Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lines in the Sand

For Friday, continue to consider Michael Gordin's discussion of Karl Popper and attempts at demarcation.  As Gordin suggests in the fourth paragraph and elsewhere, we have an emotional need for scientific accuracy, and often evaluate the extent to which disciplines are scientific based on common sense or gut instinct.  Mightn't we call this an emotional way of knowing if something is scientific?

As we began to do this evening, identify two arenas in which you operate where demarcation of this sort is valued.  To what extent is it arbitrary?  How and for what reasons do (or might) the demarcations change and shift?  What does this say about the arena and the ways its knowledge is created?


  1. To arenas where demarcations are valued are in terms of art and in terms of academic. For the first example of art there is often a distinction trying to be made between Fine art and Graffiti. Both of these styles are a type of art, but some argue that graffiti can’t be considered a form of art. This is very arbitrary because there isn’t set criteria on what makes something art and what doesn’t. These distinctions can be changed based on who views them and hat their own personal definition of art is. This particular example shows that this arena and knowledge created from it is strongly based on the view of the person.
    My second example is with academics in terms of plagiarism and using an idea as an example. The line between plagiarism and using an idea is very thin and blurry, and it’s also very difficult to know when one has crossed that line. This example is also very arbitrary because there’s no way to clearly define and show the demarcation 100% of the time to anyone. The demarcation could shift based on certain situations, and it shows that in terms of this arena and knowledge drawn from it, that word choice is very important and vital.

  2. While there are many arenas where demarcations are valued, the two that came to my mind first were the relationship between Teacher in the classroom versus Teacher as a friend, and then Originality vs Inspiration (when choreographing a dance).

    As SBS, teachers are a lot like friends both in and out of the classroom. Demarcation is valued here because in the classroom, I feel that its a much more serious environment so you can't joke around as much your teacher there; however, outside the classroom you can speak to them in a more relaxed manner, although at the same time, they are still adults and members of the faculty so the content may have to be a little more filtered. This is arbitrary as there is no set rule what a friendship entails, especially with a student and teacher, so I believe that it depends on both parties and their comfort level of being friends despite the relationship they make have in an academic/professional community.

    The other distinction is between originality and inspiration in choreographing a dance. When one creates their own dance, it is "theirs"- they own it; yet, many of times, a lot of the movements in the dance can be inspired by movements from another person's dance. Does this make the new dance completely original, or unique to the choreographer, because all that was taken was inspiration. There is no real way to make a dance completely original, so this demarcation can shift depending on the amount of inspiration taken. For example, I can watch a dance on rowing a boat, and when I want to create my own dance on rowing a boat, maybe I can take some of the other choreographer's arm movements. Yet, if I complete my new dance that looks almost like the other choreographer's dance, I would not consider that original because too many of the movements have been borrowed. Therefore, it just depends on the level of inspiration used because every dance is "original" in one way or the other, be it by arrangement of patters, movements, story line, etc.

  3. Civilized vs. Uncivilized
    This demarcation is extremely arbitrary, as there is honestly no set definition for what “civilized” is. A tribe that uses a bush for a bathroom rather than the toilets that are used in the United States of America does not make the tribe uncivilized. It would only mean that this tribe and the people of the U.S choose to relieve themselves differently. This demarcation would shift based on who is looking from which perspective. For instance, a person from the U.S would view the tribe’s people as uncivilized, due to the tribe’s lack of development. But, in the eyes of the tribe’s people, they would view themselves as civilized, as they do have an established lifestyle that they have been abiding by for as long as they have been around. Thus this distinction is completely subjective.

    Can you Afford it vs. Can you receive it
    Specifically in terms of basic human rights, there should not be a demarcation between the capable and the incapable. If you are a human, you deserve food, water, shelter, and health. Just because someone does not have money to buy food does not mean he or she cannot and should not receive it. If an inland tribe does not have enough money to dig for ground water, it does not mean that they should not receive a nearby water supply. This is very arbitrary because often times the people who are more privileged tend to propose the idea of doing a task such as paying for college to be easy. Well, if you and your family have all of that money to pay for your full tuition, then by all means it will be easy. But what about the people who cannot even pay bills without worrying about their budget? What about the people who do not even have home to call their own to even be paying bills for in the first place? How easy will it be for them to pay for college? Not easy at all. Thus, this distinction is subjective as well.

