Is the basic perception a form of interpretation?
My visit to MIT’s research center on cognition (1986): playing with cards...
« On the Perception of Incongruity: A Paradigm », Jerome S. Bruner and Leo Postman (1949), Harvard University
Black: spades, clubs
Red: hearts, diamonds
Are there obvious meanings in objects? .Can knowledge be « locked in », contained, in the very structure, shape or appearance of the object? .Or are meaning and practical uses of objects always oriented by subjective, situated and cultural interpretive modes? .Thought can try to mould the structural characteristics of objects to « memorize » some knowledge – i. e. to make thought repeatable e.g. ...
But the actual practical effects are culturally and physically situated, obviousness can be less obvious than expected and can become a dangerous concept, from a practical point of view.
Relevance for organization studies: to speak of « explicit knowledge », there is some necessary assumption about obviousness - explicit knowledge is knowledge intrinsically locked in objects.
Is obviousness obvious? Do objects tell users « objectively » all that we usually believe they tell?
Story of a screw-driver
What makes a screwdriver a screwdriver rather than...
How far is the identity of screwdriver related with the human body? What drives the metamorphoses of objects?. Many projects of KM were based upon tacit or explicit assumptions:
Which means that sophisticated objects can adquire some form of obviousness, And that they can abolish the situatedness of interpretation (interpretation is de-contextualized). To achieve these objectives, it is necessary to model situations: To imagine all the possible situations, To map them on a theoretical model, To transform them into scenarios or search trajectories – queries and procedures - in the information system, In other words, to model objects – the characteristic features of situations - into a new « repository » object – the KM system
In many cases this attempt failed because of the huge cost and time required by this « translation » activity, which must be repeated more or less permanently (new situations permanently appear).
Five comments about Cortazar’s text
What makes a watch a watch?
What makes a newspaper a newspaper or a pile of printed sheets?
A reader reads it.
What makes a watch a watch?
The owner winds it and reads it.
What makes the object a certain type of instrument?
The user’s activity?
The definition of the object must be maintained over time:
You must wind the watch every day, to make it a watch,
You must read the paper every day, to make it a daily paper.
The instrument transforms the user
The watch transforms:
The physical activity (winding, fastening)
The cognitive activity (checking the right time on radio, ensuring,etc...)
The emotions (fear, pride, envy...)
All those impacts are related with the objective of « keeping the watch
a watch » - and of keeping the watch-owner a watch-owner.
What is yours and not your body?
Is there a clear separation or a kind of continuity between « yours »
and « non-yours », « body » and « non-body »?
The watch is « yours », but it is « not your body », you have to
« strap it to your body ». Like a prothesis?
The watch is « not your body », but it is so much yours that it upsets
the way of living, as a... disease?
Continuum between « me » and « non-me »?
The corporal definition of an object
In the user’s guide of the staircase, there are structural elements of definition (geometric indications: « the floor bends in such a way that... a new perpendicular... ») and functional elements (« translating one from the ground floor to the first floor »). But 80% of the text is made of not-structural, not-functional, but corporal definition, based upon the body reading the object (« placing the left hand... the right hand... the face on, holding oneself upright...
arms hanging... »). The text can appear as a procedure to define or discover a staircase through non-discursive, non-cognitive but corporal means; the object is enacted through body movements, postures, gestures... But nevertheless this definition is... a written text!
The construction of reflexivity
The « staircase » text presents itself as the explanation of a staircase to a reader who does not know what a staircase is, But the text only makes sense precisely because the reader knows –
or thinks he knows – what a staircase is, and can be surprised, amused, annoyed by the extraordinary assumption that he does not know, So that all the interest and the meaning of the text lies in this gap between what the reader is supposed to ignore and what he really knows, and the emotions and cognitions so triggered in the reader, not about the staircase, but about him/her/self, The text attempts to « deconstruct » the reader’s knowledge.