Report in here on what sorts of tacit
knowledge you'll be exploring for your own project,
and how you plan to
papers on language as tacit knowledge are very intriguing. One thing
I'd like to bring up is the importance of language, even as far back
as the writing of the Bible. The story of Babel is extremely
interesting. The idea that we all had one language and that God took
that language and that unity away from us. All other languages could
be constructed with that formula in mind though. And it seems that
ever since Babel, languages have been splintering off. Yes, many
people do speak English, but how many different forms of English are
there. There's England-English, American-English, and
Australian-English, which are all very similar, excluding some
vocabulary. However, we have colleges that teach courses on things
like ebonics. English itself is a fractured language.
The more I work on my experiment, which is about how music affects us, and the more I think about tacit knowledge in general, the more I realize how amazing our bodies are. We have these wonderful things that connect us to the world called senses and they can interpret different light waves as the oranges and purples of a sunset, which can in turn spark thoughts such as "I'm so happy to be here at Bryn Mawr looking at this gorgeous sunset." These senses interpret different waves as music, which can do things to our emotions and our bodies that we don't understand but make us feel good or sad or important or part of something. Then we also have language, which lets me share this with you. (And then the internet, which lets me share this with THE WORLD!)
In short, our bodies are in cahoots with the world not only to make our lives rich with experience but also to enable us to share ideas effectively and thereby make our lives rich with others' experiences.
On Tuesday of Week 8, our class was
invited to join Professor Grobstein’s class.
Every single person in the class was asked to identify herself as either
a conscious or unconscious person in general.
Then on projector, we saw various images that could be interpreted more
than one way. I would assume that we
all have seen those types of vague pictures at least once before. However, the conclusion (or moral) of the
interpreting exercise was not merely “Every individual has different
perspective, or point of view from each other.” After we did the blind spot test, we were able
to perceive a deeper meaning.
blind spot test, we learned that because the blind spot of the left eye is
different from that of the right eye, we can pretty much fill the gap with our
both eyes. That made sense. But here’s a scary part. Although completing the blind spot with our
both eyes helped calm down our fear of uncertainty of the actual world, we were
still appalled because with one eye covered, we cannot still see the actual blind
spot anywhere in contrast to the paper drill with two dots. What is completing the spot? Of course not the other eye, because it was
already being covered. It was indeed our
unconsciousness that completed our blind spot.
So, we are all artists, or creators.
Our unconsciousness “thinks” that we see the entire world that will
never be able to known to us ever. Scary!!
Then what’s the world really? Are we like the ghosts from the movie, “The
Others?” Everything is not certain, and
we are all deserted from each other because there is no guarantee that our best
friend is looking at the same part of the world that we are seeing. But Professor Grobstein consolated us by
saying that the unconsciousness of human’s brain creates the closer view of the
real world. (I did not write his words
verbatim, so this is not the best description.
But when I heard that, I felt still scary, though.)
Back to the moral
lesson, the deeper meaning we get out of the interpreting exercise in the beginning
of the class was “our unconsciousness is the base that fills our missing world.” Then, we talked about examples/experiments of
tacit understanding to further realize the role of our unconsciousness. I mentioned that playing the piano was an example of tacit understanding because every note and rhythm is not the player's concern. She just plays it even without thinking because she's done so many times. Several students shared their experience on the Serendip websites such as Hidden Bias and Blind Spot.
On Thursday, the class started with
unique experience of touching/seeing the actual brain of the unknown person. Then, our class talked about the relationship
between thoughts and words. It was
obvious to us after reading Pinker’s writing that we utter words unconsciously,
and many people proved this by saying that they sometimes lose track of
thoughts while talking without consciousness involved. Then Professor Dalke questioned what comes
first, and the relationship between words and thoughts. I came up with the metaphor: Words and thoughts are like a vector where
thoughts are pure magnitude and words are direction. Thoughts
arise in our head, but when we present them in form of words, we have “intention”
or “purpose” to extend our thoughts, or share them.
Our class was intrigued at the “conscious”
discussion of Words that we normally don’t think about. Professor Dalke then asked which comes
first. Many people agreed on the idea
that thoughts preceded words. The
discussion reached the peak when Professor Dalke asked us to pass around her
book and read the title. It was striking
to know that only one person found the misspelling of the title, and the person
turned out to be a nonnative speaker of English.
