World and Mind

August 17, 2010

Anti-Social Technologies Shape Minds Too

With all of the discussion, periodic moral panics really, of how social network technologies are making us anti-social I thought it was worth thinking about how these might be contrasted with the design of city-space. The technology of the contemporary built environment – CCTV in particular – is often premised on an inherently anti-social notion of controlling the socialisation of its inhabitants and ‘defensible space’. Anna Minton’s book indicates how central ‘fortressing’ has become to the build environment and to the future of our cities and how our public spaces are no longer really public in the traditional sense at all. We are not assumed to be civilized but rather we will act civilly because we are under observation.

See my review:

http://www.culturewars.org.uk/index.php/site/article/the_new_public_space/

Just to show no let up in the ‘social network technologies make us anti-social, deranged and lonely’ argument, here’s a recent article in the guardian on loneliness and facebook.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/aug/07/social-networking-friends-lonely

By the way it is of course true that lonely people might feel lonely when looking at facebook but it’s a sort of prior mistake to assume that the number of facebook friends you have indicate much about your intimate relationships.

We  seem less inclined to think too much at the broader factors shaping our sense of social isolation as described in Minton’s book and the way that social network technologies might be as much a response to features of urban environment rather than simply causing us to feel isolated.

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August 13, 2010

The Dialectic of wearing an iPod

I’m collecting some of my writings together and wanted them all accessible from one place. Here’s my review of Michael Bull’s book on iPod culture Sound Moves.

The Dialectic of Wearing an iPod.

I’m also revisiting this material at the moment in order to complete a chapter of my book – currently Chapter 2 – on Media-Technologies and the Mind. This looks at the way we use technologies such as google search, iPods and other digital media technologies to manage our cognitive and emotional lives.

I am very interested in getting some feedback on this material and will shortly be putting out copies of this and other chapters for discussion. Please get in touch if you are interested.

September 18, 2008

Brighton Salon Video: Durodie on Terrorism

Filed under: the Brighton Salon — by theuth @ 11:01 pm
Tags: ,

Just looking over some of the video of the Brighton Salon that Bright Media produced for us over the last couple of years. We’ll definitely be adding some more of this to our new website in the coming period. However here is one particularly nice one from last October:

http://www.bright-media.tv/index.php/The-Brighton-Salon/Brighton-Salon-Dr-Bill-Durodie.html

Bill’s argues that the suicide bomber need to be understood  not as some exotic phenomena of the troubled Middle East, nor as a simple response to British foreign policy but rather in terms of a deeply problematic  western intellectual dynamic. Rather than looking for understanding in the teachings of a faraway Madrassah, or even the process of radicalisation per se we need to look at closer at the self-loathing we find in much contemporary western thought. The comparison to other made-in-the-west nihlistic outbursts like Columbine is particularly striking as is Bill’s attempt to locate terrorism in a broader counter-cultural context.

For some more detail on the event see Sean Bell’s write-up of the discussion at: http://www.thebrightonsalonarena.com/?p=99

I’m planning to archive and make available the rest of this material over the next couple of weeks as the new Brighton Salon website takes shape.

September 10, 2007

Facebook and Friends – some thoughts for the upcoming meeting of the Brighton Salon

Filed under: Facebook,Social networking technologies,the Brighton Salon — by theuth @ 9:15 pm

 

It seems Facebook and social networking technologies more generally are going to loom large in this meeting, although perhaps this wasn’t what we envisaged when we first discussed getting Helen Birtwistle down to the Brighton Salon to talk on friendship. (see meeting details here)

It shows how things can change in a few months

Now it seems that the whole idea of friendship is being re-thought through the prism of social networking technologies (SNTs). It is not clear to me if this is as it first seems a complete overreaction. Rather, it might be the proper moment for some thought on what new forms of social engagement, ways of being and just ways of conducting everyday life these tools make possible.

From personal musings, reading a few of the endless articles on social networking technology in the press, talking to friends (and acquaintances) over the last couple of months, and just interacting via Facebook, there does seem to be something going on. But is it anything more than another fad?

