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Take a very simple Wittgensteinian language-game, e.g., a bricklayer says "BRICK" and the bricklayer's assistant brings her the brick.* All of this is part of the language-game: not just the utterance "BRICK," but also the assistant bringing the brick — so the actions as well as the sound. You don't have one part being language and another part not. It's all language, and if you leave out the actions it's not complete.**

Of course, at times the assistant could understand that he's to bring a brick, yet he chooses not to, in defiance or as a joke; or he may be prevented from doing so, say by an injury; and that doesn't mean the language-game is incomplete in these instances. As long as the practice is there, the established practice of "BRICK" and an assistant bringing the brick, the language-game is in effect. And defiance and humor are expressible in this language, too, even though the language only contains one word, the command "BRICK." (Suppose, somehow, there's miscommunication in the game. Or some misunderstanding, the assistant incorrectly thinking that it's only when the bricklayer has her arm raised as she's uttering "BRICK" that he's to bring the brick. Or maybe sometimes the bricklayer doesn't mean it, and the assistant has to figure out when. A game doesn't have to be conducted with absolutely certainty to be a game; a language doesn't have to have absolute certainty and consistency to be a language.)

We can define "language-games" as being, more or less, "human social practices." The terms "language-game" and "social practice" are near synonyms, language being so ubiquitous. But let's see what happens if we go further. Let's get rid of "more or less." Let's say that all human social practices are language-games, whether or not any word is actually spoken in the practice, and whether or not all the parties even know a language. Yes, at least one of them — the parent of a baby, for instance — will have to know a language; but the other(s) won't have to. So parental action and baby wails and goos and parental response are all in the category "language-game." A baby being initiated into parent-child social behavior is a baby being initiated into language.***

By this definition, all musical events, including the "nonverbal," are nonetheless in some language-game or other. This doesn't mean "can be made part of a language-game by translating musical sounds into words or by describing the music in words." It means that the language-game includes musical sounds as they are, and we can take the sounds and see their role in particular games — particular social practices — just as we can take the utterances and actions in the "BRICK" language and see their roles in that particular practice. In any event, we refuse to give the social practices we call "music" the special status of being "nonverbal." They aren't.

Motive here is to tease out what might be usable in Mark's glimmer of an idea )

Footnotes (as opposed to musical notes?) )

Good dog?

Feb. 18th, 2010 09:55 am
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The greatest challenge in understanding the role of randomness in life is that although the basic principles of randomness arise from everyday logic, many of the consequences that follow from those principles prove counterintuitive.... In the mid 1960s, [Daniel] Kahneman, then a junior psychology professor at Hebrew University, agreed to perform a rather unexciting chore: lecturing to a group of Israeli air force flight instructors on the conventional wisdom of behavior modification and its application to the psychology of flight training. Kahneman drove home the point that rewarding positive behavior works but punishing mistakes does not. One of his students interrupted, voicing an opinion that would lead Kahneman to an epiphany and guide his research for decades.

regression toward the mean )

The issue of regression to the mean is interesting in itself, and it's the motive for Mlodinow's anecdote, but I'd like to focus on the claim of behavioral psychology, that rewarding good behavior works but punishing bad behavior doesn't. Is this true? If so, what do I do with this principle? How do I apply it? On my mind today is that, as I've often said in a punitive tone of voice, music critics don't know how to sustain an intellectual conversation. And my assumption is that I'm not really going to have many sustained intellectual conversations unless I and people like me teach others how to do it. More immediately, I'm wondering if there's a way to have an impact on the gross dysfunctional behavior that sinks a lot of music discourse - a current example is the stupid commentary at Jezebel and Autostraddle about Taylor Swift, which Alex O. and Erika do a good job of taking apart. Basically, Autostraddle and Jezebel project a virgin-whore dichotomy onto Taylor that Taylor's actual words and behavior don't support at all, then excoriate Taylor for perpetuating the virgin-whore dichotomy. But the real dysfunction in criticism isn't the making of a false inference on the basis of too-little evidence and being too thoughtless to look for further evidence or to notice what contradicts the inference - who doesn't do that at some point (and to be honest I only skimmed the Autostraddle piece myself)? - but rather what comes after, the inability of the overall conversation to take care of this, the many voices being unable to make up for the limitations of the single voice.

