Knowledge Waves: New Zealand as Educational Enterprise

An article Stephen Turner and I wrote about pedagogical design has just appeared online (full text).

With New Zealand’s “knowledge wave” in view, along with its near synonyms “knowledge society” and “knowledge economy,” we consider the “pedagogy” of contemporary capitalism. Here the education system, and in particular the university, has become the key social institution, and concern, for the enterprise of innovation-oriented techno-capitalism. Its pedagogical design imperative, or structural determination, demands that educational institutions embody and transmit the value of knowledge qua innovation. Looking at work organisation in terms of the “deep communication” of design principles, evident in enhanced systems of measuring space, time and value, we show that the built environment today favours a “transcendental” capitalist culture.

Sean Sturm and Stephen Turner, “Knowledge Waves: New Zealand as Educational Enterprise,” Australian Journal of Communication 38.3 (2011): 153-77.

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“Under the Gaze of Theory” by Boris Groys at e-flux

Boris Groys, “Under the Gaze of Theory,” e-flux 35 (May 2012) [journalpdf].

Joos van Craesbeeck, The Temptation of St. Anthony (c.1650)

[T]heory was never so central for art as it is now. So the question arises: Why is this the case? I would suggest that today artists need a theory to explain what they are doing—not to others, but to themselves. In this respect they are not alone. Every contemporary subject constantly asks these two questions: What has to be done? And even more importantly: How can I explain to myself what I am already doing? The urgency of these questions results from the acute collapse of tradition that we experience today.

Terra (In)cognita: Mapping Academic Writing

First draft of a new paper on academic writing . . .

Students and teachers alike bemoan the sorry state of academic writing, as both readers and writers. Nonetheless, they are loath to venture beyond what they take to be the well-known territory of the academic — read: expository — essay for fear of erring, or unsettling their readers. Here I aim to map the academic essay as it is practised for the most part . . . but also as it might be practised. That is to say, the essay is not as monolithic a form as it has often been taken to be, but it also offers a greater range of possibilities than have commonly been taken up.

Broadly speaking, there are two main spatial models of the essay, namely, the essay as round trip and as one-way journey: the point-first (PF) and the point-last (PL) essay respectively.

The first model is the more common in — and seemingly native to — the academy, in that it is an epistemic (knowledge-displaying) and thus expository writing technology. But it is less open, as it stakes its claim at the outset and then sets out to prove it. The second is less common — but truer to the origin of the essay, in that it is a heuristic (knowledge-discovering) and thus exploratory writing technology. [Read more . . .]

Badiou on education from “Art and Philosophy”

In “Art and Philosophy” from 1997 (Handbook of Inaesthetics [Stanford UP, 2005] 1-15), Alain Badiou rejects both Plato’s ostracism of artists as mad counterfeiters of truth and the Romantic poets’ worship of artists as prophets of truth in favour of “artistic apprenticeship as the key to education” (1).

He posits that the 20C has inherited three schemas of art — the didactic, the romantic and the classical:

  1. didactic (cf. Plato, Brecht/Marxism), i.e., cognitive: “all truth is external to art” (2), i.e., art does not produce truth, though it pretends it does (it dissembles truth). Philosophy produces truth. Art must be controlled (or banished, according to Plato).
  2. romantic (cf. the Romantic poets, Heidegger/hermeneutics), i.e., revelatory: “art alone is capable of truth” (3), i.e., it produces truth (it incarnates truth). Art is glorified. Philosophy merely reproduces truth.
  3. classical (cf. Aristotle, Freud/psychoanalysis), i.e., therapeutic: “art . . . is incapable of truth” (4), i.e., it does not produce truth, because it is mimetic (it resembles “reality”) and cathartic, i.e., aesthetic. Art is about likelihood and liking. Philosophy is about “unlikelihood.”

In modernity, these schemas are “saturated” (7):

Didacticism is saturated by the state-bound and historical exercise of art in the service of the people. Romanticism is saturated by the element of pure promise — always brought back to the supposition of a return of the gods — in Heidegger’s rhetorical equipment. Classicism, finally, is saturated by the self-consciousness conferred upon it by the complete deployment of a theory of desire.

