A compilation of my posts this semester

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Here are just a few thoughts I've had this semester.  Most could use to be fleshed out and further explored and revised.  Still, it's not a bad jumping off point.

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The Thoughts Continue

WGA strike

OK, so this has more to do with culture and economy than science, but I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on the current Writer's Guild of America (WGA) strike. For those of you who are fans of House MD, Law and Order SVU, Family Guy, Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, The Tonight Show, Dave Letterman Show, and many others- your shows are being directly affected. I encourage everyone to learn about what is going on and give her opinion on the revision in current culture that is happening right now.

Here is my understanding of the situtation: Writers receive residuals for their work which allows them to earn money while they are between jobs. As a group, they claim that these residuals are essential to letting them support their families in a tough industry. 20 years ago, when networks decided to make shows available on VHS, the writers took a cut in pay since the market was new and unsure (they say that the understanding was that their normal cut would return when the market was sucessful). Their pay cut of the VHS's has not increased since then and remains the same for DVD's- I think it said they make $00.04 for every $20 DVD you buy, and they are asking for 4 cents more. Also, since shows are being streamed on the Internet more and more, the Networks are running ads during those shows and making a profit, while the writers receive no compensation when their work is shown online. They are asking to be paid from what the Network makes from online viewing. Once the WGA's contract was up for renegotiation, they made several demands to which the Networks refused. The strike began Nov. 5 and the negotiations stopped recently- the Networks walked away from the table. The strike is against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. For additional information, I suggest wikipedia and youtube especially.

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A different slant

I generally think of myself as fairly scientific, an inquisitive mind with a desire to stay skeptical, reach for objectivity, and play devil's advocate, but I think underneath all is an idealist. Please indulge me as I move away from anthropology into personal opinion for a moment;-). I have always loved fairy tales, something that I realized anew as a result of this class. I think what I love about them are the principles and ideals in them- the courage of the hero or heroine, the danger, the struggle, the triumph, the discovery of what a person is made of, the stark honesty in how he/she acts under extreme pressure- I love it!! On a certain level of fancy, I think this is why I chose Bryn Mawr- the readings brought out some of the ideals that make my heart race and fill with pride. No, her history is clearly not perfect or completely without areas of disappointment, but the fact that this place began as an institution committed to challenging women to question and learn, and use these skills to effect change in the world- and is still doing so, makes me confident that I came to the right place. I think as much as each of us takes the responsibility of making the most of our education, we can uphold this standard and meet this expectation- a challenge that I try to constantly remember. This reading confronted me a bit on my cavalier attitude towards learning that I seem to have slipped into and has made me eager to voraciously attack my subjects rather than passively just existing during my short time here.
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Looking in the Mirror

One of the many thoughts that popped into my head while reading this book was in regards to Frankenstein (the monster) and his first encounter of his physical appearance and his comparison with the people he had seen. The monster observed the people and made a judgement that they were pretty. (Where did that judgement come from? Was his unconscious just drawn to something like how the people looked, or is it just b/c they were the only thing he had really ever seen? This begs the question of whether the people who had rejected him in the past also appeared beautiful to him. Perhaps these people looked pretty @ first glance because they hadn't mistreated him (yet).)

So, Frankenstein learns the standard, the status quo, the type of appearance that is "normal", "beautiful"; he then sees himself, sees that he doesn't match up/look the same, and decides that he must be ugly and that is the reason everyone has been mean to him thus far. I would have loved to hear Frankenstein's thoughts about how he looked before he saw the humans and adopted their cultural understanding of pleasing aesthetics. Would he have merely regarded himself neutrally and dispassionately as an observor? Would he have thought he was the most beautiful thing, and wonderfully proportioned, etc? Would he have thought (compared to other things he saw in nature) that he wasnt very attractive? Hmmm. Some interesting thoughts to ponder.

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Reflections

The best of both worlds?

Antonia raised an interesting question in our class a few weeks ago (that I think orginally came from a question her sister asked her):

"Would you rather be pretty or smart?"

(which goes with an assumption that if you are pretty you will be content and in community, but if you are smart you will be discontent and ostracized.)

Something I sort of stumbled over in my paper on cyber-culture was the idea that information can really change things- like, if you are smart, you can get a good job, make money, and BECOME beautiful (plastic surgery, etc.) So, knowledge/information can allow you to kill two birds w/one stone.

