Tag Archives: communications

Cat Spat

[Gregory Bateson] The first definite step in the formulation of the hypothesis guiding this research occurred in January, 1952, when I went to the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco to look for behavioral criteria which would indicate whether any given organism is or is not able to recognize that the signs emitted by itself and other members of the species are signals. In theory, I had thought out what such criteria might look like?—that the occurrence of metacommunicative signs (or signals) in the stream of interaction between the animals would indicate that the animals have at least some awareness (conscious or unconscious) that the signs about which they metacommunicate are signals.

I knew, of course, that there was no likelihood of finding denotative messages among nonhuman mammals, but I was still not aware that the animal data would require an almost total revision of my thinking. What I encountered at the zoo was a phenomenon well known to everybody: I saw two young monkeys playing, i.e., engaged in an interactive sequence of which the unit actions or signals were similar to but not the same as those of combat. It was evident, even to the human observer, that the sequence as a whole was not combat, and evident to the human observer that to the participant monkeys this was ?“not combat.?”

Now, this phenomenon, play, could only occur if the participant organisms were capable of some degree of meta-communication, i.e., of exchanging signals which would carry the message ?“this is play.?”

(4) The next step was the examination of the message ?“This is play,?” and the realization that this message contains those elements which necessarily generate a paradox of the Russellian or Epimenides type -a negative statement containing an implicit negative metastatement. Expanded, the statement ?“This is play?” looks something like this: ?“These actions in which we now engage do not denote what those actions for which they stand would denote.?”

We now ask about the italicized words, ?“for which they stand.?” We say the word ?“cat?” stands for any member of a certain class. That is, the phrase ?“stands for?” is a near synonym of ?“denotes.?” If we now substitute ?“which they denote?” for the words ?“for which they stand?” in the expanded definition of play, the result is: ?“These actions, in which we now engage, do not denote what would be de-noted by those actions which these actions denote.?” The playful nip denotes the bite, but it does not denote what would be denoted by the bite.

According to the Theory of Logical Types such a message is of course inadmissible, because the word ?“denote?” is being used in two degrees of abstraction, and these two uses are treated as synonymous. But all that we learn from such a criticism is that it would be bad natural history to expect the mental processes and communicative habits of mammals to conform to the logician?’s ideal. Indeed, if human thought and communication always conformed to the ideal, Russell would not in fact could not have formulated the ideal.

(5) A related problem in the evolution of communication concerns the origin of what Korzybski,62 has called the map-territory relation: the fact that a message, of whatever kind, does not consist of those objects which it denotes (?“The word `cat?’ cannot scratch us?”). Rather, language bears to the objects which it denotes a relationship comparable to that which a map bears to a territory. Denotative communication as it occurs at the human level is only possible after the evolution of a complex set of metalinguistic (but not verbalized)63 rules which govern how words and sentences shall be related to objects and events. It is therefore appropriate to look for the evolution of such metalinguistic and/or meta-communicative rules at a prehuman and preverbal level.

It appears from what is said above that play is a phenomenon in which the actions of ?“play?” are related to, or denote, other actions of ?“not play.?” We therefore meet in play with an instance of signals standing for other events, and it appears, therefore, that the evolution of play may have been an important step in the evolution of communication.

(6) Threat is another phenomenon which resembles play in that actions denote, but are different from, other actions. The clenched fist of threat is different from the punch, but it refers to a possible future (but at present nonexistent) punch. And threat also is commonly recognizable among non-human mammals. Indeed it has lately been argued that a great part of what appears to be combat among members of a single species is rather to be regarded as threat (Tinbergen,64 Lorenz,65).

(7) Histrionic behavior and deceit are other examples of the primitive occurrence of map-territory differentiation. And there is evidence that dramatization occurs among birds: a jackdaw may imitate her own mood-signs (Lorenz66), and deceit has been observed among howler monkeys (Carpenter,67). [excerpt: 4.2 A Theory of Play and Fantasy, Steps to An Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson]

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The Acid Test


Click for the large version and please come back…

Rummaging through old computer files, I came upon a series of slides about the Fundamental Attribution Error. Here’s the definition from the The Psychology Wiki.

In attribution theory, the fundamental attribution error (sometimes referred to as the actor-observer bias, correspondence bias or overattribution effect) is the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based, explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role and power of situational influences on the same behavior.

When I created the slides a decade or so ago, my aim was to roll into a presentation of experiential learning theory some takings from cognitive psychology’s conceptions about cognitive bias. Whereas today I’m just going to fry the ‘FAT’ fish a bit.

My opinion is the Fundamental Attribution Error is an error so common as to suggest we’re wired to make it. It may even be advantageous to sometimes make it. Certainly, and much to my quiet amusement, I’ve observed its being made in ‘professional’ contexts over and over again. This is why I term it the acid test, especially as a validation of how much that social psychology 101 class sank in! I’m no longer amazed to observe the error being made, or even intentionally deployed, or otherwise witnessing various attributive terms being decontextualized and misused.

