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Previous Issue: Volume 23, No.5 , Week of February 20, 2005
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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: March 17, 2005
Latest Update: March 17, 2005
Topic of the Week:
We See What Our Mind Prepares Us to See
Jeffrey Barbee's picture for the The New York Times (one day earlier this week) of Workers at the Everunison clothing factory in Maputsoe, Lesotho, sort[ing] out bulk cloth that has just arrived from China had nothing to do with the hot seductive colors of Africa and the movement of supple athletic bodies. It was about trade deficits and their destructive weakening of our dollar and the destruction of large chunks of African economies. And Barbee's photo wasn't really abstract. It showed piles of clothing, not rhythmical dancing and music.
Jeffrey Barbee for The New York Times
"Workers at the Everunison clothing factory in Maputsoe, Lesotho,
sort out bulk cloth that has just arrived from China."
The date was Sunday, March 13 or Monday, March 14 - someone threw the paper out before I recorded it. Sorry, jeanne
But it was on the front page, and I saw the colors and shapes and forms before I read the headlines. What I saw is what I painted for this week's visual moment in sociology.I saw the rhythm of bodies and the beauty of colors of the South (as in North/South around the equator). And then I thought of what a wonderful illustration this would make of how our psychological life spaces (Kurt Lewin) shape to a large extent what we see. Dark bodies juxtaposed in shapes like these suggest to me the dancing and joy of Africa. The strong colors and unusual shapes accent the infrastructure I expect. And so I see one person playing a drum or instrument and one dancing, all in glorious color. This is the power of imagery.
Now think of how most of us get our principle shot of news each day from hasty radio blurbs or television sound bites. And most of us watch television. The imagery that flows across the screen continuously conveys the iconology and ideology of dominant discourse. If we see a beautiful purring car, that is a good feeling, and we want our car to purr so beautifully in such lovely scenery. Which of us drives through the mountains on the way to work? Which of us drives in traffic that allows our car to purr?
Once you have created the kind of reaction I had to this week's painting, I'm purring. My mind is still operative, I understand about the trade deficit. But I'm still purring in response to the beauty I've seen and the memories that have been evoked. Does that effect make the fear of the weakened dollar easier to take? Does it dull my reaction in a world so fast-paced I sometimes can't catch my breath?
Did anybody, the New York Times, or the photographer, Jeffrey Barbee, mean to have that effect of summoning joy to mind to balance the fear of the weakened dollar in global trade? One could almost certainly say no in this instance. The photograph accurately portrayed the pile up of clothes imported to Africa from China for further processing. But communication is complex. I chose this example precisely because it seemed so gratuitous. So many factors enter into our expectations, and our expectations so color our perceptions. We need to be aware of this complexity in messaging. So often what you say doesn't get through until my own expectations have colored the message.
And in this case, I couldn't resist heightening my own vision and holding onto it. How could Jeffrey Barbee have known what that photograph would say to me? This is what we mean when we talk of the author being dead. Once the author or the artist's message is out there, my own life space merges with the photo and turns it into a completely different message. The author isn't really dead; he's just said his piece, and now I, the reader or viewer, incorporate the message as it translates into my world and add my own experience to it. And when I launch my own version, some of you will take off from there and see very different things.
In this same way all messages are subject to interpretation, and the interpretation for each of us is very, very personal, stemming from our own life experiences. That's not a bad thing. It does, however, rather upset those who are sure there must be one right answer. When you look at messaging and communication in this context it becomes clear that the rational is but one factor in communication, for how could we rationally predict when a photo of a warehouse would translate for at least one viewer into rhythm and color instead of into pile upon pile of clothes from China?
Messages require interpretation. Interpretation is based on individual experience. Interpretation introduces the ambiguity of "one plausible explanation is . . . " And hopefully that will make us humble enough to recognize that communication is messy and open to persuasion, confusion, misunderstanding. A good sign of our need for illocutionary discourse.
Questions I'd like you to consider: How do our expectations shape our perceptions? Why would that mean that sociologists today speak of reflexive methodology? Consider this example of my seeing what I expected to see when I saw what I presumed to be an African body shape familiar to me. Consider how these expectations color what I see by popping up in my apperceptive mass along with whatever the photographer meant for me to see. Consider that because I have these other expectations, once I see the devastation being caused in Africa by the trading deficit, I may feel a greater urge to prevent that harm. So expectations make us receptive as well as allow us denial. And then consider the term "reflexive methodology" which means that the researcher or scientist must consider his/her own expectations and how they affect what might otherwise be an objective methodology.
NEWS, Announcements, and
Current Discussion Topics: Instructions page for joining transform_dom and transspan
- Link for joining transform_dom:
Famous People and Concepts We Should Have Heard Of, But Often Haven't.
- Kurt Lewin - psychologist. Psychological life space.
- Michel Foucault - What is an author?
- The ‘death of the author’ as an instance of theory "Copyright 1996, 2000 by John Lye. This text may be freely used, with attribution, for non-profit purposes."