Does knowledge lead to the best of both worlds?
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Something there is that does not love a wall

I think an interesting way of looking @ things is that people are always trying to connect with others. As a result, people look for common ground on which to connect. As a(n inevitable???) conclusion, others who do not share that common ground are exculded. In our search for finding a place where we belong and others with whom we identify, we (naturally???) create an ingroup and an outgroup. Isn't this ironic? Now, ideally, I think it would be a nice thing to create a systemwhere this situation is not an inevitability. My first instict is to say that this is not possible, but that is rather narrow-minded thinking. My next thought is that you might create this kind of situation, but it would not necesarily be a "culture"- it would fundamentally change it. I suppose it depends on what your goal is as to whether or not this is a good idea. If you have a task as your goal, the ingroup- outgroup scenario (where those who can accomplish the task are "in" and those who cannot are "out") may not be avoidable.
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Grammar and Conscious Speech

I was discussing this topic of learned/inborn speech with my roommate and we were talking about the idea of grammar in spoken vs. written speech. Like the reading indicates in "The Language Instinct," spoken word does not have the same restrictions on it as written word. Runons, fragments, and the like are not discriminated against and are often preferable in verbal communication, but are shunned in papers, books, etc. In thinking of verbal speech, I am interesting in considering the amount of unconsciousness involved in relation to the conscious. Many of the physiological aspects of speech are carried on unbeknownst to the speaker, but how much of it is known to him/her? Do we think about (consciously) opening our mouths, moving our tongues, breathing in rhythm with speech (so as to pause at appropriate times)? Moreover, to what extent do we consider words and word choice before utterance? I'm fairly certain that we would all agree that we have experienced a "slip of the tongue" or saying something unintentionally. Maybe it's just me, but these ideas lead me to wonder about our responsibility for what we say. As we draw conclusions on to what extent we are conscious of our speech and in control of our speech, I think we should also consider what these observations mean.
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Reflections

Going back and reflecting

new

Considering culture, I am still wrestling with several questions:

1. How do we define culture?

2. Does culture disable b/c it's human nature (reductionist thinking), or b/c that's what society has done (whole is more than the sum of its parts)?

3. Could we make a culture that doesn't disable (anyone)? Would this still be a culture (Goes back to question 1)?

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“If I were blind, I would be the first to know it”

I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s reading! Here are just a few thoughts that came to mind and points that I found particularly interesting:

The idea of a distinction between a “dream” state and a “real” state. Being in a state of “waking consciousness”, “but dreaming constrained by external reality.” The boundary between waking and sleep/dreaming. In thinking of Greg, I am reminded of the dot and the square from Flatland- Greg is described as sweet and docile because he is not aware that he is blind, but when Sacks explains/insinuates his blindness, he becomes agitated at the possibility. I see Greg as like the dot- convinced that he can see, and nothing you tell him could convince him otherwise. Is is better to be like Greg- “blissfully unaware,” or to be like the square- the surgeon in the second chapter. The surgeon is aware of his “disease” and can alter his behavior to accommodate it, though the level to which he can “control” it- in terms of restraining the behaviors altogether- is quite low. Personally, my reaction to the surgeon- who works with and around his impediment- is one of extreme respect: I’m just plain impressed. I believe that I would rather know, even if I were (am?) blind and work through any frustration this may cause. I would prefer to be the square.

The idea that sometimes we want to escape the “weight of consciousness.” I have thought for some time that the appeal of movies for some people is the escape for reality that they can provide. Books and daydreams that allow one to escape are also tempting outlets for this desire. (I also enjoyed the question brought up of the ethics of introducing this effect onto someone else via tranquillizers).


“If I were blind, I would be the first to know it”
-Greg
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Reflections

Going back and reflecting

new I love it when subjects overlap;-). In my psychology class this semester, we discussed the current science story on dreaming and REM sleep. Personally, I have day dreams and night dreams- non-REM dreams and REM dreams. In my class, we learned that REM dreams are currently thought to have a great deal to do with memory and information storage much more than the fantasy theory that Freud proposed. I think that when I imagine things I am both conscious and unconscious, but when I dream in REM sleep I am probably unconscious.
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Summary: Week 7