It proved us that we don’t usually scrutinize
the spelling or grammar while reading, whereas nonnative speakers tend to be
more conscious of what she’s speaking/reading.
Are words and thoughts not related?
Should there be a word to perceive a thing? By taking a further step on tacit knowledge,
we learned many things about the psychological/linguistic view of words and its
relationship with thoughts. Here is our next concern: How do we maximize the role of our unconsciousness? Einstein stated that humans are utilizing only 2% of the brain. Is 98% potential of our brain unconsciousness? How could we approach the betterment using the full magnitude of our unconsciousness? Can an adult nonnative speaker whose thoughts had always been processed in her native tongue ever attain the ability of being unconscious while speaking her second language?
Today in class we discussed pride. Mainly pride found among minorities. This kind of pride is accepted and encouraged, however, pride among a majority is considered laced with bigotry. Is this really fair?
Being left-handed, having blue eyes, red hair, freckles are all physical quirks. Being homosexual, female, African-American, etc. are also physical quirks. Why do they have to be pronounced and extentuated when we all have some form of them? Have pride in who you are, not what you are. Have pride in your individuality, and maybe looking at these difference as physical quirks can bring us closer together as people rather than belittling and stereotyping huge populations of people...
On Tuesday of last week th two sections of our class convened for the first time to discuss the wonders of the unconscious. Professor Grobstein conducted most of the class and led us through the nuances of the uncounscious by equating it to vision. We, as a group, tested the ability of our unconscious minds in collaboration with our eyes and discovered fantasic ability of the unconscious to create what we may be lacking with the help of our inherent tacit knowledge.
Then, we moved onto the example of the relationship between optical illusions and the unconscious mind by calling attention to how said "illusions" are not so much illusions as they are tools that can help us understand our unconscious perceptions of things. Paul punctuated this point by saying that "What you see is NEVER what's there. It's only a reasonable interpretation from your unconscious."
The essence of that session resided in the knowledge that the unconscious underlies all that we see and that it is yet still revisable.
Thursday brought about a long and involved discussion about language in which we strived to determine why language exists, what makes a language, how it develops, and what are the aspects of it.
What was perhaps most vital to our studies thus far was our decision that language is an "infinitely generative set of rules in the unconscious" that allows us to better interact with our environment.
Alison asked, "Do we need words for things before you can conceive of them?" I mentioned something called the "Sapir Whorf hypothesis" in my section on Thursday; if you'd like to know more about this intriguing/ controversial idea that language determines thought, go to Daniel Chandler, The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and to Neil Parr-Davies, The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: A Critique. 
So, as everyone hopefully remembers, on Tuesday the classes met! It was lovely to hear new voices and opinions as we discussed the secrets of the unconscious. We began after some short discussion and introductions, with Professor Grobstein showing us (in a split second) an image of what appeared to be a skull. However, on closer inspection, the skull turned out to be a woman at a vanity! We played with more brain teasers/optical illusions and came to the somewhat frightening realization that our mind makes up some of the things we see. As Professor Grobstein said, "You never know what you see is real....we can bring into existence things we've never seen before." This lead to the obvious discussion on: is this a scary thing, or not a scary thing? Professor Grobstein ended Tuesday's class by revising a student's post on the forum to:
"The ground we stand on...is in itself revisable, if we want/choose to allow it to be so."
Thursday's class was mostly run by our beloved Ashton, as Paul was showing the other class the brain he brought with him in a lunchbox! Our main focus in this discussion was on language and communication. This seemed to generate mainly a lot of questions, such as:
Is language only for humans, though animals can communicate?
How about literacy rates? Why can we speak easily, but not write easily?
Are reading and writing two different languages?
Sheena brought up a very interesting point:
You can't tell if someone doesn't know how to read/write just by talking to them. What is more valuable: reading or communicating verbally and therefore being able to understand context?
Then we discussed text messaging and internet "languages" such as ttyl, g2g, rofl, etc.
Grobstein then said, "Language is a set of rules that lie in the unconscious. Then you have to teach the rules consciously when reading and writing."
The class discussion ended with Paul saying, "Everything wants to share information. language allows us to report our own internal state, and it also allows us a way of getting information about the internal state of other people."
Here is a link to a movie of communication between other animals. Do you think that this is a form of language?
