Abracadabra: Language, Memory, Representation
Today's reading: "Pictures Texts and Objects." by John Law and Michael Lynch
Science and Classification, Western and not.
In 1967, the anthropologist Ralph Bulmer published a study called "Why is the Cassowary Not a Bird? A Problem of Zoological Taxonomy Among the Karam of the New Guinea Highlands." Bulmer's point, and the goal of much anthropology, has been to identify the reasons why classification differs from place to place, and more importantly how it reflects social and cultural organization. Bulmer, along with many others, such as Mary Douglas, Claude Levi-Strauss, and Edmund Leach all conducted research aimed at uncovering how classification is related to social structure. Bird watching is one of a huge array of sciences and 'knowledges' more generally, in which formal instructions are applied in practice. `What can we say about the relation of these field guides to 'our' Euro-american social structure?
Reading and Writing: Meaning vs. Use
One of the things this article highlights is the difference between two theories of reading. One theory presumes that all the meaning is contained within the text, with only the intelligent reader to decipher it. The other assumes that some kinds of texts are used for a purpose and that there is a dynamic relation between the reader, the writer, and the environment in which it is used.
Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds of Texas, Houghton Mifflin, 1963,Hawks p.61 | Flying Hawks p.80 | Flying Ducks p.37 | Confusing Fall Warblers p.220
Sibley's Sibley Guide to Birds, Chanticleer Press, 2000.Hawks p.112 | Warblers p.425-6 | Hummingbirds p.302
"What would you be missing if you did not experience the meaning of a word?"
To experience a word vs. to know its meaning. Is 'apprenticeship' necessary to understand what words mean? What is the difference between a skilled practitioner and the one who knows the dictionary meanings of words?
What does it mean to "get the name to stick"? Why does Linda have trouble knowing that these ducks are gadwalls?
A Literary Language Game
"...'experiencing the meaning of words' in a specific naturalistic domain requires apprenticeship to a social organization of reading and writing." p.319.
- situated practices of reading and writing. not just seeing, but observing, describing, redescribing and categorizing.
Schematic, Photographic, Dioramic
"revealing disruptions in the concrete practice of reading 'the book of nature."
Encountering frustrations, uncertainties and quandaries. Beginners assume they are at fault. More sophisticated birders know that the field guide cannot account for all aspects of watching birds.
"We [are] interested in how members of an epistemic community 'attach' authoritative knowledge 'to nature'." p. 336
Parts of a Bird, from Sibley's Guide to Birds, 1st ed. © 2000
|Christopher Kelty Last modified: Mon Jan 27 18:08:08 CST 2003|