Full Name:  Heather Fetting
Username:  hfetting@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Tacit Knowledge and Communication
Date:  2005-12-06 18:57:18
Message Id:  17328
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Tacit knowledge is knowledge of which we are not consciously aware. This understanding underlies all of our conscious knowledge and directs our behavior and interactions. Much of social behavior reflects interactions of tacit knowledges without the people involved being aware of any communication. Awareness of communication arises under two circumstances: when our routine, unconscious activities are interrupted and they enter into the realm of consciousness and when there are incompatibilities in tacit understandings which lead to confusion. For example, a friend and I are very similar in that we unconsciously follow the crowd when walking, as our conscious minds are usually preoccupied with other matters. When there is no crowd to follow, our feet follow the same path with no apparent conscious effort. It is tacitly agreed that one of us will follow the other, even though neither is aware of this arrangement. It is when we stop chatting or daydreaming that we become aware of our actions, as our conscious minds are freed from their tasks and the aimless movement of our legs is able to enter into our consciousness.

This shift from the unconscious to the conscious creates an incongruity between our interactions, making us stop what we are doing and attempt to gather our thoughts. Up until this point our tacit understandings have been in sync, allowing for unspoken communication between us. When this pattern is interrupted, we become aware of this previously tacit form of communication. When we become conscious of our silent communication, we cannot function in the same way. Our conscious thinking ruins our understanding, much like a dancer who cannot move gracefully when she overanalyzes her steps. When my friend and I become aware of the fact that we do not know where we are going, our legs stop moving and we awkwardly pause until we can recollect ourselves and head in the appropriate direction. It is when we are on the right track that we can let our movements slip into our unconsciousness while our conscious minds move on to more pressing matters.

This pattern is also seen in class rooms when an instructor poses a question to the class while lecturing. Very often, no one responds to the question quickly. The students usually look around the room and at each other, trying to assess the situation. There is an unwillingness to be the person to break the tension, even if the answer to the question is known. What could account for this tension? Perhaps the question posed during the lecture produces a shift within the minds of the students; a movement from passive listening and unconscious processing to active, conscious thinking. This shift to the consciousness could catch the student off-guard and make him or her pause awkwardly and glance around the room to gauge what others are doing. Since in many instances virtually everyone has also paused and is glancing toward his or her neighbor, an exaggerated tension grips the room. As the students wait for someone to break the silence, there is a collective feeling of uncertainty brought about by their own hyper-awareness of the situation. This feeling is tacitly understood by everyone in the room but it is not acknowledged in words or understood on an intellectual level. This tacit connection is broken when one student rises above the collective urge to remain silent and speaks.

Much of our everyday behavior involves certain conventions which cannot be easily explained to someone unaccustomed to them. These cultural practices were instilled in at an early age us when we observed our environment and mimicked those around us. As such, this knowledge was transferred to us tacitly, not explicitly; therefore, it cannot be passed on to a foreigner through verbal explanations alone. For example, westerners usually have difficultly using chopsticks for the first time. Even though experienced chopstick users may concisely and clearly explain the proper way to handle them, most novices must practice before they can use them without thought.

Everything that we do when we interact with others, from the way we nod when we listen to the inflections of our voices, has a basis in tacit knowledge, as we are not aware of what we are doing. These conventions in speech and mien give us a sense of familiarity and consistency which enables us to function properly, or at least to function in a way that the culture deems proper. As these conventions vary among cultures, it is difficult to act properly and without thought in a new environment. For example, the customary distance between two people holding a conversation differs in some cultures. A westerner in Japan may cause discomfort by standing too closely, making the native people around him or her take a few steps back without realizing it.

One's own patterns of tacit communication do not hold any value in foreign cultures. As a result, one scrutinizes one's behavior in order to adjust and it is brought into the conscious mind. It is not until a person is assimilated into the culture and he or she can find some common ground with the natives that behavior can be absorbed into the realm of the unconscious and tacit communication is once again possible. This common ground can be labeled as a collective tacit knowledge, which consists of the patterns of thought that pervade all human cultures. For instance, proper behavior differs greatly among cultures but the concept of proper behavior still exists. Only people who were raised without human contact and were not exposed to this concept at an early age do not comprehend it. This collective tacit knowledge makes tacit communication possible and vice versa.

A clash in tacit understandings results in a disharmony in tacit communication, which brings this communication to the forefront of the mind. This occurs when social mores are unwittingly broken. A breach in etiquette can produce a sense of intense, visceral discomfort in the people who observe it. If I were to stare at a passerby on the street and smile at him or her for a moment too long, that person would become confused and apprehensive. The expected pattern of behavior by which our actions are governed has been violated, albeit on a small scale. Before this point, he or she was not even aware of this tacit rule; it was not brought to his or her attention until there was a violation of the rule and a breakdown in communication.

Although we do not always consciously realize it, we are expected to behave with a modicum of predictability. Despite variances among individuals, all of our interactions are to some degree standardized, such as how loudly we speak and how we gesture with our hands. During the developmental stages of our lives, we absorb the tacit knowledge of others in order to gain a sense of it. As time progresses, individual experiences mold each person's tacit knowledge, even though it is still influenced by the collective tacit knowledge of which we are a part. These different experiences can drastically change our tacit knowledge and lead to incompatibility with the tacit knowledge of others.

For example, let us suppose that one child, Susan, was raised in a family that valued displays of affection and freely gave her hugs. Barry, on the other hand, had emotionally distant parents and rarely received signs of affection. As a result, Susan is more open and loving and Barry is more reserved. If Susan were to hug Barry, Barry might become confused and try to push her away. Susan is unconsciously expecting Barry to hug her back, since that has always been the reaction that she has received. This display of affection from Susan violates Barry's unconscious expectations and so he rejects it. Both children are doing what comes naturally to them, according to their own understandings. While neither of them have ever questioned their tendencies or considered the fact that there are other ways of behaving, this encounter produces discord and brings this seemingly natural act (or lack thereof) into their conscious minds for analysis. As a result, they will come to understand that not everyone is like them.

Tacit knowledge differs greatly among individuals and cultures, according to the experiences of each. These differences are often taken for granted when we live in a population that is relatively uniform in its actions and behavior, since we forget that there are vastly different ways in which others live and think. When these differences are encountered in other people, our unconscious processes are disrupted and brought into our conscious minds for inspection. It is at this point that we are made aware of the fact that we are relying upon our tacit knowledge to communicate with others. While these variations in tacit knowledge often lead to miscommunication and confusion, analysis of them can lead to a greater understanding of our inner workings and relationships.

Full Name:  Jenny Lee
Username:  slee01@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Rabbits and Pearls
Date:  2005-12-12 23:03:41
Message Id:  17379
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Once upon a time, there was a young girl in a large kingdom. Her name was Gwenevere. She liked to play outside with other children of the kingdom, but she never got to play with the Princess. The princess played with certain children of the kingdom when she pleased, but Gwenevere was never chosen. This saddened Gwenevere a little because she never knew what it would be like to play with the Princess. But she was a happy child with few worries.

One day, she met an enchanted rabbit outside her cottage. To her astonishment, it spoke only to her and seemed to be wearing pearls around its neck. It told her that the pearls were Pearls of Wisdom that it would share with her if she so pleased. How could she resist? So little Gwenevere asked her new rabbit friend, "When will the Princess decide to play with me?" The enchanted rabbit twirled the pearls gently with his paw and said, "Dear little Gwenevere, you are not to be chosen by the Princess, but you will choose to play with her." Gwenevere was bewildered by this strange answer. How could she, of all people, choose to play with the Princess? Befuddled by the rabbit's answer, she asked, "Will the Princess play with me once I have chosen her?" The rabbit only nodded once and happily hopped towards the woods. Gwenevere thought, "What a strange little bunny!" and decided to forget the encounter.

So little Gwenevere went on playing with the other children, waiting to be chosen by the Princess. Each day, she was disappointed and a little saddened. But then she remembered what the enchanted rabbit had told her and reconsidered whether it might be true or not. Still, thought Gwenevere, how would she choose the Princess as a playmate? Was it as simple an act as asking? Or were there certain obstacles to overcome? While Gwenevere pondered, she hadn't noticed the rabbit hopping on the corner of her bed anxiously. When she noticed it, she jumped a little in surprise. The rabbit said, "Hello, little Gwenevere, why did you call me over so suddenly?" Gwenevere hadn't realized she had called for him, but she was glad enough because she had plenty of questions for him anyway.

"Mr. Rabbit, I don't know how I can pick the Princess as my playmate. Could you be so kind, and help me?"

The rabbit seemed surprised at her request and, after twirling the pearls with his paws, replied, "Dear little girl, I cannot help you at all. I can only tell you that the Royals play with those who are as Royal in money, power, or pride." With this, it hopped out through a hole in the wall.

Poor Gwenevere had neither money, power, nor pride. However, she thought, maybe she could trick the Princess into thinking that she was a Royal by dressing like one. So little Gwenevere spent days and nights making pretty dresses and practicing her courtsies. Little did she know that by doing this, she was gaining a little pride in herself.

Gwenevere had finished after spending two fortnights sewing and courtsying, so she left her cottage in her pretty dress. No sooner had she reached the other children of the kingdom than the children watched her in awe. No one knew who she was because she was so radiant in the bright sunlight of the day. Gwenevere played with the other children as she would on any occasion until the Princess' carriage arrived.

While the other children continued to play, Gwenevere stood up and waited in the shade of a tree. As the Princess stepped off her carriage, Gwenevere slowly and skipped towards the princess. Before the Princess could open her mouth, Gwenevere said sweetly, "Princess, would you like to join me beneath the shade for a cup of tea?" The Princess could not refuse such a sweet invitation, and so they had tea.

After this one incident, Gwenevere and the Princess became close friends. She would often spend nights at the castle, happy as could be. Gwenevere came to know the King and Queen, as well as the other members of the King's court. As the Princess' friend, she was taught lessons by the same tutors, had her dresses tailored, rode ponies, and made to feel like a little Princess herself. Why shouldn't I be a princess, too? thought little Gwenevere. She had been taught the same lessons, fed the same foods, dressed and played the same as the Princess, so why wasn't little Gwenevere a princess as well? As soon as these thoughts had entered her mind, the rabbit hopped onto the castle grounds and appeared before Gwenevere.

"What pearls shall I share with you today, little Gwenevere?" asked the rabbit.

"Mr. Rabbit, I do not want to be jealous of the Princess, but tell me why I am not a princess even after I have been treated the same as she," she sadly asked.

"Oh ho, Gwenevere. Why indeed aren't you a princess? Think for yourself why you are not like the Princess when even the King and his court treat both you and the Princess alike," it said in a meaningful way. "You will be able to answer your own questions soon enough, little Gwenevere. I'm afraid this is all I can tell you." He hopped away seeming more content with his answer than the girl.

Gwenevere was not any less confused than before. Still, she thought and thought about what the rabbit had said. Afterall, he hadn't been wrong so far. Little Gwenevere saw that there was nothing different between the Princess and herself beside the title of "Princess." What importance does this title have when, with some effort, Gwenevere had earned herself the very same name for herself? Unable to understand what was happening to her, Gwenevere wandered around the castle. In a study, she found her Tutor poring over mountains of books.

Once she entered the room, she asked of him, "Sir, there is something that I cannot solve, and I wonder if you could find the answer." This startled the Tutor because he hadn't seen Gwenevere standing before him. When he had realized she had asked him something, he replied, "Ah, Miss, you may certainly ask whatever your heart desires. There are few things in this world that I cannot explain, but I will do my best."

"Sir, I do not know why I am different from the Princess when we are actually the same. How can I become a princess?" questioned the little girl.

The Tutor smiled a little and said, "If you wish to be a princess, you must have royal blood in those veigns that are inside you. However, you can learn all the ways of a princess and treat yourself and others as a princess would. This is most important, Miss; you are capable of learning to be anyone you please, and you can call yourself whatever you want." With this, the Tutor went back to his books.

Without making a sound, Gwenevere left the study, back into the hall, through the corridors, up to her room. Then, as she lie in bed, she learned that she was Princess Gwenevere if she knew how to be a princess, which she did. And so could any other child of the kingdom, whether or not they would be formally titled Princes or Princesses.

Little Gwenevere returned to the other children of the kingdom the next day to tell them of what she had learned. Some children were interested in Gwenevere's tale, others not at all, but in the end Gwenevere had picked up a few Pearls of Wisdom that she would never lose.

Full Name:  Unnati Pant
Username:  upant@brynmawr.edu
Title:  My Revised Perceptions
Date:  2005-12-13 12:37:32
Message Id:  17384
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

I was dazed and confused; when people asked me what I wanted to do with my life I said I had no idea. And that was true. I still don't but now I feel that I have a clue of sorts.

I finished high school and so did all my friends. They wanted to come to the US, 'the land of opportunities' as all liked to call it. I was totally against the idea, probably the brain of the stubborn patriot who sees no other country besides her own. Thus all my friends applied, got accepted and left me alone. Amazingly I was quite contended, or so I thought, I worked in different places, took private Spanish classes, got introduced to more people and well, for a while everything seemed to work out.

One of the places I worked for was an employment agency, the sort of place that helped interested women to work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong. My perceptions on life changed completely after that. I met women who were driven with the thought of making some money, determined in improving the conditions of their families and making sure that their children, brothers, sisters would get the kind of education that they wanted but didn't get. They had husbands who didn't have work or were of families that had been displaced because of the war. The resolve of these women made me rethink about my life and the possibilities that lay before me and I hadn't pursued. Thus I decided I'd continue with my education and since I wasn't sure of what I wanted to do, I decided to apply to the US myself, because all my friends always talked about the 'liberal arts' education and I wanted to see for myself what this was all about.

One of my friends was at Smith, a good college they said but I remember when she had first told me about her acceptance and how she wanted to go. "Are you crazy?" I had asked "who in their sane mind would want to go to a women's college? Think of all that you'll be missing". I wanted to convince her not to go because of all that I had heard about women's college and well partly because I thought I'd miss her terribly.
She was one of my best friends and we'd done so much together that I didn't know what I'd do without her.

Well when I started applying I knew for sure I'd want to be in a women's college, firstly because by then I had started appreciating myself for being a woman and I knew I'd be more comfortable with who I was if I studied there. Secondly because I wanted to be in Smith with my friend but as I started looking up colleges I came across Bryn Mawr and something just felt right. I knew I didn't want to be anywhere else but there and I applied and got accepted. I thought at that moment my life was complete.

Well then I got here and life wasn't so beautiful after all. There were literally people from all over the world each with her own uniqueness, own culture and brought up under different circumstances than myself. I had to pass the hurdle of adjusting among them and then balancing the two important aspects of my college life, social life and my academic life. Well none of that seemed possible for a long time, everyone seemed different and weird and I missed home terribly. There was so much to be done at all time and I didn't seem to be getting any sleep or rest. But then it slowly dawned on me that it was all part of growing up. I couldn't complain about my problems all the time as there are people who had so much to worry about than me. I thought about those women who had 7 month old children but who would still come to be trained everyday from early in the morning. They were willing to leave them alone for two years just so that they could take care of their children's future. There were these young girls who had lived among loving families, poor or rich, and were now willing to live by themselves to get a sense of being independent. I think I learnt what responsibility actually meant.

One cannot run away from one's responsibilities for long, it always comes knocking at some point. Real life is so much more confusing and overwhelming and college life is a preparation of sorts for us to be able to embrace 'what's out there', in a way it teaches us to sort our priorities straight as we have to make the 'right choice' from among so many. I know I don't want that to happen because I don't know what is there and it frightens me. But I am sure that whatever it is, will work out and like my mother always says 'everything will be just fine'.

Regarding adjusting with different people, I cannot expect all of them to be like me, that is not what I came here for. I am here so that I can learn from the different people, their culture, their lifestyles, their difficulties and their determination; to better myself and to make a difference in my own community that has given so much to me. I have found out here that each person is a representation of their culture, the way they are speaks a lot about what they are, what they like, dislike, even small but significant things like what they do when they're happy or sad. Whatever is abling for me can be disabling to some other person but the same can be the case for someone else. Thus I have learnt that I cannot complain about having problems with someone else if I cannot change myself each time everyone finds something wrong with me. I am learning to cope and understand and mix myself into the common culture that we all now belong to, the Bryn Mawr culture. Maybe I am not so confused after all.