Do we need words for things before you can conceive of them? I say, if not yes, that it is helpful. Only in articulating things with your consciousness do you learn. You only have a fuzzy idea of what a concept is until you have to explain it and justify yourself. This is why teachers learn so much, and in my experience I feel I only learn if I am held accountable for something by making and presenting my own account. And having a greater vocabulary means that you are better able to express yourself due to the subtle associations of each word. I found it interesting that language is an instinct. This means that grammar structures are similar and can be created by children even out of pidgin languages. It brings up questions for me about how the brain and computers work. I am starting to wonder how these things store information and how the brain can have built in a program for developing syntax. How can it be innate? How does the brain work? How is it organized? I’m curious now.
The Pinker made me wonder how languages came to be different among different groups of people. Just as children sometimes make up words that become incorporated into their families’ vocabulary, could people in a group have each made up their own words (out of what? Instinct?), which gradually became learned and shared by others, and a language developed out of the contributions of others and the instinct to create a grammar structure as well?
Language for me is either fluent or stuck. I can get bogged down in words and not be processing them. The words don’t come, yet I feel I can’t think any other way. The words don’t mean anything. Other times, like when I am bringing together ideas in writing, or when I am spontaneously drawing on my own thoughts and expressing myself, the words come fluently. Sometimes the words come in a certain arrangement. I think there is a link between the arrangement and the precise impression that the sentence strikes in me. Thus my brain and the flow of language to get the meaning out are linked. So I can see that language is an instinct. I think it’s kind of like a process that the brain does to allow thoughts to flow.
For my project, I will be investigating optical illusions and the eye’s blind spot. The blind spot is an area from which your brain gets no visual input, but your brain makes up something to go there. I hope to investigating questions such as How can your brain see things that aren’t there? How does it interpret a picture? How does seeing an ambiguous picture reveal how the brain operates all the time? This will perhaps eventually lead to questions of what the relationship of the external world and your brain is.
If the brain is a government building, thought itself is one of those top-secret rooms. Words are the secretaries and messengers for that top-secret office, and they may not know what goes on in there, but whatever Thought wants the rest of us to know, Words have the responsibility of exposing.
But then again, sometimes the Thought Office doesn't want anybody else to know what's happening inside, and the Words wait outside the locked door waiting for a piece of paper to pop out of a mail slot or something like that.
To further the metaphor, one's native language comprises the Words that have access to the top-secret Thought Office. When you learn a foreign language, the Thought Office must go through all sorts of bureaucracy to convey any sort of information to the world, and that slows you down, as bureaucracy will.
Today I went to Spanish Table immediately after class and experienced what happens when these linguistic bureaucrats cross paths. The very clumsy Hebrew words kept colliding with the Spanish ones, which were going about their own business (though still didn't quite know their way), and there was quite a mess. So when you let untrained government workers run around loose, they run into things.
I investigated the websites on tacit knowledge last week. However, I would like to add my own experiment on tacit knowledge. As a non-native speaker, I still tend to analyze the grammar while people talk. Even when I speak I consult to the grammar factory in my head because I am conscious. But throughout readings, it was striking that speech(spoken) is not connected to the meaning. In my experiment, I will describe an image to my roommate first in conscious state, and second in unconscious state. How I am gonna do the latter is I will utter any thoughts on the image right after I wake up or right before I go to bed (when i'm really tired) Then, I will ask my friend which explanation gave her a predicament on what I'm telling her.
At first, I was simply lost for ideas in my experiment. My original paper was actually my ideas on what exactly the differences were between the conscious and the unconscious. But I think making a guideline of sorts for my expecting experiment was an important step for me. There are the usual distinctions in how the two (or more) parts of our mind work. We know it and we don't know it, simple as that, right? I feel that there is a part of us that overlaps these boundaries into a regioin that were unsure of.
Being so vacant for ideas for an experiment, the readings were certainly helpful. Why not use words? They are the building blocks for development, so why not allow words to guide me to the unconscious? The experiment that I want to conduct is a mixture between word association and generalization. I will put several item in front of people and they have to tell me what it is. Simple enough! Then I will ask them to say the first word that comes to their mind when they see another set of objects. The last part of the project I plan to ask them to describe the object to me in three words. In this way I will be getting the conscious forethought contrasted with the unconscious. I will also be studying how words are used in society by what words they tend to use to call and describe the objects.
Hilary ended up assembling an array of images each of which she asked people to quickly (ie, without "thinking") rate on a scale from 1 (female) to 10 (male). With Hilary's permission, the slide show is available here as a power point presentation, so others can try it out if they like. And Hilary's data is available here  (with some minor editorial work) as an Excel spread sheet, so others can do themselves whatever analyses they would like.