This happens whenever a description about a person, for example about a personality style or type, is assumed to portray an unqualified assessment of their disposition. Many times these kinds of attributions ‘globalize’ situational, or modular, behaviors. All sorts of attributions are errantly globalized and attached to stereotypes. Global attributions attached to, for example, some person identifying as a liberal or conservative, are not usually traits. Closer-to-home, I’ve identified something like qualities of my own situational dispositions using several assessment tools, yet, I’m not always being intuitive; learning via my primary ‘audiostyle;’ trying to influence others using my sociableness; or always being a cheery optimist.

At the same time, as I view human phenomena on a broader scale, (oh, and dig into the literature,) the FAT is itself a heuristic, thus is a short cut means to attribute a feature to another’s personality, and seems to work then as firstly a generalization subject to later refinement. This refinement would narrow the appropriate circumstance for making a correct attribution. In suggesting this, I am also mindful of the complexity of procedures for attribution and construal in the domain of ‘applied’ folk psychology. With respect to attribution–making attributions–those procedures don’t strike me as fitting very comfortably under the rubrics given by either simulation or theory-theory. …for what it’s worth.

My other abiding position on all this has to do with how attribution errors mix in with sensemaking of one’s own life-world. This is a complicated subject, so the matrix serves to prime a way of looking at this problem. To get at this, you can ask your self what assumptions do you make about everybody, what do you attribute to everybody?.

Although I haven’t beta tested the tool yet, it seems this would be a good question to fund an experiential exercise via which the learner comes to experience–reflect upon–their own process for answering this question. In any really determined effort to address the question, it turns out to be a very probing inquiry.

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SITUCONOPS

A sign-system such as a natural language is not an input-output system of encodings and decodings for the transmission of contents from one mind to another. Instead, it is a normative and conventional resource consisting of semiotically salient differentiation-types for producing, acting on and transforming situation conventions and the cognitive representations that people have of the situations in which these conventions operate. Paul J. Thibault

Hat tip to eldon, my Netdynam colleague, for hipping me to the book Brain, Mind and the Signifying Body, by the semiotician Paul J. Thibault. It fits into a funny reflexive picture, because I’m reading my friend Heward Wilkinson’s The Muse As Therapist, and, trying to pare away time to keep two different music-making projects percolating. Then Thibault pops into the frame. Really, Heward and Paul should get to know each other someway other than in my tiny mind!

Which is to say, it’s probably been years since I set up two wondrously knotty books by my night stand. (I don’t recommend trading off between Heidegger and Husserl as I once tried to do.) Oh, and to make this picture complete, Bra Ken, generously sent me the back issues of his literary chap House Organ. This does make dr.p’s head spin when I can’t decide what looking glass I’m going to pick up.

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EVOMEDIATION

Gordon Knox, director of the global initiatives project at Stanford University’s Humanities Lab could be considered an instigator of the “post-professional” meme as it applies to the commons and articulations of knowledge and experience on the internet.

article: If Corporations Could Paint (Forbes)

Over on our, (being the Netdynam email discussion group,) new group project blog, Netdynam 2.0, I’ve posted Knox’s video, Darwin, web 2.0 and the Role of the Amateur.

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IT WOULD TAKE A LOT OF TIME AND THOROUGH ATTENTION

I’m very curious about the process through which people really get to know each other. And, just as fascinated by the processes through which people fool themselves into believing they are getting to really know one other. There is overlap between the former and the latter kinds of processes. Some people are very good at both, but, a person who is good at getting to know another person is likely to well understand what the differences are between really knowing and surface knowing.

It’s tempting to insert here that it is a two-way street too, but, my experience is that there can be a significant differential between two approaches and how effective each, in actuality, is.

When engaged with other persons my common mode is research and participant/deep observer, so, at a minimum, I’m often sitting there being greatly amused by processes of interpersonal knowledge building. For example, it is often for me a case of observing how much interference there is in people’s attempts to be present, listen, respond, and, overall, apprehend what is going on. This goes for me too: reflecting on my own interference.

(more…)

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A FUNNY WORD

Patti Anklam, as is her marvelous way, weaves valuable threads leading to thought provoking places.

“Virtual” is a funny word for me right now, as I’m deep into writing Net Work, and the distinction virtual works for online communities as well as distributed communities, but there’s a difference and I’ve not yet found the right pair of words to signify the difference.

I don’t use “virtual” much but I might have the same problem if I did! It’s got the virtu; virtiiroot. Virtual rolls better than ‘temporary’ or ad hoc. In online lingo it refers to semblance, as in the virtual world resembles the real world. There’s a need for disambiguation here.

If we pose two polar qualities to better hinge the conception of the virtual, my initial choices would be: primary< -->secondary, and, similitude< -->analogy. The rich differentiation is found in the secondary/similitude and.or secondary/analogy. So, a real world virtual network could be secondary to, and similar, or, analogous to the primary network. Also, virtual networks in organizations tend to be spontaneous and this evokes for me their tacit in waiting and emergent status.
Her recent post got me wanderingwondering and it contains some valuable links about networks, communication and learning to explore.

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