Communication - Point 12
UNDER CONSTRUCTION, QUOTES ONLY
[IN PROGRESS] The recognition of the radical omnipresence of meaning completely changes the frame in which we meet each other. Instead of dueling with ideals on the plain of flatland where the results are "success" or "failure," a society frame recognizes that the beginning and result of any intentional encounter is always a context, a particular social body and that results will always be different than our intentions. Contexts always change, and they will continue to change even days after a communication. The magic of communication is that it allows us to wrest meaning in one sphere of our collective body and use it to move other spheres of our meaning societies. This magic acknowledges that we are creatures of the meaning web and that we share portions of the web with others.
This Page, this Point:
"The self-evident quality of the boundary that divides organism and environment becomes less and less obvious the closer we approach it. Bateson, in his classic example of the man-axe-tree circuit, suggests that only the total system of tree-eyes-brain-muscles-axe-stroke-tree has the quality of immanent mind. What occurs in this system is a series of transforms and what happens in the environment is as essential to the circuit as the sensory-muscular processes in the human participant. There is danger in separating meaning and context, or participant and setting, of falling into the trap of viewing one as independent variable and the other as dependent variable.
"My own view agrees with his emphasis upon the idea that communication systems, particularly human ones, never exist out of context, that any analysis of behavior that disregards the matrix in which it occurs distorts its character in some respects. As he stresses, 'in no system which shows mental characteristics can any part have unilateral control over the whole. In other words, the mental characteristics of the system are immanent, not in some part, but in the system as a whole' (Bateson, 1972). The issue here is whether to base the study of communication on the assumption of a hierarchy of systems in which each serves as context of the others, each having some unique features and some autonomy, or that the only communicative system is the universe as a whole and analytic units become 'arcs of larger circuits.'" "Toward an Ecology of Communication," Richard Barnlund, Rigor & Imagination, 1980, p.95.
"It seems clearer and clearer to me that we cannot understand language except through direct experience, using it or having it used to us. Unless our words make a difference in the outcome, we cannot make valid judgments. Too often the sociolinguist or pragmaticist still attempts to play the games of the ivory tower, to study some aspect of real language use 'objectively.' If it's a form of language with which we are all familiar anyway, like conversation, there is probably no harm done. But when the researcher ventures into foreign territory, like the courtroom, it is essential to be engaged, to get a whiff of the adversariality in the air by joining the game, not standing on the surface decorously jotting notes. Lakoff, Robin. Talking Power; The Politics of Language in Our Lives. Basic Books. 1990. p. x.
"During the second year of the infant's life language emerges, and in the process the senses of self and other acquire new attributes. Now the self and the other have different and distinct personal world knowledge as well as a new medium of exchange with which to create shared meanings. A new organizing subjective perspective emerges and opens a new domain of relatedness. The possible ways of 'being with' another increase enormously. At first glance, language appears to be a straightforward advantage for the augmentation of interpersonal experience. It makes parts of our known experience more shareable with others. In addition, it permits two people to create mutual experiences of meaning that had been unknown before and could never have existed until fashioned by words. It also finally permits the child to begin to construct a narrative of his own life. But in fact language is a double-edged sword. It also makes some parts of our experience less shareable with ourselves and with others. It drives a wedge between two simultaneous forms of interpersonal experience: as it is lived and as it is verbally represented." The Interpersonal World of the Infant, Daniel Stern, Basic Books, New York, 1985, p. 162.
"Now the dilemma: On one hand, arguing from and accepting claims on authority are the twentieth Century’s definitive epistemic methods. On the other hand, the medieval logicians’ chief reason for seeing the argument from authority as a fallacy still holds: To invoke authority is to abort debate.” Willard, Charles Arthur. Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy. University of Chicago Press. 1996. p. 140.
"This moment presupposes that the interpreter and poem are in communion and that the communion is large enough to fill the space in which the audience is present, thus to encircle the audience, take it up into its life, and so transform it, just as poem and interpreter are transformed. For Bacon this process begins with 'the tensive life of literature,' expands into a relationship with the interpreter, and finally culminates in 'the relationship between these two lives and the life of the audience....' This complexity of relationship creates growth in all of its parts: poem, interpreter, and audience each grows and becomes more itself through the others." Bozrath-Campbell, Alla. The Word's Body. The University of Alabama Press. 1979. p. 16.
"To decode a message fully, one would have to reconstruct the entire semantic structure which underlay its creation--and thus to understand the sender in every deep way." Goedel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstader, Penguin, 1979, p. 166.
“If communication is genuine only insofar as it expresses one’s beliefs, or realistically connects nouns with objects, then most communication is counterfeit, most leadership is deceitful, and mass media simulations will seem to have replaced the authentic links between language and reality. Behind this thinking is a naive realism: Communication is a process of making known one’s thoughts and feelings; its purpose is to convey one’s thoughts and feelings to others; it either conveys one’s internal reality or conceals it–it is either true or false. Honest communication is authentic, accurate, a mirror of inner reality. In a word, it is expressive.
“One who sees communication this way will see conventional rules, etiquettes, and norms as inauthentic and rhetorical achievements–the creation of new situations and selves to get around conventional obstructions–as deceitful. This primitive view of communication is an interpersonal handicap, and it is angst-inspiring when it fosters the expectation that states and organizations be as authentic as people. The expectation that ITT or IBM be surrogate humans, embracing the individual in the warm arms of common ground is both a mistake and predisposition to anomie. Mimicking kinship and friendship is not what the conventions of organizations and societies do best–so they inevitably seem counterfeit and inhuman.” Willard, Charles Arthur. Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy. University of Chicago Press. 1996. p. 16.
Interlocking both primary societies offers an expanded paradigm of communication that is not just the basically assaultive shoving of messages but is also the larger frame of actually evolving contexts (local portions of the lifescape), the movement and growth of various societies. We can huff and puff with words/signs and information in the conceptscape’s pipelines of messages but actual relations will evolve as they will. The two “societies” are in interplay; to forget actual, rich contexts is to court ideological bashing and withdrawal while to forget words/signs and message content of the conceptscape is to remain babbling. If we meet and depart in communicative encounters that presume diverse and incompletely knowable personal societies, then there cannot be the “miscommunication” of the conceptscape alone’s missed equivalences; there will always be personal societies’ partially melded successes. In this view communication is the same as action where a rupture from the complex moves into the singulars of the conceptscape’s constructions. The difference to action is that communication’s action is on the semantic web itself.
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Page updated 3/5/03