Archive for December, 2010

For the purpose of illustrating the use of “the social” as explanans or explanandum, I am reminded of a fun little anecdote I once heard, about the situations that we know as OCPs or outside context problems. This situations mean that we are confronted with a problem or a crisis that all patterns we have learned and become accustomed to cannot make even remotely make intelligible and cognizable what we are faced with.

It is said that the first American continent natives that were encountered by Columbus actually weren’t aware of Columbus arrival at first, because they didn’t even “see” the ships right in front of them. The story, as it sometimes told, is that only a priest or shaman could see some “ripples” on the horizon and gradually made sense of the visual input and alerted his tribesmen to the fact that there was something and slowly they tried to attune to the visual information guided by the shaman.

Only over time could they “see” the ships.

A “classic sociological” explanation of this story would argue that we might assume that among the natives, new developments where not “spoken of”, literally treated as non-existent, until an elder or shaman (a person with a specific status) recognized and reflected on the development, and allowed others to speak of it.

Of course other accounts (neurological, cognitive, psychological) of this anecdote – whether it’s actually true or not – are certainly also possible. However, I think it is a nice illustration of the two uses of “the social”, as well as of the need for information orders.

As for patterns and the mind, I have myself made this peculiar experience once waking up that shows how the mind is “booting” waking-world interpretation maps. I was at my ex’s sleeping with her two dogs cuddled up on her bed with us. I was waking up and opening my eyes looking at a weird dragon creature oozing up toward me. The dragon creature was actually the two sleeping and unmoving dogs. In other words, my mind was trying to make sense of the information input and tried to order it somehow intelligibly, in waking up this was an attuning process, creating the impression of movement. It was a truly interesting process that helped me understand much about how the mind actually works. I also think that it was an accident, a random short-circuit, that my consciousness was “up” before my “waking world”-interpretation map was loaded.


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