Reply to Jenny: Blind spots and “She who measures”

About Heinz von Foerster’s notion of a “Blind Spot”

Link to Jennys’ blogpost I refer to.

Jenny: “Somehow I feel that we are scared of thinking far beyond and making desitions upon those thoughts.”

It is a conflict between safety and freedom; between choices, that are made for us, and choices we are free to make (or think we are free to make). We are, from my point of view, never totally free to choose between safety or freedom, neither epistemologically nor culturally: We need ‘safeties’ to decide upon, and we need ‘shared safeties’ to be able to communicate. “A table is a table” is a film about a taste of this terrible, absolute freedom. Our languages, e.g., are both, restricted in grammar and vocabulary so that communication is possible; and free enough in its expression that communication is necessary (see e.g. the translated text from Niklas Luhmann in the dropbox).

In a postmodern world, where defining sociocultural systems are under constant criticism, one of main problems is: How to get orientation in a global environment of growing complexity? How do I prevent being overwhelmed by information, and how can I  distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information (e.g. how to erect a filter bubble))?
One other problem is a more pedagogical one: How can I raise and keep up curiosity and a childlike sense of wonder in face of constant uncertainty and changes (For kids, there are benevolent parents providing safety and stability after all…)? And how can I keep up communication with diverse people all over the world to exchange views without tiring?

Pedagogical Media Theory has to deal, inevitably, with both aspects. As artists, designers or educators, we want to amaze, show something that broadens the horizon and lead to personal and cultural changes; but effective cognisance will some time lead to disorientation, anger, guilt or frustration, too. This is something we have to take into account, too.

About your post “She who measures”

Link to Jenny’s other blogpost I refer to.
Veljko Popovic, Simon Bogojevic-Narath (2008), “She who measures” (short film)

This is a beautiful short film, thanks for the link!
Who, do you think, is the clown, and why does he act like he acts?
Is the first step to freedom to get rid of the clown?

Some notes to your four statements:

“4. How media can be useful for people with deep social problems, how can we transform physical spaces via media?”

Agree, but would like to broaden the view on the first part of the sentence: Deep social “problems” may be a reaction to, or a solution for the use of specific media (i.e. the notion of ‘culture as medium’).

“Without a culture we would not know what our problems are; culture, or better, the people around us in culture, help to define the situation specific, emotionally demanding, and sensuous problems that we must confront. There is a significant sense in which, or, at least, there is much analytic leverage to be gained by thinking as if:
without a money system, there is no debt;
without a kinship system, no orphans;
without a class system, no deprivation;
without schools, no learning disabilities;
without a working concept of truth, no liars;
without eloquence, no inarticulateness.”
– McDermott and Varenne (1995), “Culture as Disability”

My interpretation to your statement:
Where are the entry points to tackle the self-referential systems that constitute problems as solutions and vice versa?
In your concrete case this would mean: Why do we not see disabled people? What is the social function of this “blind spot”, what does this “disability” to see disabled people ‘solve’ for us, personally or as culture?

“1. We tend to homogenize knowledge”

Agree…! Seen from a cultural point of view, this process may be compared to the individual process of accomodation, as proposed by Jean Piaget (who was quite influential for Heinz von Foerster), and is one aspect of achieving an equilibration, a balance between pragmatic cognition and a complex environment.

My interpretation: How to make this homogenisation visible without condemning it…

“2. The needs of western civilization does not necessarily fulfill the ones of the rest of the world.”

Agree, but would like to broaden the view on “our” western civilisation as well: This is an exemplary problem of transmission (Regis Debray), i.e. the authoritative communication between different generations of the “same” society to perpetuate values and norms. “Our” society of 2012 differs in some areas fundamentally from “our” society in 1990, 1900 or 1800; and it is in some areas remarkably similar.
Question is: What led to the changes, and how come some aspects stayed the same? These may be points of entry for artists or critical educators.
Pedagogues, for working with children, are on the frontline of this conflict between “our” contemporary and “their” future culture. They, the pedagogues, have been brought up in a specific version of “our” civilisation (e.g. in one without internet), and have the task to enable children to live and change “their” civilisation, which may differ fundamentally from “ours”.

My interpretation: Questioning how needs shape a civilisation and vice versa. Are there universal needs for a culture (e.g. procreation, transmission, communication…?), and how do different cultures comply to this need?

“3. The cultural shock and rejection towards other people choices, culture and behavior is our biggest blind spot.”

Agree… but also a thought: Without these blind spots, there would be no “other” people Blind spots lead to misunderstandings and mistrust, but also define us as person or culture.
This unresolvable paradox may be one of the reasons why some aspects of religion and techno-faith are so attractive: Heaven or technological singularity both provides for an existence without personal blind spots, either by unity with god, or by unification with an artificial techno-mind.

My interpretation: How could we dampen the cultural shock (or even turn it into something arousing curiosity), without depriving it of its effect of cognisance?

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About Wey

My name's Wey-Han Tan, I graduated 2007 as Diplompädagoge (educational scientist) in Hamburg, and 2009 as M.A. in ePedagogy Design. Currently I work at the project "Universitätskolleg" as scientific assistant at the Faculty for Educational Sciences, Psychology and Human Movement at the University of Hamburg. My research interests are game based learning, second order gaming, media theory and (radical) constructivist approaches. I like pen-and-paper-roleplaying, especially in contemporary horror settings like "KULT" or "Call of Cthulhu".
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