If nothing else, I’m convinced from personal use that tools like Facebook are around to stay. Like the mobile phone and the word-processor before it, once you start using SNTs, and especially Facebook (which I think for a host of reasons is the current uber-SNT) it quickly becomes difficult to imagine what things were like before. They just seamlessly shift into becoming part of your life. Especially for those of us who spend much of our daily life in an office in at least the proximity of a computer, Facebook quickly becomes an invaluable aid to keep track of what is going on with whom. More intimately, it shifts into the background noise of life.

It seems to do a bit more than this though, and this brings us to friendship. Everyone on on a facebook page is represented (at least superficially) in the same way, and they are all your ‘friends”.

This leads me to ponder some deeper questions on SNTs and friendship:

Do they, SNTs, change the nature of friendship?

Or, do they just reveal something that has already happened to friendship and other intimate relationships?

Indeed, is it really true that friendship has changed?

What has and will happen to friendship in the time of Facebook?

Many people I have spoken to, and I admit myself at first, are deeply suspicious of using Facebook. Some just find it difficult to understand what you’d need these things for anyway. Why would you want to have this sort of drip-feed of information about many casual acquaintances. Isn’t it just an electronic version of that tiresome thing the round-robin letter. Doesn’t it actually efface what friendship is supposed to be about, i.e. deep personal contact. Isn’t the very point of friendship that your contact is personal and unmediated. Not a sort of broadcast to everyone you are in contact with. People obviously have very different standards on this and maybe Facebook encourages a little paranoia in those of us not comfortable with letting it all hang-out to an open-ended world of not just those we know, but strangers.

One thing that I won’t say too much on (as I don’t want to steal our speaker’s thunder) is that Facebook in particular seems to collapse a whole bunch of distinctions between, acquaintances, work-mates, family and of course genuine friends. The worry of course is that our intimate relationships become more instrumental in the process. We think of our friends as colleagues and visa-versa. Distinctions that were once central, useful, and played a role in our self-definitions, tend to become blurred.

We see this in how some embrace Facebook in a way that make many of us both suspicious and a bit queezy. Examples are those, innocent souls, who put lots of intimate details on their face-book page without even bothering to turn on the privacy settings. Do you really want the whole world to know your girlfriend’s just dumped you. Or, all your colleagues to see pictures of how you dress up on the weekend. Perhaps the most interesting thing – and again I’m speaking from personal experience here – is how quickly ones boundaries change. Will the nature of our friendships change with them?

Just a few thoughts then and obviously there’s a lot to think about here. I’m very much looking forward to our next discussion.

August 5, 2007

Machine Consciousness: Embodiment and Imagination

Filed under: Cognitive Science,machine consciousness — by theuth @ 7:49 pm

The special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies I edited with Steve Torrance and Ron Chrisley is now available and part of it is online. There’s some more details here. There is also an explication of this little fella:

Fred the machine butterfly

July 11, 2007

What is Facebook *really* for?

Filed under: Cognitive Science,How will we live? — by theuth @ 10:48 am

I’ve started mucking about with facebook. I’m calling this research perhaps because it makes my uneasy to think I am doing this for fun, although plainly there is some of this to be had …

So what’s the research angle? I’m interested in trying to understand how technologies like this help reconstruct subjectivity.

Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t think that technology determines subjectivity in the strong sense but I do think it opens up and closes of spaces of possibility.

I’ll let you know the fruits of this “research” over the coming weeks.

June 10, 2007

Where will we live?

Filed under: How will we live? — by theuth @ 10:34 pm

This article in the telegraph last week reckoned that in 20 years time there house prices will be ten times current yearly earnings. This price inflation though takes place against a background of rather impoverished housing stock. Perhaps one of more inflated areas is our own Brighton. Yet the quality of much Brighton housing is some of the lowest in the country. Here are a few interesting facts from the Brighton and Hove housing report based on the 2001 census.

“According to the results from the 2001 census Brighton & Hove has the highest
percentage of overcrowded households outside London. Nearly thirteen percent of
households (a total of 14,517, just over one in eight households) are overcrowded
according to the Office for National Statistics definition. The average number of rooms
per household (4.66) is also lower in the city than the South East average (5.57) and
England & Wales average (5.34).”

