Metaphor and meta-process – what’s a meta-4?

Before I grow much older, I want to try and capture where my thinking is at.

I am engaging with Werner Ulrich’s JRP article from 2006, again, and from the present turn in my hermeneutical spiral.

And Stephen Downes’ inputs about PLEs is paying off here too.

As I read Werner’s comments about the ‘discursive turn’, I am noting

it tends to divert the attention of researchers away from the need to develop new skills of critical argumentation beyond those of quantitative analysis and, at the same time, to revise their notion of professional competence accordingly[dla1] .


[dla1]Connects with my experience of ‘analysis’ eg from Dunn’s policy analysis experience – analysis is not the only way to address the complex; creative synthesis, eg via metaphor, is another (and if my understanding, of all language being metaphoric, holds water, then language is /has always been our next most primary tool for /of inquiry, ie before counting, which involves ‘naming’ quantities!); so I am agreeing with Ulrich on the discursive critique approach, amongst consenting and informed and competent peers, but also going another step to a meta- metaphor – the metaphor of metaphor.

I have also made abductive connections with the reference to Don Quixote and tilting at windmills.

Another point of connection is with

Popper’s empiricist framework of science theory [dla1] apparently did not allow him to consider–and take seriously–sources of critique other than those of experimental science.


[dla1]This is where I understand myself to be still at, as a first default …

I need to remember: no grand theories; and Model II and Model I can be held by the one person, and perhaps held in tension like most living paradoxes.

Is the next grand theory that of paradox?

And earlier still, I noted, and here is the Downes process coming into play,:

Popper agreed with Neurath that there is no such thing as a direct access to empirical phenomena that would not be mediated through theoretical expectations and interpretations[DLA1] .


[DLA1]Any word in language is a theoretical expectation and interpretation .. the map is not the territory.

Hence critique of ‘naming’.

Where did I read about that recently?  About a teacher of observation and students and fish .. and making them keep on observing … Not in the apologetics item.

Perhaps one of the Google Reader ones … no apparently

Perhaps one of Giorgio’s links … drawn a blank there too???

In bed I thought that perhaps checking my internet behaviour might point to a recent web page where this might be.  Today 21/2 I cannot check that because the desktop is ‘down’.  The during the night dreaming was involving staff at UoW FoE, both Sue’s, and confusion about my role there.  Now with the desktop down, and other responsibilities of documentation having first priority, the working on that dreaming idea has escaped me.

Found it this morning 21/2 by being patient with Anecdote from Reader. The reference is http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2010/02/keeping_richnes.html.

Writing and context

I have been encouraged, previously, to realise that writing is a complex task, according to Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1991 (‘Literate Expertise’).

Now that I am trying to help others to write, I am also finding out a bit more about that complexity.  It has to do with the contextual nature of writing and meaning making.

Bateson, (1972/1969 ‘Double Bind’, in Steps to an Ecology of Mind), suggests that part of the capacity to be creative arises from somehow recognising cues from context .. and realising that in a certain context, something new is what is most appropriate.

It seems to me, as I try and suggest alternatives, of word choice, of sentence construction, for non-native English writers working on thesis drafting, and as I try to explain why what is written is not satisfying me, as a reader, the issue of a range of options of how else to write this, arises.

Those options need to be examined , and by using a range of evaluative criteria, in order to choose, or to design, which one, of the many ways of saying something, best serves the meaning the writer wants to convey.

No wonder, when I tried to construct a email, to share some of this, the email became more and more convoluted …

I needed to be with the writer, questioning, and finding out the meaning they intended,

I needed to help them to settle the choice on one issue before I/we could proceed to the next issue, whether it was immediately consequential, or not.

The choice of options, and all options chosen, needs to consolidate (or coalesce) around the purpose of the writing.  This is what is meant by coherence – a context in which each sentence has its own inimitable part to play.

It seems that I wasn’t far wrong, as an eight-to-nine-year-old, in reading the lot to try and find the meaning of the new word/s, rather than using a dictionary as a first resort.  I was working on understanding a new term, especially, in its context, as well as by its context.

5 Feb 2010: Now I find, from Kate Wilson’s thesis on EAP, that van Lier (2004) puts ‘context’ on the top of his list of ten principles for language learning. [No. Kate puts ‘context’ top; van Lier puts ‘relations’ top and ‘context’ second; though if we are strictly systemic, it willbe hard to order anything as top, because they are all interrelated, so that you cannot have-one-without-the-other.]

Language and creativity

Now to explain, in part, the other post.

In amongst my list of curiosities about learning is what and how we learn before we have what becomes our native language.

For me, it is logical that we do learn before we have recognisable and expressible language skills, and because we do learn that skill: the ability to communicate in our native language.

Gardner, in his preface to Frames of Mind (1983), comments:

‘Constraints research has revealed that, by the end of early childhood, youngsters have developed powerful and already entrenched theories about their immediate world: the world of physical objects and forces; the world of living entities; the world of human beings, including their minds.  Surprisingly, and in contradiction to the claims of the great developmentalist Jean Piaget (Mussen and Kessen 1983), these naive ‘conceptions’ and ‘theories’ prove difficult to alter, despite years of schooling.  And so it often happens that the ‘mind of the five-year-old’ ends up unaffected by the experiences of school. … At first blush, this diagnosis would appear to sound a death knell for formal education.  It is hard enough to teach to one intelligence; what if there are seven?  It is hard enough to teache even when anything can be taught; what to do if there are distinct limits and strong constraints on human cognition and learning? (p.xxii-xxiii)

So we learn our native language.

And, now, I am engaged in helping people work in a language which is not their native language, with writing for thesis purposes.

In the end, a thesis is an argument substantiating a claim.  The writing involves a protocol of exposing the substance of the claim: the grounds, the warrants, the backing, the qualifications and the rebuttals (as Toulmin puts it).

As I understand it, one of the protocols of western/occidental argument construction [that moves beyond ‘information’ (‘conveying the facts’) to a synthesis (that, in my case, prefers some sort of explanatory theory)] involves defining categories, and includes constructing the bounds of new categories and categories of conceptualisations, and sometimes by what is called nominalisation – making nouns out of verbs, or abstractions, or higher levels of generalisation.

That is to say, as far as I can express it, how we think, in the so-called 21st century world, has a high degree of reliance on ‘literacy’ – how we manage and extend our learning of language.

But what if this process of thinking, which privileges the ‘big picture’, is unbalanced, and to the extent that it is unbalanced, is faulty?

Do people who learn in another culture, with another kind of language, who may, by that culture and language, privilege ‘attention to detail’, and have other ways of managing detail and synthesising from it, both think differently and have other ways of problem solving, and ways which might help us deal with the complexity of the change wrought in our environment from the hegemony that has permitted virtually unrestrained exploitation of natural resources?

If so, does training them to think and express themselves, in compliance to the western/occidental mode, risk destroying that alternative?

Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences ( 2nd ed.). London: HarperCollins.

Toulmin, S., Rieke, R., & Janik, A. (1984). An Introduction to Reasoning ( 2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

It is working …

The RSS feed to the Google Reader process is delivering …

I have two new models, this morning, to set the wheels turning.

The first is courtesy Beth’s blog and is a five colour change model

My questions here: how this ‘fits’ with MBTI?, what else (MBTI would predict 4 colours) is it capturing?

The second is courtesy Shawn at Anecdote, and looks at a four quadrant analysis of systems and brings me back to Bateson and story and mind and pattern, and presents, for me, an interesting summary and comparison, and a suggestion of what to do in chaos – do to shift …

My question here is – what about that middle hatched patch?