Full Name:  Jessica Chow
Username:  jchow@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Tacit Self vs. Envisioned Self
Date:  2005-12-13 15:15:04
Message Id:  17385
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Everyone has different personalities. There is the polite persona, the friend persona, the mean persona, the family persona, and so on. Why do we have these different facets of ourselves? The simple answer is because of our tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the information and experiences that shape us over time, which we harbor in the subconscious. It is hard to believe that we unknowingly acquire so many different, influential traits. Such a concept is sometimes frightening to accept, but there is daily evidence of its existence. By just watching a person go through a day, an observer will notice many signals that indicate tacit knowledge at work. The greatest challenge is not observing tacit knowledge, but rather interpreting it.

What does a tacit observation reveal about a person? How does tacit knowledge affect a person as a whole? At times, there is a great discrepancy between the envisioned self and the tacit (unconscious) self. In other instances, there is hardly any difference. It all depends on what one decides to accept is true about oneself. In general, the tacit self reveals the true nature of a person more than the person's own envisioned self. I will use my own two selves – envisioned and tacit – to create a rough example.

The most obvious influence my tacit self has is over my voice. In my daily conversations, there is a great amount of voice change. Whether retelling a conversation I had with another person, answering the phone, or revealing something embarrassing, my voice changes. Though the observations can be quite noticeable to an outsider, the interpretation of them and what they reveal about my true persona is not.

I did not always talk in a deeper, "stupid" voice when imitating people (or myself) in past conversations. How did such an action embed itself in my tacit knowledge and, unbeknownst to me, permanently change my way of speaking? Somewhere in time, I gained that tacit knowledge. However, the influence of my environment is unimportant when it comes to interpretation. In my subconscious, I clearly believe that changing my voice to become slower and deeper in tone will convey a sense of stupidity or confusion, on the part of the speaker, to my listener. It could be inferred that a person that contains such tacit knowledge is not that friendly and/or is somewhat arrogant. Thus, my tacit self begins as a semi-arrogant, possibly unfriendly entity.

My next change in voice occurs when I interact with strangers and people I respect. When I converse with an unfamiliar person, older family member, or respected adult, my voice rises significantly in pitch. For some reason, many different people harbor this same tacit knowledge. It is reasonable to infer that this tacit knowledge, which influences me and so many other people, is a way to show politeness.

In movies and other similar aspects of American culture, the more refined, polite characters (particularly naďve females) speak gently and at a fairly higher pitch than the other characters. In comparison, the lower class and less gracious characters speak more roughly, loudly, and deeper. From a different angle, change in pitch to imitate those refined women in the movies can also show a concern for showing one belongs to a higher social class. Over time, much of the population, including myself, has absorbed this small detail in its subconscious. Thus, my tacit self has two new traits: politeness and concern about social image.

My last change in voice occurs when I experience embarrassment or uncertainty. When I am uncomfortable with a certain topic or am unconfident in what I am discussing, my voice becomes significantly softer and childish. My regression into a childlike, less audible voice reveals how unsure and, in a way, frightened I am. It also creates the illusion that it is not truly me, at my usual state, that is in the awkward situation, but a less developed, unknowledgeable version of me. Therefore, if I remain embarrassed or do not answer correctly, it is not really me that will be blamed for such occurrences, but my alternative, childlike self. It is yet another aspect of my unconscious – my tacit knowledge – that imposes this belief on me. Thus my tacit self has another trait to add to its persona: the want to mask self-doubt.

Away from observations concerning voice change, there is another observation of tacit knowledge that is also a reflection of childhood. When I am cold, I walk with my arms slightly out and away from my body. Though I have the knowledge in my conscious that compacting my body would allow me to conserve more heat and stay warmer, I continue unconsciously walking with my arms out during cold weather. This is indeed an observation of tacit knowledge.

It is clear that at least one aspect of my childhood has stayed in my subconscious, and it will forever influence me. As children, our parents bundled us up with layer upon layer of clothing, so much so that our arms could often not touch the sides of our body. Though somewhat twisted, this idea of warmth, associated with my arms not touching the rest of my torso, has become a part of my tacit knowledge. This reveals that, in terms of my tacit self, experiences from childhood can, and probably do, greatly influence me. It could be therefore inferred that my tacit knowledge has a slight dependency on past beliefs. Thus, my tacit self is somewhat dependent on the past. Whether practical or not, I still carry out some of the same actions that proved beneficial in the past.

My last observation concerns forced yawning. When I am uncomfortable in a place or am trying to delay discussing something, I "yawn." It is not a real yawn, but rather a forced one. This yawn helps me feign tiredness and/or disinterest, depending on the situation. This is most obviously a form of self-protection. There is a belief in my subconscious that yawning will convey to any observers that I am uninterested in anything around me, tired, boring, or all three.

Yawning is a repellant. By yawning in an awkward conversation, I feel that I am showing my peer that I am unconcerned with what we are discussing, and am hiding the fact that I actually feel awkward. By yawning in a place I feel uncomfortable in, I feel that I am making myself less approachable. Unlike some people who thrive in unfamiliar places and discussions, my immediate reaction, which my subconscious dictates, is to subtly distance myself from people and certain topics. The fact that I harbor such tacit knowledge and am so influenced by it shows that my tacit self is quite timid.

By interpreting the past few tacit observations, I can develop a potential persona for my tacit self. The traits I gathered about my tacit self were the following: semi-arrogant and possibly unfriendly, concern with politeness and social image/status, want to mask self-doubt, somewhat dependent on the past, and quite timid. From an objective standpoint, my tacit self seems to be very self-conscious and, generally, scared of the unconventional. Most often it is the person that is unsure of him or herself that feels the need to mask feelings and feign self-assurance. Moreover, concern with image is a telling sign of unease with oneself, or the want to be accepted. Dependence on the past and being timid also reveals that one has a fear of new situations and experiences. Summed up, my tacit self is very self-conscious and self-doubting.

As stated before, the envisioned self and the tacit self can be very different. It has been concluded that my tacit self is not very secure with itself. So, how does that compare to my envisioned self?

My primary envisioned self varies from my tacit self. Though I do admit that I doubt myself at times and have a great nostalgia for the past, I do not think I am nearly as self-conscious as my tacit self suggests. Over the years, I feel that I have become much more self-assured (though not arrogant), and independent. When I compare myself to my friends, I feel that I am much more self-reliant and sure of myself than they are. I would never categorize myself as overly self-conscious. I relate to my tacit self in that I am quite shy but, other than that trait, I feel that my tacit self is a more exaggerated version of my real self. However, with deeper thought, I find I have different opinions.

One's primary view of oneself will almost always be very favorable. Yet, if one thinks more sincerely, I believe he or she will find that the tacit self is not all that different from who one believes he or she is. When I consider my view of myself with more thought, I realize that I am more timid that I care to believe. I still believe I have made tremendous progress since my childhood towards asserting myself, but there is definitely great shyness in my general persona. I am also very self-conscious and self-doubting. There are countless examples that I can recall that reveal this fact. My primary vision of myself focuses mainly on the progress I have made over the years, not my whole self as it is now. However, without deeper reflection, I would not have made that realization, and I would have considered my primary envisioned self as my true self.

It cannot be proved that analysis of the tacit self is wholly accurate in describing one's true self, but it is usually closer to the truth than one's personal, primary view of oneself. No one wants to view him or herself as unconfident or weak. Therefore, the first answer to revealing one's general persona will usually be in a more positive, stronger light than is true. Analyzing and revealing the tacit self helps a person realize the weaknesses and insecurities he or she harbors in the subconscious. Though it can be hard to accept, the tacit self embodies much of what one does not want to believe is true. The tacit self is as close as one can get to the true nature of a person, and the primary envisioned self is the filtered, edited view of a person.

Full Name:  Ilana Vine
Username:  ivine@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Influence of Tacit Knowledge
Date:  2005-12-13 21:11:11
Message Id:  17388
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Have you ever known something without knowing how? Have you ever instinctually felt one way despite intellectual evidence to the contrary? That instinctual feeling is tacit knowledge, which is all our unconscious understanding and which governs all of our habitual daily interactions, such as acknowledging people as we pass by them on the street, or sitting at the same desk everyday, although the teacher has not assigned seats. While this type of tacit influence on our actions may be innocuous, and indeed necessary for continuing in day to day social interactions harmoniously, tacit knowledge may have a greater influence on our actions, emotions, and decisions than we are aware. In each generation, a small group of people try to revise stories: societal beliefs, theories, commonly accepted practices- and are inevitably met with the fear and anger of many who want things to stay the same. Oftentimes, these advocates against change fight adamantly for their beliefs, despite convincing evidence that they are, in fact, wrong. Some people may go so far as to accept these stories intellectually, yet inwardly have a gut feeling that rebels against the common sense and evidence that proves the new story. This inability to reconcile intellectual understanding with an instinctual gut feeling is due to tacit knowledge and inspires a two part question: can tacit knowledge be taught by society? And if so, can we change that knowledge once it has become ingrained?

To better understand tacit knowledge, I ran a small test of my own on the Bryn Mawr College campus concerning what we know as unspoken or unwritten rules. While walking around campus, I would, in passing people, acknowledge them despite the fact that I didn't know them. Instinctually, my inclination was to look the other way or look down as we passed each other and, I noticed, that was how many subjects behaved. When I did acknowledge them, many of my subjects became visibly uncomfortable. However, some more naturally friendly people didn't seem to mind a brief, polite, impersonal greeting (which is also, in terms of unspoken rules, appropriate to do). Yet when I maintained eye contact with them for longer than felt comfortable, they also became flustered and unsettled.

From this experiment, I conclude that much of our behavior, especially minor day-to-day interactions such as greeting each other in passing, deciding where to sit in a classroom, or tapping a pen absently on a desk, is influenced by tacit knowledge. The fact is that our conscious mind cannot possibly handle the vast amount of information that we deal with every day. Therefore, we have relied on our unconscious mind, or our tacit knowledge, to help us. Rather than consciously debating how or when to greet someone in passing, we instinctually know how to handle this small interaction. Through our daily dependence on our tacit knowledge, we learn to trust our instincts and so when something goes against our tacit knowledge, we get an innate feeling of wrongness. That innate feeling of wrongness translates into our conscious actions, and may be why we cannot accept new stories, even if they are proven intellectually to be true.

So is this tacit knowledge that we deal with every day inborn in humans or do we learn it from our societies? Actually, tacit knowledge is probably a combination of both. In Steven Pinker's article on the instinct to acquire language, he discusses a child 's natural ability to pick up language. "Language is not a cultural artifact that we learn the way we learn to tell time or how the federal government works. Instead, it is a distinct piece of the biological makeup of our brains. Language is a complex, specialized skill, which develops in the child spontaneously, without conscious effort or formal instruction, is deployed without awareness of its underlying logic, is qualitatively the same in every individual, and is distinct from more general abilities to process information or behave intelligently. For these reasons some cognitive scientists have described language as a psychological faculty, a mental organ, a neural system, and a computational module. But I prefer the admittedly quaint term, instinct" (Pinker 18).

Yet while some of our tacit learning is inborn, it is also possible to assimilate personal and societal experiences into our tacit knowledge. Consider Bertolt Brecht's play, Galileo, where the title character makes the astounding new discovery that the earth revolves around the sun. Despite the evidence for his case, which even a church official deems to be legitimate, many people fear and reject his theory, calling it absurd and blasphemous. Galileo tries to prove his theory by showing people the evidence, but they refuse to see it, and the Church, incensed with Galileo's theory, forces him to publicly recant it. Nowadays, Galileo's theory is the most widely accepted and is taught in schools across the world. Why such a drastic change? Because Galileo's society and our modern society have different cultural theories embedded in our tacit knowledge.

In the time of Galileo's society, the Church was the most powerful governing body and people lived according to the Church's rule in almost every aspect of their lives. The Church beliefs and teachings, including the one that said that the earth was the center of the universe, was ingrained in people. So when Galileo changed the story of his society, people's tacit knowledge rebelled against what felt innately wrong. It was for this reason that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, they could not consciously accept Galileo theory.

However, our modern society is structured differently. While some still recognize and follow Church teachings, we are mainly governed by a secular body, and society in general has become much more secular. There is a much stronger emphasis on science, and many people have come to interpret the Bible and religion figuratively rather than literally. With this emphasis on science that we are taught starting in elementary school, we have learned to accept Galileo theory.

Yet in each generation there are people willing to change stories. Galileo, for instance. This is where tacit knowledge through personal experience comes in. While undoubtedly we are born with some tacit knowledge and learn more from our society, the entirety of our tacit understanding is not identical to the tacit knowledge of every other individual within our society . Therefore, some of our unconscious must also be developed through individual experience. I don't know much about Galileo's past; or why he was willing to change the story, but there are many possibilities. Perhaps he grew up in a home where science was accepted as much as the Church, or grew up in a home that had hostile feelings towards the Church. Perhaps as a child he disproved something he had taken for granted through a scientific experiment, and thus understood tacitly that science could disprove a popular theory. There are a hundred plausible personal experiences that Galileo could have had to explain his willingness to change stories.

But if people are so influenced by their tacit knowledge, is it possible for them to be retaught, or do stories have to change slowly, one generation at a time? Certainly, stories develop and change through the years, as each generation is taught a slightly different version. For example, take the current social issue of gay marriage. This issue certainly changes the story of families and of marriage. In my experience, I find that the older generation tends to be more against it, while the younger generation tends to be more accepting (this is, of course, a generalization, as many people of all ages have varying views on this issue). Taking the theories of tacit knowledge into consideration, I can only conclude that the wider acceptance of gay rights and gay marriage by the younger generation has to do with tacit knowledge absorbed by society. In my parent's time, this issue was hardly discussed openly. They and their peers learned that it was shameful and not an appropriate topic for discussion. Yet my generation has been taught a little differently. There are still the same prejudices and stereotypes, but they are not as rampant as they have been in past generations. Nowadays, the issue is more openly discussed. TV shows like Will and Grace deal with the issue more openly. Within our schools, there are support groups for gay students and many teenagers know at least one or two people who are openly gay. At my senior high school prom, there were even same-sex couples in attendance, a thing that never could have happened in my parent's day. So obviously, stories can change over time. But can people, in one generation and having tacitly learned one thing, be retaught and accept another?

Although many people can intellectually and consciously accept something, they can not always reconcile it to their tacit, instinctual feeling. My parents are good friends with a homosexual couple, and have helped out with many fundraisers for the gay community. Consciously and intellectually, they believe in gay rights, and they will attend their friends' wedding this winter. Yet tacitly, they still sometimes feel uncomfortable. "I know it's irrational," my dad admits. "Intellectually, I support them and believe that they have the right to get married, but sometimes it still makes me a little uncomfortable." He isn't , I'm sure, the only one who has trouble reconciling conscious knowledge to his tacit understanding. It is a hard thing to do, and in fact I don't think it can be done consciously. Tacit knowledge is all about unconscious knowledge and trusting your instincts. It can't be rationalized to go in accordance with intellectual and conscious understanding.

The key to reconciling intellectual learning and tacit knowledge must therefore lie in the subconscious. Take, for example, neurologist Dr. Oliver Sack's case study on Dr. Bennet, a surgeon who suffers from Tourette . When consciously considering his situation, Dr. Bennet is subject to tics. Yet when he is performing work as a surgeon, he forgets his conscious state and falls into a subconscious rhythm. He doesn't suppress his tics, he simply forgets that he has them and therefore does not suffer from them while in this state. Although this story has many implications, the focus for this topic is its relation to tacit and conscious knowledge.

In order to reconcile the two, it seems probable that a person needs to forget that there is a difference between their conscious knowledge and tacit understanding. Rather, they need to get into a rhythm or subconscious state where they can accept and reconcile the two things.