Jeanne's Lectures for Spring 2005
- Fall 2004 Lectures in Chronological Order
- Winter Break 2005 Lectures in Chronological Order
- Spring 2005 Lectures in Chronological Order
- Seeing What We Expect to See Started lecture on how expectations, including religious expectations, affect our perspective. Added March 16, 2005.
- jeanne's Beliefs as a Starting Point Started on the morning of March 17, 2005.
Find the cat, Edie.
And share the fun with Hargo, of the Somerville gates.
- One of the Somerville photos from benzilla.com blog
- Gregory Colbert - Photographer with Nomadic Museum
- Ashes and Snow Website
- Have Museum, Will Travel
The Nomadic Museum as seen on February 1. The 45,000-square-foot space opens to the public on March 5.
While the city marvels at saffron-bedecked Central Park, another massive arts project has been nearing completion downtown, one shipping container at a time. Called the Nomadic Museum, it will take up all of Pier 54, on the Hudson River at 13th Street. But as a museum it’s a rather curious monument: It won’t remain standing for very long. And it’s devoted exclusively to the work of one artist.
Photographer Gregory Colbert—who travels the world taking pictures of people communing with whales, elephants, and other animals— got the idea (and funds) for the museum after his one-man installation in 2002 at the Venice Biennale’s Arsenale, a vast shipyard dating from the Renaissance. “Ashes and Snow” was the first solo exhibit ever to occupy the entire space. And every last piece of art in it was bought up by the chairman of Rolex, who then encouraged the artist to use the money to mount the show—as is—in other cities. So, Colbert asked the avant-garde Japanese architect Shigeru Ban to design a museum large enough to travel with it. After “Ashes and Snow” finishes its New York run, from March 5 to June 6, the Nomadic Museum will be taken apart and reassembled in Los Angeles. Future stops include Beijing and Paris.
From Have Museum, Will Travel. At p. 1.
View from inside the mobile museum:
Rendering by Ombra Bruno/Officina di Architettura
Left/Right Perspectives - Cursor - New York Times - The National Review
Arts and Letters Daily - The Economist - The Sierra Club - The Guardian
Wall Street Journal - The Weekly Standard - The Nation
BBC NEWS | Americas - truthout - Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles
Los Angeles Times - Chicago Tribune - La Opinion - The Washington Post
Cursor's Al Jazeera Archive - Ha'aretz - Palestine Monitor - Palestine Report
- Mentoring Help for New Students with Frequently Asked Questions
- Mentoring Help for Returning Students with More Frequently Asked Questions
- Shared Reading Suggestions
- Home Page for transform-dom You can read all the messages on Transforming Dominant Discourse from this page. Just click on messages in the left hand frame. You can read the messages, even if you're having difficulty signing up.
Syllabus for Independent Study: Religion as a Present Social Issue January 30, 2005.
Learning Records from Spring 2005 Just started, on the basis of transform_dom discussions. This will take a while. I didn't work on learning records with all the confusion at home this week. Will get back to it shortly. jeanne
- Most recent list of Learning Records from Fall 2004
- Instructions page for joining transform_dom and transspan
- Link for joining transform_dom:
Preparing for Graduate Study:
- Test Prep Preview Joshua L. Stewart, recommended this site because it has free practice tests. If you're thinking of taking the GRE, the LAST, or any other graduate entry test, this might be a good place to gather some early information. Joshua suggested it for Praxis Practice, but a quick first look suggests they don't mean by praxis what we do. Check it out, anyway, if you have some spare time. jeanne
- Resource Literacy
- Plagiarism Watch www.streetgangs.com site. The intelligent and effective use of resources means that you have to be careful not to plagiarize other people's material. We have several files on plagiarism, but I think the one that might make the most sense to you is this complaint on streetgangs.com. They give you samples of sites that have taken their material without citation, even at colleges, and they also give you examples of sites that have used their material with proper attribution. I find the irony poetic, and hope that their message will get through to you the importance of attribution. Dr. O'Connor on his Mega Criminal Justice site led me to streetgangs.com and noted that others frequently hack into the site. For that reason I have created a backup copy for your use in case you cannot access the actual site. Please be sure to attribute any citation to streetgangs.com. jeanne Backup.
Using Academic Language Effectively
Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:
- Letters of Recommendation:
- Letters of Recommendation: How to get me to respond to your request. Many of you need letters. If you will follow this format, I can do them quickly and make them good.
- Dog Letters If you do not give me adequate information, but do manage to get my attention, you may end up with a dog letter. That is a letter that says that you work well with people, that you are enthusiastic, that you persist at getting things done, and that everyone likes you. Of course, my dog gets along well with people, brings his ball to them, is enthusiastic, and persists at getting them to take his ball. Everyone likes my dog. That's a dog letter. It's so general it could be about my dog. jeanne
Sneaky Strokes and Flying Good Dogs
Flying Dog is also a painting by Zhang Kai. Best I've every come across to illustrate our site with magic numbers and unicorns and whipped cream cats and now, flying dogs:
Flying Good Dogs: Whenever something happens in class that works out well, that inspires you, that helps in studying, whatever, take a few minutes to send us an e-mail. We'll post it where all of us can learn from it, including other teachers.
You can also send an email to the Who to Take Site: