Saturday, August 8, 2009

The saga will continue . . .

This blog will continue at wordpress (

I'll continue to post from time to time on writing, music, writing music, thinking, teaching and learning, teaching and learning writing . . .

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Transactional Analysis: Scripts or Life-narratives

(From wikipedia [edited])

TA (see Eric Berne, Games People Play [New York: Grove Press, 1964]) introduces the idea of a "Life (or Childhood) Script," that is, a story one perceives about one's own life (a life story), to answer questions such as "What matters?," "How do I get along in life?" and "What kind of person am I?." This narrative is often stuck to no matter the consequences, to "prove" one is right, even at the cost of pain, compulsion, self-defeating behaviour and other dysfunction. (Scripts are addressed most fully in Berne's What Do You Say After You Say Hello? The Psychology of Human Destiny [Grove P, 1972]).


  • A script is a life plan, directed to a reward.
  • A script is decisional and responsive, i.e., decided upon in childhood in response to perceptions of the world and as a means of living with and making sense of the world. It is not just thrust upon a person by external forces.
  • A script is reinforced by parents (or other influential people and/or experiences).
  • A script is for the most part outside awareness.
  • A script is how we navigate and what we look for, the rest of reality is redefined (distorted) to match our filters.

Each culture, country and people has a mythos, that is, a legend explaining its origins, core beliefs and purpose. According to TA, so do individual people. A person begins writing their own script at a young age, as they try to make sense of the world and his place within it. Although it is revised throughout life, the core story is selected and decided upon typically by age 7. As adults it passes out of awareness. A life script might be "to be hurt many times, and suffer and make others feel bad when I die," and could result in a person indeed setting himself up for this, by adopting behaviours in childhood that produce exactly this effect. Though Berne identified several dozen common scripts, there are a practically infinite number of them. Though often destructive, scripts can just as easily be positive or beneficial.

[The term comes from "behaviourist" linguistics: a behavioural script is a sequence of expected behaviours for a given situation, routine, habitual or practised, cf. Shrank's linguistic scripts in AI (R.C. Schank & R. Abelson, Scripts, Plans, Goals, and Understanding [Hillsdale, NJ: Earlbaum Assoc., 1977]). Memory is episodic, i.e., organized around personal experiences rather than semantic categories; thus, scripts are generalized episodes or schemas. In behaviour, individuals make inferences to scripts by filling in missing information in the schema; scripts enable case-based reasoning [CBR] on the four R's: retrieve, reuse, revise, retain.]

Redefining and Discounting

  • Redefining means deliberately (but unconsciously) distorting things to match our preferred way of seeing the world. Thus a person whose script involves "struggling alone against a cold hard world" may redefine others' kindness, concluding that others are trying to get something by manipulation.
  • Discounting means taking something as worth less than it is. The person might give a substitute reaction that does not originate as a here-and-now adult attempt to solve the actual problem or choose not to see evidence that would contradict their script. Types of discount can include passivity (doing nothing), over-adaptation, agitation, incapacitation, anger and violence.

Injunctions and Drivers

TA identifies twelve key injunctions that people commonly build into their scripts. These arepowerful "I can't/mustn't . . ." messages that are embedded in a child's belief and life-script:

  • Don't be (don't exist)!
  • Don't be who you are!
  • Don't be a child!
  • Don't grow up!
  • Don't make it in your life!
  • Don't do anything!
  • Don't be important!
  • Don't belong!
  • Don't be close!
  • Don't be well (don't be sane)!
  • Don't think!
  • Don't feel!
In addition, there is the so-called episcript:
"You should (or deserve to) have this happen in your life, so it doesn't have to happen to me" (magical thinking on the part of the parent[s]).

Against these, a child is often told other things he or she must do. These are the drivers:

  • Please (me/others)!
  • Be perfect!
  • Be strong!
  • Try hard!
  • Hurry up!
  • Be careful!