Yet there is no known formula for a subconscious reconciliation. In fact, it may be a process that, like tacit knowledge itself, is particular to each individual. Until each individual solves the problem for him or her self, our tacit knowledge will continue to assert itself into our daily actions and conscious decisions. In some cases, this is innocous and even helpful. But in other cases, especially when stories are being revised, this can be harmful and counter-productive. However, there may be at least a temporary solution. If one can consciously recognize the dichotomy between tacit knowledge and conscious action, one can consciously modify his or her own behavior. Although this solution is only temporary, it may be the first step towards a subconscious reconciliation.

Full Name:  Rushita Patel
Username:  rpatel@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Culture and Change
Date:  2005-12-14 12:53:36
Message Id:  17397
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

I closed my eyes and listened to the sound the scissors made as they innocently snipped my long, beautiful black hair, little by little. My heart was pounding so forcefully that it felt as if I could feel it pushing against the surface of my chest. I was more nervous than I had ever been. Sitting there that day in the black, hair infested chair, I looked up into the mirror and realized that the simple haircut that was almost completed, will exemplify a small movement away from the accepted traditions of Indian culture.
The conservation of beauty is very important within Indian culture. Indian aesthetical culture contains rich, elaborate palaces with stunning decorations; a prominent palace is the Taj Mahal. Its magnificence is known world wide, one reason being it is a beautiful work of art. Even paintings and drawings, so many include eye-catching colors which make the artworks glamorous.
Beauty isn't contained within just buildings and artwork, it is also portrayed though entertainment. Bharatnatyam, a traditional Indian dance, is performed through facial expressions. The performer dresses in an intricate Indian outfit full of colors and jewels, with long hair (if the person doesn't have long hair a wig is applied), makeup and a lot of jewelry. Indian movies contain all types of themes, but within each movie the actress and actor are always attractive. The houses represented within the movies are always decorated and the outfits worn by the performers are elegant and rich. Indian television commercials that persuade viewers to buy shampoo and oil for the hair, are always are played by gorgeous women with amazing straight, long black hair.
Not only does Indian culture value physical beauty, it also values natural beauty. In Indian culture it is believed that humans and life were created by God. Therefore, it is important to preserve what God has naturally given us. This is the reason Hindu religion evades the consumption of meat. Cosmetics are looked down upon, since they cover up the natural face of a woman and instead form a fabricated appearance.
As a reader, you are probably wondering how my haircut ties into this paper. Well as I mentioned earlier, in Indian culture natural beauty is valued and hair makes a person beautiful naturally. Highlights and hair styles are not accepted and instead are looked upon as fake ways of altering the natural beauty of hair, already given by God. It is ok to trim hair, but nothing more. When I decided to get my hair cut, it was a big step for me. I was going against the culturally accepted trend and instead trying something new. Why did I have to conform to something when I knew I could try something novel; its not like cutting my hair was harmful to me or my culture.
When my hair cut was finished, I looked again at the mirror and felt confident but egotistical at the same time. I know that due to the eagerness of wanting a haircut, I had cut not only a part of my hair but also a part of my culture along with it. However, despite the fact that I knew I had created a small movement away from my culture, I also knew that it was just a very tiny fraction and no harm had been done. Culture should be preserved, but as time goes on and things change, I think a little alteration is healthy.

Full Name:  Adrianna Link
Username:  alink@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Diversity: A Disability?
Date:  2005-12-14 13:58:32
Message Id:  17398
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

The one thing my mother noticed when she came to the United States was the extreme diversity present in our culture. Coming from Eastern Europe, she was not accustomed to having such a wide variety of races, religions, and beliefs existing in one common setting. In truth, she was not, and still is not, completely comfortable with how accepting and different our country is compared to other countries in the world. A main reason for this is the homogenous nature with which Poland is defined. The majority of Polish people are Catholic, Caucasian, and very concerned with family morals. Because of this, Polish culture tends to disable what American's esteem very highly – diversity.

American culture, while containing its own areas of cultural disability, tends to actually be a very accepting place. The United States is the melting pot of all different cultures from various parts of the world, and has thus made the notion of diversity an accepted one. However, the countries who serve as the origin for America's diverse population are not always as accepting. The ideas of natural heritage and a certain sense of cultural identity give European society a unified appreciation of sameness that is missing in American culture. Because of this, many European nations are angry with the United States for "stripping away" the culture of its European immigrants.

Perhaps the biggest problem with diversity is the fact that cultures get assimilated into a common "super culture". The United States proudly hails its diverse population, but lacks any real sort of unifying "culture", at least as defined through European standards. The only real sense of culture the United States has is a foundation based on commercialism and marketing. As sad as it may be, the "land of opportunity" is only that way because of the extreme influence of capitalism. It is sometimes very hard for outside cultures, especially those from poorer nations, to gain prominence in a society where the idea of culture goes along with financial stability. In addition, any traditions and practices unique to certain countries that have come to the United States are often either unrecognized or commercialized in a way suiting to the American culture. For example, the celebration of St. Patrick 's Day by the Irish has become a day to wear green and drink beer instead of pay recognition to the saint himself.

Within America, there remain little pockets of culture, existent in China towns, Polish neighborhoods, and traditional Italian restaurants. These areas, however, are merely reflections of the nations from which they come- they are not genuine. The China towns of New York and Philadelphia are not an accurate reflection of life in China- they are a instead a place of commercialism and tourist appeal. Within the traditional Polish home you also find reminders of American life; there are McDonalds bags, Walmart purchases, and constant reminders of the importance of consumerism. Diversity has thus forced outside cultures to adapt and live in accordance with a different standard, a standard that is strictly American. Diversity destroys what is left of foreign culture, twisting and distorting any marketable qualities until it is simply a desperate attempt to keep a part of the old alive while targeting the American masses.

It is difficult for me to classify diversity as being a disability, especially having grown up in a country where diversity is so important. As a United States' citizen, I have been subconsciously taught that "different is good" and that "homogeny is boring". Yet I've also learned that while America does have a "culture", it is not the same sort of culture as my mother's. It does not have the same religion-influenced list of ideals, the abundance of tradition, or the unified outlook of an entire mass of people. It may possess certain clusters of the population who live in a shared way, but not in a way shared by the whole country. From a distance, American culture may appear to be diverse, but in regards to upholding a common means of traditional culture, it is surely disabled.

Likewise, the concept of prejudice is, unfortunately, extremely prevalent in American culture. In a country where we are taught to treat everyone equally, to believe in opportunity, and to promote diversity, we are exceptionally hypocritical. The United States, in some regards, is all talk- we do not treat everyone equally. There is discrimination based on wealth, race, sex, orientation, and also, nationality. Diversity is only regarded when it is beneficial to the commercial groundings of this country, and mostly ignored otherwise. It is because of this desire for commercial growth that prejudice exists, since it continually glorifies societies who present themselves as being "democratically" led and financially successful. The United States makes a point of trying to be an accepting country for all nations, but then subtly transforms cultures into a reflection of America's own in order to uphold the American notion of prosperity. In this sense, the diversity of American culture sets the foundation for all the disabling aspects of culture. It is the American preoccupation with building an economy through the exploitation of diversity that makes it disabling.

A disability is categorized as something that is harmful to the way of life of someone else. Diversity, while exhibiting positive connotations, is harmful to the inherent cultures that are present within the homes of America's immigrant population. Diversity forces cultures to be compromised in such a way that ultimately results in that culture either being distorted to suit America's fiscal needs or otherwise completely eradicated. America may be accepting of differences, but only of those differences that fit in with the American ideal of commercialism and economic prosperity. America is not concerned as a whole with the preservation of the cultures that are present in its population, but instead with how best to utilize those cultures in the maintenance of capitalism. American diversity does harm culture, since it threatens the traditions and values of the old in order to ensure the success of its only unifying trait- commercialism.

Full Name:  Sarah Vogel
Username:  svogel@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Two Bryn Mawr Vignettes
Date:  2005-12-14 15:31:02
Message Id:  17399
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

(Or: "Why Finals aren't Really that Bad if You Put Them in Perspective.")

Try to Keep it in the Generation

I had my apron folded down, half-off, but I'd left my bandanna on, because retying it is a pain without a mirror around. Dinner was something sketchy involving fish, so my tray had a plate of pasta, an attempt at a salad, and whatever deliciously unhealthy pie was being served at Rhoads that night; once I looked at the nutritional facts on one of those, and you don't even want to know. Jessica had already pushed two tables together for all the dining service workers to sit at, so I plopped down at the end of the nearest one, the end farthest from the supers, 'cause they make me nervous.
"A friend of my old boyfriend goes to some university around here, anyways, they're like twenty years old."
I glanced over at the girl, whose name I could never remember. Some other people were making "finish the story noises" and I nodded. What was this twenty-year-old friend up to?
"Anyways, this friend's engaged to like a 40-something-year-old man with two kids."
"Wha!" someone said, and the rest of the table agreed. "Sk-e-e-tchy!"
The girls who hadn't been paying attention looked up. "Huh?" one asked, "what's sketchy?"
Everyone who had heard the first time was busy enjoying the weirdness. "Is this friend a guy friend, who's engaged?" someone asked, but the girl with the old boyfriend with the friend said no, it was a girl friend.
"Now that would be a really alternative lifestyle!" I laughed.
"What's sketchy?" someone persisted. The girl who had told the story got up to get ice cream, even though it was a strange flavor, like Pecan Praline or whatever, because she knew that the best way to keep the limelight was to leave people hanging a bit. Someone else answered.
"Some twenty-year-old's getting married to a 45-year-old with two kids!"
The storyteller was back so I asked her "how old are the kids?"
"I dunno, like 12 and 15, or something." She looked satisfied with our expressions.
"That girl is closer to the kids than the dad!"
"She could wait a few years, then marry one of them!"
"Imagine going to school and having a teacher or someone ask you 'how old are your parents?' and you'd be like 'well, my dad's 45 and my mom's 20.'" The person who'd imagined this scenario wrinkled her nose. "I'd wouldn't marry some old guy just because of that!"
After a little more fuss the scandal died out, but the general agreement was that it is better to go to Bryn Mawr College than to marry a middle-aged man with kids.

Half a Pet isn't Better than No Pet

I was picking at my food again. Not to give you the wrong idea, the food in Rhoads is way better than Erdman or Haffner, but it was kinda early for dinner. We eat before work, a little before 5 pm, and about on hour before I feel hungry. Anyways, somehow we started talking about tragic pet accidents. I perked up, and abandoned my lettuce. I like animals.
"...so we got back from vacation, and the neighbor lady starts yelling at us about how she's going to call the ASPCA on us. We were like 'what?' but then she says she heard our cat yowling in the garage, so she went over, and used the key we left her to get inside, and she found our cat trapped partly under the garage door!"
We laughed. "Sucks to be the cat!"
"Yeah," the girl continued, "but she was okay, just her paw got squashed when we closed the garage door on it on our way out, I guess."
There was a lull in the conversation, then, "Pet hamsters are the worst, though," a girl volunteered. We made "we're listening, go on" poses, and she did. "I had two hamsters when I was little, a male and a female, well, they were both supposed to be female but one started humping the other one day and then they had babies, so we knew one was a boy. They ate the babies, though. Sometimes hamsters do that. Anyways, they had this little hamster ball, you know the woven straw cocoon?" We did. "I was cleaning out their cage one day, and I saw the female's rear poking out of the ball. I tried to get her to come out but she wouldn't move, so I tugged on her butt a bit to pull her outside." She paused dramatically. "Maybe I shouldn't tell this story while you're eating..."

I urged her to continue.
"...Well, only half of her came out!" There was a pause while we digested this.
"That's disgusting!"
"What happened?"
"Apparently, the male hamster had eaten off the front half of her body. He must have gnawed right through her middle. Well, I guess it's obvious that I was a bit upset about only getting back half a hamster..."
"No kidding!" we agreed. I slightly regretted not waiting until after dinner to hear this story, but it didn't stop me from leaping at the next one, when our unfortunate hamster-owner paused, then said:
"...still, it wasn't as bad as the kittens."
There were only a few minutes left before the dining hall opened, so we all filed into the dish room to deposit our trays, and then trailed over to the sinks to re-disinfect ourselves. I tagged behind the girl with the hamsters and kittens. "What happened to the kittens?" I asked.
"Well, my dad was mowing in the backyard one day, and he accidentally ran over a nest of baby kittens."
Everyone tried to look busy while staying in earshot. "Did the kittens survive?" someone prompted.
"Mostly. I think two of them were fine, and one of them recovered eventually, but at least one was definitely too injured and it died."
We then had to split up and get to work before a supervisor yelled at us, but it was clear to everyone that it is far better to go to Bryn Mawr than to be half a hamster, or to be a lawnmowered kitten.

Full Name:  Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle
Username:  kjusewiczh@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Shift From Child to Adult
Date:  2005-12-14 15:39:23
Message Id:  17400
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

There is something fundamentally different between being a child and being an adult. There are the obvious differences of course: height, life experience, pure knowledge, coordination, etc. But, these things only form the basis for the fundamental difference between children and adults, they are only surface differences. The fundamental difference between children and adults is how we view the world and our willingness to question the world around us. This is what makes children and adults two separate groups. But what brings about this difference? Why do we change in such a drastic way?

First lets look at how children view and move through the world. A child views the world through new, fresh eyes. They have not seen many things before, their lives are about exploring and learning. Children are told stories about the world, they are told what to do and what not to do. However, children never take these stories as pure fact; they explore and discover on their own. Time and time again you see a child touch something hot or sharp or eat something they have been told not to. Questioning is a huge part of their lives. Many times when you watch children exploring the world around them, you will witness the child reaching the same conclusion as the stories they were told. A child will also come to see that the sky is blue, that hot and sharp things hurt, that some things are not for eating. Through questioning children cement societies stories in their heads. Though, they may forget these stories occasionally, they still help form the child.

Sometimes, however, children will question the world around them and come to a different conclusion than the stories that they have been told. When they do, children believe with all their hearts that they are right and want everyone else to understand what they do as well. Children will insist that people listen to them and that they are right. How many times have children said the phrase, "No, but just listen to me," to their friends and to their families? Children do not take what people tell them as pure fact, they want to find out for themselves. More importantly, when children find out something different from the stories they have heard, children do not question themselves but instead the world around them. Even if children ultimately forgo their idea and wind up agreeing with society, the important part is that they are willing to question the world around them.

Adults, on the other hand, are very different. Adults have heard societies stories all their lives and when they were children they too questioned these stories. But over time adults begin to lose this questioning aspect. They just begin to take the stories they hear as fact or just dismiss them all together. They do not bother to explore or to try and find out the truth for themselves. When an adult hears that we live in a three dimensional world, they just believe it. They do not bother to explore and try to figure out whether we actually do. As children grow into adults something changes within them to make them lose that questioning. Something makes them accept societies stories.

There must be many factors at work in making children stop questioning as they change to adults. Children believe in questioning so strongly that they will drop everything to do so; something that is believed in so strongly is hard to lose. One of these factors must be societal pressures. Society is very reluctant to give up its stories. Children do not pose an actual threat in changing these stories because, after all, they are only children and no one really pays attention to children. But as they grow, they begin to be able to express themselves better and to provide evidence for their findings. As children grow they become more convincing and a greater danger to societies ideas. It becomes more and more of a social faux pas to change the stories of society. Adults have a very high chance of being mocked or ostracized from society for trying to change a well known story. This fact is made to known to children as they grow and this discourages them from trying to change stories any more.

Another reason is that as children grow they question everything around them. But, practically every time they find that the stories they heard were right. When they find that something or someone is right time and time again, what is the point of questioning anymore? Questioning will just waste valuable time, it becomes easier to just accept what they are told. Questioning almost becomes a sort of rebellion against society, while accepting is the obvious choice. There is no question that 2 plus 2 equals 4 so why should they keep questioning everything else.

