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Informed Guessing and Beyond

Towards Day 22 of Evolving Systems course

I. coursekeeping
* by Friday @ 6 send me a 3-pp. paper reflecting on the implications of thinking about the brain as the site of story-construction

* by Monday evening: post on-line your responses to today's discussion

* look esp. @ two important postings:

Paige's "digression" about writing style
Aimee's "confession" about uncertainty

* no papers or writing conferences due next week!

* Jane McAuliffe is visiting (part of) our section on Dec. 2nd!

II. today, guided by Paul,
we're looking @ Illusions, ambiguous figures, and impossible figures: informed guessing and beyond


III... and the English prof's contribution

"Meaning is context-bound....context is boundless;
there is no determining in advance what might count as relevant"
(Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory).

Reader Response Theory:

  • meaning is not pre-determined
  • it comes into existence when a text is read & responded to
  • focus on the transaction readers make with texts, ways they actualize them in their own experience
  • meaning persistently revised as readers compare, collate their readings
  • searching for common patterns, recognizing when the patterns break down
  • how it works: an encounter between the heterogeneous personalities of readers and the indeterminacy/ ambiguity of language (=the space for making meaning).

  • Reader-Response under review: art, game, or science?

  • Stranger in a Strange Land: Grokking in the Americas
    My sabbatical in Latin America/learning Spanish:
    The difficulties of reading culture.
    The difficulties of speaking/hearing/interpreting a new language, differences in degree, not in kind:
    there is always a gap of indeterminacy
    in the transaction that is language
    --a gap that's wonderfully demonstrated in the act of punning.

From a talk in the Emergence Group on Speech Recognition:
"a machine learns to wreck a nice beach"

Your offerings?

What do you get when you drop a piano down a mine shaft?
What do you get when you drop a piano onto a military base?(A-flat minor; A-flat major)

Why couldn't the pony talk? (It was a little hoarse.)
Why couldnt' the bicycle go any faster? (It was two-tired.)

What's going on here?
Why-and-how do those puns work?
What is the logic of their working?

...linguistic presumptions: puns demonstrate the inherent instability of the meanings of words, and so challenge the conventional understanding of language as a structure of relationships in which each word is identified by its difference from others. The distinction between words isn't at all that clear; the "category" that each occupies is very porous.

(In other words, they make linguists very nervous!)

"Linguists, arise! We have nothing but our *!"