Just to put this in context, by the same definition, it is estimated that about 6% are overcrowded in the south-east in general. Moreover the general standard of housing itself is pretty poor. The report continues

“Brighton & Hove has a comparatively lower percentage of households with central
heating and sole use of bath/shower and toilet. It has the fifth highest percentage of
households in England & Wales without central heating or sole use of bath/shower and
toilet.”

A few months back we had the very brilliant James Heartfield down to speak to the Brighton Salon about his book Let’s Build. In the book Heartfield argues that the current property boom is fuelled, in part by hot money looking for a home in times where profitable investment is hard to come by, but in large part because the current “planning” laws operate to stop much needed house building taking place. In effect prices are being kept artificially high by putting restrictions on building. Something which is very clear when you consider the amount of protest which takes place when someone threatens to actually build some new housing in Brighton (i.e. the furore about planning permission for the King Alfred development).

May 4, 2007

How does culture interact with minds

Filed under: Uncategorized — by theuth @ 2:03 pm

How does culture interact with minds. Do cultures literally evolve? I have recently been involved in some discussion of this question on the interdisciplines website. My introductory article is reproduced below and there is some more discussion and response to this over on the interdisciplines website: http://www.interdisciplines.org/adaptation/papers/11/version/original

The means of the organisation of the human mind: social, biological and technological.

What sort of science should a science of human representation be? Will the main principles and regularities turn out to be continuous with the biological sciences or will we need to look to additional principles in our understanding? This is rather too large a question and so my primary purpose here is to draw attention to some of the specifics of the development of human minds and the laws and regularities governing their construction, across various time scales, in human social systems. I will contrast this approach with two competitors, the first which sees our minds primarily as grounds for pseudo-biological replication and the other which sees our mental powers as being embedded in (perhaps even composed of) a mesh of technological devices.

I will attempt an alternative path that seeks to understand the systems of representation that govern human minds as being social in origin, formed around our tendency toward sign-mediated interpretation (and, indeed, over-interpretation). By examining some of the principles underlying this form of interpretation I assess the claim that human representation is structured by, and pivots around, material symbol systems (Clark 2006). While I think there is something basically correct about this claim I shall argue that the principles by which these systems are structured and maintained are semiotic and can only partially be characterised in a narrowly technological way. Our minds are born embedded in a web of social interpretation and this allows us to develop unique cognitive abilities. The distinctive character of human cognitive processes may indeed pivot around material symbol systems but what material symbol systems are is not exhausted by a technological description.

The nature of this embedding is, however, controversial and, I’ll argue, often misconceived. Human minds are not merely embedded in a world of technological systems and processes – even when broadly conceived – but are embedded in systems of interpretation. These systems of interpretation are organised in a variety of time-scales and it is through the co-ordination of interpretational means that our minds come to embody some of their unique powers. In what follows, I will discuss how semiotic systems co-ordinate and construct minds across the organismic boundary; at least as classically-understood. Semiotic systems structure minds through many different processes, but we can broadly categorise them through their organisation at three different time-scales. These are, the timescale of semiotic sedimentation: the cultural time-scale over which sign systems are produced and structured and maintained as an emergent property of all of the interpretational activity in a system of communicating beings. Next, is the timescale of semiotic induction, when a child is taken-up by a process that I call constructive semiosis and through this induced into normative social practices, especially auto-interpretation? Finally, there is the time-scale of self-regulation via signs which encompasses the processes through which we regulate ourselves with semiotically produced means, striving to make ourselves coherent and predictable.

Selectionist theories of culture: An ecology of memes, or semiotic sedimentation.

Memetics proposes a quasi-biological theory of culture, i.e., that there are units of cultural selection that are literally propagated between minds. The propagation of these units is held to be in some sense analogous with the way genes are propagated by the copying of DNA. Tightly defining what precisely is being replicated under the memetic approach is not an easy task as habits, trends and fads all seem to be equally well captured. However, central to the idea is that beliefs and desires, those old targets of folk psychology, can be copied. Memetics, then, is controversially an ‘epidemiology of beliefs’(Sperber 1996). It proposes a selectionist perspective on how beliefs and desires are propagated through minds. In order to better understand this perspective we are enjoined by Dennett, among others, to take the ‘memes-eye-view’ (Dennett 1998). Such a view demands that we see minds not as active agents whose motivational structure can be understood by beliefs and desires, i.e., via the folk-psychological or intentional stance, but rather as receptacles for colonisation by these ‘ideas with attitude’.