The fundamental difference between adults and children is their willingness to question. Adults stop questioning the world around them for many reasons, reasons that may never be fully understood. Occasionally there is an adult that does keep questioning the world and does change a story that the world tells. These adults are viewed as renegades, they are somehow different from the rest of society; these adults are almost big children. A child questions the world around them and struggles to really understand what they are told. Is it better to just accept everything you are told, or to question everything? There must be some sort of balance between the two. That balance is what every person has to find for themselves, because that balance ultimately helps form who each person is.

Full Name:  Jessica Diana Castro
Username:  jcastro@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Language and Family from a Latino Perspective
Date:  2005-12-14 16:31:31
Message Id:  17401
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

"I once knew a family, like no other family, always together, in the good and in the bad, winter, spring, summer, and fall; they've experienced it all together...."

This is how I would like someone to begin telling a story about my family. It should begin with the togetherness. It should incorporate one of my father's favorite sayings about what makes a good family, one that is together "en las buenas y en las malas (in the good and in the bad)." However great the meaning my father's words has on me, the phrase alone cannot carry the story along. It needs details. It needs to mention the language of my family – the voice that lingers in my unconscious. Because this language is part of my tacit knowledge, it identifies me not only as a Latina but as a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a friend, a student, a co-worker, and a woman. In other words, it affects everything I say, do, think, and feel, without me even realizing it most of the time. This is most evident when comparing my family's distinctive voice with those of other families.

I bet most of us, at one point in our life, thought their own family was weird or different from other families but couldn't exactly point to the reason why they were different. Perhaps what made them peculiar was their unique way of expressing themselves. Some families are more expressive than others are; rather than swallowing up thoughts, they let them out in the open. My family does not fall back in this sense. They express themselves with emotion and with spice.

What defines my family? Let me throw some words out in the air. "Sobrecitos de café...mama...mamita..." Translated respectively it reads little bits of coffee, mom, and dearest mom. The English version understates its true meaning (what these words mean in my family) while in Spanish the meaning is automatically understood. This explains why a verse by the Spanish poet Pablo Neruda means more, to me at least, in Spanish than in English; I can relate to the language and the experiences that come with it.

For "sobrecitos de café," I see my parents waking up on a weekend morning drinking their one cup of homemade coffee with milk, and conversing for at least a good hour. Drinking coffee for them and for me (not often, I try to cut down) is a luxury, a time to be intimate with family and this is done in the comfort of the home. Unlike other families, who indulge their store-bought caffeine within the walls of a Starbucks because they are in a rush to get to work or school, my parent's enjoy their "coffee break." The word "sobrecitos" is a term of endearment as are many words in my family like "mama" and "mamita," and it emphasizes how much they esteem that hour of the day.

Not a day goes by that my mom does not call me "mama" or "mamita." For someone outside my family, a mom calling her daughter "mother", let alone, "little mother," can be quite weird if their not familiar with my culture. Both words are signs of affection displayed by my mom, misunderstood if taken literally for its English translation. In my friend's home, (who is half-black, half-Dominican), it is the reverse, and the daughter calls the mom, "mamita." Even though she is half-Spanish, she would probably laugh to know that my mom calls me "mom." In fact, my mom herself laughed when she realized how others would react to this, and so did I. The surprising factor that allows us to detect tacit knowledge supports a fact stated in Michael Polanyi's The Tacit Dimension (1967): 'We can know more than we can tell.' This tacit knowing allows us to recognize the cultural meaning of words; yet, we usually cannot tell how we recognize that meaning until this surprising factor kicks in.

My family's tacit knowledge arose from our Spanish heritage, as far back as we can tell –not tell for that matter, but it is evident in the message we preserve. Both of my parents express this hidden message encoded in the common usage of the word "mamita," when they refer to their children. They have placed heavy values on a woman's role as a mother. After all, she is the backbone of the family. In life, as observed through biology, things fall apart. Nevertheless, the mother figure prevents this from happening, keeping my family strong from within. She can do this because she is strong, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, herself. She is strong for us. She has that familiar touch of love that is universal in mothers and in many women throughout history. The survival of the family ultimately depends on her feminine strength.

The thread that binds my family together is unconsciously knowing and appreciating a woman's strength as a mother. My mother herself preserves this feminine strength tacitly through language. Because she tacitly calls me "mamita," she is the source of this tacit knowing that recognizes her as the selected being that preserves the love and affection within my family, my closely knitted culture.

Full Name:  Jenny Chen
Username:  jchen@brynmawr.edu
Title:  A Tug-of-War Between Two Cultures
Date:  2005-12-15 12:52:30
Message Id:  17404
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

What does it feel like to encounter two different cultures and to be forced to accept both of them? A game of tug-of-war, perhaps â€" you are the rope, and the two cultures on either end forcing you to be on their side. On the left side is the Old Culture team, and on the right side is the New Culture team. At first, the Old Culture seems to have more strength and pulls you towards the left side. But the New Culture does not give up and pulls you harder towards to right side. In the Doomsday Book, Kivrin is challenged with many obstacles as she travels from the culture of 2054 to the culture of 1348. She had been raised in 2054, a culture with advanced technology. Her knowledge of technology and medicine in the 2054’s provides no help to her and the people in 1348 when it comes to surviving the plague. Kivrin realizes that she must let go of some of the prior knowledge and culture she is accustomed to and that her survival depends on the adaptation of the new culture. Although she is finally willing to adapt to the culture of 1348, she is relieved to have the chance to return to the culture of 2054. In Kivrin’s game of tug-of-war, the Old Culture team wins. This is only one outcome out of many. Actually, most real-life cases can be described as the never-ending games of tug-of-war without a winning team.
When an individual accustomed to one culture is faced with a completely different culture, it is normal for the individual to stick to the more familiar culture instead of embracing the new culture. After all, cultures share something in common: the need to preserve all practices that set the culture apart from other cultures. However, the complete preservation of an old culture in a different culture is merely impossible. Even the most rigid limitations cannot keep a culture from changing.
Take the life of a Taiwanese American â€" a young Taiwanese immigrant. Born in Taiwan, my identity was deeply rooted in the Taiwanese culture, but I encountered an identity crisis after the exposure to the American culture. At home, my parents expected me to be a good Asian daughter. (Translation: To be a good Asian daughter is to remain faithful to Taiwanese culture and to obey everything that came out of my parents’ mouths.) I also found it more comfortable to practice the old traditions in the new culture. Who would ever want to change when it is easier to keep doing things the same way? Over time, I learned that I could not shut out this new culture â€" American culture â€" and that I must adapt to it to “survive”.
Taiwan culture is built upon academic success and the ability to use every talent possible. Children are expected to perform at the highest levels at school while using talents to accomplish a great number of extracurricular activities. Only one student can be the best, so the students become extremely competitive and measure success against that of each other. All the students want to become leaders, which causes problems in communication between one another. Those who do poorly in school are regarded as disobedient to their parents and bring shame to their families. These children are often punished until they reach the high standards. Taiwan culture nurtures hard-working, book-smart children with their own strong opinions. Everyone takes the same, strict path of becoming successful.
On the other hand, American culture believes in taking life step by step with the goal of reaching success at the end. Children are expected to work hard and to seize every opportunity that comes their way. In such a culture, children do not have to compare themselves with one another. They can pursue their passions instead of what their parents expected of them. Students are able to communicate more with one another without the competitive tensions. It is perfectly fine to have one leader while others as followers. In the American dream, everyone becomes successful through many different paths.
First generation Taiwanese immigrants share the fear of being too Americanized. They do not understand that accepting parts of the American culture does not require letting go all of the Taiwanese culture. Taiwanese parents are afraid that American culture teaches children to be wild and too loose. They do not understand the concept of give and take and are disappointed with their children if they fail their classes. (Translation: To fail a class means to earn a grade, most likely an A, that is not the best compared to other students.) American culture reminds people that it is fine to make mistakes as long as the person learns from them. Taiwanese parents also cannot grasp the idea that being a good leader entails being a good follower. American culture stresses the importance of communication. The combination of Taiwanese culture with American culture creates the Taiwanese American culture by intertwining the strengths integrated in the two cultures.
Unlike Kivrin who returned to her old culture, I do not find it relieving to return to the Taiwanese culture and would rather remain in the Taiwanese American culture. In fact, after being in contact with the American culture, it is impossible for me to return to the original Taiwanese culture. Encountering more than one culture allowed me to realize that every culture with enabling aspects is flawed with disabilities. I believe that the way to improve a culture is to take out the disabilities and replace them with the enabling aspects of another culture. In certain situation, I find the Old Culture team tugging harder than the New Culture team, and vice versa. Neither of them wins the game. The teams can only hope to achieve equilibrium, a tie to the game.

Full Name:  Sarah Placke
Username:  splacke@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Flinch Mechanism
Date:  2005-12-15 14:17:28
Message Id:  17405
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

When an object is thrown at a person either knowing or unknowing, it is human nature to flinch in order to protect the body. But does the reaction inside our brain change when we are ready and waiting for a ball to be thrown at us? Is our mind still thinking of protection, or is it just catching a ball? I wanted to see if there was a difference in the way that people's bodies reacted, and how the flinch mechanism changed and digressed in a controlled setting. Through my research and experimentation, I have discovered that when people know a ball will be thrown at them but do not know when, they are more anxious and spasmodic in their bodily flinching movement. Their hand movements are jerky in anticipation of the coming throw. Oppositely, when a ball is thrown at a person unexpectedly, their flinch reaction is one of surprise and large movement in protection. This is because the body is not expecting or ready to make the catch. The hands move to the face and the head turns away to protect itself with eyes closed. Moreover, through my research I have deduced that the body is tacitly on guard to protect itself all the time. Therefore, in any sort of sport such as baseball, the movements are ones of protection. Even though we are consciously telling ourselves that we must catch the ball, our brain is tacitly telling the body to protect itself, especially in the chest and eye regions because they are two of the most vulnerable areas on the body. The eye, core, and genital areas of the human body are the most crucial parts because humans cannot protect themselves without them. The eyes control the use of sight, the core possesses the vital organs, and the genitals control reproduction. All of these things are key to human survival and we would die without them. The act of flinching as protection is the human way of guaranteeing self-safety.

I started out gathering my data through the study of a large group of people. I measured their reaction to a ball being thrown at them without their knowing and then with their knowing. I would begin my experiment by informing the subject of tacit knowledge and my English class without giving any information away about the experiment. While retaining eye contact, I would pretend to throw a koosh ball at the subject. Throughout the ten people I studied, the main emotion expressed through their flinching was one of surprise. All subjects closed their eyes and turned their heads away while bringing up their hands to protect their face and chest. Some even yelped in surprise. I did not encounter one person who did not close their eyes and turn their head away. This flinching movement was clearly one of protection. After the subject recovered from their shock, I informed them that I was collecting data on flinching as tacit knowledge. I then told my subjects that I wanted them to be ready to catch the koosh that I was going to throw without telling them when I was going to throw it. I would let a few seconds pass with no movement to study the subject's prepared stance, noting that the positioning of the body was one of readiness and anticipation. The hands outstretched are anticipating the throw of the koosh. But the person is clearly nervous. They know they are ready to catch the koosh, yet are constantly prematurely flinching with their hands when no koosh has been thrown. The brain is telling the body that it is ready to catch the koosh, but because there is no knowing of when the koosh will be thrown, the brain is sending out protective signals which causes premature flinching. In other words, the brain is over anticipating the unknown arrival of the koosh ball.

Though I felt that I had a substantial amount of data in the first round of experimentation, I felt that my results were not bringing me any closer to answering any of the questions I sought out to answer. I wanted to study the behavior of the flinch in different circumstances and if different factors abbreviated or enhanced the size of the flinch. I also wanted to see if the maintaining of eye contact between the subjects had any effect on their flinch. For my second round of data, I followed this formula:

1. Throw koosh while maintaining eye contact but give no warning of throw
2. Throw koosh while maintaining eye contact and tell subject to be ready (no time measurement)
3. Throw koosh while maintaining eye contact and tell subject to be ready and count out loud to five then throw
4. Throw koosh while maintaining eye contact but throw to the left of the person
5. Look at person's stomach but pretend to throw at face
6. Look at person's face but pretend to throw at stomach
7. Tell subject to close eyes and anticipate throw

I would repeat these steps three times in order to see if there were any trends or change in the flinch mechanism. By performing this more detailed experiment on a smaller group of people, I feel like I could better understand each person's own personal flinch mechanism. Just like fingerprints, every mechanism is different. Every person has their own personal traits that are reflected through their natural reaction to surprise and expectation. For example, person A (I omit the names of the subjects in order to eliminate any notions or thoughts of each subject. It made it a lot easier to analyze the experiment this way) had very exaggerated physical reactions throughout all the steps, which suggests that her sense of body awareness and protection are heightened. Person C seemed to have the opposite reaction than person A. Her demeanor was much more relaxed, and only a slight jerk of the head and flinching of the eyes. (An interesting side note is that person C is a basketball player, which I think might have an impact on how her flinching mechanism has been molded and changed in terms of experience with hand-eye coordination and ball control.) I also think that the subject's flinching mechanism reflects their personality as well. Every action can be described in terms of personality, because it is our physical quirks and habits that construct us as we are physically.

I have also deduced that the flinching mechanism also works as a metaphor for how people's physical presence is manifested in the physical world; i.e. how comfortable we feel in our surroundings. For example, if a person stays in a house which they are not familiar with, all the creeks and noises within it are going to alarm her much more than it would in a place that she is used to. Thus, how our bodies fit into the physical world is a reflection of how comfortable we feel in the world. More specifically, someone who is unsure of who she are or has low self-esteem is someone who would have a higher and more spasmodic flinch mechanism. This is because the person is not comfortable with herself, and therefore she is tacitly going to be more on guard and protective of herself. Likewise, a person who is more sure of herself and confident is going to have a more relaxed and fluid flinch mechanism. Her mind is still tacitly telling her body to protect itself, yet because she is more comfortable in her surroundings, the mechanism is more muted.

Furthermore, I would continue my research more in depth and I would like to study the differences between men's and women's flinch mechanism, and if there really is a difference. I think that this is information worth studying because there the chemical and hormonal makeup between men and women are different, so therefore would that make their flinch mechanisms different? My hypothesis would be that there is a difference because of the different genetic and hormonal makeup.

Full Name:  Rebecca Buck
Username:  rbuck@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Truth – God and Geometry
Date:  2005-12-15 14:34:41
Message Id:  17406
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

The American Heritage® Dictionary improperly defines truth as "Conformity to fact or actuality." Conformity is the negation of truth. In order for everything to be the same, all diversity would be lost. In diversity, the various truths of the world thrive. None of them is perfect. Some can be proven; some can be disproved. For some, they are entirely grey and can neither be proved nor disproved. They all, however, are common in that they are accepted by someone or something, in an attempt to better understand the Truth. It is as in Plato's "heaven of abstractions" (Dennett 36). There is one Truth, with an infinite amount of lesser truths created as poor imitations of that Truth, in order that each person can give him- or herself value.

Brecht's Galileo was a driven man, searching to find Truth. That was his purpose in life, and he sacrificed his sight and family to try to find it. His only purpose, as he saw it, was to find Truth, and there was nothing that mattered as much. This is what he assumed about himself given the life that he was accustomed to, until that life was threatened. Only then did he look outside the tunnel in which he had lived to realize that there was life outside of the quest to uncover the Truth. Galileo was playing with fire, threatening to rip away the security that the church and his sponsors enjoyed in believing their truths. Their routine lifestyle depended on their truths, and they were well contented to continue to live by them. The faith in their hearts was enough proof for them, and they considered any other truth a threat to their life and lifestyle. Moreover, they were powerful. Yet that power rested in the fact that the people had faith in their infallibility. If they were to change the doctrine of truth that they taught, there would be consequences in the lives of all of the people. For the Pope or an Italian Prince to admit to being wrong would be tantamount to declaring that the God they were taught to believe in was not omnipotent. This was the foundation in their lives, or was supposed to be, and without it their entire universe collapsed. For the people, then, or perhaps for himself, Galileo changed his public truth. He did not tell anyone else to change theirs and did not change the truth that he knew. His change of apparent truth was for stability, just as the Prince and Pope's refusal to consider the change was for stability.