The approach reminded me of an earlier effort of mine  to look at unconscious evaluations of "beauty " and so I did a little playing with Hilary's data along related lines (see Excel spread sheet here ). The bottom line? Our unconsciousnesses do indeed have differences in how we locate things along a female/male axis.
My study has been intriguing in the sense that it has been continuously revealing the jumps that the unconscious mind makes in daily interaction. It has been very interesting to take a step back and assess things (such as habitual actions or sayings) that we may take as very naturally acquired (or tacit) traits to determine where exactly they came from and what steps you unconsciously take to acquire them.
Very interesting/relevant paper being read/discussed in another venue:
The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail: A Social Intuitionist Approach to Moral Judgement (Haidt, J., Psychological Review 108: 814-834, 2001)
I have decided that my research needs another round of experimentation before I can accurately state the topic of my paper. My experiment thus far has revolved around the presentation of dream imagery in the waking-life, and whether or not those metaphors would still be comprehensible. The next stage will probably test the metaphors that did particularly well against those that did poorly in some other fashion. I have been thinking of using both in an imagist poem and seeing which one is responded best to, and why. If I decide against it, I will instead be remaking my survey to approach my metaphors in a way that doesn’t just include a 50/50 choice.
I really enjoyed the Thought and Word reading. The evolution of words isn’t a new concept to me, but how it affects our speech was. I began to listen more closely to my own conversations, and heard that my roommate and I are always using “predicate conversations”.
I also thought about how I might translate this new knowledge into a study of foreign language. When I make flashcards, and go through them, I’ve been picturing objects in my head rather than just learning English translation. I’ve realized now that this has been helping me more than I thought…
So, for my project i want to look and people's doodles, b/c i think doodles are something people draw unconsciously for the most part. i plan on looking at doodles made in different classes or situations and see if they in any way reflect the subject being studied or the mood of the doodler. so if any one wants to give me any doodles, that would be cool.
about the readings. the first was difficult to read. it focused on word meanings and thought, but i think people, at least i personally, don't always think in words, which is why we sometimes find it difficult to articulate out thoughts.
one quote, "Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them" reminded me of something we discussed in class once. do people who speak different languages think in different ways, and are our thoughts limited by our language? i can remember my Spanish teacher always telling us to think in Spanish, and never knowing what she meant by that.
I found the second reading very interesting and convincing. i definitely think that language is an instinct. Another thing i found interesting was the discussion of BEV. i admit that i sometimes make unfair judgments about people based on their grammar, and i now see that other dialects are no less complex or correct than my own, just different.
I remember learning about Piaget's studies in psychology class and being fascinated with the whole process of language aquisition. I especially find the it amazing that a person can be bilingual, trilingual etc. because of all the intricacies involved in language.
On the subject of the paper due very soon, I had taken notes on many varieties of unconscious behaavior, so I think that I will isolate my paper to cover different unconscious movements we have throughout the day. I noticed in myself that there is a correlation between the amount of weird unconscious movement (e.g. leg twitching) and my level of involvement in an activity. for example, I discovered that if I was engaged in an "active type" activity such as reading outloud or an art project, i was less likely to do any odd unconscious movements. I'll probably have to interview and observe my friends a little bit as well in order to come up with more concrete conclusions.
On a completely random note, word association if one of the most interesting unconscious type things ever. A friend of mine decided that the word "pineapple" reminded her of "cheese". Hmmm.
It is amazing how much todays reading relates directly to what I am attempting to study for my experiment in tacit knowledge -- in fact, it is almost exactly what I am doing, plus a bit more.
For my project, I wanted to look into the way we are able to come up with complex words, sentence structures, sounds, etc, to express ideas that come to mind and to communicate those ideas in a way that another people would understand. I am observing conversations and taking note of the length of statements, the pauses between and within the responses in which a person can come up with a sentence directly relating to the first statement. I also want to interview some none native english speakers and see if they think in one language, then have to consciously translate into english when speaking aloud... I have always found it facinating that we are able to express thoughts so quickly, seemingly without much prior thought to exactly how we are going to form our sentences or which words we are going to use -- like we say something without even knowing we are going to say it, but then it comes out just right, like the unconscious flowing directly into words, only becoming consicous once spoken aloud. This reading was...well, perfect for my research. I thought it was incredibly interesting, as it explored many of the questions I have often wondered about and am now trying to investigate with my project .