  4. I don't know why, but gender identity was the first thing that came to mind (probably from one of my meandering sojourns into the depths of the internet). It is a widely held and understandable assumption that anyone you encounter is a cisgender, even heterosexual, male or female. This is, however, not an entirely safe assumption to make, seeing as many people identify as neither male nor female. I say this is understandable because openness about gender identity is a new concept to our society; therefore, it is not yet widely accepted nor recognized nor a part of people's expectations or sets of assumptions, and binary demarcation is the norm.

    The second arena is academic achievement. Although administrations and higher-ups profess to value the arts and other more "subjective" areas of knowledge, they require these subjects to be graded by the same objective standards as hard sciences, showing demarcation both between subjectivity and objectivity, and between academic success and failure. Grading, even, if truly considered, is essentially arbitrary: anything beyond multiple choice is a subjective process and is influenced, as teachers can attest to, by innumerable academically irrelevant and mundane factors. I ask the system, then: how objective is this prized grading, this valued assessment? Nevertheless, it is now the only acceptable way of determining mastery of any area of knowledge, even those whose methods are not objective.
    I don't know what this says about this arena of life or how its knowledge is created, only what it says about how people think knowledge is created.

  5. The two areas, that I operate in, where demarcation is valued are: horse riding and in teacher/student relationships.

    Horse Riding:
    In the United States, jumping has two different categories. There are "jumpers" who tent to be speedy little devils that have a thirst for first place. They wear loud colors and usually have an abundance of confidence, but are on the lower end of the spectrum for "grace" due to the sharp turns and split-second decisions. In a whole other category fall the "hunter/equitation" riders. Their overpriced clothing items make them a sight to see in the show ring. And they constantly strive for "perfection." These two areas are extremely distinguishable when at a show. One can tell whether someone is a "hunter/eq" rider or a "jumper." This demarcation is valued because riders from either group often looks down upon the other. They stick to their own rings, oftentimes with little appreciation for the other ring. This disdain that each ring has on the other is mostly due to the people within them. Meaning that it is highly arbitrary, rather than necessary. Although it may seem like a permanent boundary, this line is constantly shifting. People can ride in either or, and often choose to do just that. This says that although people on the extreme side of the spectrum from each jumping category often chooses to create a demarcation, it is not a necessary one. And most people have found that there is something to be said for both the jumpers and the hunter/equitation riders.

    The other area in which demarcation is valued is when dealing with teacher/student relationships. This issue is usually apparent when looking at teachers and students that are closer in age. Oftentimes the line is blurred between friends and and has to be clearly set in order to follow many of the regulations set by schools, and the expectations of society itself. Demarcation, in this case, is not always set by the teacher or the student but rather by expectations from outsiders. Although a teacher can sometimes be a friend, and you may tell them what is on your mind, that line between teacher and student cannot shift very much without the violation of certain rules or regulations. This demonstrates that the demarcation set in this arena is an important one and is there for a reason. It is there so as not to infringe upon what occurs in the classroom, and most probably should not be moved.

  6. Two arenas which I find myself and where I see demarcation being valued are: Need vs. Want. Especially in this century with all this new technology, many people think that they need the “next best thing”, however in my opinion, this is false. These items are just wants, you don’t need them to survive, without them life will be pretty much the same. I feel like these two arenas are to the fullest extent arbitrary, because each person has their own definition of what their “needs” are, they may not be correct but they still have different criteria which must be met for them personally. I think that the demarcations change when you look at the needs and wants of different societies across the globe. This shows that these arenas can have different priorities and/or are easily changeable due to the way the knowledge is created. The way in which knowledge is created in these arenas is by what society tells you. I find that being the case in America, however looking outside this country, there are different needs and wants.

    Two other arenas are: upper school/middle school, specifically at SBS because I do not know how other schools operate and integrate their grades into the community. However, at SBS I feel that it is important to value demarcation because there are major differences between the two sections of school. I feel as those these arenas are not arbitrary at all because since the year the middle school started, there has been much thought put into how to integrate the middle school with the upper schoolers. I feel like the demarcations change and shift each year as new people come in and want to make changes, but also look at the shift in behavior and maturity level of the new students. I feel that this arena is also one that is often changing and evolving, however it shows that the knowledge about these arenas are created by teachers and/or students that have been here a while and know how upper school and middle school operate in harmony (not necessarily joined as one category at all times, but also a distinction of Upper and MS).

