Posthuman classifications

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Guest lecture presented to students of St John University (York, UK), on 27 October 2010.

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Posthuman classifications

  1. 1. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science 1 Posthuman classifications Ernst D. Thoutenhoofd 27 oktober 2010 Lecture first presented to linguistics and communication students at York St John University (England). To review this slideshow, go to www.slideshare.net/ernstt New sociotechnical dynamics in the classification of objects and ideas
  2. 2. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science 2 Aims and content Aim To add ‘determinate kinds’ to Ian Hacking’s conceptualisation of scientific classification, as a distinctive contribution that technologies make to the shaping of social realities. It invites students to consider that ‘what they know’ is technically mediated, and offers a theoretical framework for analysing posthuman classifications. Contents background 1 two types of belief about the world | 2 deafness as hearing loss | 3 deafness as culture | 4 deafness as technology analyse 5 Latour’s gathered objects | 6 Hacking’s kinds | 7 determinate kinds conclusion 8 posthuman classifications
  3. 3. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) causes some children to be unruly, fidgetty and quickly distracted in classrooms. —Is this true, or false? 3 Interlude A question: —It is false. ADHD is the outcome of a formal classificatory diagnosis using the DSM-IV/V. This describes various diagnostic criteria of challenging behaviour, but it does not detail their cause(s). It may however be true that ‘ADHD-children’ learn to exploit their ADHD status to get their way or reinforce challenging behaviour. In the Netherlands 5-10% of primary-school youth are classified with ADHD.
  4. 4. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style 4 1 Two types of belief about the world Unimpeachable reality is associated with the natural sciences and object categories; and with logical methods such as statistics, evidence-based practice (EBP) and randomised control trials (RCTs). It supposes that there is a ‘really real’ world that exists independent of our participation in it; explanations of it are deemed internal to scientific method. Encoded reality is associated with the social sciences and humanities, and derives much from work in linguistics and philosophy, e.g. • knowledge is constrained by what can be stated formally | Wittgenstein • many ways of worldmaking | Goodman • constitution of reality reflects language evolution | Searle • classifications of kinds are artefacts, not self-evident | Hacking
  5. 5. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style 5 Interlude Contrast in scientific belief Sticking point The natural sciences The social sciences Contingency Laws govern nature Meaning is artefact Nominalism Structure is independent of description: facts are real Structure is symbolic representation: facts are constructs Explanations for the stability of scientific facts The natural world pertains regardless of the context of discovery explanation is empirically confirmed, therefore internal to science All worlds are historically contingent and therefore dynamic explanation is socially coherent, therefore partly external to science
  6. 6. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style Suppose that deaf people’s experiences reflect the consideration of deafness under the two different types of belief about the world: “This conflict of impulses, to ‘repair’ on the one hand, and to acknowledge diversity on the other, must be one of the deepest contradictions of the twenty- first century. Deaf people, whether they like it or not, live their lives in the middle of this contradiction.” (Padden and Humphries 2005:163) “The problem for Deaf people is, as always, how to articulate their views of science and knowledge in a world that finds it easier not to understand them.” (ibid:179–180) What might then be the status of technologies in these knowledge dynamics? 6 2 Deafness as hearing loss/as culture
  7. 7. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style Technologies of deafness apply right across the science-spectrum, e.g. 7 4 Deafness as technology 1 neonatal screening technologies 2 audiological instruments and tests 3 aids for hearing 4 implantation surgery 5 rehabilitation and monitoring systems 6 genetics and counselling techniques 7 educational attainment tracking systems 8 pedagogical and learning support systems 9 social (incidence) statistics and classifications 10 sign language corpora 11 neurolinguistic techniques and instruments
  8. 8. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title styleinterlude Sign language corpora 8 The Dutch sign language NGT corpus focuses on ‘native signers’ and makes extensive use of technology. Data- collection involved elicitation techniques, e.g. • introduction by signer • tell an event • discuss deaf issues • retell a fable story • retell a comic narrative • retell a tv sketch • narrate the content of a picture book • ‘spot the difference’ picture task
  9. 9. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style 9 5 Latour’s gathered objects Explosion of space-shuttle Challenger 28 January 1986
  10. 10. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style 10 Latour’s gathered objects In ‘Has critique run out of steam?’ (2004) Bruno Latour distinguishes between objects gathered from things acting as matters of fact and things acting as matters of concern. Using the example of the shuttle accidents, Latour argues that objects dynamically combine both types of acting things. ‘Space-shuttle’ is therefore an example of a gathered object. Latour’s conclusion is that technologies (failing or otherwise) are active participants in the world.
  11. 11. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style In The social construction of what? (2000), science philosopher Ian Hacking uses examples from mental illness and child abuse to note that, • there is conflict between natural and social approaches; • lost in that debate are questions about how objects and ideas feature in dynamic classifications of ‘kinds’. Hacking proposes to distinguish between indifferent and interactive kinds. 11 6 Hacking’s kinds
  12. 12. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style Indifferent kinds • unaware of being classified • constantly (unchangingly) active • e.g. a pathology of deafness Interactive kinds • aware of being classified • dynamically interactive • e.g. deafness 12 6 Indifferent and interactive kinds However, Hacking’s analysis centres human agency and underdetermines the active participation of technological objects in social affairs, which seems substantively different in character. I therefore propose to include a third determinate kind that should be able to account for technical agency.
  13. 13. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style 13 interlude Interactive kinds & people Interactive kinds do not equal kinds of people: “Interactive is a new concept that applies not to people but to classifications, to kinds, to the kinds that can influence what is being classified. […] The classification hyperactive did not interact with children simply because the individual children heard the word and changed accordingly. It interacted with those who were so described in institutions and practices that were predicated upon classifying children as hyperactive.” Ian Hacking 1999:103
  14. 14. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style Determinate kinds are kinds that stabilise or ‘fix’ meanings in order to create the illusion of historical and synchronic, calculable equivalence. Enumeration is at the heart of determinate kinds. Determinate kinds serve a sociotechnical ecology aimed at furthering scientific and political (public) ends through technical and methodical means. 14 7 Determinate kinds
  15. 15. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style 15 Determinate kinds continued Example Indifferent kinds Interactive kinds Determinate kinds unaware of being classified aware of being classified unaware of being classified active but constant active and dynamic active and dynamically constant passive/unengaged active/engaged active/unengaged Deafness pathology (n) gene x Rubella … person (n) hearing impaired sign language user … technology (n) cochlear implant language test …
  16. 16. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style The linguistic meaning of ‘gathered objects’ and ideas can therefore be approximated by considering the indifferent, interactive and determinate qualities of their classification. While the example here focussed on deafness, other contested kinds can productively be analysed within this theoretical framework, including also many kinds that are formally established by the DSM-IV/V classification, including ADHD, autism and novelties such as hyper-sexuality. A theory of posthuman classifications challenges linguistic thought, notably in lexicography, semantics, and sociolinguistics. 16 8 Posthuman classifications
  17. 17. |Datum 27.10.2010 faculty of behavioural and social sciences pedagogy and educational science Click to edit Master title style 17 Thank you Ernst D. Thoutenhoofd Department of pedagogy & educational science Groningen University Grote Rozenstraat 38 9712 TJ Groningen e.d.thoutenhoofd@rug.nl www.slideshare.net/ernstt

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