Flatland is oddly similar to Galileo. Both are about the discovery of truths of the Universe. Both involve a truth that is too dangerous for its world. However, the circumstances of the truths were vastly different. Where Galileo looked for the new, Truer truth, the square's revelation was forced upon him. Having believed that the Universe was restricted to the world he knew, he was unwilling to accept anything else. Even after his dream-discovery of Pointland and Lineland, he was unwilling to accept anything outside of his Universe. Both of the two "lesser" Universes could exist, theoretically, in his Universe. Yet he had been limited. The largest scope of his imagination of truths was his own world. In order to imagine anything else, he had to be removed from it. He was forced to see something. That something, Flatland as merely one Universe of many greater, was inexplicable by the truths he had held, and he could not refute what lay before his own eyes. It was as in Galileo – the royal officials refused to look through Galileo's telescope, as the evidence for an instable new Universe could be revealed to them, and it was not for them to knowingly lie in the face of science. Ignorance was preferable. The indignant tendency towards ignorance that the square displayed can be seen in all aspects of the world. In fact, the entirety of the Universe of Flatland is comparable to the Universe that we know. Through removing an obvious humanity from the world, Abbott made it easier to hypothesize about the world at large. Of course, there were easy parallels between humanity and the shapes, but if one was willing to refuse to see it as humanity, it was completely separate. In taking out many of the details, the larger picture became clear. A point sees nothing outside of itself, a line nothing outside of itself, and so on. Yet there is always something there that is bigger, in dimensions unfathomable. The square sees this, literally, and seeks to teach it. Yet he, like Galileo, is not believed – and put in prison. For the square, however, there is no backing out available; he is written away to his cell. Galileo, in his more cushioned cell, was also locked away so that no further heresy and lies could come from him. Of course, the heresy, lies, and insanity that the square and Galileo were believed to be telling were in fact truths. Yet, for both, the stability of the Universe was threatened – if the circles and polygons were found to not be the most estimable beings in the Universe, they would lose their power. Like in Galileo, the powerful had the right to pick and choose truths, and as their power rested in the accepted truth, there was no rationale for another to be accepted that might threaten their balance.

What was Darwin's reasoning for trying to explain speciation? Galileo's discovery was made through passion, the square's was made through force, yet Darwin's exploration of the truth is generally unexplained. It is perhaps possible to see the discovery as a natural progression of thought. Darwin explained what he found with as many examples as possible, giving evidence for the methods by which he had made his discovery. His truth is continually being questioned, yet it is largely accepted. Some of its details, as Dennett points out, have been finessed since Darwin presented them, but largely the idea is accepted. As Dennett says, only the ignorant can afford to avoid the Truth in Darwin's discoveries. There is enough evidence that it takes sheer force of will to refuse to accept the story that Darwin tells. Darwin's truth threatens the same truth that Galileo's and the sphere's did. Religion is the longest truth to hold steady, and has become a central stabilizer for humanity. However, science, through people such as Galileo and Darwin, is constantly coming up with ideas that go against what has been taught in religion. Dennett tries to find equilibrium between the two, as he says all humanity should do. In one, he finds a purpose in life; in the other, he finds the reasons for life. Both science and religion can exist independently, explaining the same things. It would seem reasonable to say that the two cannot be merged, as their ideas seem to be opposed to the other. Dennett, however, sees Truth in each of the stories, and strives to find a balance. It is for all of humanity to do so, as Dennett explains. If both truths are relatively True, there must be some balance between the two. Though Darwin's algorithm has no God needed to support it, and religion does not need evolution to continue, they are both, to some degree, True, or so Dennett believes. Darwin's ideas were terrifying to the church – an explanation of humanity without God, or any sentient pre-being. Dennett explains that the only way to reach a balance is to start over; it is necessary to make an entirely new truth, drawing from the two opposed, rather than taking one and adding bits of the other. In a way, he says, it is best to discard both truths altogether, for neither is actually True. It is a reverse of evolution – rather than One becoming Many, Many are becoming One. It is Darwin's preliminary explanation of evolution, with a graying, or averaging, and the loss of black and white. Dennett explains that in order for a new truth to be accepted, it must be willing to accept, at least in part, the past truth. Acceptance and compromise opens the doors to new discoveries.

Whether truth should be averaged is a difficult question. Perhaps the average of all truths would be the Truth. Yet if it was not, there would be no diversity to give space for development of new truths that might bring it closer the truths closer to Truth, and so humanity would be stagnated in ignorance. Yet the other options are just as unappealing. Refusing to accept any new truth leaves humanity in voluntary ignorance. Throwing away ancient accepted values devalues everything. All truths have a foundation in Truth, no matter how distant. There is no knowing if humanity is closer to Truth now, or if it was millennia ago. Truth is diverse. Just as a circle is an infinite-sided polygon, the Truth also has many sides: the truths of the Universe. Some are on opposite sides of each other, and appear to have no relation, yet they are all interlinked. Many have yet to be discovered, yet each is crucial to discovering Truth. Truth, then, depends on truths. The whole depends on the pieces. Yet a premature averaging of the pieces could exclude necessary truths, and leave the Truth infinitely undiscoverable. Therefore, acceptance of truths is the only way to find Truth.

Full Name:  Virginia Jane Tseng
Username:  vtseng@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Space
Date:  2005-12-15 15:17:59
Message Id:  17407
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Once upon a time
The world which we know
Was much like Lineland
That is to say
Lineland existed in our Spaceland
This Lineland was composed of Women
Women that walked
In a straight line like they were supposed to
One day
A woman by the name of Thomas
Jumped Out of Line!
out of line!
She jumped Out of Line and claimed a space for other women to jump Out of Line, too. "Here is a place where you too can jump Out of Line."
Other women too jumped
out of line.
Any women
All women could
Jump Out
of Line
After Thomas left
Who knows to where
Maybe to Spaceland squared or Cubed
The space was still there
For Women to jump
The space had no particular shape
It simply existed, it was not defined
But it was definitely there
It's existense was so strong, that it was almost more undeniable than the existence of Spaceland itself.
If you had been in this space
Then Tenoric Spaceland was your Vehilic Oyster
As the years went on
The space slowly was more defined
By change
Or by stagnancy
It wasn't a place where women could just jump Out of Line.
There were expectations after they jumped.
They had to jump a certain way to a particular spot at a particular time for a particular reason with a particular result.
Thomas wags her finger
up down, left right, north south, side side, time time
The space had no space for judgment
Only nourishment
Why a certain way? To a particular spot? At a particular time? For a particular reason? With a particular result?
This was out of space.
Which was not good.
This infuriated some women
"Ah! What is this?! The reinitiation of Lineland!?"
"Are we not all strong women? Capable of various extraordinary things, and not just one particular thing
in a certain way
in a particular spot
at a particular time
for a particular reason
with a particular result?"
"This isn't the reinitiation of Lineland!
This is the founding of Particleland!
Where everyone must be a Particle Man!"
One woman whispered, "Yes or like a Pointland."
"Yeah!" They screamed
What a hotbed of radicalism.
The space was still not quite like Pointland or Particleland or Lineland.
There was still something that set it apart.
All the women resisted the space now
This is what remained common
Between all
The women.
They felt a shift, they felt their world
Did not fit them
This they knew but nothing else.
No one wanted to be the space
And yet they were all there
All still together
All out of line
"well I would really rather do this in a triangular manner to that upper side for a short while with no result in mind."
"well I would rather do this is a circular manner and cover all sides for many years to try and get things more right"
"well I would rather do this in a hectagonal manner and all sides for 1.234 hours each and simply be as precise as possible."
And it was fine.
This was the new beauty of the space.
There were triangles
There were circles
And even hectagons
It did not matter that they were all
Different shapes.
They were there to be those shapes
In those ways
In those places
At that time
For many results.
But they were all there
Out of Line.

Full Name:  Ariane Briski
Username:  abriski@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Revisions in Literature and the Modern World
Date:  2005-12-15 15:32:18
Message Id:  17408
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Stories are capricious beings. They morph and change for each reader, taking on a slightly new meaning, a slightly different relevance. We all revise every story we read, even in the smallest ways like assigning the character physical attributes different from those intended by the author, or tweaking the meaning to apply it to our own lives. In this way stories are alive, they morph, they reinvent, and they change ever so slightly for each and every reader. It's all well and good when we revise each other's stories to apply to ourselves, but what happens when we have to revise our own stories? What happens when a story you have believed your whole life is presented as incorrect? Everyone handles the revising of stories in different ways. Edwin A. Abbott's Faltland shows a reluctance to revise stories out of fear or a desire to maintain a thought process, a reluctance that often has to be overcome by force. It also points out examples of story revision in different generations. Yet these texts fail to address a contemporary reason that people do not revise stories. Members of my generation often do not revise their stories because we are so overwhelmed with information that we cannot find information we deem relevant enough to adopt.
Let take a look at Flatland, a story about A. Square, a two dimensional square living in a two dimensional world. A. Square spends the majority of the book telling you his story. He tells you of his life, his society, and the physical world around him. Everything about his life is very factual, for instance:
"Our soldiers and Lowest Class of workmen are Triangles with two equal sides, each about eleven inches long, and a base or third side so short (often not exceeding half an inch) that they form at their vertices a very sharp formidable angle."
A. Square never seems to question his world. A. Square's grandson, however, does question the world around him. During a geometry lesion in which A. Square explains to his grandson the idea of dimensions squared (as dimensions can only get to be squared in Flatland) his grandson questions
"Well, then, if a Point moving three inches, makes a Line of three inches represented by 3; and if a straight Line of three inches moving parallel to itself, makes a Square of three inches every way, represented by 3^2; it must be that a Square of three inches in every way, moving somehow parallel to itself (but I don't see how) must make something else (but I don't see what) of three inches every way- and this must be represented by 3^3."
A.Square's response to this is less then accepting, as he replies "if you talk less nonsense, you would remember more sense." This shows not only that A. Square is set in his ways, but provides an example of the importance of youth in revising stories. Through many cultures the youth are often the ones charged with reform. Younger people are often more open to new ideas because old ideas have had less time to become engrained in their heads.
A. Square still remains convinced of the validity of his story. This changes, however, when he receive a visitor, a Sphere from the third dimension. At first A. Square refuses to believe the Sphere's story of another dimension, as he can only see the Sphere as a circle in his two dimensional world. The Sphere tries just about everything to convince A. Square, from moving in and out of the two dimensional plain to touching A. Squares middle, a feat only possible if one is in another plane. Yet A. Square remains unconvinced, refusing to revise his story and accusing the Sphere of being a magician. It is not until the Sphere physically forces A. Square into "Spaceland" that A. Square realizes that the Sphere is correct. After seeing this new world A. Square chooses revises his story and becomes very excited about the revision. When he is returned to his own dimension he attempts to preach about this new dimension to his fellow citizens. What A. Square does not anticipate is that others will often refuse to revise their stories, especially without the advantage of being able to see this third dimension. So, as the story comes to an end, A. Square is imprisoned for life. Therefore A. Square is an example of someone who choses to revise his story after physical force was exerted from an outside force, yet is unsuccessful at convincing others to do the same.
Flatland also provides an interesting insight into the role different generations play in story revision. A. Square, a member of the older generation, is reluctant to revise his story but does so after he is able to physically see the truth. The other older citizens of Flatland will not revise their stories at all, choosing to imprison A. Square instead. His grandson, in contrast, openly questions the foundations of Flatland without even giving it a lot of thought. However, once the popular opinion turns against the existence of Spaceland A. Square's grandson quickly conforms and gives up on the revision of the story. This suggests that while the younger generation can often think of reform they are sometimes not capable of becoming a martyr for their ideas.
So Flatland provides a good cross section of characters unwilling to revise their stories because of the negative implications those revisions would have on their lives. But what about story revision today?
I am now a member of the younger generation, much like A. Squares grandson. People look to youth for new ideas and reform, and the general consensus seems to be disappointment in my generation's revisions. Youth are becoming more apathetic, less radical and more conservative. And while I can't speak for my entire generation I can say that I am reluctant to revise my stories, but not because of the negative implications those revisions would have. My generation's issues with story revision often stem from another reason, not addressed in any of the texts. Today people often fail to revise their stories because it is so difficult to find something relevant to cause revision.
We live in a very different world today. With one click of the mouse I can rise above the world and travel around in seconds with Google world. I can get news from around the world, in forty three different languages at that, with a quick visit to the BBC website. People can even travel around the world just to attend the college of their choice.
I have information bombarding me just about all the time. Especially with the creation of the internet people can keep up with everything going on in the world today. And that's not all, the true kicker is the idea that has been deeply ingrained in my generation, the idea that you should question everything. This creates an undeniable paradox, as there is no way to even keep up on the all news available now, much less analyze and research it in an attempt to pick what to accept. This idea is summed up by Jeb Grobstein in an article entitled Writing Descartes: I Am, I Can Think, Therefore..."
"In seems that in a world in which the number of sources and possibilities for belief have been exponentially multiplied by the information revolution, K-12 schooling and the institution of democracy, that our problem is not in rejecting sources of authority [truth, security, tradition] as it was for Descartes and as Dr. Grobstein would have it, but in finding something relevant to accept."
Accepting a story revision is truly a commitment. Take, for example, the possible existence of aliens. The idea that they exist has been presented by many people, and yet I reject it (at least for the time being) because there are so many ideas that have been presented by so many people that there now has to be a very large amount of indisputable evidence before I will revise my ideas. The bar, in essence, had been raised. There is no reason for me to consider one piece of information more relevant then another (in most cases) because there is a vast amount of research to support almost any idea if you look hard enough. You can't simply just accept all ideas either, as they constantly conflict with each other.
The characters of Flatland were scared of the implications the existence of a new dimension could have on their lives. Some in my generation are still scared, but I do not believe that fear is the dominate force that keeps people today from revising their stories. Nor is it laziness (as has been suggested by some members of older generations) because members of my generation are willing to investigate new ideas. I think the best word to describe people today is "overwhelmed". I have so many options for possible story revision that there is no way to confront them all, and so I often find myself not revising at all.
Flatland shows relevant and logical examples of revision. It shows characters from the older generation who refuse to revise out of fear or protectiveness, and characters will not revise until shown such undisputable physical proof that they are forced to revise (just as much as anyone can be forced to change a thought process). It also shows a member of the younger generation whose mind is open to new ideas, yet who cannot rebel against an overwhelming majority. Yet these examples exclude a reason that my generation often resists revision today, being that they are overwhelmed with information to the point where finding something relevant enough to accept is difficult. So this leaves me with two questions: who will revise our modern stories? And how will they overcome this new reluctance to revise?

Full Name:  Ayaka Dubin
Username:  rdubin@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Opening the Door- Explorations In Tacit Understanding
Date:  2005-12-15 17:20:07
Message Id:  17409
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry
2005 Web Report
On Serendip

Tacit knowledge is the understanding that arises from the unconscious self, a part of the mind outside the range of normal awareness. Surely, to any who claim interest in exploring the mind's reaches, a part by nature inaccessible, veiled from perception, would provide much intrigue. How to open the door to such a place, however, could prove at least as tough a mystery as the nature of what would be found inside.

Generally, we all are indeed in communication with this unconscious part of ourselves on a day-to-day basis. We make connections between things that leave even our own selves questioning the nature of such thoughts. We perform actions that we are unaware of. We switch accents and forms of speech, tap our feet, bite our nails, and even hold conversations in our sleep. By its very nature, this form of communication will go unnoticed unless specifically paid attention to or pointed out by others. However, the fact that these inner reaches of the mind have an interaction with the external environment speaks to the possibility of conscious interaction with them. Fascinated by the possibility of some sort of conscious exchange of ideas between these two parts of myself, I decided to conduct an experiment, with my own subconscious as the subject.

