic studies brought about by its colourful history; by going through it thoroughly, we are able to conclude with a generalization (8) about phatic studies.
This was very rambling (you can see how it wouldn't have fit your structure, which is much too clear), but I believe that if you do one again and then I do one again, we should have our plans synchronized enough to proceed with writing. If not, then rinse and repeat. The details of Harmon's structure are still not all too clear for me - that's why I think it will take a couple of rounds before we get it right. Practice makes perfect and all that.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

viva la rick sanchez revolución

As to the assertion by Daniel Chandler that «The phatic function excludes as well as includes certain readers. Those who share the code are members of the same 'interpretive community'», I'm not so sure.  Isn't there also a case to be made for a phatic side to activities like de-coding, de-territorializing, rationalization (and the corresponding re-coding etc.)?  In short I think this is another case of a scholar seeing only one side to phatics.

This relates to the tension between "tribal" and "intellectual".

To paraphrase Eugene Holland, this would have to do with the idea that value does not inhere in objects but is subjectively bestowed.  But it goes further than that. 
«By locating aesthetic value solely in the *activity* of poetic appropriation and distancing  himself from the objects of that appropriation, Baudelaire comes to occupy the position of what Jacques Attali calls the "designer" or "programmer," whose basic function within  capitalism is to endow more or less worthless objects (such as "designer-jeans") with semiotic surplus-value in order to enable the realization of economic surplus-value by promoting their purchase by consumers; the most familiar form of programming, in other words, is advertising.» - A schizoanalytic reading of Baudelaire: The modernist as postmodernist
So, in the first movement, value is taken away from "classically good" objects, and in the second one it is bestowed on something else.  In Dan Harmon's essay about story structure and "Why TV is Different" he points out that the role of television is to keep people watching commercials -- but also that he hopes to do something more than that.   So, the rhetorical question above is similar to the question we considered earlier, about Rick Sanchez's ability to engage in phatic communication.

From the Rick and Morty comic book, number 4
I would say that the following is phatic speech but in addition to the phatic communion of teasing, we would have to recognize "negative phatics" to do with the termination of contact... at the meta level.  Wow.

«You know this whole time I haven't once heard you say that wubalubadubdub thing that you usually say.»

«Don't need to!  I have a new catch phrase.»

«Oh yeah, what's that?»

«"I love my grandkids!"»


«Psych!  Just kidding!  My new catch phrase is "I don't give a fuck!"  Just shake that ass bitch, and let me see what you got! Just shake that ass bitch, and let me see what you got -- I don't give a fuck is my new catchphrase!  Roll credits!  Roll the credits, go!  Just shake that ass...  That's the end of season 1! That's the end motherfucker!  I don't give a fuck is my new catch phrase!  Fuck you!  That's season 1, boom, season 1 up in your face motherfucker!»

["Hey broh..." "I don't understand, are you enjoying this?  Do you like this?"  "Yeah you know it dawg...!"]

Friday, October 2, 2015

Avatars of The Problem

  1. For example, I think that Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalysis is an earlier almost-correlate of our ι/ς/κ/ρ functions, but the presentation, at least on the Wikipedia page, is almost completely inscrutable.
  2. In my recent writing about serendipity, I developed another four-step process that again seems related. (See image.)

I'm not sure if we should try to deal with these issues (which I think we could do if we want to) or if we should just let them be a somewhat confusing and mucky side of the Wild Wood, and get on with other things. The bigger question here is how to "constrain" the search: what are our priorities in this phase?

Outline - draft (please add to this)