Space does not allow a detailed critique of memetics, so I’ll limit myself to a couple of comments and then contrast it with an alternative account of the dynamics of cultural systems. Perhaps the central problem with the memetic theory is that it does not give us any mechanisms to understand the processes by which memes are replicated. Indeed, the mechanisms by which memes appropriate minds seem quite mysterious. Having cast mind as the medium through which memes are selectively propagated, the memes theorist should surely attempt to identify some of the principles by which this propagation takes place. A review of some of the things that have at one time or another been claimed to be memetically reproduced, e.g. the wearing of baseball caps, belief in god, the first couple of bars of Beethoven’s fifth; might make us suspicious as to whether there are any strong principles to be found in this area.

These memetic principles should also ex hypothesis be at least similar to those we find in natural selection. But what are the phenotypes of memes, what are their genotypes and what are their units and mechanisms of selection? Moreover, there is no great indication that much progress has been made in identifying these entities since the original development of the idea (Dawkins 1976). While the possibility of finding respectable analogues for such entities in a memetic science cannot be ruled out at this time, there is a suspicion that the lack of much progress hereabouts points toward fundamental difficulties with the idea.

There are, I think, competitor theories in this area that make much better sense of the sorts of regularities memetic theory hopes to account for, have a selectionist element, but target not ideas and attitudes as the units of selection, but their occasional vehicles and mediators: words and sentences. In addition, we already start to understand some of the selectional mechanisms and principles of organisation that stand behind signs and their role in the organisation of mind. These principles of semiotic organisation have little to do, except by very rough analogy, with the principles of operation of DNA and RNA and the way these are transcribed and used to construct and regulate cells and their assemblies and, ultimately, bodies and brains. The argument for memes proceeds by analogy but I think it is blocked by a much better developed and better targeted theory in this area. I now want to contrast the memes theory with an alternative approach to cultural selection that identifies regularities and mechanisms that take place not on beliefs themselves but on their intermediaries, i.e., signs.

Semiotics is the theory of sign systems: what signs are, how they work, and how they evolve. Semiotics may have seemed once upon a time to be a purely descriptive or hermeneutic science a long way from naturalism, but at least since Millikan’s (1984) work it has at least seemed possible to reconcile theories of signs with a naturalist epistemology[1]. However, making it possible to study the propagation and maintenance of systems of signs on a mechanistic basis has largely been a recent development of the use of multi-agent simulation systems.

Of great interest in this area is the work of Luc Steels and his collaborators who have used multi-agent systems to model the dynamics of language and other sign systems[2]. I take these studies not to address the actual processes by which signs are propagated and maintained among human beings, but rather how a population of agents can construct and maintain a coherent system of signs using some quite simple interpretational mechanisms. This work has shown how a semiotic system can be regarded as an emergent property of the individual acts of interpretation of an ecology of agents co-ordinating their activities through a system of shared communicational means, (cf. Steels and Kaplan 1999; Kaplan 2000; Steels 2000).

At the heart of these language-game experiments are not just a selectionist framework but acts of proto-interpretation. One episode of such an interpretational activity can be characterised as follows:

  1. A speaking agent formulates a prospective utterance based on an association between a word-form and a meaning-form.
  2. The speaker utters its chosen word-form.
  3. The listener attempts to map the chosen word-form onto a referent in the environment
  4. Either all is well and in the event of communicational success both parties strengthen the connection between meaning-form and word-form,
  5. Or else, the communication is unsuccessful and both communication participants weaken the weightings of their previous associations between word-form and meaning-form.

The above description delineates the bare outline of an approach to the emergence of sign-systems garnered from the study of simple multi-agent systems[3]. It allows us the following insights. The dynamics that maintain a semiotic system can arise from the collective activities of interacting agents. They are emergent processes which allow complex systems of sign-organisation to become established from very minimal interpretational activities. They also require no spooky mechanisms by which beliefs can be propagated between minds. Signs and their systems are maintained by the process of agents attempting to ‘guess’ at the referencing acts of other agents[4]. Semiotic sedimentation, as I intend the idea here, is the process by which systems of sign interpretation are not just produced, co-ordinated and maintained between minds, but the way these are accreted into established systems of practice that regulate those minds. Such processes can construct and lay down systems of signs very rapidly[5], but more typically work over longer timescales than the lives of individual agents.