Thus, in creating their script, a child will often attempt to juggle these drivers, example: "It's okay for me to go on living (ignore don't exist) so long as I try hard."

This explains why some change is inordinately difficult. To continue the above example: When a person stops trying hard and relaxes to be with their family, the injunction You don't have the right to exist that was being suppressed by their script now becomes exposed and threatening. They may feel a massive psychological pressure which they themselves doesn't understand, to return to trying hard, in order to feel safe and justified (in a childlike way) in existing.

Driver behaviour is also detectable at a very small scale, for instance in instinctive responses to certain situations where driver behaviour is played out over five to twenty seconds.

Broadly speaking, scripts can be tragic, heroic or banal (or non-winner).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Joseph Heath—Filthy Lucre: Economics for People Who Hate Capitalism

Something new from the co-author of The Rebel Sell . . .

A blurb:
Every day, people use financial claims to support an array of social or political opinions, rooting everything back to the money. But how much of what they say is actually true? Joseph Heath, author of the international bestseller The Rebel Sell, sets out to show how most of our commonly held beliefs about economics are just plain wrong. Free of the financial jargon aimed to confuse unsuspecting citizens, Filthy Lucre draws on everyday examples to show the 6 favourite fallacies of the right, and then the 6 of the left.
An excerpt. An interview.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


It is assumed that maieutics was created by the historical Socrates, because Socrates discusses it in Plato’s Symposium and Thaetetus. But the method may well have evolved out of Orphic practice, to which the idea of reminiscence and the practice of catharsis are central; it was certainly a technique characteristic of the Socratic School.

However, it does differ from what is more typically called the Socratic method, a.k.a. elenchus (elengkhos, "refutation," "testing"), which aims to help the interlocutor understand that what they think is a true idea is really a false prejudice
it aims to correct—or, at least, understand—error (= looking for assumptions, including fumble-rules and leaping/stumbling logic, i.e. enthymemes [a.k.a. “rhetorical syllogisms,” with missing warrants and backings], in their thinking about a question or problem
This is Socrates as gadfly.

Maieutics aims to draw some innate idea from the interlocutor
it aims to elicit truth (= using their experience and expertise to understand their question or problem)
This is Socrates as midwife.

Elenchus works on those who think they know something, but really don’t; maieutics works on those who know something, but don’t know that they do.

Alternatively, the two methods can be understood as parts of a process.

The basic elements of the Socratic dialogue are the question and answer [elenchus—aporia], the debate [maieutics—anamnesis] and the conclusion [aletheia].

So there are three phases:
  1. elenchus: The student responds to the teacher’s question, (hopefully or faithfully) assuming that what they say is true. The philosopher asks further questions until the student comes to the conclusion that what they took to be true was mistaken or a mistaken assumption [= a negative, a.k.a. privative, method or method of doubt—aporia].
  2. maieutics: Now freed from prejudice, the student is invited to continue the dialogue in pursuit of a truth (assumed to be [!]) innate in them [= a positive method or method of invention—anamnesis].
  3. aletheia [“truth”]: Truth, what was hidden [-letheia], is what is revealed [a-letheia] in the process.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Engineering Flow

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi ("Chick-send-me-high") identifies nine factors that accompany the experience of flow in a practice or process, i.e. a "game":

1. You are clear about the rules of the game and your expectations of itand your goals are achievable.

2. You find the game neither too easy nor too difficult (= a balance between skill and challenge).

3. During the game, you focus closely, i.e. intently and narrowly, and . . .

4. . . . adjust your behaviour immediately in response to moves in the game (= an uninterrupted feedback cycle).

5. As a result, you experience a merging of action and awareness, that is, . . .

6. . . . you feel absorbed in the activity itself, yet . . .

7. . . . in control.

8. Thus, the game feels timeless and . . .

9. . . . effortless.

Flow is thus ecstatic (ek-stasis: "outside-standing," i.e. standing outside, or rather, to one side of the everyday world and your everyday concerns) and engaged (en gage: "under pledge," i.e. fully committed to a task, knowing exactly what to do and how to do it).

Csíkszentmihályi conceives of flow as developmental: all going well, you can stay in the "flow channel," in which challenges and skills increase together by increments. This diagram is adapted from Flow (1990, 74):

Starting from position A in Figure 1, you move into an anxiety zone if the challenges of the game increase without a corresponding increase in skills (position B). To get back into the flow channel, any combination of skills improvement and decrease in difficulty will suffice, but the best (or most "fluid") move is a horizontal one, an increase in skills that enables you to move to position D. In a like manner, you can improve your skills while the difficulty of the game holds constant; you move from position A to position C, whereupon boredom sets in. To achieve flow you need to move toward position D by seeking a more challenging job. Of course, then position D becomes the new position A, and the cycle starts all over again.

See "Play and Intrinsic Rewards," Journal of Humanistic Psychology 15 (1975) 41-63 and Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (New York: Harper & Rowe, 1990).

Friday, July 10, 2009

Altermodern Manifesto: Postmodernism is Dead [like it was ever alive!]

By Nicolas Bourriaud, for the Tate Triennial [3 Feb. to 26 Apr.] 2009:
  1. A new modernity is emerging, reconfigured to an age of globalisation—understood in its economic, political and cultural aspects: an altermodern culture [a.k.a. global or "trans-national" modernity: "borders," "exiles," "energy" (?)]
  2. Increased communication, travel and migration are affecting the way we live [mobility]
  3. Our daily lives consist of journeys in a chaotic and teeming universe [itineracy]
  4. Multiculturalism and identity is being overtaken by creolisation [multiculturalism = atomic entities in suspension (cf. colloids), i.e. "rough" aggregates of simple entities; creolism = molecular entities in solution, i.e. "smooth" aggregates of compound entities]: Artists are now starting from a globalised state of culture [art ex hybridity]
  5. This new universalism is based on translations, subtitling and generalised dubbing [polyglotism]
  6. Today's art explores the bonds that text and image, time and space, weave between themselves [art pro hybridity: "docu-motion," "heterochronia"]
  7. Artists are responding to a new globalised perception. They traverse a cultural landscape saturated with signs and create new pathways between multiple formats of expression and communication [art per hybridity: "archive," "viatorisation"]
So, this (like Augé's supermodernity) is another way of saying what Fredric Jameson said many years ago: that postmodernism is just reconfigured, revaluated modernism.

Cf. his manifesto:
Many signs suggest that the historical period defined by postmodernism is coming to an end: multiculturalism and the discourse of identity is being overtaken by a planetary movement of creolisation; cultural relativism and deconstruction, substituted for modernist universalism, give us no weapons against the twofold threat of uniformity and mass culture and traditionalist, far-right, withdrawal. . . .

If twentieth-century modernism was above all a western cultural phenomenon, altermodernity arises out of planetary negotiations, discussions between agents from different cultures. Stripped of a centre, it can only be polyglot. [Thus, "[w]e are entering the era of universal subtitling, of generalised dubbing."] Altermodernity is characterised by translation, unlike the modernism of the twentieth century which spoke the abstract language of the colonial west, and postmodernism, which encloses artistic phenomena in origins and identities [?]. . . .

The artist becomes "homo viator," the prototype of the contemporary traveller whose passage through signs and formats refers to a contemporary experience of mobility, travel and transpassing. This evolution can be seen in the way works are made: a new type of form is appearing, the journey-form, made of lines drawn both in space and time, materialising trajectories rather than destinations. The form of the work expresses a course, a wandering, rather than a fixed space-time.