Idea: “you” not existing
• That we experience things in “this” body- in a different body, things change- different reality
o You would see the world differently
o different expressions of how we experience things vs. different actual experiences of things
o Everyone has a different experience of things- it relates to our body- our bodies are different
• Does a tree make a sound when it falls if you don’t hear it?
Idea: perception as it relates to perspective
• Our experiences of things are different from person to person
• Identical twins sharing their experiences with each other
• Can they share some parts of their perceptions? (ie. wavelengths of light→ color)
Idea: Experiencing the world entirely through someone else’s consciousness-
• means that your consciousness would cease to exist, therefore your self would not be able to be to do this w/o becoming someone else’s self Conscious vs. Unconscious things-
o describing (conscious) personal experience in a way that other people can relate to
o explaining (unconscious) things in a way that only we understand
Idea: lots of Free Association
• we were trying to describe the unconscious and how it relates to the conscious
Idea: trying to look @ the unconscious
• Using body language, etc.
o Pupils dilating, menstrual synchronizing
o Turing towards/away from someone, etc.

Good luck on those papers everybody!!!

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Focus

I have to say, I really enjoyed “The Tacit Dimension.” I can’t honestly say that I understand it completely, but several of the author’s points are incredibly interesting stories. I like the distinction between the “knowing what,” and the “knowing how” as I understand it.
I couldn’t help but thinking of vision as I read this work- can this tacit knowing be equated to peripheral vision (as opposed to focused vision)? My reasons for asking this question is that, we observe things peripherally that takes no concentration or “indwelling.” Nevertheless, we are still observing things. To understand them more clearly, we can shift our eyes and focus on them – “interiorizing” -(both purposely and involuntarily), but, in doing so, our perception of the object we are gazing at is changed- it changes from the blurry picture in our peripheral to a clearer image. The reading says “scrutinize closely the particulars of a comprehensive entity and their meaning is effaced.” If you are willing to momentarily equate meaning with perception, then this example, I think, fits nicely.
I also thought of the kind of tacit knowledge that I use when I play sports. My coaches often chastise me for “overthinking” things on the volleyball court. Just like the concentration on a repeated word changes its meaning for us temporarily and we lose sight of its definition/use, when I focus exclusively on how to pass the ball, I tend to (somehow) make myself less likely to successfully pass it. In a sense, the meaning/practice of the pass is erased. What I have found to help in these situations is to focus on something else. I sing a song, work out a math problem in my head, plan my weekend- in terms of the vision example, I move the act of passing the ball from my mental focus to the periphery- then I am able to let my body do what I have taught it to do.
I don’t know if anyone else relates to this at all, but I think it’s similar to “letting an idea come to you.” “The Tacit Dimension” talks about how scientists, when they look for the answer to a problem, they have “tacit foreknowledge of yet undiscovered things.” I take this to mean that, on some level, you know what you want to say- maybe it’s in the peripheral, but it’s there. Sometimes, trying so hard to “come up with an idea”- focus on it- can be just as unproductive as my overthinking on the volleyball court. Rather than hunting down the answer, sometimes it may be more helpful to relax, “un”focus, and let the answer hunt you down. [I hesitate to say this because it seems like I am advocating scientific laziness, so please do not misunderstand me- I am merely suggesting that exegesis of a situation or problem can be more successful than isogesis- that is to say, vigorously following the data to where it will lead.]
More later on analysis and meaning…

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Reflections

Going back and reflecting

new

Deja vu, Instinct, and observing the unconscious.

Since learning about the unconscious and the notion of studying it I have thought long and hard. I've always had what I would call very strong instincts or hunches that I could not fully understand or explain. In a book I read, the author described these hunches as possibly her unconscious making some observation that she couldn't full articulate or understand, but nevertheless felt. I think that this goes back to the idea of knowing w/o being able to tell what you know that these readings seemed to suggest. Nancy's question above about whether deja vu plays into this is also an interesting one to consider. Remembering what was said about body language I think about people-reading, which I have been told I am fairly skilled at. Perhaps there are things that I don't know that I know;-).

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On stories

As I read Dennett, and his descriptions of those who cling to the idea of Creationism as outlined in the Bible as the end-all-be-all in possible cosmologies, I am reminded of the stubborn unwavering stance of the Church in Galileo's day. Nowadays, Biblical proponents interpret the same passages that seemed to disprove the heliocentric theory in Galileo's day as symbolic language. They no longer claim things like “the sun stood still” as the sun itself literally stopped moving, but rather assert that this kind of language is simply meant to explain how things seemed from the people’s perspective of that day.