When is it, then, that our subconscious is closest to the surface? Dreams are a door into that part of oneself, for certain. Another more fully conscious way to take a look at that part would be free association- in which the subject is presented with a word and asked to record the first word that comes to her mind. So a free association exercise was the first thing I did- presenting myself with a random selection of words and recording my first impressions.

Stimulus:: Response

Offspring:: Difficult
Cultures:: Color
Stairway:: Spiral
Sack:: Fit
Spinster:: Needle
Jellyfish:: Peanut butter
Booted:: Broken
Quail:: Curl
Brakes:: Crash
Espionage:: Pokemon
Spherical:: Ethereal
Flow:: Tears
Naught:: Empty
Equals:: Pendulum
Jolly:: Red
Dancers:: Ankles
Sell:: Ocean
Rubs:: Mint
Memo:: iPod
Landmine:: Earth
Negotiate:: Table
Dusky:: Puppy
Sometimes:: Crazy

I was surprised by many of my answers, because at first a lot of them didn't mean to make a whole lot of sense. I classified my responses into categories based upon my interpretation of them. Some seemed to be linked to their respective stimuli by their sound or structure. The alliteration between "cultures" and "color" and " booted" and "broken" would serve as an example of this relation, as would the similarity in sound between "quail" and "curl." Then, there were word pairs that were related through some sort of "logic" that I could figure out upon looking at them further. Some were more obvious, such as the connection between "Jellyfish" and "Peanut butter" or the "Brakes" that one would use to avoid a "Crash." Others took a little more thought, but could still be uncovered. When I heard the word "Negotiate," the image that popped into my head was of the conference room on the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation. This conference room contained a long table, so a "Table" was what I saw. "Dusky" sounded like a good name for a "Puppy," "Landmines" are buried in the "Earth," and "Dancers" (for it was ballerinas on pointe that I pictured) put a lot of stress on their "Ankles." Finally, there were relations that even after careful thought I couldn't figure out. These included "Equals" and "Pendulum," "Sell" and "Ocean," and "Memo" and "iPod." I am not sure of the meaning of these thoughts- only that somewhere inside me these images must hold some sort of connection.

Moving on from word to word free association, I decided to do a stream of consciousness exercise. While not purely unconscious, with the awareness necessary to transfer the images present in the mind of a visual thinker such as myself to paper in word form, such a piece of writing often brings surprise glimpses into the tacit self. As someone who actually does this kind of exercise for fun fairly often, I'm able to tell the difference between the way my conscious self would go about writing something and the freer flowing style of my subconscious self. So, I sat down and went about writing down everything that went through my mind, without the inhibition of conscious thought or structure.

"i built this world from for you page by page with bricks of twilight, rain falling upwards into a great ocean of stars impossible you are impossibly bright made of it all wings and warm gingerbread, flannel blankets, and flying so far to my arms there is no distance so far so long as that between the here and the wanted between when i'll see you once again and right now far from the ground but closer to the sky.

your sorrow i want to take it take it away from you red and orange and the palest gray there were stars there in those moments of happiness and now i am afraid you will see them no longer hold fast to your happiness do not let it go no matter how hard it tries to flee from you hard far i am falling i am fading i am drowning help me to breathe in an old video store before the years turned and faded or maybe right after, still it was around that time and i was counting how many how many now i wish for those days when i could count it still before those things had lost their novelty before i lost my identity in those days when i could still express in those days when i had an answer to what do you like what do you want your wishes goals future aspirations i do not know yet when is yet never never ever like there's no to-morrow (shelter each other from the pain and sorrow) my reflection in a window so warm the line between the warm and cold the stars above and i below in the place where i'm so unlucky so unlucky remembering those days i wanted to hold close and at the same time erase, those days for which there is no reason but that of nostalgia, i no longer miss that this is the world that i will forever hold"

Since when I put it down on paper in the first place there was a lack of capitalization and punctuation, I left this piece of writing in that form. At first I was completely surprised by it- by the path that I took through the subjects I discussed, seeming to jump around aimlessly. However, with further reading, this piece took me on a somewhat nostalgic trip through my thoughts. It was incredibly interesting for me to peel back the words, digging behind them for meaning and context. The images of my deepest wants appeared- the warm, familial comfort of Christmas gingerbread and a cozy blanket with someone I love. I saw my fears and insecurities- my worry of being unable to comfort someone I care about in a time when they need it, my anxiety about not knowing where I'm headed in life. Memories that I would never have thought to see again resurfaced- an evening in the video store, back when I could count on just my hands how many anime movies there were on those shelves. I am easily lured by nostalgia- these images are quite appealing to me. In the end, however, I was pleased to find that even subconsciously I seem to be moving away from doing things solely for the purpose of remembrance- I seem to have truly moved on from the past.

Once the experiment was over and I reread my writings, the connections that were made as I followed my train of thought seemed quite puzzling. However, upon further exploration, some explanations, I feel, can indeed be found. Twice I ended up recording song lyrics after words I wrote reminded me of them- in the instance of "I am falling, I am fading, I am drowning, help me to breathe" (lyrics from "Duvet" by BoA) and "like there's no tomorrow, shelter each other from the pain and sorrow" (lyrics from "Manic Star" by Conjure One). These are songs that I have listened to for a long time and are clearly deeply ingrained in me. I think the BoA lyrics led to the image of the video store because that was a song I listened to a lot during the period of time that created that memory. I tend to define periods of time by the songs that I listened to, and a return to an old song can often reawaken memories I thought to have lost. The reasons beyond other connections remain a mystery to me, however, and perhaps signal areas of my thought that could benefit from further exploration.

These experiments seemed a valuable endeavor to me, as I was able to uncover some of the inner workings of my thought processes and the relationships that I create tacitly. I have found, however, that many claim the analysis of one's own subconscious through such exercises to be a very difficult feat. That's a strange thought to me, as I never thought it confusing in the least bit. I've always seen myself as the easiest person to analyze, seeing as I probably know myself the best out of anyone. Perhaps a point of difficulty may be an inability to accept the validity of the unconscious self. If these stream of consciousness writings are seen only as randomness or inconsequential blabbering, then I feel little success would come out of any attempt to analyze them. The unconscious self is a valid part of oneself that has an effect on our lives and can likewise be affected by our experiences. Tacit knowledge must be recognized as something with weight that could better our lives and understanding of ourselves if it is to be studied. It should be realized that our tacit knowledge could indeed make us worse off if not taken into consideration- as we could be hindered by our own unrealized prejudices and unconscious ideas and worries. Perhaps if the journey upon which such tacit knowledge explorers are embarking upon is taken with gravity and significance, then using an academic approach to analyze these artifacts of the unconscious would not seem like so far a stretch.

Beyond acknowledging it, there is the necessity of learning to access the unconscious side of oneself. What causes difficulty is that the conscious and the realm of tacit knowledge are somewhat separated in ordinary situations. Exercises such as word association and stream of consciousness writing are good ways to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the unconscious. However, sitting down to actively do an experiment on tacit knowledge is a pretty good way to send the unconscious self into hiding- as this act of research is a fairly conscious one. To avoid this pitfall, I allowed myself extra time so that I would not be under pressure to conduct the experiment. That way, I could complete the stream of consciousness writing at a point in which I was already in the mood to do it. Another thing that would definitely facilitate easier access to tacit knowledge would be frequent practice in such stream of consciousness exercises, as well in other ways to approach the unconscious self, such as meditation.

Once in possession of such examples of tacit knowledge, the remaining step would be to analyze them. While having another person take a look at it to provide any additional feedback can be a good idea, it is often the case that you will know the most about your own self. Distancing yourself from any pre-formed ideas about your mental processes may be a good idea- looking at your work from the point of an outside observer rather than your own viewpoint may prove useful. However, as I did in my own analysis, it is beneficial, perhaps even more beneficial, to take into consideration what you know about yourself as well- your interests, fears, and ideals, and notice how all these things interact to paint a picture of that self that you are now finally able to meet.

I think that exercises such as these are great ways to start to pry open the door that divides the conscious world and that which is thought of unconsciously. As the darkness behind that door begins to be dispelled, many new questions continue to come to light. As a scientist I would love to be able to answer all of these questions about myself. However, at the same time, I know that with all questions answered there would be nothing left to discover, so I do not make that wish wholeheartedly. Instead, I hope to continue on this quest to uncover the hidden parts of the human psyche, with the dream of infinite regions to explore.

Full Name:  Deborah Farrington
Username:  dfarringto@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Dear Alumnae
Date:  2005-12-16 01:33:13
Message Id:  17421
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

You don't hear a lot from us. We current students tend to separate ourselves from the majority of you. Your bulletin mentions us, but it sounds more like the mention we get in the glossy pamphlets in the admissions office rather than what is written in the bi-co newspaper. You rarely hear from us freshwomen at all, I would just like to remind you that we are here; we have made it through a semester of classes so far. We are no longer the young women who arrived here last August. We now have something in common with you. We are now Mawrters, too.

There is a stone owl bookend that sits on my bedside table in my dorm room on the third floor of Pembroke East. My mother gave it to me right before I left home. She has had it on her desk for nearly as long as I can remember, though it can't really have been that long since it was my grandmother's before it was hers. "Take it," she insisted, "it is a Bryn Mawr owl, it needs to be back at Bryn Mawr holding books."

I am a third generation Mawrter. My mother and my father's mother have preceded me here (my father, it may be mentioned, was forced to attend Haverford). Unlike the other girls on my hall, I have known about Bryn Mawr my whole life. My mother sang me step-sing songs as lullabies, as time sent a warning call and sweet dreams descended. I can tell Taylor from Thomas because "Taylor tower sounds its warning" while Thomas doesn't have a bell. I knew what a step-sing was before my first on Parade Night this year; I knew not to use the Senior Steps. I knew I should offer Athena something as soon as possible, because I knew this wasn't going to be easy.
Their ghosts sometimes hover over me, at the most random times they will brush their cool fingers against my neck. I signed up for physics this past semester simply because I couldn't stomach going farther into chemistry, and not only going to my mother's college but studying her subject. There are professors that I could take classes with that my parents had; my dean was a graduate student when they were undergrads. On the day of my Bryn Mawr interview, my mother and I realized that if I was to go to Bryn Mawr, I would have a red lantern. "If you waited a year," my mother pointed out, "you could be dark blue like me."

I chose to have a red lantern. If I was going to copy my mother and grandmother in my choice of college, I was at least going to be a different color. I have come to realize that I did not need to worry about that. My Bryn Mawr is so different from theirs that sometimes it feels like I go to a completely different school. I had to explain to my father what Brecon was, "it's a dorm way out on the edge of campus."

"Behind the science building?" he asked.

"No, it's all the way across the street from Cambrian Row." I added, "in the general direction of the Graduate School of Social Work." To him Park is the end of campus and Cambrian Row is faculty housing, I did not try to explain Brecon Prom. To my mother the fourth floor of Pem East is an attic, and both of them have trouble remembering I can't store things at school over summer vacation. If my grandmother were alive she would have a worse time of it than my parents. I gave up trying to describe the dressing up during Hell Week to my mother, her reaction was "what tradition is this that Pem East was a brothel?!" I can't even imagine what my grandmother would say.

To tell the truth, I'm not sure what my grandmother would think of my Bryn Mawr at all. To her it was a place where well-bred girls went to get a well-bred education. She was the only child of two doctors in Albany, New York, and though she didn't have a maid at college, many of her classmates did. My mother tells me that many of the girls then decided that to help the war effort they would give up their maids. My grandmother was walking down her hall and heard one of her classmates crying. She knocked on the door and asked the girl if she was alright. "I don't know what to do," the girl sobbed, "my maid is gone and I don't know how to make my bed." If that was my grandmother's Bryn Mawr, what must she have thought of my mother's where no one had a maid, and everyone made their own beds? What would she think of Bryn Mawr now? Where her granddaughter shares a room on the third floor (the third floor was originally the servant's rooms), works in the dining hall, and whose classmates can, but often don't bother to make their beds.

The three Bryn Mawrs my grandmother, my mother and I know are all separate entities, just as I'm sure the Bryn Mawr of any alum is separate from the college we students are experiencing now. Is it even fair to call it one school, to classify all of us Mawrters under one name when our experiences of being Mawrters is so different? Even the traditions, which are held to give the school a sense of unity, have changed so much over time. My mother hand made her white May Day dress, while I have been told by upper classmen to buy a cheap skirt so it doesn't matter if it accumulates grass-stains.
My mother agrees with me that traditions have changed, but she pointed out that many of the traditions within traditions have not. Though our skirts may be cheaper and less formal, current Mawrters still wear white on May Day. Though Parade Night grows less like a parade and more like a stampede every year, the freshwomen still pass through Pem Arch and between rows of upperclasswomen as their formal welcome into Bryn Mawr. Step-sings, apart from the additions of new songs, remain nearly identical over the years. "And the lanterns," my mother reminds me, every Mawrter has a lantern, and every Mawrter to come will have a lantern.

Still, lanterns alone do not hold us together. It is not traditions alone that make me feel a kinship other Mawrters, no matter how old they are or what their college experience was like. Though every year Bryn Mawr changes, becomes a different place, there is something that remains the same. There must be some common thread running through my grandmother's, my mother's and my Bryn Mawr; some common thread that ties us together.

Perhaps it is the people. Bryn Mawr has always carefully chosen who was to become a Mawrter. Though the admissions office has been becoming less selective over the years when it came to race, religion and wealth, Bryn Mawr has never accepted just any girl. Mawrters are a distinct race. They work hard, but not insanely so, they procrastinate, but are acutely conscious of it, they are smart, but not the smartest out there, they are quick, but not the quickest, they are not social butterflies, they are not beauty queens; Mawrters are intelligent women, not stars. As a fellow Mawrter told me, "Mawrters are good." And is it so odd for a collection of people with similar traits to feel kinship?

What about a collection of people with similar traits in a single place? Even if you took completely different people and had them all live in the same buildings, even if they never met each other they would have something in common. They would know the same places, they would feel a connection simply because they had existed in the same buildings. When the classes and classmates of my Bryn Mawr become too foreign to my mother, and when there seems to be more differences between our traditions than similarities, my mother and I talk of the buildings. We compare her solitary room in Pem West with mine in Pem East which always seems to be full of people. We talk about the town of Bryn Mawr as well as just the official campus. I shyly mention all the places I have been as I explore farther and farther from my dorm, and she tells me about her experiences in those same places. The student oriented little town, the rusty train bridge, the rich homes, and the stone buildings, they all shape the lives of people who lived here. At reunions when a Mawrter meets another, the first thing they ask to try to find common ground is, "so, what dorm did you live in?" Current students do the same thing, an upperclasswoman trying to get to know a frosh will ask where they live on campus. This simple question opens up amazing doors. One of the good friends of my HA, and now one of my good friends too, lives in the suite below the one my father lived in his senior year. And closer to home for me, my grandmother also lived in Pem East. Such little things may not sound like much, but when a Mawrter speaks dorms to another Mawrter they speak in their own language, the language of the buildings of Bryn Mawr.
The stone buildings, the castle turrets they all hold the spirits of Mawrters that have graduated, and we current students feel them sometimes. When I sit on Pem Green to do my homework, I think of all the other women, all the other Mawrters, that have sat there, right where I have, and done homework just as I have done. The ghosts of all the Mawrters of the past are there just as the ghosts of my mother and grandmother. It is these ghosts then that make Mawrters. The presence of like people on the same campus no matter what time they spent there, gives Mawrters a unity, where their experiences cannot. Little things remind us that we have unity. My parents kissed under rock arch to make their love last, and when I tell that story my hallmates understand, though they have never met my parents. And on my bedside table sits a stone owl bookend, still a Bryn Mawr Owl though by now it has seen three generations of Mawrters.

So Alumnae, when you are tempted to forget about us undergrads, or think of us as another race entirely, just remember that though we may seem like foreigners to you experiencing things you do not understand, or care to understand, we go to Bryn Mawr, and just like you we are Mawrters too.