He argues that the 20C’s “new” schema of avant-gardism was, in fact, a synthetic blend: a “didacto-romanticism” (it is didactically anti-art and romantically absolutist).

So a fourth genuinely new schema must be found. The clue lies in different relationships of art and truth the inherited schema share, that is, vis-à-vis immanence (whether truth is inside or outside of art) and singularity (whether the truths of art are its own):

  1. didacticism: truth is not immanent in art but is singular;
  2. romanticism: truth is immanent in art but not singular;
  3. classicism: truth is not immanent in art and not singular either.

The new fourth schema is the inaesthetic, which is both

  1. immanent, i.e., “[a]rt itself is a truth procedure,” thus: “[a]rt is rigorously coextensive with the truths it generates”; and
  2. singular, i.e., “art . . . is irreducible to philosophy,” thus: “[t]hese truths are given nowhere else than in art” (9).

By “inaesthetics” I understand a relation of philosophy to art that, maintaining that art is itself a producer of truths, makes no claim to turn art into an object for philosophy. (epigraph)

The role of philosophy, then, is to manifest truths:

Philosophy’s relation to art, like its relation to every other truth procedure [viz. love, science and politics], comes down to showing it as it is. Philosophy is the go-between in our encounters with truths. . . . So it is that truths are artistic, scientific, amorous, or political, and not philosophical. (9-10)

Art and philosophy (can) work together:

[t]his question of the existence of truths (that “there be” truths) points to a coresponsibility of art, which produces truths, and philosophy, which, under the condition that there are truths, is duty-bound to make them manifest (a very difficult task indeed). Basically, to make truths manifest means the following: to distinguish truths [the new] from opinion [the status quo].

(For Badiou, the status quo has as its art, culture; as its science, technology; as its love, sexuality; and as its politics, management [St Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, Stanford UP, 2003, 12].)

How does this relate to education? Education readies us for truth to happen — in art (or any other of the truth procedures):

Art is pedagogical for the simple reason that it produces truths and because “education” (save in its oppressive or perverted expressions) has never meant anything but this: to arrange the forms of knowledge in such a way that some truth may come to pierce a hole in them. / What art educates us for is therefore nothing apart from its own existence. (9)

Or, to speak more radically:

the only education is an education by truths. (14)

*

See Jan Jagodzinski on Badiou’s somewhat heavy-handed appropriation of Lacan’s four discourses: “Badiou’s Challenge to Art and its Education: Or ‘art cannot be taught — it can however educate,'” Thinking Education through Alain Badiou, ed. Kent den Heyer (Blackwell, 2010) 33-35 (26-44). For most of their history, there has been a tug-of-war between art and philosophy. Once art played the Hysteric to philosophy as Master; when the Master failed to provide answers for her, she became his mistress and muse, inaugurating the hermeneutic discourse of the University (1).

  1. the discourses of Master and Hysteric see art as cognitive or therapeutic (didactic or classical);
  2. the discourse of the University sees art as revelatory (romantic);
  3. the discourse of the Analyst sees art as truth procedure (inaesthetic).

Mind Melds: Conceptual Blends

A very simple but suggestive notion of creativity (one among many, naturally, but one that focusses primarily on one but also, to a degree, on two other of the four aspects of creativity: the process [creating] and, to a certain extent, the person [the creator] and, less so, the product [the created object] — but not the place): the blend . . .

Conceptual blending or integration: the subconscious blending of objects and relations from diverse situations that is the basis of innovation, including what we call “creativity” — unconscious or generative (but potentially inventive, i.e. heuristic, or exploratoryanalogy.

  • Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner developed this theory as early as 1993, in their paper from the UCB/UCSD 1993 Cognitive Linguistics Workshop, “Conceptual Projection and Middle Spaces” (see The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities [New York: Basic Books, 2002]).
  • Finke, Ward and Smith’s “Geneplore” model splits creativity into two phases: the generative or pre-inventive phase (“inspiration”) and the exploratory or inventive phase (production) (R. Finke, T. B. Ward and S. M. Smith, Creative Cognition: Theory, Research and Applications [Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992]).

