Metaphor, some personal history

When I was a senior school student of English Literature (circa 1961/2), one insight stood out for me – irony, in Shelley’s Ozymandias.

As far as I can remember, that was the first time my perception of learning, in Eng Lit, went beyond ‘learning the facts’.

Yes, I had learnt that ‘metaphor’ is a form of speech, and is when one thing is claimed to be another, as in ‘The moon was a ghostly galleon …’; compared with simile which used ‘as’ or ‘like’ to preface the claim.

I have met up again with ‘metaphor’, and now much later.  Jack Mezirow speaks of metaphor being an indicator of the kind of reflective work/thinking that conveys the potential to move a person’s meaning perspective (what he calls ‘transformative’), or provides evidence of such a shift (p.219).

I have been used to the idea of ‘analogy’ and that kind of thinking being helpful for creative theorising since reading of Kekule’s snake, and the benzene ring (probably Asimov, probably about 1960).

Now I am understanding metaphor, and that kind of thinking, to be related to abduction, as distinct from deduction and induction.

The process of comparison, so vital to ‘research’ and working with ‘findings’, to manage lots of data, is part of this older understanding of how an educated person can use language, and so and more ‘creatively’.

In my thesis (1999-2005) I worked some more with Gregory Bateson’s idea of the meta- … meta-cognition, meta-communication, the second-level process of thinking about thinking, communicating about communication etc.

So what is the meta-4? (as per punning) … to help us think and to communicate our thinking …

How important is it? It seems to me that irony, paradox, truth hidden in the meaning of words, is something that will be with me all my life.  Whether  I can make something more of this understanding is another matter; let alone considering how I make something more of this …

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.]


Yet another one from of Cognitive Edge, and a connection to another blog I am following (yes, now that I have time and cognitive space to catch up with the latter part of this week, I can make connections)

It demonstrates that empathy follows from interaction. They were not really talking about these examples per se, but about military matters. However the anecdotal material shone through. Some of it had been reported up, but was reduced by mediation and summarisation. It was the voice of the person that made the story powerful. My response to this (and I hope to do something here) was that these very anecdotes need to be gathered and distributed. ….

However the focus of many in the group was on the more convention, what is the objective, what is measured, how do we achieve it. A focus on training the individuals rather than increasing human interaction and allowing learning to emerge. In effect to let the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things speak to power.

[my emphases .. given my interest in story-and-mind /Gregory Bateson, and practice knowledge]

Anecdote is running a story week next week .. it will be interesting to watch

A useful meta-process idea

at Cognitive Edge has noted

Yesterday I outlined a series of known effects that produce errors in perception and judgement in humans. I argued then that attempts to train people not to commit such errors was itself an error and a good example of the idealistic approaches to management that seem to dominate much of the management and training literature.

This is what I recognise, these days, as a meta-process/ meta-statement – error at two levels, and the risk of faulty thinking that goes with such potential confusion.  (from Gregory Bateson)

This time its application is definitely for me, and my high internal locus of control and closure potentialities and my big picture thinking (NTJ in MBTI) … any idea/ ideal/ idealism is likely to have this kind of incongruence built in (ie inherent)!!! Can I think critically about that?

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?