This then is a substantial point of contrast between memetic theory and a theory based on the dynamics of semiotic systems. According to the semiotic approach, it is not beliefs and desires themselves that are refined but, rather, the systems of interpretation of their occasional vehicles: words, sentences and other linguistic devices. These structures are then employed to co-ordinate beliefs and desires.

I claimed above that the memes theory as it stands has not very much by way proprietary mechanisms with which it could be properly explicated. It is merely the claim that culture is organised by mechanisms that have a rough analogy with natural selection. By contrast a theory of semiotic organisation provides potential proprietary mechanisms by which sign systems are organised and through them the representational systems of mind. However, the mechanisms by which such sign-systems are really structured between minds have only been sketched in their barest outline so far. Such a theory needs to be connected with mechanisms that explain the development of individual minds as sign interpreters. To understand these processes we need to look at a different time-scale.

Scaffolding and constructive semiosis.

In the study of the development of the child, we find a plethora of mechanisms dedicated to the propagation of signs[6]. What we find here are systems of complex processes by which the developing child’s activities are regulated, first by interaction with the mother and then by interaction with a much broader society of caregivers and others.

One of the most salient features of this scaffolding arrangement is that mothers do a lot of work – albeit some of it unconscious – to introduce children into the cultural word. A central way in which this is accomplished is by literally interpreting minds into existence, i.e. by applying an interpretational skein of beliefs and desires and their supporting mechanisms. To put this in an alternative way, human minds are produced by applying the intentional stance. While I use Dennett’s terminology I want to put a slant on it which although not entirely absent from Dennett’s work is perhaps not emphasized as much as it should be. Applying the intentional stance to at least a certain class of beings is not merely an interpretational mechanism. Rather it serves to render their minds explainable and open to prediction. Intentional interpretation – or rather over-interpretation – is a mechanism that makes at least a certain class of systems more felicitously encompassed by the intentional stance in the future. Not all systems are, of course, so affected by interpretation. Thermostats, paramecia, geckos and most primates do not seem to be much affected by being subjected to systematic interpretations. Human infants, on the other hand are.

Stephen Cowley makes this apparent in research into the way that children’s minds are interpreted and transformed by embedding in a particular socio-cultural niche. He shows that there are important and measurable effects on the child’s behaviour in even the early weeks of life. In one nice example, Cowley discusses how speakers of isiZulu teach a baby to show ukuhlonipha (glossed as respect). This method of calming babies appears to be quite different from that used by Indian and White populations but is effective from as early as 14 weeks. Moreover as Cowley shows, the way in which babies take up these cultural patterns is controlled by semiotic means and embedded in an intentionally-inflected interpretational framework[7].

Human infants, virtually from the moment they are born, are caught up in this framework of intentional interpretation. Their mothers almost immediately set about capturing their gestures and actions in a range of activities – descriptions, labelling and pointings-out – that are all intentionally structured.

Further, these systems of interpretation are not very tightly constrained across cultures. Although many philosophers once held that folk psychology is largely a cross-cultural and ahistorical beast, empirical evidence has demonstrated the limitations of this thought (Lillard 1998). Folk-psychologies may turn out to be much more variable than was once understood, and they will not likely turn out to be intentional in the precise sense of the Western model. However, interpretation into culturally expected standards of mind is something which we do find across all cultures. We need to understand the mechanisms by which minds like ours move from being systems that are only poorly captured by the standard belief / desire theory to being consummately covered by it. If I am right, this is another reason – apart from the reason that it is a mistake to see folk-psychology as theoretical rather than practical – as to why calling folk psychology a theory is to make a kind of category error, or at least that this is not only what taking the intentional stance consists in. Taking the intentional stance is not just a means of interpretation but a means of transformation[8].