This process enables us “to invent new concepts and to assemble new and dynamic mental patterns” — see Turner’s Blending and Conceptual Integration:

A mental space is a small conceptual packet assembled for purposes of thought and action [an idealized cognitive model — like a personal possible world]. A mental space network connects an array of mental spaces. A conceptual integration network is a mental space network that contains one or more “blended mental spaces.” A blended mental space is an integrated space that receives input . . . from other mental spaces in the network and develops emergent structure not available from the inputs.

For Stephen Mithin, it is this cognitive fluidity, this capacity to use metaphor and analogy, that distinguishes modern from archaic humans (The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science [New York: Thames & Hudson, 1996]).

Where the archaic mind was domain-specific (or strictly modular) — like a Swiss Army knife, the modern mind is more fluid (or interconnected in its modules): each person has a different combination of tools on their knife and can better apply them in combination(s). (See Andy Gorman’s review for a useful summary.)

The degree to which conceptual blending, as a cognitive capacity or activity that is in large part unconscious but nonetheless generative, can be consciously cultivated as an inventive process — as exploration — is moot.

See

  • Arthur Koestler on “bisociative matrices”: the creative act is a “bisociation” (not a mere association) which happens when two (or more) apparently incompatible frames of thought or “matrices” — or “mental spaces” in Turner’s terms — are brought together as in a dream or trance state (The Act of Creation [New York: Macmillan, 1964]).

From Terrence Deacon, "The Aesthetic Faculty," The Artful Mind: Cognitive Science and the Riddle of Human Creativity, ed. Mark Turner (New York: Oxford UP, 2006).

  • George Lakoff and Mark Johnson on conceptual/cognitive metaphors: the understanding of one idea or conceptual domain in terms of another, for example, understanding quantity in terms of directionality, e.g. “prices are rising” — or love as a journey, life as a journey, love as war, etc. — or, as below, understanding deep time as a progression (the growth of a tree or rhizome) or succession (the change in a landscape), a wave, or a regression (Lakoff, Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind [Chicago: UCP, 1987] and Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By [Chicago: UCP, 1980]).

Metaphors for deep time, from Renee M. Clary, Robert F. Brzuszek and James H. Wandersee, "Students' Geocognition of Deep Time, Conceptualized in an Informal Educational Setting"

N.B. The etymology of the word “blend” suggests mixture, a blinding flash, luminosity — or clouding: the word stems from the Old English blondan or Old Norse blanda, “to mix”; interestingly, further back it is perhaps from the Proto-Germanic blandjan, “to blind,” via the connecting idea of “to make cloudy,” from the Proto-Indo-European base bhel- “to shine, flash, burn” (like our word “bleach”).

2010 in Review [sic]

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 35,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 58 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 181 posts. There were 34 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was August 25th with 320 views. The most popular post that day was The Incomparable Gary Lutz.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were anthem-group.net, htmlgiant.com, facebook.com, twitter.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for klein bottle, marcel duchamp, francis bacon, duchamp, and mantis.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Incomparable Gary Lutz August 2010
2 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Peter Sloterdijk in English January 2010
25 comments

3

Creatures of habit(us): bundle theories of the self September 2009
2 comments

4

“The Science of Success” by David Dobbs December 2009

5

Optophonetics November 2009

Hau Kainga

hau kāinga: (lit. home wind) homeland, homepage, the “side” of the hosts on the marae (as against that of the manuhiri or visitors)

Hoki mai ki te hau kāinga. “Return home.” (Return to your homeland, i.e., to your “home wind.”)

Dame Whina Cooper (1975):

Kia matāra, hokia o koutou tuohutanga e whai kanohi ai te hau kainga. “Take heed: swallow your pride and reconnect with those at home” (lit. “Be watchful: return to your humility and look for a face at home”; compare Shane Jones‘s translation).