Further reflections )
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Dave over on his Tumblr:

I worry that people who are interested (and provocative, and good writers) in "other avenues" online tend to be exceedingly poor at transferring those skills to discussing music. I like several progressive writers in the political blogosphere, but in nearly all cases their ability to talk about music is fucked, because, perhaps by nature of what they "do," they don't take music very seriously. It's a "break" from the hard work of writing about politics and policy, and it's their only chance to be intellectually lax (or flat-out stupid). The only field in which I've seen any potential for overlap is education and pedagogy theory, where much of the more enlightened theory on media literacy seems to take up many of the things I'm most interested in in music criticism — especially how personal likes and dislikes interact with our ability to learn. Music can galvanize learners in both directions — engagement and disengagement — and bringing matters of personal taste into the classroom is a minefield.

. . .

A good internet convo or community, like a good classroom, is a site for questioning, accepts reasoned analysis, and actively discourages intellectual stasis and a reliance on unfounded assumptions. Also like a good classroom it includes all of the messy stuff, too — temper tantrums, joking, going off-topic, failed experimentation — and makes it part of the learning experience. The question I have is whether or not the elephant in the room in this comparison — the role of the
teacher — is by and large what's missing from internet discourse. I want to say no (when you tell a group of adults that they need a teacher, you're on the express train to condescension-ville) but I do see an occasional need for a larger force that could more strongly redirect conversations when they begin to derail (derailing is not the same as going off-topic).

(There's plenty more, so click the link.)
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"Have a basic intellectual conversation about music" is as good a mission statement as any. Intellectual processes die when interests are merely humored or given free reign (perhaps Frank's "hallway" trap) and also die, more obviously, when they're stifled with structure. Rock criticism has a serious hallway problem, but the solution isn't to paste "classroom" on it - it's to create a new space.

I recommend Dave's post, "Can Rock Criticism Be an Educative Process?," where he's trying to push the Department Of Dilettante Research idea forward a bit.

Also, I need to do something about my DDR tags. The way I've got them now, my DDR and Department Of Dilettante Research tags include all of my Kuhn posts, which makes those tags not so useful; in the next few days I'll probably untag a lot of those Kuhn ones, except for the ones that specifically address how you go about learning an unfamiliar mode of thought. In the meantime, here are some of the crucial, introductory DDR posts/threads:

Department of Dilettante Research, Part 1

Department Of Dilettante Research, Part 2: Depart Harder

Freakytigger and Poptimist Links for Department Of Dilettante Research

Department Of Dilettante Research, Part 3: The Dilettantists

Diversity and Bullies

The Authority To Teach (Department Of Dilettante Research)

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Am embarking on a project of rereading Thomas Kuhn and so I'm starting a Thomas Kuhn reading group here in Denver. The group so far consists in its entirety of me and my friend David (the fellow who taught the intro to philosophy course I audited last semester) and isn't likely to grow, so I'm adding an online component. As always, I'm open to anyone posting here whether you've done the reading or not and whether you feel "qualified" or not. You'll likely stimulate my ideas even when your own aren't worked out. That said... well, see below.

Believe it or not I find this stuff real easy (about a hundred times easier than figuring out and articulating why I like Cassie's "Turn The Lights Off" and Heidi Montag's "No More"). And what's impressive about its easiness is that Kuhn is addressing himself to the hardest practical topic there is, how to go about understanding a mode of thought that you had not previously been acquainted with.