But, are these processed mediated by signs as I have previously claimed they are? To see how I’ll discuss a related theory of how language is involved in cognition which I think closely relates to our discussion, i.e. the theory of material symbols developed by Andy Clark (Clark 2006)[9].

Material Symbols and their semiotic embedding.

According to Andy Clark, language is to be understood not just as a biological adaptation but “a species of external artifact whose current adaptive value is partially constituted by its role in re-shaping the kinds of computational space that our biological brains must negotiate” (Clark 1998). Words compose material symbol systems: structures in which we become embedded and which complement the native representational systems of our brains. Through interacting with these systems, we come to develop and sustain the sorts of cognitive powers that are most characteristic of the human species[10].

For Clark material symbols play a unique role in ongoing human cognition in virtue of their material form. Material symbols function in part by providing pared-down targets for cognition without some of the rich and distracting concreteness of whatever they stand in for. In one of Clark’s illustrative examples the symbol-trained ape Sheba is able to gain a subtler mode of control of her own activities precisely because she only shallowly interprets the symbol. The original task confronting Sheba is to point to one of two piles of treats. Sheba should point to the smaller pile in order for the experimenters to give her the larger. However, she fails to do this in the face of the rich sensual presence of the treats. Sheba can however point to a symbol representing the smaller pile of food however and so get the larger pile. Clark argues this demonstrates a central way that material symbols complement brains, i.e. by providing manipulable but shallowly interpreted stand-ins[11].

Perhaps because Clark is concerned to give an account of the cognitive powers conferred by material symbol systems, he has much less to say about the systems of interpretation on which those symbol systems depend. What could be missed on this account is that it is the social embedding of symbols that not only confer their unique cognitive powers, but also what makes them symbol-systems in the first place. What seems obscured on the material symbol systems view is the way that symbols arise from and are embedded in a system of interpretation, i.e., the way in which symbols are signs.

The importance of semiotic embedding over too extreme a focus on the materiality of symbols does, I think, become clear when we consider some of the variety of the instantiation of human languages. Sign or gesture based languages seem to be every bit as cognitively felicitous as vocally instantiated ones, yet although there may be some relevant differences between the sorts of sign systems which could be built in either media, the same underlying mind producing regularities arise. Minds which are able to manipulate and interpret systems of signs seem to have remarkably similar powers whether the symbols are instantiated in fluttering vocal chords or in gesticulating fingers. In part Clark has accounted for this by arguing that it is because symbols are abstract that they have the cognitive properties they do. Yet this seems to cast doubt on the very materiality claim. It seems that the powers of ‘material symbols’ are actually multiply realizable and their cognitive effects can be found broadly whenever held in the right sort of interpretational framework.

Clark makes a strong case that our minds have the character they have because of their embedding in a world of linguistic technology. However, it is the interpretational nexus in which this ‘technology’ is framed that is the real source of some of our most subtle and complex cognitive powers. While the so-called ‘material’ dimension of symbols is undoubtedly important, it is only by paying attention to their semiotic, interpretational embedding that we can understand their central cognitive properties.

From semiotic coordination to self-interpretation.

We are inveterate self-interpreters using a complex scheme of hermeneutic means to examine and motivate our mental lives. While some of us are more reflexive in our thinking than others, it seems likely that it is also definitive of being human that we at least some of the time reflect upon our own motivations and desires. Does this reflexive capability rely on semiotic means? I think there is good evidence it does.

One place to look for clarification of the role of auto-interpretation is in developmental psychology which pays close attention to micro-genesis, i.e., the transitory episodes by which mind is interpreted into life. What we find in microdevelopmental episodes is the autonomous, creative and second-by-second adoption of semiotic props to structure activities. In a recent paper Sinha (2005) discusses the way in which Brazilian children appropriate a television character Beto Carrero into an episode of play. The television character has a characteristic cowboy hat. In a play episode Sinha analyses how this cowboy hat is taken up and re-interpreted in a blend which incorporates both some of the characteristics of the TV character but is also feminised and transformed in a way that is appropriate to the gendered characteristics of the children playing the game. This re-interpretation itself pivots around an actual cowboy hat with which the girls are playing. Here we find not a shallow interpretation but a deep and subtle re-interpretation of the material signs available[12].

