Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mind Map: Class Meeting 4/22/14

Suzanne's Mind Map

I have continued my consideration of networks and heterogeneity and networks and constraints. I have come to think of diversity as essential to survival and constraints as shaping forces. I feel that constraints can sometimes be hard, impenetrable boundaries that prevent a network from taking a particular shape or move in a certain direction. For example, a limit of technology functionality would fit into this category. The network grows as the technology allows.  However, the more interesting kind of constraint is the more abstract cultural or social constraint that perhaps even unconsciously shapes the network makers' minds, allowing or disallowing certain possibilities by set precedents - the proverbial box out of which we are always trying to think.

This week I added two nodes to the heterogeneity node: ISAs and  labor. Althusser argues that there are multiple, distinct, and relatively autonomous ISAs at work in a society. This diversity allows the State to maintain power even if revolutions disrupt several of the ISA structures. Labor skills must also be diverse in order to produce and reproduce in service of the market. This is part based on the idea that there is more than just the raw materials that make up an object; there are also all the goods and services required to produce those raw materials. Diversity is required to produce even the simplest goods. My daughter sits on my lap as I type. She is wearing a diaper. While the materials include cotton, elastic, and velcro, there are whole industries producing each item. Then there are the boxes that the diapers are sold in, the machines that make the diapers, and the trucks that ship them. Then there are the people and tools that service the machinery that produces the diapers. Then the machines and people that produce the tools that fix the diaper-making machines. It is a diverse and intertwined chain of production. The labor node is connected to the Ecology node arguing that diversity is necessary for survival.

Networks function with the same need for diverse inputs to both reproduce and maintain themselves (like labor) and to withstand area damage (like ISAs). However, ISAs are also linked in the map to constraints. ISAs are the kind of cultural and social constraints described above. They are the institutions that set precedents and shape our thinking about what is what and wrong, possible or impossible, useful or unnecessary. The State is then a constraint, made up of ISAs, with education being particularly effective at shaping thinking. ISAs are also connected to Gestalt because they are about setting patterns that shape thinking.

How can we recognize the constraints at work in shaping our own minds? Can we become self-aware of the forces shaping how and what we think. or is that kind of metacognition not possible? I suppose that my natural reaction to a boundary is to find ways to break it, to assume that the limitations it imposes are somehow negatively restrictive. I want to understand the network constraints and find ways to subvert them.

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