As I recall the REVISION that was made to this STORY, I cannot help shake my head at how little the Church has learned. Even today, they attempt to war with Darwin’s increasingly supported evolutionary ideas on the grounds of a story in Genesis- in (I hope very few) more years, those dogged people will make a similar revision to the Genesis account. Hopefully, they will come to realize the danger of emphatic and resolute stances on issues where they do not have all the answers, and I predict the result will probably be that they come to the same conclusion about evolution as they have about heliocentrism and reinterpret the Genesis story as an explanation that was not meant to literally convey how things came to be, but merely illustrate principles.


I do not think the idea of God and evolution are mutually exclusive, but I do think we need to rethink traditional constructs if these two are to successfully synthesize: the stories must continue to be rethought and revised rather than trying to cram a square peg in a round hole. Perhaps we ought to shave off some of those edges before such an attempt is made.

 

 

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Reflections

Going back and reflecting

new In thinking of Dennett, I am reminded of one of my favorite aspects of science- the idea that to revise a story something only needs to happen once. We seem to be, for some reason, very eager to call the unaccomplished the "impossible." In these terms, the impossible just keeps being done (clearly there is a need for revision here). The funny thing- well, I really ought to say dangerous thing- is what I've noticed as a flaw in some religious thinking as regards God. This God of the gaps philosophy basically says that the impossible (aka- things science hasn't yet come up with a good story for) can only have been done by God. I think this sort of reasoning does a great disservice to those who employ it- they build their argument on a weak and faulty premise and then are devastated as they watch science systematically destroy their "proof" of God. Personally, I believe that God fully intends people to use their intellect to study the world around them. I do not feel that the idea of Truth necessarily halts questioning- I think those who believe things are true should constantly be looking for substantiating evidence, give serious consideration to contradictory data, and be willing to revise their ideas with a good amount of humility.
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Reflections

I am amazed as I read Flatland that my initial reaction is to assume that the author is making a commentary on our life and society. What I mean is, upon reading his less than glowing summarization of the female form and character in Flatland, my knee-jerk reaction was to be a bit put off and offended. I automatically assumed that in describing the women in Flatland, the author was attempting to draw a broader parallel to the women in Spaceland- the “real world,” if you will. After a little reflection, I am less inclined to believe that this is the case. My reasons for changing my mind are: 1. The author directly says in the text (directed @ the reader/audience) that one in Spaceland, their society probably seems a bit mean and he personally does not ascribe to all of its rules and 2. I am considering the nature of the work→ it is meant to describe a very different world than the one in which we live. Wouldn’t it make sense for the author to describe this environment w/o purposely reflecting those descriptions into the world we know aka our women? Perhaps it’s a topic for further reflection and/or discussion…What do you think?
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Reflections

Going back and reflecting

new The more we discuss Flatland, the more I realize what a great book it is. I love the chance that it gives the reader to glimpse into another dimension. A thought that has sprung up since discussing Flatland and the dimensions, aside from Antonia's smart or pretty dilemma is the idea of objectivity. In the last few weeks, we looked at how an anthropologist "ought" to look @ things and report them. Me being me, I immediately questioned why he "ought" do any such thing. Now, I am recalling a thought that Paul threw into our class discussion when we were trying to consider other dimensions, namely alternate/parallel/other universes. He said something about how in one universe, the story includes Ashton, but in another it might not/does not. I'm wondering if this might reflect back into the question of objectivity. Could looking at something objectively be like trying to think in another dimension- one in which you (your judgements, your bias, etc.) do not exist?
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Interesting Characterization

I find the story fascinating in the way that it infuses these historical characters with unique personalities (like a historical fiction). Who knows whether or not these people really said these same sort of things in the same way that the book describes them?- It's believable from the reader's standpoint, and that's enough. I don't even know if the author is trying to say "here is what these people were like" as much as "here is the story, here is a type of person that may have done this, that, etc./reacted in this way"

BTW, for my class: the terms are "exegesis and isogesis" and they mean

exegesis: to lead meaning out from the text

isogesis: to read into/put meaning into the text

(they are most commonly used to describe the interpretations of religious works, etc, but I think they are still applicable and useful in our various discussions of story telling/reading)

 

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Reflections

Going back and reflecting

new
After all the discussions we've had that alluded to Galileo, I'm not sure whether I like him or not. I mean, in some ways he was just trying to convince people to consider a new version of the story of the cosmos, but the book we read made him seem like he was doing it with more of a motivation to be a pain-in-the-butt than to teach people. He also seemed a bit pompous like "I know how things really are, and you little people are just trapped in your ignorance." I think a better approach when you feel like you have a new idea to be considered is to genuinely try to educate people and help them learn (so they can better themselves). But, as I commented earlier, this is just one interpretation of how he might have been.
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Don't agree completely, but

- So, I can't say that I really wholeheartedly agree with this guy. I think he's a little over-reaching for his conclusions- I mean, does every fairy tale really speak to the innerdepths of every child's heart? (as Hannah said, I hope not!)