I'm going to experiment to see if these posts can function as a proto-Department Of Dilettante Research, which means I'll put thought into how to be a teacher, how to stimulate your ideas. So in some instances I'll be asking questions but temporarily holding back my own answers until you've had a chance to start on yours, my belief being that ideas you work out for yourself will stick with you better than ones you simply read or memorize. And this also means that if you want to learn much you're better off doing the reading and doing what I tell you.

No, you must explain this in full, now! )

reading list )
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(1) I can eat three times as much food in one third the time as my parents. This leaves me with a lot of extra time at the dinner table, even when I choose to eat six times as much as they. Perhaps I need to discover a snack that involves intricate and concentrated peeling.

(2) Alex writes: "I can see that 'everyone takes each other's course' moderates the hierarchy required by the notion of authority by placing it on a basis of equality." For the DDR I'm not actually against hierarchy as such or in favor of democracy as such except when they hinder or help the expansion of my knowledge! I suppose that some people might not feel equal to having me as a student, but that's a different problem. The point is to... push a button, or something, that stimulates people to start teaching/learning, when they hadn't allowed themselves to previously.

(3) Listened to the GN'R album last week on MySpace, felt like I was pushing against a weight. This man used to be one of the great live wires, gave speed and sass and weirdness and intensity and danger and dance back to what I'd been ready to dismiss as a dead language. Maybe the last male rock star*, willing to embody mystery, menace, and attraction. (Cobain was doing something different, at least to me.) There was a lot of stuff going on in the new album, but the man sounded tired. Maybe I'll accept this and take the album for what it is if I listen again. Only two songs - the first two - stood out as extra special on first listen.

(4) Listened to the stream of the Kanye, too. Sounded real good at the start but ran out of songs halfway, and the Autotune became samey after a while. Worth hearing again.

(5) Want to hear the Will Young.

*Unless you count Kid Rock and Eminem and, oh, I don't know, a bunch of hip-hop and crunk guys as rock, which you might as well.
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I have a whole bunch of notes written down that didn't make it into my most recent Department Of Dilettante Research thread (which you should look back at, since [livejournal.com profile] byebyepride made a couple of late comments that I've been thinking about).

(1) What's the reward for teaching well and for understanding? What are the consequences for failing to teach or to understand? --When I wrote those questions I was thinking of how they would apply to an actual dep't we'd set up. Any answer would have to take into account what sort of thing the dep't is, e.g. an actual funded dep't somewhere or a message board or a magazine or a bunch of conversations on the town green or an itinerant group of marauders who "intervene" in some or all of the aforementioned. BUT actually when I glanced at the questions just now I interpreted them as applying to the world in general, not the Dep't in specific. What are the consequences for failing to teach or to understand? Like, in one's life.

If success and failure were its own rewards, then "departments of dilettante research" would have emerged all over the blogosphere. I wonder if the loose gaggle of economists blogs I've been reading - mostly by academics, a few by those in the financial industry, a few by journalists - could actually be considered a de facto Department Of Dilettante Research. Presumably the academics read each other's papers. Or I would like to think that they do. But they also have the ongoing financial support of institutions, and some of them get paid for columns and - presumably - for their blogs. (I don't know this, however.)

Ways of creating courses )

Where do we start? )
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Returning to the subject of the Department Of Dilettante Research - summarizing it in one sentence:

Everybody takes each other's course.

(1) I don't mean this literally, since I'm hoping for scores of participants, while "everybody takes each other's course" is only feasible for a dept. of five or six max. But "everybody takes each other's course" conveys the SPIRIT of the enterprise.

(2) For this to work, people will have to create the authority within themselves to teach and must simply not let up on their urge to understand. A reason that departments of dilettante research didn't spontaneously emerge within Why Music Sucks, ilX, Poptimists, etc. was people's ultimate refusal to teach.

(3) So we'll make demands on each other. Would it help to institutionalize such demands? They may be up to the teacher. Pressure, force, rewards, structure, deadlines? Partially applied onerous requirements (PAOR): "State ideas rather than alluding to them." "You don't get to leave the room until I'm convinced I understand you and that you understand me."