Ooh I just loved this reading. The second one by Pinker- not the first so much (a little too dense for me I have to say).
I feel that pinker has a valid point but I don't feel that he has entirely explained himself- at least not to my liking.
I find his explanation on language aquisition a little too simplistic. He spoke about children CREATING language. I wouldn't disagree with him on this one- but I find it hard to believe that adults play no role in language learning. What about children that are raised by creatures OTHER than humans. I know this may be a tenuous argument since there are clearly not a large amount of wolf children out there- but one of the problems these children appear to face is that they have no language. Whatsoever. So, if children CREATE language- how is it that these 'wolf-children' never learned to speak?
I was also intrigued by Pinkers discussion on deaf children. I was wondering - what does a deaf child 'hear' when they read? I know that unless I have heard a word pronounced outloud I will often misread it to myself. (I embarrassed myself particularly with the word 'grotesque'). Do deaf children even have a voice in their heads? If so what does it 'sound' like?
Also- Professor Grobstein. I thought about our meeting the other day and I think you're wrong. People DO want sadness- well maybe not in a conscious way. I think most people feel that extreme emotions are better than purgatorial ones. Without sadness no one would ever be happy.
“I have forgotten the word I intended to say, and my thought, unembodied, returns to
the realm of the shadows.”
As I read these articles, one particular thought kept popping into my head. In my
French class currently, we have evening sessions with a TA where we do a lot of
speaking, and repeating, and conjugating of verbs. During the sessions, my TA,
Brittany, will often say a sentence (in French) and we have change something
around and then repeat the sentence back to her. After class many people voiced
the problems they were having with the exercise. I said I personally was having trouble because it was hard
balancing comprehending the sentence, changing the sentence, and then repeating
it back to her. I asked her if she could simply write the original sentence on
the board instead of just verbally saying it, but she insisted that the
Professor wanted in to be done only
verbally. I thought of this situation because it made me realize the immense
connection between thought and language. The idea that when
Brittany said something to me verbally, I had to think so much about the words
I was looking for that I completely forgot what the actual sentence was, seemed
like a great parallel to this article. I think it is especially interesting
that I noticed this in a class where I am not fluent in the language and so, of
course, it actually takes a lot of effort to think about what I am going to
say. My first reaction after writing this past sentence was then to say I have
no trouble speaking English and how it’s interesting that I do have trouble
speaking French. But then it dawned upon me: how many times have I said, “I
totally forgot what I was going to say” or "I'm having trouble finding the words"? Do I really just know what to say, or do I register it, perhaps in my
unconscious, and so I am not aware that I am indeed registering it? What is it
that makes me suddenly aware that I am at a loss for words? Has my unconscious,
who’s been hard at work preparing my speeches for me, suddenly merged into my
conscious brain, which then throws me off guard? Some food for thought…
So for my paper I have decided to settle down and work with body language. I had originally thought of doing something else, but when it came down to actually writing a paper, I realized it would be easier to watch body language. I was at a social this weekend and I was able to monitor peoples movements and their actions. Ontop of the scocial I will also be monitoring my roommates, which they dont know about yet lol. I already have quite a lot of information about my roommates and it is so interesting to actually write down and see on paper what they actually do that is so common to your/their every day life.
On to the reading, I have the same experience as cartartian with the little words I used to use a a kid, as Piaget describes in the secon reading. These moments in life immediatly popped into my head as I was reading. When I was little I used to say "Psgetti" instead of spaghetti and "peat" instead of seat. My dad said that my mom never corrected my grammer until one day in preschool for parent teacher conferences, my teahcer told my mom that she was concerned because I was saying certain words incorrectly. My mom finally confessed that she knew I was saying them wroing but she didnt want to fix them becasue they sounded so cute. I found it very interesting in the second reading that external speach and semantic work in opposite directions, which assumes that their development doesnt coincide, but eventhough this is true they are not interdependent. The end of the second reading made me open my eyes to the way that we understand speach. When talking with someone else, we listen and unconsciously take in the words they are saying and fit them to a story. However, we never see it in this way; "that to understand someone elses speach, it is not suficient to understand his words-we must understand his thought. But even that is not enough-we must also know its motivation." You never think of these things when you are talking with someone, they all go on in the unconscious, which is astounding. How can the unconscious be doing so much, yet we never notice it?