+ On the other hand, he does have some good points about what a child identifies with and how these stories allow kids to identify with the world and themselves.

- The psychoanalysis, plus the oedipal relations he tries to insert into these 'fairy stories' seem, well, imagined at the very least and forced at best. I don't really think there's a good reason to analyze these stories to that extent.

+ He does, however, present a really interesting point of view and I like that he interprets these fairy tales through the eyes of a child (@ least he tries to;-))

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Response

Going back and reflecting

new Near the end of this course, I came full circle to a question that I began to explore near the beginning, and I am seeing some similarities to this discussion and these readings' ideas. My question is one of how math is taught from the elementary level to calculus, and at first I approached it in much the same way as these authors- I assumed that children have a need to feel that things in the world are stable and secure, so we teach math (and science, for that matter), as solid and sure facts. Thinking about it now, I don't know that I actually agree with that. I mean, children are in a world that is changing, and yes, maybe they do long for stability, but they might actually identify with something else that is changing like they are (I hope that makes sense). A small part of what these authors are saying is that children need a story where they can identify with what is happening. Maybe children identify with parts of the villian and the hero. Maybe at the same time children appreciate the happily-ever-after ending, they become disillusioned because they never see that perfect outcome in their own lives.
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Week's 1 and 2

Questions and Understanding

Well, the words seem to suggest that "Understanding is ??? (questions/questioning), but is this trying to convey that understanding is gained by questioning (which seems reasonable) or that the simple act of understanding is merely a continuous series of asking questions? My guess is it's probably both. As for the significance of the colored sphere and the block with the puzzle pieces, I don't think that whether the pieces are going up or down is really crucial to the message. I would assume that the point is to communicate that understanding is never complete and is full of diversity. If I had to sum up my guess on the meaning of the picture, it would be that there are always things to learn outside of the realm of human ability and that there are many different viewpoints that contribute to the common whole understanding.

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Grim tales and Grimm tales

new So, the Disney version of these fairy tales kind of seems a bit flat and dissappointing, not to mention a bit bland- there are no dripping toes and heels in the Disney stories! On the other hand, this may be preferable since the stories are intended for children;-). Although, one thing the Disney-Cinderella has in its favor is the death of the father. Disney was kind enough to kill off Cinderella's father before the evil stepmother/sisters got started tortuting the poor girl. The Grimm version had the father still in the picture, but he didn't do anything- I hate that the father was there, but just didnt do anything!!!! As for Anne Sexton, I like the undercurrents and subtle irony she added to the stories- it took them out of 1 dimension, but I dont know how appropriate they would be for a younger audience;-).

 

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Reflections on Week 2

Going back and reflecting

new It's fun to look back at our investigation of fairy tales from this point (the end) in the course. Some of the factors that we discussed, like the idea of "ICK" have lasted throughout the course. Other interesting concepts, like the popularity of a female evil character, and the question of whether these stories were meant to have a moral aspect to teach children or not still linger in my mind. A new thought that has emerged since originally considering fairy tales is the more modern/recent approach to tell the classic story from the viewpoint of the "bad guy." I think this trend further illustrates an important aspect of fairy tales in particular, and stories in general- perspective is key. The tendency of "good" stories to have characters that the reader can identify with (an aspect that we discussed in class), is compounded when you realize that we might equally identify with the hero or the villian depending on how the tale is told.
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Reflections on Week 1

Going back and reflecting

new Looking back on this question @ the beginning of the course, I'm thinking about the discussions we've had and reflecting on this picture once again. After getting the author's perspective on the work, I got a chance to see what the picture meant to her, but have also learned the value of different people interpreting it in their own way. I think the goal of understanding as some state of being is a poor way of thinking- one that is better is perhaps to consider learning as a process that is continually changing- it's more a direction than a finish line; more a journey than a destination.

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