  1. ι-function, specifically related to establishing a channel
    1. Schimel: Opening
    2. Harmon:
      1. YOU.  [For now, let's start briefly with "us", our research and background, although we would probably jump in with a real protagonist later, namely, The Reader, or a stand-in for that person. Another important character to introduce here is Phatics, which will go on a journey in the paper along with the reader. We have through one path or another found out about phatics, semiotics, 20th century philosophy, and related fields.  We've taken different approaches to these topics (e.g. culture studies, computer science), but they are inherently interdisciplinary areas.  Our sources of Data should be revealed.  According to Schimel, the data provides all of the "characters" in scientific writing.  We might do something like an "A/B" story structure to deal with different journeys taken by these different characters.]
        1. The Reader
        2. Phatics
        3. We/Us
        4. Data
      2. NEED. [We have (independently, re-)discovered this great, but perturbing, thing called Phatics.  It is perturbing because it seems to be poorly understood, even though many "knights" have broken their lances on it.  At the same time there are also some exciting clues that beckon to be understood better.  It is great because it seems to have huge potential explanatory power.  Indeed, phatics has an intoxicating, Holy Grail or alchemical quality to it.  As much as story structure or the idea of emergence, it seems to have the potential to say something about who we are and what we're doing here.  But in itself it is also rather "mute".  After all, phatic speech is meant to be "talking about nothing in particular."  We will show that that simplistic view is wrong.]
        1. poorly understood
        2. potential explanatory power
  2. ς-function, appeal to the reader's sense of drama and adventure
    1. Schimel: Challenge
    2. Harmon:
      1. GO. [The first part of the unfamiliar situation is The Literature.  Rasmus has been making a wonderful survey of this.  It's a bit like exploring the Wild Wood (from "The Wind in the Willows").  But because Rasmus (in particular) has been getting acquainted with this stuff, he can be a guide to what's going on.  A List of Keywords and List of Names would be two wonderful magical devices that could help us navigate into this area.  In this part Joe could serve as some sort of stand-in for The Reader, asking questions and learning how to navigate this new world.  But Joe is particularly curious about what's going on in the heart of this Wild Wood, and proposes that we explore some aspects of it that even Rasmus's literature survey has only touched on (e.g. Emergence, φαίνειν).  So this aspect of things will be new for both of us, though we'll be well-equiped.]
        1. The Literature
        2. List of Keywords
        3. List of Names
        4. Emergence
      2. SEARCH. [We've spent some time adapting to some aspects of this new environment, and the "maps" introduced above will help.  However, The Reader will not be at that level yet, and everyone will be well-served if we can say something about The Questions that are on our mind.  Furthermore, we should take stock of the forces that are in effect in this domain.  Although it's too early to say for sure what the applications will be, I think we can start to say more here about The Problem that we would like to approach.  Bergson points out that positing really crucial problems leads directly to solutions.  I suspect that we won't have a totally clear grasp of The Problem until we get to the next step.  At this point we may only be looking at "Avatars of The Problem" or something similar.]
        1. The Questions
        2. The Problem
        3. forces
        4. Avatars of The Problem
  3. κ-function, the definition of the situation or how the participants understand, interpret or frame what is going on.  Maybe divide into κ₁ κ₂ κ₃ κ₄ κ₅ to denote context, problem, solution, rationale, resolution.  (Although these are somewhat synonymous with the existing phatic functions.)
    1. Schimel: Action
    2. Harmon:  
      1. FIND. [Again at this early stage in the research process it seems a bit premature to pontificate about what we will find, but in my opinion it has something to do with the way a "Social Field" works.  We might observe some things about how Zipf Functions (Power Laws) fit together.  Maybe we will invent (or rediscover?) some sort of Continuous Information Theory.  But at this stage, all of these should be thought of as Avatars of The Problem, and they should be taken as presumed-to-be false problems until we say otherwise.  The real discoveries are going to be hard work.  Most likely they will come from dialogue and some other processes.]
        1. Social Field
        2. Power Laws
        3. Continuous Information Theory
        4. dialogue
      2. TAKE. [Now it comes to the "paying a hefty price" part of the outline.  What exactly is the nature of the hard work that will have to be done here?  What sorts of prize ideas or Conceits will we have to give up?  I've been thinking about an anecdote from my own career, where I gave up my first attempt at a PhD in mathematics in order to pursue a passion for mathematics-on-computers and artificial intelligence.  I'm still paying off the student loan I took out at that time.  Is that enough of a price to pay?  Probably not.  But, to put it another way, does what we're working on here reveal something about something that really matters to us?  If so, the Price is likely to be comensurate, but we would be willing to pay it.  For example, I wonder if there are there applications to my current job, in which I'm making some efforts to realize ideas I was thinking about back in 2002-2004, not yet with huge successes, but with something to show for it in any case.  And, looking ahead to Autumn of 2016, I'll need another job then.  Perhaps what we produce here will be relevant to that -- but the process of finding or creating one job seems to go along with Ruling Out all of the other ones!  Anyway, more reflection on this sort of concern is probably worthwhile.]
        1. Conceits
        2. Price
        3. Ruling Out
  4. ρ-function, resolution is seen in advance (but with emergent aspects?)
    1. Schimel: Resolution
    2. Harmon:
      1. RETURN. [First, we should return to the more "familiar" parts of our Wild Wood of literature.  Any further comments on that?  But next, we should return to the real world with some ideas about Applications.  This is supposed to be the "Magic Flight" part of the outline, so maybe we put off enunciating the applications themselves until the dust settles (below).]
        1. Applications
      2. CHANGE. [Harmon points out that it is the Ability to Change that matters in some cases.  What will we do differently as a result of our thinking about phatics?  What can we share with others?  One thing that comes to mind is that we seem to be developing a "theory of exposition" that is compatible with but more detailed than Schimel's and Harmon's outlines.  So, one simple application will be as a set of Instructions for Writers.  If I'm guessing correctly, we can jump from the high-level points in our outline to the "leaf nodes" and conclude that ρ, for example, "corresponds to" Applications, Ability to Change, and Instructions for Writers in general.  Except, it probably corresponds to a bunch of other things in general, too, and we should make sure to get those things into these parts of the outline.]
        1. Ability to Change
        2. Instructions for Writers 
        3. ROLL CREDITS! 

content and context

I'm reading A Schizoanalytic Reading of Baudelaire: The Modernist as Postmodernist. It includes the following useful tidbit:
According to Jakobson, the metaphoric axis of discourse is based on the identity or equivalence among terms as defined by the storehouse of the language-system functioning "in absentia" (as Saussure put it) "outside" the linear time of utterance. The metonymic axis, by contrast, sustains the process of combining different terms contiguously to form a chain of signification "within" time--that is, in the duration of utterance. The metaphoric axis is thus a function of the language-system, and appears to exist as a given, outside of time, in contrast to the metonymic axis which is precisely the sequentiality of actual discourse as it is produced in context and through time. Jakobson thus concludes that every sign used in discourse has "two sets of interpretants . . . the code and the context."
A note gives the reference as follows, to "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbance" in Fundamentals of Language (with Morris Halle) (The Hague: Mouton, 1956), 67-96; the quotation is from page 75. There are some other things I'd like to return to in the article as a whole, but for now I'll just mention that phatic behavior seems to be very much aligned with contextual speech.