Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Embodied Realism-Roots and Branches

Beyond the simplest acts of self-preservation, humans cannot think without metaphor. This uniquely human “trick of the mind” allows us to build a stable knowledge of the wider world and move about in it successfully. Metaphor is not only woven deeply into our language for everyday events, but indispensable to our deepest scientific theories.

“Embodied realism” is the philosophical position that places our metaphoric ability at the center of human cognition. In doing so, it recognizes metaphor’s limiting as well as liberating functions. Those metaphors that can be substantiated by empirical testing are “apt” while others, especially those that have fallen below the limen of consciousness, can lead us astray. Identifying, analyzing, and testing the aptness of our metaphors is a challenging task, but one that can provide great rewards.

In Sales: How we think of, and present our business offerings to others. How we help others re-appraise their needs.

In Problem-Solving: How we frame business problems, define challenges, and account for resources.

In Strategy: How we define our purposes and environments. How we assess risk, and approach uncertainty.

In Learning: How we can apply experience from one domain to understanding of another. How we can use practice to develop new habits and liberate our attention.

In theory: How we can replace our explanatory models.

Anatomy of Metaphor
Conventional metaphors: so deeply embedded in our language that they often escape detection.

Conceptual metaphors: those more consciously applied and explicit in their entailments and inferential structure.

Source domain or vehicle and target domain or tenon

Inference patterns: the most basic logic functions of inclusion or exclusion: links that declare "is" or "is not"

Entailments: the sub-parts of the metaphor; on the source side, which can generate additional hypotheses or insights when "run down" rigorously.

Mappings: those elements of the source that are carried over to the target domain; congruent elements.  

Schemas: "bare bones" diagrammatic images

A Metaphoric Workshop (Experiential Learning Process)

Present speech and writing samples
Identify the conceptual metaphors
Derive entailments on source side
Apply and test inferences on target side
Coin new metaphors: personal, literary and scientific
Mine for entailments and implications

Related papers:
This paper explores open source as a metaphor for e-learning. It builds the case that e-learning and open source movement are rooted in the constructivist movement and the constructivist  movement is itself rooted in the pragmatism and instrumentalism that pervades John Dewey’s
theories of understanding as applied to learning. As a result, it recommended that the use of open source as metaphor for e-learning be further explored in three areas: instructional practices, instructional platforms, and instructional philosophy. Keywords: Open Source, E-Learning, Metaphor, Learning Object, Constructivism

Thinking that can be linked to embodied realism:

Synectics, William Gordon and George Prince
Gordon emphasized the importance of "'metaphorical process' to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar". He expressed his central principle as: "Trust things that are alien, and alienate things that are trusted." This encourages, on the one hand, fundamental problem-analysis and, on the other hand, the alienation of the original problem through the creation of analogies. It is thus possible for new and surprising solutions to emerge.
As an invention tool, Synectics applied a technique called "springboarding" for getting creative beginning ideas. For the development of beginning ideas, the method incorporates brainstorming and deepens and widens it with metaphor; it also adds an important evaluation process for Idea Development, which takes embryonic new ideas that are attractive but not yet feasible and builds them into new courses of action which have the commitment of the people who will implement them.

Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono
Current practices may reflect adequate solutions, but better ones may lie undiscovered.  The creative problem-solver can systematically challenge cliches and old-patterned ways of thinking to break through to new arrangements of the same elements. He offers a number of visual exercises. He also discusses application of analogy:

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Transformational thinking requires the abandonment of old paradigms and adoption of new ones. The old and new paradigms are dualities, like figure-ground; one way of thinking is incompatible with another.

Stephen Pinker, The Stuff of Thought
Cites Lakoff and Johnson extensively. Describes work of Herbert Simon, Roger Schank and others on AI. He presents how one can solve problems by finding a different version, or “problem isomorph”. The example Pinker cites is the “Tower of Hanoi” which is isomorphic to another much more challenging word problem stated here:

Lev Vygotsky
Zone of proximal development" (ZPD) is Vygotsky’s term for the range of tasks that a child is in the process of learning to complete. The lower limit of ZPD is the level of skill reached by the child working independently (also referred to as the child’s actual developmental level). The upper limit is the level of potential skill that the child is able to reach with the assistance of a more capable instructor.

