IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Semantic Environment
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, January 27, 2007 - 10:36 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Some discussion of semantic environment is incuded here and here.
See also the discussion organism-in-its-environment-as-a-whole in this topic area.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, January 27, 2007 - 02:20 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


I see no confrontation with Ben in this topic.

What is "pure 'GS'"?

Can anyone have any semantic reaction other than "his [own] interpretation" (of anything)?

I do confess, however, my semantic reactions to many of Ben's posts inculde their being way off topic. Ben's "net" for catching the fish of general semantics seems like one with a very large mesh. But do not fear, the mesh will grow finer as he accumulates more experiences. Each time he looses a fish through a hole, if he learns, he will patch the hole and make it smaller. As often as not, he appears to be casting his net where others of us do not expect any fish.

Now, to get back on topic.

You may directly experience a difference in semantic environments here.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, January 27, 2007 - 10:45 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

"Elvis has left the building."
Re: "Can anyone have any semantic reaction other than "his" (own) interpretation" (of anything)? - I'd say they could if exposed to other interpretations which they would validate as fitting for them. Make sense.

Sorry, but a "semantic reaction" is, by definition, a person's response in terms of the meaning that person gives to the stimulus. It may include his estimate of how another person might respond, but one person cannot experience another person's neurological responses. The only exception I can think of is possibly a set of twins with conjoined brains.

A person may have a number of different interpretations of a stimulus, but they are all his or her own semantic reactions.

If you believe in "telepathy" or "out-of-body experiences", then you part company with general semantics theory.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 12:55 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

On "schooling"...

Do not forget that people have different apptitudes and abilities, and different measurement techniques can get vastly different "scores" for the same person on the same subject manner. Some take tests well; some write well; some do neither well, but have a non-verbal "can-do" that "gets the job done" with better results than those that can write and or test well. A lot of different learning disabilities have been "identified", and many of them exhibit as a barrier to measuring "intelligence".

On the ecology of environments...

I attended the 1975 Media Ecology conference following the preceeding Korzybksi lecture by Neil Postman. The "operative" phrase at the time was "the structure of the communications environment". Media compete for human attention, and in doing so, form an ecosystem. Alter the balance of media, and you alter the structure of the communications environment. As "testing" constitutes a "species" of media, it will not only compete, but will selectively divide the population according to the apptitude of individuals, and the connections among the media can and do influence how a person moves though life - being passed from one medum to another, not only on a moment to moment basis, but in life and career altering patterns. Have you every wondered why the percentage of people with last name "Cats" work with animals more than the percentage of the general population? [Don't ask for a reference; it's been too long since I first read it.](It's a variation on "blonds have more fun". "The Blond Mistique" a program aired decades ago sponsored by Clairol.)

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 11:33 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Let us recall that Korzybski defined the semantic reaction as the response of a person in terms of the "meaning" of the stimulus to that person.

Also, "semantics" is the study of the relation between words and sentences and their referents.

Note that this is a map-territory relation.

Note also that "general semantics" involves not only semantics but includes the human nervous system in its focus.

In this regard, every person has his own highly idiosyncratic neuro-semantic "map" of WIGO. And, because of the nature of brains (an organ that locates its experiences elsewhere) that "map" is projected externally. We exist in mentally constructed virtual reality that is our brain's projection onto WIGO, and not just the "physical" world. Our "maps" include all our specialized learned reactions to what we call symbols. Symbols have "real" existence, but each of us abstracts different semantic responses - the cumulative effect of our individual pasts.

For these reasons I identify semantic environments as individual to each person, and essentially internal. I differentiate these from "symbolic" environments, as the "external" aspects of our "culture".

The term 'environments', implying a system of influences, suggests that we might better apply media ecology for analyzing the influences present. Each "medium" identified will provide access to a symbol system - a symbolic environment that will, within the context of the individual's current experience, be internalized as a semantic environment.

To the degree that you can collect data on schools, identifying the various media and various "characteristics", one can then do correlation studies - broken down over time, to see what symbolic environments influence what.

"For example, if we change our grading system (and therefore our definition of achievement), will a different kind of achievement begin to happen in the school?"

You will probably not get much opportunity to control conditions, so you are likely to be limited to collecting data and analyzing correlations.

I suspect a wholistic global approach is simply too big, and there are probably numerous essoteric dissertations looking at one small aspect of the situation.

But first, we need to formulate some questions... and before that, we need to formulate some assumptions upon which to work.

The terms "symbolic environment" and "semantic environment" must be expanded in the direction of extensional orientation. How would you specify in any general way a symbolic (or semantic) environment in such a way as to differentiate it from other such environments, and how would you differentiate a symbolic environment from its background?

If you identify media, and you have a reasonable measure of the symbolic content capable of being transmitted via a medium, perhaps you can use this to "identify" a symbolic environment.

What, in more extensional terms do you want to find out?