Edwards & Potter 1992 pp. 1-76

Intro and Chapter 1

“So, by offering a report rather than, say, directly making an accusation, speakers do not ensure a certain interactional outcome, but seek to garner the accountability of ‘just telling it how it is’” (p. 3). This reminds me of the Paula Deen interview. She was telling it how it is through stories and declarations. She was raised in such and such way, she’s comforting friends who are distraught, “I is who I is,” etc.

I like their descriptors on page 5 of restriction and gross categorization. The blurred picture metaphor is a good metaphor for what you get with descriptive statistics. Blur the confusing detail away–but the confusing detail is at times where we find beauty.

This quote reminds me of what I was saying about objectivity being given credence and subjectivity being dismissed: Page 8: why is it that consensus and disinterest should be the norm, the baseline, while conflict and stake are secondary, something parasitic (Derrida, 1977a) on the norm?

“…the epistemologies of our everyday discourses are organized around adequacy and usefulness rather than validity and correctness” (p. 16). To me this is a choice–I can orient myself to everyday discourse in many ways, and one of them is that correctness exists as a social norm, but what is there in the world but social norms? It seems the existence of social norms is the reason DP rejects validity and correctness.

“Versions of mind, of thought and error, inference and reason, are constructed and implied in order to bolster or undermine versions of events, to accuse or criticize, blame or excuse and so on” (p. 16). I would argue that versions of mind, etc. can be interpreted as or are accidentally constructed in order to bolster or undermine, etc.

“Studying everyday discourse undermines the effort to apply laboratory findings to worldly practices and encourages their reappraisal of the relations between language and cognition” (p. 17). But if discourse constructs the world, this is a reach. People can and do apply lab findings to the world, thereby creating a world in its image. This is where critical discourse analysis comes in for me: the stories we tell about the world have power over the world. And the stories of people in power have the most influence. I guess that’s the whole reason Edwards and Potter had to write this book!

One of my favorite lines of text from all of grad school so far: “It is doubtful that we could have evolved as mere confabulists and dreamers” (p.19). This is way funnier for me than Einstein’s God doesn’t play dice, but captures the same spirit. I also thoroughly enjoyed the straw-man sidebar.

One major argument they have is that the lab is fake and the real world is real. So I guess they aren’t all that post-structuralist? Or they are selectively post-structural? This brings me back to my point above, and they say, “language emerges as a reality-constituting practice” (p. 27). All language, whether the product of the lab or of “naturalistic” settings, constitutes the world. It seems to me that they are taking human inconsistency as proof that cognition doesn’t exist, or at least that the epistemology of cognitivism doesn’t actually serve us (and social scientific) enterprise as well as DP. They finish the line from p. 27 with “the mapping of descriptions onto a cognitive or worldly reality is made complicated and interesting, by the indefinitely many ways in which it might be done.” But I argue that humans are not so inconsistent as all that. Human tendencies and ways of perceiving the world exist, especially in contrast to, say, insect tendencies and ways of perceiving the world.

Chapter 2:

Poor Neisser. But maybe he didn’t care what Edwards and Potter thought of his work either way. I find the way E & P build up the different levels of memory convincing:
Gist is nebulous. The next level, repisodic, is even more abstract, and it’s still open to interpretations! I think that solidifies the case for treating accounts as situated and active.
Interesting to see the citation on p. 39 about teachers and lesson plans. When I tell my current students about lessons I’ve done, I always feel like I’m leaving out so much. But I have to leave out details, or it would take too long to tell the story. “Such a corpus would be potentially infinite; and long before the task was even started the important issues would be clouded for all in the [class]room” (p. 51).
I like to think I would get credit at least on the repisodic level of memory:).
An aside/example:
There are many ways I could qualify what just happened in my life. I slept away the afternoon. When I say it like that, the impression is that I wasted time, underutilized the resource I have. I’m giving myself a hard time. I could also say that I needed that nap! This is a much more forgiving way of saying it. the nap was justified, I mean, come on, I drove to Atlanta at 11 yesterday, ran 5 miles with some guys who run way more often than me, and drove back to Knoxville all in like 24 hours. Which version of events I construct depends on whom I construct it for and for what purpose. Am I going to be hard on myself, forgiving, or what? Another version might be, “me and the cat just slept for 2 hours.” That is a cuter version. The questions I think E & P might ask would be along the lines of, “What is at stake with each potential version of events?” “Who are you telling about your nap?” “Was the telling about the nap voluntary or spurred by a question?” [The answer to their question is that I am telling about my nap in order to demonstrate what I am understanding from what I am reading about DP’s treatment of memory and reconstruction of events.]
Rather than taking what I say about the nap “as a (fairly direct) window upon [my] memory, [E & P] propose that it may be taken instead as a pragmatically designed piece of discourse. It is a series of accounts, occasioned by [whatever occasioned it], and orientated towards the avoidance and assigning of blame and mitigation [more or less]” (p. 41).
“We can start to see…the way that Dean’s memory accounts are carefully designed to fit the…context, and that Neisser’s reading of them, as revealing the natural workings of memory, is just one of a variety of interpretative possibilities–indeed, the one offered by Dean himself” (p. 46). This reminds me of the passage from Gilbert and Mulkay about theories can be fit to the data. Here, Neisser fits his theory of memory to the data, and Gurney fits a different theory to other data. I don’t like the implication that everything can be argued, but everything can be argued! :(
“…existence of scenarios, for which all sensible people produce the same sorts of accounts, is an interesting notion…” (p. 50). It seems that even in an uncontroversial situation, it would be easy for a group of people who liked each other to reconstruct a memory of events that was not veridical :) in order to preserve social nicety.
“…cognitive psychology deals with memory as a capacity, rather than with remembering as an activity…” (p. 71). This was neat for me as an existentialist to think about how in schooling the memory as capacity is so much more the focus.
Oh, and here it is, to end the chapter, a more generalized way of saying what I mentioned before. “Indeed, we might say that everyday conversational remembering often has this as its primary concern–the attempt to construct an acceptable, agreed or communicatively successful version of what happened…” (p.75). And sometimes people are labeled obnoxious if they present a less acceptable version!

One thought on “Edwards & Potter 1992 pp. 1-76

  1. “Versions of mind, of thought and error, inference and reason, are constructed and implied in order to bolster or undermine versions of events, to accuse or criticize, blame or excuse and so on” (p. 16). I would argue that versions of mind, etc. can be interpreted as or are accidentally constructed in order to bolster or undermine, etc.

    I guess I’m not sure intentionality matters. I don’t think DP would add the “can be” – this IS what we are doing all the time – not consciously, but that’s what we do with our words – construct certain versions of the world.

    “It is doubtful that we could have evolved as mere confabulists and dreamers” (p.19). Yes, that is a good quote. And I liked the straw man sidebar as well – I’d never thought about/deconstructed that notion before and was once chided in graduate school for setting up a straw man argument.

    I don’t think they are going so far as to say the lab is “fake” – they would totally agree that labs construct their own versions of the world, too (obviously.) And yes, as you say, “All language, whether the product of the lab or of “naturalistic” settings, constitutes the world.” DP wouldn’t disagree with this. It’s just that the lab does not acknowledge that theirs is just one version of the world, does it?

    Your nap/sleeping example is right on – exactly – how you choose to describe what you did has consequences for its “hearability” and what it is “doing.”

    ““Indeed, we might say that everyday conversational remembering often has this as its primary concern–the attempt to construct an acceptable, agreed or communicatively successful version of what happened…” (p.75).” Yep, this pretty much captures the point of what they are arguing.

    Great reflections & extending to other examples.

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