Themes [ed.]:
  1. energy: sustainability rather than the single explosive force
  2. travel: forms based on the experiences of travel—or travel as the form itself
  3. archive: chaining or clustering together signs from contemporary and historical periods
  4. docu-motion: fact melded with fiction
  5. heterochronia: existing within many times; questioning the notion of what is considered contemporary
  6. exiles: exploring the positives and negatives of exile
  7. borders: crossing not only national borders, but also the traditional artistic borders of form and medium
  8. viatorisation: the viator—traveller—giving movement and dynamism to form.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marc Augé Interviewed: "Places and Non-places—a Conversation with Marc Augé"

Augé interviewed (cf. Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity [1992; Verso, 1995]):
[1.] For me, place has never been an empirical notion. Anything can become a place, every space can be one, if in one manner or another encounters take place there that create social ties. A space can be either a place or a non-place, or a place for some and not for others. One classic case is the airport, which is a very different case for someone who works there regularly, with colleagues and relationships, and someone who passes through once only, or by chance.

[2.] The second point is that in the sometime nostalgic visions that we have of the past, we tend to consider the new as something that twists the nature of what existed before [past + vs present -]. And so place is good because we meet people and we establish relationships there, while the non-place is bad because there everyone is a stranger to everyone else [i.e. these new non-places are socially estranging].

That was not and is not my intention [i.e. to append valuations to these different spaces—yet is not the positive valuation of space apparent in the extract from "Non-Spaces" below?]. It is necessary to attempt to characterize whatever is new in the contemporary world and, in my opinion, what is new is a change of setting, a shift in references, which implies that spaces are no longer perceived in the same way. Non-places could be seen, approaching them from another vantage point, as the heirs to everything that has created discomfort or annoyance in the history of human spaces [
i.e. these non-places are estranging per se].

However, when reflecting upon the meaning of travel, we should consider that this negative definition of the non-place rules out the possibility of adventure. Encounters often take place in a space that is not yet symbolized, which cannot prescribe social relations; in a nonplace the notion of the unknown, the mysterious appears. Knights errant, the Knights of the Round Table, in the stories handed down to us from the Middle Ages, set off in search of adventure
That is, once upon a time, non-place was positive/cataphatic (i.e. known thru affirmation): it represented adventure and mystery (now it is negative/apophatic [i.e. known thru denial]: it represents rootlessness and estrangement). Perhaps the non-places Augé discusses are positive too?

See Adam Greenfield, "
On making non-place into place":
You know where this definition begins to break down, though? When you spend way too much time in non-place. All of a sudden, in a process that somewhat resembles a figure/ground reversal, these putatively anonymous and interstitial zones take on texture and resolution of their own. . . . [Then, one] can no longer see non-places . . . as entirely flat and featureless: I’ve learned that everything has texture if you see it often enough.

This place/non-place stuff is old hat (viz. Heidegger [in Malpas] and Foucault), but has spawned a new kitsch industry of "aesthetic pandering" for non-places like airports and other transport terminals, supermarkets, multinational corporate retail outlets, etc., as Dylan Trigg suggests at Side Effects; this is not to say that we haven't pandered for place thru the many avatars of Blut und Boden ideology (as Flusser suggests in his discussion of kitsch Heimat-worship): cf. the Heideggerian Edward Casey on place as "the bedrock of our being-in-the-world" (Getting Back Into Place [Indiana UP, 1993] xvi-xvii):
Place, at least in the view of the anthropologist, is a space long taken over by human beings and where something is said about relationships which human beings have with their own history, their natural environment and with one another.
Cf. Augé, "Non-Places," Architecturally Speaking: Practices of Art, Architecture, and the Everyday, ed. Alan Read (Routledge, 2000) 7-12:
Just as imagination takes us forward into the realm of the purely possible—into what might be—so memory brings us back into the domain of the actual and the already elapsed: to what has been. Place ushers us into what already is: namely, the environing subsoil of our embodiment, the bedrock of our being-in-the-world. If imagination projects us out beyond ourselves while memory takes us back behind ourselves, place subtends and enfolds us, lying perpetually under and around us. In imagining and remembering, we go into the ethereal and the thick respectively. By being in place, we find ourselves in what is subsistent and enveloping.