Linked Ideas:
“Scaffolding” was coined by Bruner, but V. had the idea:  “Scaffolding”  is changing the level of support to suit the cognitive potential of the child. Over the course of a teaching session, a more skilled person adjusts the amount of guidance to fit the child’s potential level of performance. More support is offered when a child is having difficulty with a particular task and, over time, less support is provided as the child makes gains on the task. Ideally, scaffolding works to maintain the child’s potential level of development in the ZPD. An essential element to the ZPD and scaffolding is the acquisition of language. According to Vygotsky, language (and in particular, speech) is fundamental to children’s cognitive growth because language provides purpose and intention so that behaviors can be better understood.[22] Through the use of speech, children are able to communicate to and learn from others through dialogue, which is an important tool in the ZPD. In a dialogue, a child's unsystematic, disorganized, and spontaneous concepts are met with the more systematic, logical and rational concepts of the skilled helper.[23] Empirical research suggests that the benefits of scaffolding are not only useful during a task, but can extend beyond the immediate situation in order to influence future cognitive development. For instance, a recent study recorded verbal scaffolding between mothers and their 3- and 4-year-old children as they played together. Then, when the children were six years old, they underwent several measures of executive function, such as working memory and goal-directed play. The study found that the children’s working memory and language skills at six years of age were related to the amount of verbal scaffolding provided by mothers at age three. In particular, scaffolding was most effective when mothers provided explicit conceptual links during play.

The child wishes to ride a horse but cannot, so he picks up a stick and stands astride of it, thus pretending he is riding a horse. The stick is a pivot. "Action according to rules begins to be determined by ideas, not by objects.... It is terribly difficult for a child to sever thought (the meaning of a word) from object. Play is a transitional stage in this direction. At that critical moment when a stick – i.e., an object – becomes a pivot for severing the meaning of horse from a real horse, one of the basic psychological structures determining the child’s relationship to reality is radically altered".
As children get older, their reliance on pivots such as sticks, dolls and other toys diminishes. They have internalized these pivots as imagination and abstract concepts through which they can understand the world. "The old adage that 'children’s play is imagination in action' can be reversed: we can say that imagination in adolescents and schoolchildren is play without action"

Jerome Bruner: On Knowing, Essays for the Left Hand
Much of Bruners wonderful essay unconsciously tapped metaphor and embodied realism. He's so close. 
The “right hand”, dexter, is the the doer. The hand of reason and law. The “left hand”(“awkward” for some, but not for me) is the dreamer. The left hand is the way of knowing that comes through indirection, through myth and metaphor. It is characterized, (in the appreciation as well as the conduct ) of any creative act, as a surprise. The right hand is the tester against experience, the converger, the doubter-until-proven, the cinch.

Bruner’s pedagogy  (tracing a direct line from John Dewey) prefers the hypothetical to the expository, the discovery by the student over the  pronouncements of the teacher.
(1966) Bruner proposed three modes of representation: enactive representation (action-based), iconic representation (image-based), and symbolic representation (language-based). Rather than neatly delineated stages, the modes of representation are integrated and only loosely sequential as they "translate" into each other. Symbolic representation remains the ultimate mode, for it "is clearly the most mysterious of the three."
Bruner's theory suggests it is efficacious when faced with new material to follow a progression from enactive to iconic to symbolic representation; this holds true even for adult learners. A true instructional designer, Bruner's work also suggests that a learner (even of a very young age) is capable of learning any material so long as the instruction is organized appropriately, in sharp contrast to the beliefs of Piaget and other stage theorists.