Full Name:  Lauren Forster
Username:  lforster@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Cultural Observation: Highlander Swim Team
Date:  2005-12-16 11:17:59
Message Id:  17432
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

After observing the Highlander swim team from May 2001 through December 2004, I have come to the conclusion that their real purpose is character building. The swimmers train at a very high level and the team practices together every day. They are a culture with their own peculiar customs and values. On the surface it is a culture of building speed and strength in order to win races. Immersed in their work and play are deeper values such as commitment and perseverance.

Who are the swimmers on Highlander? They are young men and women generally between the ages of fourteen and nineteen from various demographics around the greater Orlando metropolitan area. They are all compelled for some reason or another to become fast swimmers.

They practice together for about twenty-five hours per week. Practices are primarily swimming and are written by the coach. As with most swim teams, coaches come and go as years pass. Because swimmers too are growing up and moving on, the team is an entity in constant flux. New leaders emerge as old ones leave. Sometimes promising young athletes go in another direction and develop different interests. Often greatness blossoms in unexpected places. Rarely does a team stand the test of time. The particular group I observed was lead by the same coach for those few years and did quite well.

If you were to observe a Highlander on Sunday morning, and Sunday morning only, he or she would give the impression of a sedentary, perhaps even lazy person. He or she – shall I just say "it" for simplicity's sake – would sleep as late as possible given the common place interruptions of family or church. Highlanders aren't generally exciting on Sundays because they don't do much other than eat and maybe some homework. The thing is, Highlanders have Sundays off. They easily make up for a grosse matinee on week-days by getting up before the sun.

Mondays through Fridays, Highlanders wake up in time to be in the pool at five a.m. There, they do their first swim practice of the day. It is generally two hours long, and varies in aerobic and anaerobic intensity. Monday afternoon, around four p.m., they swim again for about three hours and sometimes go for a run. Wednesdays and Fridays are the same. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, they lift weights after swimming for two hours. Saturday morning practices don't begin until around six a.m. A typical Saturday morning would consist of a run, two and a half to three hours of swimming, and an hour or so of lifting. Often there are swim meets on Saturday. Every few weeks, there are larger competitions, and individual swimmers focus on no more than three "big meets" a year.

Swim meets can range from a single day single session to several days with morning preliminaries and afternoon finals. A typical session would begin with warm up. Highlanders do a two to three thousand yard "practice" just to loosen up, which doesn't take the entire hour and a half. The competition portion lasts for about three to four hours and covers an assortment of events. Larger meets cover all the events over multiple days. Spring and summer meets are swam in a fifty meter pool, called long course or LC. Fall and winter meets are swam in a twenty-five yard pool, called short course or SC. The events are:
Freestyle: 50, 100, 200, 400m/500yd., 800m/1000yd., 1500m/1650yd
Butterfly: 100, 200
Backstroke: 100, 200
Breaststroke: 100, 200
Individual Medley: 200, 400

Placement in a race is based on time. Most swimmers keep track of their personal bests to record their progress. Points are allotted according to placement. Individuals may win the overall competition based on points, as well as teams.

Because both training and competitions are challenging, a positive attitude amongst team members is necessary for their success. Swimmers who emerge as leaders tend to be good humored, that is they are focused but are able to make practices fun. Giving up or backing off during a practice or a race is a cultural taboo. Highlanders are expected to give their best effort.

Swimmers with this attitude often find that they go faster than they believed was possible. But it is not just speed in the pool that counts. Most of the Highlanders go on to compete in college. Some of them are primarily swimmers, others emphasize their academic interests. However, what they gain by pushing them selves physically is mental strength to succeed in any endeavor. They also gain a broader perspective on life through their experience. Any one who joins the Highlander team better really care about swimming, because it is a huge commitment! This depth of commitment translates into other fields. The training the swimmers are doing is in perseverance and tenacity as well as physical strength.

What they get out of years of practice is the joy of accomplishing something meaningful. For Highlanders, swimming fast and winning races carries meaning. It is not in the result, but in the act of not limiting oneself that this "winning" takes place. I believe the ability to "compete with yourself" and explore your full potential is useful no matter what your interests are. That is the greatest strength built through the time the Highlanders spend on the team.

Full Name:  Leslie McTavish
Username:  lmctavish@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Seeing in Color
Date:  2005-12-16 11:18:32
Message Id:  17433
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry
2005 Web Report
On Serendip

Long ago in a place far from here there was a small country called Narendra. In that country there was a little girl named Aryana who lived with her family, in the tiny village of Hammond. Aryana was a shy but cheerful girl who loved to spend her days playing with her friends in the village. Early one morning while Aryana and her friends were outside playing, they heard a rumble in the distance. At first they thought a thunder storm was approaching, but the sky was clear. As the noise got louder and louder they could see a cloud of dust in the distance growing larger as sound of the rumble increased. As they stood motionless watching the cloud grow, they began to see faces emerging form the cloud of dust. It was a group of men on horseback thundering towards them.

Aryana and the other children screamed and started to run towards the forest to hide. Some of them managed to escape, but Aryana and several others were not so lucky. She felt someone grab her from behind and she started to fall. But, before she hit the ground, she was suddenly whisked up into the air. She landed face down on the lap of one of the riders who quickly bound her hands and feet so that she could not escape. In one short minute several other children had been snatched up too, and the band raced out of the village. It had happened so quickly that no one had time to save them.

They rode all day and through the night. It was the next morning before they finally stopped. The children were unbound and let down to the ground. They were standing on a hill. Beyond them they could see a shining city of glass enclosed in a circle of dense shrubs at least twenty feet high and a mile deep. The children were taken down to the edge of the wall of bushes and once up close, Aryana could see that the hedge was made of thorny holly trees. In the spot where they stood, was an archway cut out of the hedge.

"You cannot return home" they were told. "If you stay out here the wolves will come down from the hills at night and eat you. If you can make your way through the maze in the bushes you will find safety in the city. The wolves are not clever enough to follow you." Then the men got back on their horses and rode off. For a few moments the children stood silent, staring up at the huge hedge and then at each other. One of them said "Come on let's hurry and get going."

One by one they entered the archway, all except Ayrana, who was not so eager to rush in. She looked inside the opening in the hedge. It was dark and she was afraid to go in, but even more, she was afraid of the wolves. She stepped inside cautiously and waited until her eyes adjusted to the dim light inside. The passages were wide enough but the holly was very prickly and she had to be careful not to brush against the walls. She could hear the voices of the other children who had gone in ahead. They were laughing and shouting to each other, trying to figure out which turn to take next. Soon though, their voices began to grow more and more distant until eventually she could not hear them any more. Turn right, turn left, turn left again. Oh no, haven't I been here before? she thought to herself. She was getting very confused. Had she taken this path before or not? The harder she tried to find her way out, the more confused and afraid she became. She was so frustrated and frightened that she sat down in the middle of the pathway and began to cry. She thought she would never get out.

Aryana felt a nudge against her shoulder and opened here eyes. There was a tall thin woman standing over her.

"It's time to leave," the woman said. Aryana got back up on her feet and followed the woman for several minutes. Eventually the woman led her through another archway in the hedge. They were out of the maze and into the city. Aryana looked around in disbelief. This could not be the same shining city she had seen from the other side of the hedge. Tall gray buildings reached up to a gray sky. The trees and flowers were all gray too. People walking through the streets were all dressed in gray and their hair and faces were gray as well. There was no color in this city; everything and everybody was just different shades of gray.

The woman said that her name was Greta. She motioned to Aryana to follow her and led Aryana back to her house. Aryana walked inside, slumped down in a chair and said:

"I don't want to stay in this horrid city. It's so ugly! I want to go back home where I came from".

"You can't go back, and you are wrong about the city." Greta said. "If you had found your own way out of the maze you would be able to see all the beautiful colors that everyone else can. Since it is not possible for you to return to where you came from, you can stay in my house and do the household chores in return for a place to stay and food to eat."

So Aryana spent her days scrubbing and sweeping and dusting Greta's home. Greta was very kind to her and gave her a comfortable room to sleep in and plenty to eat, even though the food was gray and virtually tasteless. During the day while Aryana worked in the house, Greta left her alone and went into a small cottage behind the house. One day Greta asked her to go out to the cottage with her. The room inside it was dimly lit but there was a bright light over a table in the middle of the room.

"Come over here and have a look at this," she said. "What do you see?"

Aryana went over to look at what was on the table. It was a piece of loosely woven material that had small spaces between the weave. Some of the spaces had been filled with other strands of thread. Aryana looked hard at the pattern of shaded dots made by the threads that had been added and suddenly realized that it was a picture of a bouquet of flowers. Then something amazing began to happen. As she stared at the picture she began to see the colors of the threads. The shades of gray turned into hues of purple and green and she recognized the flowers were violets. She looked quickly around the room. Everything in the room was still gray, but when she looked back at the picture she could still see the colors. The woman picked up the material and started using a needle to pull the threads in and out of the small squares adding more dots which became more petals and leaves in the picture.

"Would you like to try it?" Greta asked.

She took the needle and thread and tried to do what Greta had showed her, but it was not quite as easy as it looked. At first she kept pricking her fingers with the needle and getting the thread so tangled in knots that she had to cut it off and start over. Greta worked with her patiently and showed her how to avoid making these mistakes. Aryana loved creating the pictures out of thread. There were hundreds of colors of thread to choose from and she loved spending time trying out different combinations of colors and deciding which ones to use. Most of all she loved seeing the pictures emerge from the patterns of tiny dots of color. Still, everything around her remained gray and the only colors she could see was the thread and the pictures she was creating.

Aryana worked on small pictures at first. Some were of birds or animals and others were of flowers or trees. After several months she had become very skilled and she decided one day that she was ready to combine all the things that she knew how to sew, into one large picture. It took months of working many hours each day before she had finally completed it. When she was done she hung the picture up on the wall of her bedroom and asked Greta to come and have a look at. Greta smiled when she looked at the picture. There was garden in a courtyard filled with flowers of every imaginable color. The brick walls of the courtyard were covered with branches of ivy and in the trees there were birds of orange, red and blue. The wooden door in one of the walls had a border of deep red roses. Beyond the small garden courtyard there were soft rolling hills and magnificent tall trees.

"It is beautiful," Greta said. "You should be very proud of yourself."

Aryana felt the warm glow of satisfaction deep inside, and said that she was.

"So, do you think you are ready?" Greta asked.

"Yes, I am" Aryana replied.

Aryana gave Greta a hug, and then turned towards the picture. She opened the door in the courtyard wall and walked into a world filled with color.

Full Name:  Crystal Reed
Username:  ctreed@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Looking Inward
Date:  2005-12-16 12:22:31
Message Id:  17435
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Part I. Observations
When talking to someone I never looked them in the eye. Up until perhaps high school, it was nearly impossible for me to look someone in the eye when I was speaking to them. I could look at their face, but never their eyes. Even if it was just a casual conversation with a friend, I never made that connection. If I managed to look at their eyes, I would always quickly look away. I can't remember any particularly traumatizing event that could have lead to this inability to stand on equal footing with my conversation partner. There is nothing in my childhood or my upbringing that should have produced such a result.

One specific incident sticks out in my mind as an example. When I was young, my parents used to take me to a small local Halloween carnival. I remember once seeing a somewhat challenging game and wishing to try it. The game required that you stand outside a designated circle and use a string with a plastic ring on the end tied to a stick to try and stand up a long necked bottle that was lying on its side. The older boy that was running the game told me the instructions and handed me a stick. Soon after I began to play, he left his post to go greet a newly arrived friend. By the time he returned, and after several attempts, I had succeeded in standing the bottle up. He pretended to suspect me of cheating and jokingly accused me. He told me to look him in the eye and tell him that I had done it all by myself, and then he would believe me and surrender a prize. The jest was obvious, I knew he didn't really think I was a cheater. Nonetheless, I couldn't look him in the eye. I could be patient and persistent and stand up a glass bottle, but I could not look someone in the eye and tell him that I had done it.

This issue was a problem with me no matter who I spoke to or what the topic was. The majority of the time I hardly noticed that I was not looking someone in the eye. The only time I would realize it was when they would try to look me in the eye. The situation didn't matter, my response was always the same – look away. However, I know this behavior was more than just a habit.

I remember that constantly in the back of my mind there was the statement "the eyes are the windows to the soul." It would flash through my mind whenever someone attempted to look me in the eye, or I came to a situation when it seemed that I should be doing that. I have no answers to my own questions about how that statement got there, where I first heard it, or why it affected me so deeply.

Part II. Conclusion
It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. If this is true, then there are some people more willing to share themselves with the world than others. Eye-contact during a conversation forms a connection between two people, like a wire between two computers that shares data. Through this connection, one person is able to see into the soul or mind of the other. However, they must pay the toll – giving the other person that same insight into them. It is only recently that I have begun to share data through these means. Up until just several years ago, it seemed impossible for me to look someone in the eye as I spoke to them. The tacit understanding of that information exchange, paired with my own buried insecurities resulted in my habitual behavior of avoiding eye contact. I do not know where this inhibition came from, but I am beginning to understand what it has meant in my relationships with other people. While I would not have minded a glimpse into another person's soul, I did not want anyone to be able to see into my own.

As the years went by, my mind developed methods, such as looking at a spot on the other person's face, that allowed me to forget that I was not looking him or her in the eyes. After a certain point, I only began to notice that I never looked someone in the eye when they had tried to look into mine. Whenever this occurred, I felt uncomfortable, as though someone were watching me in an otherwise empty room. If I happened to look at someone's eyes while I spoke to them, my reaction was always to avert my eyes. Never was it a conscious decision to look away. It was as if while their eyes were moving towards mine, there was a solid rod attaching my eyes to theirs, moving my eyes away simultaneously. Some magnetic repulsion forbade my eyes to meet those of my conversation partner.

No matter how many times my parents told me that I had pretty eyes, I did not want to let anyone see them; or more precisely, the soul behind them. I was not confident in myself, and did not want anyone to see my short-comings or potential down-falls. I did not think of the good possibilities of such a connection, I was only able to see the negative. Not yet comfortable with myself, I did not want anyone to see something that they may not like. Also, having had my trust somewhat shaken in middle school, I often did not want people to see when I was hurt, unhappy, or in any way not at my full strength. These insecurities were locked in the back of my mind. While I was aware that I was not a secure person, I did not realize that it was expressed through my actions to such a great degree.

I do not remember first hearing the statement that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but it has stuck with me more than any other statement of the kind. The phrase echoed uninvited through my mind whenever I noticed someone's eyes on me. In a way, I suppose the statement itself became tacit knowledge. It governed my actions without the approval of my conscious mind. That phrase being embedded in my mind created an instinct-like reaction. I do not think that it is human instinct to avoid eye contact. That trait is often one used to identify suspicious or somehow disconcerting people. However, in me, that reaction occurred so quickly and without thought that it seemed similar to instinct. The only thought that would accompany it or follow it, was the phrase 'the eyes are the windows to the soul.' It flashed through before I knew what I was doing, leading me to believe that the concept had become tacit knowledge for me.

This tacit knowledge and the behavior that it had caused often surfaced as obstacles in my relationships and interactions with other people. They noticed much quicker than I did and sometimes took offence. It was only after my actions were brought to my attention several times that I decided to try to change it. My eyes still have the urge to move out of line, but now that I am more conscious of it I am able to hold them in place. From my experience I have learned that you can make a conscious choice whether or not to obey the commands of your tacit knowledge. But this is only after you have been made fully aware of it and keep it in the forefront of your mind. The tacit knowledge has not been removed, perhaps altered, but not removed. I am more secure now, but the phrase still runs through my mind and I have to make a conscious choice not to avert my eyes.

Behaviors are not random, they are governed by thoughts or understandings that exist below the surface of the conscious mind. A repeating phrase and my self-image caused a behavior pattern to form and begin to run without my notice. While I knew those thoughts existed, I did not realize that they had manifested themselves in my actions. It was only after a great effort that I was able to bring the workings of my behavior up to the conscious level and to change them. The tacit knowledge that 'the eyes are the windows to the soul', and the urge to hide myself caused me to not look people in the eye. The searching out of that tacit knowledge with my conscious mind allowed me to change how it affected me, but not remove it from my thought structure.