Compare the Tuhoe whakatauki (proverb):

Hokia ki nga maunga kia purea koe e nga hau a Tawhirimatea. “Return to the mountains to be cleansed by the winds of Tawhirimatea.”

The idea that home would be marked by a wind, a certain atmosphere (hau takiwā), is suggestive. Like the Greek pneuma, the Latin spiritus and the German Geist, hau means both wind and spirit (lit. air, breath, gas; vital essence, vitality of human life; food used in ritual ceremonies, a.k.a. whangai hau).

The concept of hau has become something of a cause célèbre since Marcell Mauss wrote about it in The Gift (1922) as the spirit of reciprocity that attaches to a gift and in the circulation of gifts guarantees the social order. The hau demands that the gift be returned to its owner: it is the “force . . . in the thing given which compels the recipient to make a return” (1). Failure to reciprocate entails a loss of mana, that is, spiritual authority and wealth. A series of three obligations constitutes a gift proper (on my reading of Mauss):

  1. giving: asserting the social bond;
  2. receiving: accepting the social bond; and
  3. reciprocating: confirming the social bond by responding in kind.

(Mauss took the idea from Elsdon Best’s “Maori Forest Lore” [1909], not entirely unproblematically, as Marshall Sahlins explores at length in “The Spirit of the Gift” [1972].)

To return to hau kainga as “home wind”: think to what degree we  know a place by its winds — characteristic winds and other atmospherics, humidity, scent, etc. It is essential to — but often latent in — our experience of place and dwelling or otherwise: everything that lives breathes, after all.

We can go further: Heidegger sees the appearance and disappearance of being as a wind — a “draft” (Zugwind) he calls it — in the “pull” (Zug) of which “relation” (Bezug) only the strongest like Socrates (and presumably himself — and genuine poets too, like Hölderlin) can stand (What Is Called Thinking 17-18; on the poets, see “Remembrance” 109ff.). Thus,

The saying of the more venturesome which is more fully saying is the song. But “Song is existence,” says the third of the Sonnets to Orpheus, Part I. The word for existence, Dasein, is used here in the traditional sense of presence and as a synonym of Being. To sing, truly to say worldly existence, to say out of the haleness of the whole pure draft and to say only this, means: to belong to the precinct of beings themselves. This precinct, as the very nature of language, is Being itself. TO sing the song means to be present in what is present itself. It means: Dasein, existence. (“What Are Poets For?” 135; for an alternate translation, see “Why Poets?“)

See

  • Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share (1949; New York, NY: Zone, 1988). [This text is not available online; Benjamin Noys’s George Bataille: A Critical Introduction (London: Pluto, 2000) has a section on the Accursed Share that deals with the gift (108ff.).]
  • Elsdon Best, “Maori Forest Lore” (part 3), Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 42 (1909): 436-41 (“The Mauri of the Forest”).
  • Jacques Derrida, “‘Counterfeit Money’ 1: Poetics of Tobacco (Baudelaire, Painter of Modern Life),”  Given Time: Counterfeit Money, trans. Peggy Kamuf (Chicago, IL: UCP, 1994) 71-107.
  • Martin Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” trans. James G. Hart and John C. Maraldo, Pathmarks, ed. William McNeill (Cambridge: CUP, 1998) 39-62.
  • —. “Remembrance,” Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry, trans. Keith Hoeller (Amherst, NY: Humanity, 2000) 101-75. [On the wind as calling poets to their historical being (111).]
  • —. What Is Called Thinking, trans. J. Glenn Gray (NY: Harper & Row, 1968).
  • —. “Why Poets?,” Off the Beaten Track, trans. Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes (Cambridge, UK: CUP, 2002) 200-41; “What Are Poets For?,” Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper Collins, 1971) 87-141. [On poets as risk-takers, those who “by a breath risk more” (see 236-41/134-39 and “Phenomenology and Theology” 61-62).]
  • Marcel Mauss, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, trans. Ian Cunnison (1922; London: Routledge, 1970).
  • Marshall Sahlins, “The Spirit of the Gift,” Stone Age Economics (Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1972) 149-84.