The use here of semiotic systems and their moment-by-moment incorporation into structured activities is not an exception but the norm of everyday child development and of course of adult life. It is a process of self-construction, of bringing a complex agent to life through self-interpretation according to social norms and regularities.

Through folk practices, children are inducted into a world of intentional ascriptions by which they come to practice interpreting both the minds of others and themselves. But achieving such a feat is not just a matter of conforming to outside pressures to play language games, but rather to consider oneself as the proper place where intentional ascriptions find their focus. Not merely as a confluence of beliefs and desires but as an agent governed by reasons and socially prescribed norms. Such a view of norm-governed auto-interpretation gives us the key to why beings like us are the proper province of the intentional stance and not other animals or artefacts that may be derivatively captured with more or less accuracy or under a wider or narrower range of circumstances. We, unlike any other actually existing system, internalise the interpretative systems of folk psychology and use them to govern our actions. Self is the outcome of auto-interpretation mediated by the interpretative system provided by folk-psychology.

I have tried to outline the role of semiotic interpretation in the human mind and the part it plays in determining our unique cognitive skills. I have emphasized how this process is organised over different time-scales and how the semiotic approach is at least consistent with the move toward a science of embedded cognitive systems and mind. Semiotic systems are shaped over cultural time, are drawn upon in developmental time, when we are literally interpreted into mindfulness, and are then used by human beings to organise their moment-by-moment ongoing activities. Understanding the nature of representation in human minds will require paying attention to the multiple time-scales over which the means of representation are organised.

References

Bickerton, D. (1990). Language and Species, University of Chicago Press.

Boysen, S. T., G. Bernston, et al. (1996). Quantity-based inference and symbolic representation in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes 22: 76-86.

Clark, A. (1998). Magic Words: How Language Augments Human Computation. Language and Thought. Interdisciplary Themes. P. Carruthers and J. Boucher. Oxford, Oxford University Press: 162 – 183.

Clark, A. (2006). Material Symbols. Philosophical Psychology 19(3): 291-307.

Cowley, S. J., S. Moodley, et al. (2004). Grounding Signs of Culture: Primary Intersubjectivity in Social Semiosis. Mind Culture and Activity 11(2): 109-132.

Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Deacon, T. W. (1997). The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the human brain, The Penguin Press, Penguin Book Ltd.

Deacon, T. W. (1999). Memes as Signs – The trouble with memes (and what to do about them). The Semiotic Review of Books 10(3): 1-3.

Dennett, D. C. (1998). Memes: Myths, Misunderstandings and Misgivings. Manuscript presented at The Chapel Hill Colloquium, October.

Gallagher, S. (2001). The Practice of Mind. Journal of Consciousness Studies 8(5-7): 83-108.

Kaplan, F. (2000). Semiotic schemata: Selection units for linguistic cultural evolution. Proceedings of Artificial Life 7, MA, MIT Press.

Lillard, A. (1998). Ethnopsychologies: Cultural variations in theories of mind. Psychological Bulletin 123: 3-32.

McGeer, V. (2001). Psycho-practice, psycho-theory and the contrastive case of autism. How practices of mind become second-nature. Journal of Consciousness Studies 5-7: 109-132.

Millikan, R. G. (1984). Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.

Sinha, C. (1988). Language and Representation: a socio-naturalistic approach to human development, Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Sinha, C. (2005). Blending out of the background: Play, props and staging in the material world. Journal of Pragmatics 37(2): 1537-1554.

Sperber, D. (1996). Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach. Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Inc.

Steels, L. (1999). The Talking Heads Experiment: Volume I. Words and Meanings. Antwerpen, Laboratorium.

Steels, L. (2000). Language as a Complex Adaptive System. Proceedings of PPSN VI. M. Schoenauer, Springer-Verlag.

Steels, L. and F. Kaplan (1999). Collective learning and semiotic dynamics. Advances in Artificial Life (ECAL 99), Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence. D. Floreano, J. D. Nicoud and F. Mondada. Berlin, Springer-Verlag: 679-688.

Steels, L., F. Kaplan, et al. (2002). Crucial factors in the origins of word-meaning. The Transition to Language. A. Wray. Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press.

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