'knowing how something is put together is worth a thousand facts about it.'
Following Lev Vygotsky the Russian theoretician of socio-cultural development, Bruner proposed that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition in general and language in particular. He emphasized that children learn language in order to communicate, and, at the same time, they also learn the linguistic code. Meaningful language is acquired in the context of meaningful parent-infant interaction, learning “scaffolded” or supported by the child’s Language Acquisition Support System

Narrative theory of construction of reality: Actual Minds, Possible Worlds

Bruner’s 4 Hypotheses of Discovery Learning

1. Intellectual potency is the belief that patterns, or solutiomns, or explanations can be found.

2. Autonomous reward rather than extrinsic

3. Self-organization & integration with other mental contents

4. Conservation of memory. Self-construction of learnings facilitates organization, and thus, their later retrieval (ret. is the true challenge of memory)

"So I'm standing up here, pretty confident that I have knowledge in my head that I can impart to you. I have that knowledge nearby, not right at hand, but waiting for me, just beyond the next word I'm going to say. I know it'll be there when I reach for it, but I won't really have it or be able to share it until I say it.

So at every instant I'm making a decision about what word to use next..... this choosing work helps me develop a better understanding. You on the other hand as the audience listening to me have to accept what I say at face value, unaware of all the choices I might have been making. I am making all the choices, so I'm doing most of the work, and I’m getting rewarded for my effort”. I am reconnecting my neurons emerging from this with a stronger grip on my own knowledge. But what about you?
I’m organizing my knowledge. When I do so, I’m going to find it easier to retreive and use later.

If all you are doing is following me, you are not able to organize the thoughts. That’s why so often, after the lecture the speaker is energized and the audience is exhausted.

Scaffolding: WILLIAMS, HUANG AND BARGH, Yale 2009
It has long been a staple of psychological theory that early life experiences significantly shape the adult’s understanding of and reactions to the social world. ... It is proposed that via the process of scaffolding,
these early sensorimotor experiences serve as the foundation for the later development of more abstract concepts and goals. Experiments using priming methodologies reveal the extent to which these early concepts serve as the analogical basis for more abstract psychological concepts, such that we come easily and naturally to speak of close relationships: warm personalities, moral purity, and psychological pain.

Dewey’s Instrumentalism and Pragmatism
Reflex arc
Social verification

Going Deeper still

Husserl, Edmund. “Perception, Spatiality, and the Body.” Trans. Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer. In The Essential Husserl. Ed. Donn Welton (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).163-185.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “The Spatiality of One’s Own Body and Motricity.” In Phenomenology of Perception. Trans. Donald A. Landes. New York: Routledge, 2012. 100-48.
Strauss, Erwin. “The Upright Posture.” In Phenomenological Psychology. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1980. 137-65.

From a U of I course catalog:
There is a developing body of work on human cognition which suggests that human thought is grounded in physical experience and extended by means of idealized cognitive models and metaphoric projections. According to this theory, basic preconceptual experiences (or schema) provide the organizing principles for the construction of conceptual models. Examples include link schema (such as the umbilical cord, hand holding); container schema (we experience our bodies as having an in-out orientation); part-whole schema (we experience directly the relationships between our hands and the rest of the body);and source-path-goal schema (from earliest childhood, we move from one place to another to obtain desired objects). The human capacity to conceptualize allows us to project these structures and to use them to organize other aspects of our experience. To take a simple example, we conceptualize purposes in terms of the source-path-goal schema; this gives rise to systematic source-path-goal metaphors that we use in our thinking about purposes. We can therefore perceive our purposive efforts as going a long way toward our goal, conceptualize something or somebody that interferes with our purposes as an obstacle that gets in our way, and describe some of our failings in terms of being sidetracked.

Polya, How to Solve It
A treatise on mathematical hueristic  “What is the unknown, what are the data? What is the condition? Do you know a related problem?”Polya  finds analogy at the center of his method: “...we may consider ourselves lucky when we succeed in finding a simpler analogous problem.”

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