  7. My first arena is political parties in the USA. The two primary groups, as we all learned in housemeeting if we did not already know, are the Democrats and the Republicans. There are varying degrees of each one from being extremely liberal to being extremely conservative to being in the middle. There are also smaller third parties that struggle to get on to ballots. It is not at all random that the democratic and republican parties appear the most on ballots. The way that the political system here is set up, it is harder for small parties to get on to ballots- they are required to have more signature on a petition, etc. The boundaries might shift between being a democrat and republican as one ages and their point of view changes but will likely not change in a short amount of time. The party that one supports could change depending on the severity of the views of the person running.This shows how inflexible the system is and how hard it is to be an individual in it. If you don't fall under the main two sections, it is hard to be heard.

    My other arena is connected to my first; it is the topic of abortion whether someone is pro-life or pro-choice. Most people have their own opinion on the matter and have a reasoning behind it whether it is a circumstantial belief or is purely scientific. The one time when people's views do really change is circumstantially- some believe abortion is only okay at some point to a varying degree. This shows that the discussions regarding this controversial topic need to continue as this topic is very important to many people.

  8. Not having a diploma and not being educated
    Not attending school does not forcefully mean that one is not educated. A diploma is a piece of paper that represents that one has studied specific areas of knowledge. Seating in classrooms and listen to people who learned from other people or from experience, provides one with common knowledge. However, school is not the only place one can learn. Some people learn best when it is from direct experience. In this case, sometimes not having a diploma is not a personal decision. Some people do not have the opportunity to go to school. I strongly believe that no one decides to not be educated. Also, the definition of being “educated” is not always the same for everyone. Some people might think that having a diploma is the only way to show that someone is educated. The demarcation in this case may shift when people without diplomas show vast knowledge in certain areas. This arena is created by people’s opinions.
    Integrating into new group and rejecting previous group
    When coming into a new group, people’s first intention is usually to find a way to integrate. Integrating does not always have to mean rejecting the previous group/ideas. Someone can keep true to the old ways but also develop a new understanding of doings things. To a moderate extent this is arbitrary. One can decide to integrate and reject the old ways and one can also decide to keep true to the previous ways. However in some cases where the influence is overwhelming and there is almost no way of turning back, not rejecting the previous ways is almost impossible. This demarcation might change when everyone who has integrated into a new group decides to reject their old ways. This shows that the arena is flexible to certain situations.

  9. Fashion vs. clothing (regular clothing)

    There seems to be an apparent line drawn between high fashion and regular clothing around the world. We look at designers like Chanel, Michael Kors, and Prada, and define their work as fashion. Then when one goes to places like outlets and second hand stores with labeless designers, the clothing is just clothing and not even close to fashion. It is really "who are you wearing" versus "what are you wearing?" So this demarcation, I believe, is extremely arbitrary.If we are told that something is fashion, we immediately idolize the look. But if something is considered less quality, we feel like we have to settle. What I was a famous designer and sent a model down the runway wearing a paper bag? If I say this is fashion, it is fashion. It makes no sense. Clothing is clothing. Demarcation is shifted when designers or the public choose to make different distinctions amongst items of clothing.

    Reality TV vs. TV

    We the public, are told when we watch TV that there is a clear difference between a television show and a reality show. Shows mainly contain fiction, but reality shows are meant to reflect the human condition. But is there really a difference. If having twelve girls fighting for one guy or people taking on outrageous tasks is real life, what am I missing? So to a large extent, this demarcation is arbitrary. There is obviously a clear intent of the producers of these shows to entertain and intrigue the audience. In order to do that, there has to be unrealistic things happening on reality shows. Because of this reality television does not reflect reality at all. In fact it is pure show and fiction.

  10. Friends in America vs. Friends in Rwanda
    Although the two different groups of friends are both considered to be people who are very close to me and who contribute to my growth as a person. There is also a clear line of distinction between the two. Not only to the way i carry myself around the two but also the way I think of them. The difference in separation, between where i would draw the line of friendship with my rwandan friends in regards to where i would draw the line with my american friends. which is completely understandable, regarding the fact that i have known my rwandan friends since i was a baby. so, that would make me consider most of my american friends rather as acquaintances more than my friends.

    English vs. French
    french and english are both my main language, and i think i am at a stage where they stand equal on the line of fluency. Although people say that the language one dreams in, is their language of fluency. that is why it was even harder for me to draw the line, in the sense that the language keeps switching from night to night. Hence why my family and i have make the joke of english being the language when having a nightmare, and french when actually having a dream. Brief, i came to realize that i could actually draw the line when I was counting in french during math. thus, french remaining the more dominant language in my brain.


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