Full Name:  Silvena Chan
Username:  schan02@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Culture, Disability and Connie Willis's Doomsday Book
Date:  2005-12-16 12:50:13
Message Id:  17437
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Connie Willis's Doomsday Book presents fear in the forms of bubonic plague and influenza as a study of culture in Oxford during 1348 and 2054 respectively. A traveling historian's accidental journey into 1348's outbreak of bubonic plague is juxtaposed with a sudden epidemic of a foreign, deadly strain of influenza in her present time of 2054. As the people in these two time periods struggle through death and disease, the question of culture is brought sharply into focus by the similarities and differences in their conduct. This juxtaposition is not necessarily a simple contrast of cultures however. Instead of a parallel, viewing the cultures as a progression from the Oxford of 1348 to 2054 allows us much further insight into how culture actually exists.

The culture of 2054 can be seen in two equally acceptable ways in relation to that of 1348: as an entirely separate culture or an advanced evolution of it. Doomsday Book therefore can either be a comparison of two cultures that are both disabling and enabling in contrastable ways or a progression of a culture towards on that is more enabling. Initially, the cultures of 1348 and 2054 seem different enough from one another to be entirely separate.

However, history has shown us that a culture's past affects existing aspects as well as its development into its current manifestation. Westernized America's religious Puritan founding still has holds on our values today, our emphasis on god in the pledge of allegiance just one of many examples. As times and people have changed, this religious culture has also developed into an attempt to separate the church and state. While the past affects the present, cultures are also ever shifting and evolving, which accounts for what seem like huge differences between 1348 and 2054.

In terms of Doomsday Book, the progression to 2054 shows improvement in some areas, either a gradual or sudden enabling of people, while in others very little enabling at all. When Kivrin journeyed to the 1300s, she is more than aware of the precautions she must take as a woman and take care not to appear different enough to arouse suspicion. Women in the 1300s were attributed disability by culture in all sorts of areas. These disabilities were manifested into strict submissive roles as well as being thought of as lesser than men. Kivrin had to constantly remind herself to stare at the ground when speaking to others. When the plague arrived, the town adjacent to Skendgate rapidly fell to chaos. Dunworthy and Colin found people stoned to death by fearful townspeople who were eager to lay blame on anyone different and therefore was disabled. In the culture of the 1300s, it was easy to persecute those who were different as demonstrated by Lady Imeyne.

As the culture progressed from 1348 to 2054, women's rights were fought for and won. Kivrin's position of great responsibility and risk as a traveling historian is evidence of that. Young women in 1348 would never be the pioneers exploring completely new areas alone. Despite the obvious enabling of women in 2054 though, people who were perceived as different appeared to have gained little ground. The stoning of foreigners as scapegoats for the bubonic plague finds its parallel in Badri, whom protestors deemed as foreign and an immigrant regardless of his third generation status.

From this evidence, it may seem that it is inherent to culture to fear those who are different from the norm. Further examination of how the plague was dealt with at Skendgate though proves that if people (Father Roche and Kivrin) were willing to take a stand and strive for respect for those who do not fit norms, then the attitudes of a culture can progress and change. Father Roche and Kivrin's efforts drastically changed the devastation the village faced and while people still died, they died in peace instead of the hysteria that other villages faced. This change did not carry through to the Oxford of 2054 yet it is a promising indication that cultures can be affected in the same way.

The general disabling aspect of most cultures is a lack of respect and consideration for people and their differences. In 1348, it was a lack of respect for people of lower classes and women. Father Roche was not respected by Lady Imeyne because he was poor and received little formal education although he was more courageous than most people in Skendgate in times of crisis. Her judgment was shared by others in that culture, a disabling aspect of the 1300s. In 2054, the disabling areas of culture were fought against yielded a marked increase in respect and consideration though in some areas that was little improvement. It is clear that while 2054 is an improved evolution, it is not perfect. However, the improvement and progression itself provides optimistic evidence that maybe culture isn't always disabling. Further evolution may prove that a culture is possible in which there are no disabling aspects. However, the progression/improvements from 1348 to 2054 were not easy and did not just occur naturally with time. They were only made possible through hard work and learning from mistakes. In order to keep this progress going, we must continue striving to get culture "less wrong."

Full Name:  Joanne bunch
Username:  jbunch@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Ane the owl hooted
Date:  2005-12-19 10:05:20
Message Id:  17450
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

There once was a girl from West Philly
Whose life had gotten quite chilly
Her girlfriend had left her, for the court jester
This made her feel really silly.
Now where does this leave her you guess
For her life was in a mess, wanting more not less
She decided to change the tide
And applied for the scholars McBride
And when she got in, she said with a grin
"What the hell, I'll go for the ride"
She arrived in a tempest on campus
With skid marks on her hide
She met new faces and found new places
And it all was quite a surprise
The first few weeks were surreal
As she settled into her new deal
She registered for classes with the other asses
And proceeded to question and learn
Not so much so she could earn
The math was done with ease
The challenge was speaking Japanese
And than there was writing
With lots of nail biting and internal fighting to please
She tried to stay ahead of the curve
But quickly lost her nerve
Than she got sick but healed pretty quick
She proceeded to question and learns
Lantern night is quite a tradition
At step sing every class listens
To songs of the night
Though the words were not right
It is a Bryn Mawr tradition
Now the girl from West Philly
Is no longer chilly
She is warmed by the knowledge she's gained
To be a Mawrtyr is to be a starter
Gaining wisdom, fortune and fame
Now this story does not have an ending
For the girl, she is still spending
Her smarts and her wit
Not in comparative lit
But on courses that help her on mending

Full Name:  Sydney Kraus-Malett
Username:  skrausmale@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2005-12-30 14:42:51
Message Id:  17492
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Everything changes. In fact, as the saying goes, the only thing that doesn't change is the fact that everything changes. This statement in and of itself seems quite straightforward and logical. Why is it, then, that so many people have trouble accepting change? If it is happening constantly all around us, shouldn't we be used to it and accept it, even embrace it? But we're often not, and we don't, and our apparent aversion to change is frequently the center of discussion and debate.

In Bertolt Brecht's Galileo, Galileo discovers that the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of the universe. While this has become clear to him through his studies and observations, society is not as willing as he to accept this new information. In fact, they are initially quite determined not to accept it. After all, it's much easier to say that Galileo is wrong than to say that he's right and it is everyone else that is wrong.

It is important to note that what Galileo was proposing was not an inconsequential claim. If society were to accept his findings, it would have an impact on the very foundations of their beliefs and would likely cause them to reconsider, or even doubt, many other things that they held to be self-evident. While some people (more so today than in Galileo's time) would say that questioning one's beliefs is a good thing, many others don't want to question. They want the security of feeling that they know 100% that something is the way it is. Because what it really comes down to is the desire to feel secure and in control. When you are forced to second-guess yourself, it takes away from the feeling of power and control you have over your life.

Similarly, in Edwin A. Abbott's Flatland, society refuses to accept A Square's claims about Spaceland and the three-dimensional world. Their reaction is extreme (as it is for many other aspects of their society), choosing to lock him up permanently for the mere mention of the possibility of another dimension. Even A Square's brother, who has had an encounter similar to his own, won't listen, even though there wouldn't be any repercussions were he to accept his brother's findings.

In the book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, by Daniel C. Dennett, Dennett discusses Charles Darwin's studies and conclusions about evolution and natural selection. In addition, Dennett addresses society's reluctance to accept Darwin's ideas and, for that matter, radical ideas in general. He points out that people have two contradictory desires—the desire to know the truth and an aversion to change. We have an inherent curiosity about the world around us and in the way it works. Yet when we discover that the truth about something is different than we had originally believed, we reject this new truth without a second thought.

These were the circumstances for Darwin. When Darwin originally introduced his theory of evolution and natural selection, society was very skeptical, and many people still remain so today. While both evolution and natural selection seemed to make a lot of sense, much more so than any other proposed theory about the Earth and it's origins, many people were reluctant to accept these new ideas, in part because they contradicted many people's religious beliefs (evolution told a different story of creation than that of the Creation of Earth by G-d, as told in the Bible) and also because the ideas were radically different to what these people had believed their entire lives.

Dennett, a staunch supporter of Darwin and his theories, explains, "There are persistent problems both inside and outside biology that readily dissolve once we adopt the Darwinian perspective on what makes a thing the sort of thing it is, but the tradition-bound resistance to this idea persists" (Dennett 39). Dennett even goes so far as to accuse anyone unable or unwilling to accept evolution as being "ignorant—inexcusably ignorant" (Dennett 46).

So, we as readers, and as members of society, are left to deal with the fact that our natural curiosity and obsession with the truth leads us to new answers, which we then proceed to reject because of our aversion to change. It is hardest to accept change when one cannot see the proof, which was the case in each of the three pieces we read. In Flatland, A Square knows that a third dimension exists, but he doesn't have proof to show the people of Flatland. In the case of A Square, his claims are simply dismissed and he is removed from society, as he as seen as crazy.

In Galileo, Galileo has actual proof that the Earth is not the center of the universe. However, it is proof that not many people can readily understand; but, since there were those respected, knowledgeable few who could corroborate what Galileo was saying, society would have had to assume that it was truth. But, since it was previously assumed that the Earth was the center universe, who is to say that, in the future, someone else won't prove Galileo wrong? Revisions of truths had happened many times before Galileo, have happened many times since, and are sure to happen in the future. But, people they would like to believe that everything they know right now is true and right. For Galileo's contemporaries, it was easier to dismiss Galileo than alter their beliefs, question their other beliefs, and live in fear and uncertainty the rest of their lives, especially since they weren't able to see and understand the proof themselves. They didn't want to put faith in someone who had destroyed their faith.

In Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Dennett is so convinced that Darwin is right, based on the "proof" that Darwin presented in his book, Origin of Species, that Dennett readily calls anyone who disagrees with Darwin ignorant, which leads us to conclude that this search for answers is not only a need to feel secure and in control, but it is also an attempt to take a step forward on the path toward perfection. Society's attitude is that there is a right answer for everything—missionaries who try to convince others that theirs is the right religion; politicians who insist that their platform is the right platform; siblings who try to convince their parents that they were right in their side of the argument. Perhaps these are better examples of society's competitiveness. But to win a competition, you must do the right things.

So, knowing that change will occur, whether we like it or not, how do we approach it and learn to accept it? It is certainly not an overnight solution; and there is surely no singular "right" answer. Some people may choose to confront change by taking the "ignorance is bliss" standpoint—if you don't know about a change, you don't have to deal with it. Others may go in the opposite direction, choosing to learn about the changes, or even search for them. The key is to accept that people will want to go about it in different ways, and that is okay. Just because two people disagree about something doesn't mean they have to argue about it until they both feel the same way (having found the "right" answer); instead, be mindful and respectful of others' feelings and beliefs about a topic. Instead of arguing about it, educate each other on each of your stances and let each person make an individual, educated decision. That way, different beliefs and opinions can coexist peacefully, and knowledge and acceptance will be spread.

Full Name:  michelle kasza
Username:  mkasza@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Learning To Cope With Life
Date:  2005-12-30 15:51:01
Message Id:  17493
Paper Text:


Intuitions, Revisions:Storytelling as Inquiry

2005 Web Report

On Serendip

Michelle Kasza
Nov. 9, 2005
Dr. Anne Dalke

For the last year, I have been dealing with the physical aftermath of gastric bypass surgery. For the past 37 years, my friend Lisa has been dealing with Tourette syndrome. While the conditions we suffer from are on first glance, appear to be very different, they share a common thread. We both are acutely aware of our bodies' physical reactions. We need to be hyper vigilant to our bodies needs.
Lisa and I have been there for each other during our struggles. I clearly remember the taunts the other children, nuns and members of her family gave her because of her "habits". When we were in grade school, we would walk to school and Lisa would lift her skirt and pull on her underwear. She would also stoop down and touch the street as we crossed. The children would laugh at her and the adults would punish her to try and make her stop.
I was made fun of because of my weight. The other children would pick me last to be on sport teams. My mother would punish me to try and get me to loose weight. When I was ten my mother asked my doctor if I was overweight, he told her not "really". She continued to press him and he suggested that I cut down on snacks. That evening we went to my aunt's house and my mother would not let me have the potato chips the other kids ate. Lisa was there and comforted me when I cried because I felt left out; she told me she loved me. I told her I loved her and that her habits did not bother me.
Fast forward twenty years and Lisa has learned that her habits are actually Tourettes and I have undergone gastric bypass. On a daily basis, we face obstacles that normal people do not understand. I have to think about what I eat to avoid pain. I once drank a gulp of soda and had to throw myself against a wall to burp. I felt like my chest was going to explode. Lisa has to explain to strangers that her swearing at them is out of her control. The first time she meet her in-laws she flipped them the finger. It was very hard for them to understand that she could not control such outrageous behavior.
We both have faced bias, not always hidden, and struggle on a daily basis to keep control. It is tiring. Lisa works as a private duty nurse for a prominent attorney. She is often in court with him. She folds her arms to keep her from touching things and she worried that she may twitch. Yet, she has found that as she gets involved with time and starts to listen to him speak in court, her habits disappear. However, when it is just the two of them in the car she hits the wheel with her elbows and twitches away.
After gastric bypass, I was faced with something I did not expect. Eating the wrong things hurts and I sometimes vomit. Right after my surgery, I had to warm everything I drank. I loved cold drinks before but now they felt like lead in my stomach. Pasta and rice make me feel like I am having a heart attack and the only relief I can have is vomiting. I have to think about every bite I eat, I also spend a lot of time thinking about what I am eating when I am out, because I hate when others notice that I am uncomfortable, it makes me feel like a freak.
When Lisa is with her family and friends, she often explodes. She is angry that no matter how hard she tries she cannot control her body when she is relaxed and that often leads to bouts of screaming. I have been with her when she will scream at the top of her lungs at year daughter over nothing. I am not talking about the normal mother daughter thing. These outbursts had led Lisa to beat her daughter. When Brittany was three Lisa yelled at her and hit year in the face and stomped on her feet, because Brittany had colored on the wall. I witnessed this and told her she needed to go into therapy and to ensure it I was going to call child protection services. I kept my threat and Lisa went into therapy to stop her from hurting her child and herself.
A few years later Lisa got me to go into therapy about my weight and made an appointment for me to see a surgeon about gastric bypass. She was frank with me, which was good because my spirit was broken. I was staying home more and more and getting larger and larger. I would buy magazines and order pizza and fries and spend my Friday nights eating and reading away. I avoided going to parties where there would be people who had not seen me in a long time.
My anger turned into depression. I did not see it but I was in trouble. I would daydream about how my life was going to be when I got thin and before you knew it 2 years had gone by. I now weighed over 250 pounds and I had lost my enthusiasm for life.
I have had my surgery and have lost over 125 pounds. I am happier than I have been since I was a teenager. I have learned to eat slowly and allow my brain to know that my body is full. Before the surgery, I would inhale my food. It was like having a race to get in as much food in the quickest amount of time. Because of my surgery, I am forced to eat slowly. According to my doctor, this allows my brain to receive the trigger that I am full. Before the surgery, I ate so quickly that my brain was not able to send out the message that I was full.
Lisa is an obsessive cleaner. Weekly she will wash her walls. Daily she washes her floors and spends hours ironing sheets and socks. I think she is trying to create a sense of perfect ness in her home, to make up for the fact that she is not perfect, I spend a lot of time trying to improve my appearance. I work out what I going to wear and try to have everything just so. I do this to try and improve my appearance so I can feel normal. Our behaviors may appear to others as an obsession , but for us it is how we cope.
Lisa and I both have learned that our bodies are not our enemies. Lisa has learned to accept herself and see her worth. I am learning to do the same. When we are with each other we let go and she twitches and I wear my crappiest outfit and if I have to vomit, I just do and do not feel the need to explain or try to hold it in. It is nice to be able to just be ourselves. For as different as our physical situations are we share the bond of uniqueness. As the Beatles sang, "I get by with a little help from my friends".