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Re: [ontolog-forum] Cultural variation in cognitive machinery

To: doug@xxxxxxxxxx, "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ali Hashemi <ali.hashemi+ontolog@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 2010 09:46:38 -0400
Message-id: <m2o5ab1dc971004150646y4e205a04he9c104255f0cfc11@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Doug, Chris and John,

Hehe, Michael G had cautioned me about sharing non-engineering tidbits, I can now see why :D.

On further reflection, I think there's far more common ground between Pat's perspective and mine than perhaps the previous emails implied. We both agree that the "strong" position is silly. Cultural critiques that grow out of this analysis are also questionable, but I think the analytic technique that underpins it is valuable.

The reason we weren't aligned is probably because "fundamental" was taken to apply to "cognitive processes" in different ways. I think I can formulate the difference in a language that is more accessible to the community. The confusion arises in considering:

a) How we think
b) How we think about

Pat was probably focusing on (a) and I was focusing on both. This brings me to Doug's point.

Doug, while I generally agree with what you write, in my mind, upon closer inspection, the difference between how we perceive and how we interpret what we perceive is more blurred. (I mean, how do x-rays or radar or nightvision or other sense increasing technologies change how we use our senses? or even this guy:  http://www.stelarc.va.com.au/earonarm/index.html )

As an illustration, let CP be the set of all the cognitive processes we could employ. Then "How We Think" can be thought of as the entirety of all these relatively stable processes. Technologies don't seem to change them (at least at a biological level) in a fundamental way.

However, "How We Think About" picks out a subset, SubCP of CP. We don't employ all of our cognitive processes all the time. And SubCP is definitely influenced by our media and technologies. In this light, the subset of cognitive processes that we use when thinking about space or driving or politics changes fundamentally with our technologies and media.

So while I might process sound the same way, while I might generally process emotions the same way, I will employ them differently depending on my culture and technologies etc. What technologies and media can (often do) do, is change the ratio / proportions of how these CP's are employed. To go back to a well worn example, written / jotted symbols use more of our visual cognitive processes than auditory input. Or similarly, walking uses different CP's than driving or biking. As you note, each carry with them different ways of thinking about space, and the effects of habituation in this manner can have spillover effects into other spheres of thinking.  Something that has been realized and capitalized well by the advertising industry.



[CS] Ali concentrates on the non-common, the differences, between situations.  And of course the differences and changes seem to be what counts for him... while Ali and his cohorts will fleece out what doesn't fit neatly into those patterns but will help people better discover their uniquenesses and manage their differences.

I mostly agree with your sentiment. There is nothing in opposition to work being done by others. Though I'm also not fond of labeling "paying attention to the effects of media + technology on how one thinks" as "concentrating on differences." This type of analysis can identify striking commonalities as well. I'll refrain from posting to the list, but when I have time, I'll write up and post elsewhere on the web, how considering networked first order logic as a medium can lead to useful (unifying) results for the formal ontology community.

Oh, I should also be clear, media studies is not my concentration - simply one perspective that can be of use to an ontologist (or really, anyone). Moreover, it is less about fleshing out "differences" than determining how the structure / "essence" of these technologies affect our use of them.



The computer example was more about having access to all these resources while writing than writing. Anyway, in this sentence:

[JS] But language itself is the ultimate symbolic representation.  Long
before writing was invented, oral traditions could preserve and
transmit highly precise information over many centuries.

I would suggest changing the "BUT" into an "AND." There's no opposition in what I've said to what you describe. Language is indeed symbolic representation, AND once it's visualized (whether in writing or art or diagrams or buildings) it makes the _expression_ of certain ideas much more "natural" or obvious etc. etc.



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