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September 15, 2016


Dr. M

What a wonderfully rich and stimulating response this is, Kendra. I am so impressed by the number of ideas your are working to synthesize here. The application of what you are learning in psychology could not be more appropriate and relevant. You may be interested in the work of cognitive linguistic George Lakoff, who has for years been exploring the way metaphorical thought activates conceptual schemas. Here is a section from the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lakoff on his:

"The essential thrust of Lakoff's work has been the argument that metaphors are primarily a conceptual construction, and indeed are central to the development of thought.
He suggested that: "Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature." Non-metaphorical thought is for Lakoff only possible when we talk about purely physical reality. For Lakoff the greater the level of abstraction the more layers of metaphor are required to express it. People do not notice these metaphors for various reasons. One reason is that some metaphors become 'dead' and we no longer recognize their origin. Another reason is that we just don't "see" what is "going on".

As for your comments about synesthesia and Schmandt-Besserat's theories--- I think it's fantastic that you are using this concept to test her claims. There's a lot going on in your statement and I'm not sure I completely follow. Schmandt-Besserat, remember is referring to "symbols," which she takes pains to define as signs in which the arbitrary relationship between signifier and signified is defined culturally. So for her, the symbol is the ultimate marker of shared culture. For the early Christians, embracing the cross as "meaning" the resurrection (rather than humiliation) or Christ created an "in group" who read out a very special "signified" from that particular signifier. Schmandt-Besserat's point seems to be that if those early Christians died out without spreading their symbol. If it all became swallowed by time and forgotten by history, no one today would understand that "lost association." Just imagine how many times this must have happened in history as cults, communities, etc. which developed highly unique "symbol systems" just died out and their "meanings" died with them.

Synesthesia, as I understand it, does not necessarily involve "conceptual thought" at all. It's a kind of "crossing of the senses" so that, for instance, a musical tone can be experience as having a color. (the early spoken-word artist Ken Nordine recorded an entire album of this kind of synesthetic "word jazz" called "colors" -- look for it on YouTube). But this would not fall under Schmandt-Besserat's discussion, I don't think, unless that connection had become shared and cultural rather than individual. So perhaps the learned association of "red light means stop your body" could be considered a kind of cultural synesthesia in which a particular "meaning" to the color has been culturally created. But her point again is that all this could be lost if the entire culture disappeared.

Grade: 3

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Media Ecology Quote of the Day

  • “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials. . . . When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility. ― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

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