RV theory redux

From: Scott Chase (ecphoric@hotmail.com)
Date: Thu 06 May 2004 - 00:20:38 GMT

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    After doing some reading of Dan Sperber's _Explaining Culture_ and Sir Frederic Bartlett's _Remembering_ I'm tempted to revisit the trailer park and empty the "black water" tank again from the RV (recreational vehicle) theory I had driven around a little last year.

    Sperber holds that transformation is more prevalent than replication in culture. Exact duplication during transmission is the exception to the rule or a case when transformation of representational content is near zero.

    Bartlett holds that memory processes are constructive, not involving passive recollection of memory traces. His work on the recollection and transmission of folk tales (eg- the ""War of the Ghosts" story) is a great example of how memory and culture could mesh. Even if one reads a copy of a book, a more or less perfect copy of the original manuscript, this person's memory of what they read is going to transform the details as it fades over time. Recollection will involve distortion and adding details not in the original or forgetting the exact chain of events in the book.

    It looks like the recreational vehicle notion might be a fruitful one with a lot more work on polishing the details and pointers from Sperber and Bartlett's books. Replication (sensu memes) looks like its too idealized to apply to many real world scenarios. where the rubber meets the road.

    Humans are vehicles for transmission of ideas, but instead of replicating these ideas they are engaged in an active process of recreating these ideas using a fallible memory and these ideas are thus transformed, much like the stories passed between participants in Bartlett's experiments.

    In trying to formulate this post I'm transforming ideas I've received from reading Sperber and Bartlett. My notions are far from being exact replicas of either author, since I do not have either forementioned book stored perfectly in my noggin. I am a recreational vehicle.

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