(4) One goal here is to reach across space - social space, cultural space. So not just interdisciplinary but "intergalactic." This means we often start from misunderstandings.

(5) So I want this to take place in an open space. Is the department merely in an open space or is the department an open space? But the space would include outsiders and kibitzers and naysayers and those who don't "get" the requirements. I'm looking for people who are willing to fly with me, but my instinct here is that I also need to be in sight of those who won't fly and those who fly elsewhere.

possibly irrelevant item )

links )
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the further the problem was from the solver's expertise, the more likely they were to solve it

"If it could easily have been solved 'by people within the industry, it would have been,' he said."

(So the question here for me is what are the problems that I'm working on that people in my rock-critic and blog worlds are having trouble thinking about, and where do I find people from elsewhere who might be willing to think about those problems? E.g., my ideas on "social class," that we need to think about what social class is, and we need to think about it differently. For instance, I think Ashlee and Jessica Simpson belong to different social classes, but with the way class is generally defined, what I've just said would be considered nonsense.)
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In Professor’s Model, Diversity = Productivity

What the model showed was that diverse groups of problem solvers outperformed the groups of the best individuals at solving problems. The reason: the diverse groups got stuck less often than the smart individuals, who tended to think similarly.

The other thing we did was to show in mathematical terms how when making predictions, a group’s errors depend in equal parts on the ability of its members to predict and their diversity. This second theorem can be expressed as an equation: collective accuracy = average accuracy + diversity.

If we get rid of the bullies, do we cripple ourselves intellectually by limiting our diversity? )
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First in what I hope is a new series of posts about the Department of Dilettante Research (though if my past behavior is any guide, "series of posts" don't happen to me, seeing as I'm more of a convo man than a blog man, hence end up saying more and better stuff on other people's comments threads).

A couple of song lyrics, followed by analysis and speculation.

When I'm out shoppin', it's like having a gun )

Turn around bitch I got a use for you )

Let's make sex mean something this year )
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This week's column. Trying to construct a line out.

The Rules Of The Game #19: A Friend Of A Friend

taboos and typos )

I wrote this piece before going to my PO box and finding the bad sales report for my book, but the two reinforce each other: the need for us to find routes outward to get our messages to potential colleagues unknown. Any suggestions?

Links to my other Rules Of The Game columns )
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In three months through June 2006 my book moved about 1,450 copies, so I said to myself, "It'll probably top out at about 2,000," which I guess wasn't too bad considering I didn't get many reviews, the most high-profile being Tom Breihan's Pitchfork rave ("Don't even attempt to fuck with Real Punks Don't Wear Black") that didn't even go up until July.

I got clobbered by returns )
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Latest column, in which fame is shown to create greater fame:

The Rules Of The Game #18: The Social Butterfly Effect

The point I make at the end in regard to the Dolls and the Stooges is clear to me but I'm not sure it's clear on the page - that the Dolls' and Stooges' subsequent canonization is somewhat self-perpetuating in just the way that popularity is self-perpetuating (not that the Dolls and the Stooges don't deserve it).

The imaginary shown to be real )

Teenagers scare the living shit out of me )

In any event, what use would you put to Watts et al.'s findings? One thing they underscore for me is that received ideas tend to stay received, but my guess is that this conservativism is mitigated by the fact that ideas don't always reinforce each other (e.g., the idea that Beethoven is unquestionably great is a popular idea, but so is the idea that we should question something's being called unquestionably great). And the findings also tell me that there must be other people of the quality of Shakespeare and Timbaland but who didn't make it, who didn't benefit from the cascading popularity and canonization but who nonetheless produced equally good work (though maybe not in the same quantity, if they lacked the fame to support themselves), so maybe we could go out and find them.

Links to my other Rules Of The Game columns )
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This week's column is something of a repeat of last week's, elaborating on both the functionality and dysfunctionality of sticking with our own (with our own people and their ideas). So, any thoughts about how to overcome the dysfunctionality, given that social clustering is necessary and inevitable?

The Rules Of The Game #17: Punks and Cats

I make no effort to justify the last three words of the piece. I just toss them in.

Stuff about italics and their absence )

Links to my other Rules Of The Game columns )
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For some reason (there are glitches in the software) my column this week first went up without the final three paragraphs, making the title unintelligible. But it's fixed now.

The Rules Of The Game #16: Vaccine Protects Against New Ideas

My thoughts didn't quite coalesce this week, though as Jack Thompson once pointed out I can't do a "Hero Story" every week (or live a hero story every week, for that matter). But where my thoughts are leading to is: How do we break out into the wider world? That is, how do we - meaning you and me and the people in our corner of the livejournal galaxy - bring our ideas to the wider world, but more important how do we bring our minds to the stories the wider world could tell us, if we knew where to look and what to ask?

Links to my other Rules Of The Game columns )
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Last week Mark made yet another Department Of Dilettante Research post on [livejournal.com profile] poptimists. And here are some additional thoughts of my own.

A crucial component (the centering component, perhaps) of the Department Of Dilettante Research is conversations among several people - surrounded by kibitzers, onlookers, revelers, brawlers, etc. - where no one leaves the conversation until everyone is satisfied that the others understand him or her. Different conversations may have different central characters (though my guess is that the same characters will keep turning up time and time again), and "central" might just mean "central to me"; that is, there may be other conversations with as many or more participants and onlookers than the ones I'm calling "central." But the conversations I'm calling "central" will be the ones where no one leaves the conversation until everyone is satisfied that the others understand him or her. Without those conversations, there's no department.

I want these conversations to occur in a fundamentally open space, hence the revelers, kibitzers, etc. (how open will be a matter for experience to teach us). This is to lessen the chance of our becoming social retards.

I will have trouble finding people able to take a central role. )
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A couple of threads on other journals have sprung up on the subject of the Department Of Dilettante Research:

Paying People To Think (but [livejournal.com profile] freakytigger put this under lock and key, so you will have to ask to be his friend in order to see it)(EDIT: Tom's now unlocked the thread)

kogan's DDR paying for itself and blah
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Here are some excerpts from my book:

From chapter 18, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life:

Among other things, I'm arguing that (i) presentation of self - creating, maintaining, or modifying one's hairstyle, as it were - is a way of thinking, but (ii) given a choice between maintaining one's hairstyle and thinking about it, my profession as a whole will choose hairstyle over thought. And the reader/editor/colleague will crack down on my thought, too, if it threatens his hairstyle (at least, he'll crack down collectively, institutionally, on behalf of the collective/institutional hairstyle, even if he'd rather not). In effect, to freeze one's hairstyle is to freeze a part of one's brain.

[By "my profession" I mean academia as well as journalism, even though I've never had a job in academia.]

Later in the same chapter:

the drive towards academic diversity tends to run aground )
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I've vowed to myself to post at least three or four times a week on a dream I have that I humorously but absolutely seriously call "The Department Of Dilettante Research." Basically, these posts will be a cry for help and a call for ideas and allies. I'm at an impasse, in fact have been at an impasse for the twenty-one years since I committed myself to writing. What I want to do is:

(1) create an intellectual conversation (defining "intellectual" far more broadly than most "intellectuals" do) that

(2) doesn't close itself off from the world in the way that academia and journalism do (because in closing themselves off from the world, academia and journalism close themselves off from too much of the intellect), that

(3) discusses stuff I care about (social analysis of the life that underlies music being one thing but hardly the only thing), and that

(4) makes it possible for me to earn a living writing the things I want to write.

To do this I need colleagues, I need good formats, and I need a way for it to bring in money. )


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