Joho the Blog » Gestures and metadata

Gestures and metadata

AKMA gestures towards gestures, stimulated by an offhand comment by Doc. “I’ve found the problem of communicative gestures to constitute one decisive fulcrum for my reasoning,” writes AKMA. I wouldn’t go that far for myself, but I do find something important about gestures, stimulated (as is so often the case for me) by that ol’ Nazi bastard, Martin Heidegger.

Heidegger talks about gestures, as I recall, as a way of getting past the notion that language is a series of coded definitions that re-create in the hearer the image or meaning intended by the speaker. Instead, take gestures such as pointing or even simply turning towards something as language. In gesturing at the world, I’m turning you towards it, letting it show itself to you as it is showing itself to me. And that’s what language does. It doesn’t re-create a representation of the world in the hearer; it turns her toward the world we share. It’s all part of Heidegger’s attempt to get us past the idea that we live in inner representations of the world.

As the old joke goes, when you point at something with your finger, your dog looks at your finger. Humans don’t. Gestures point away from themselves in order to let something show itself to us. Heidegger likes this because he’s always trying to point out (!) that existing isn’t simply being present; what isn’t present (e.g., the future, but also the unsaid in what’s explicitly said) is even more important. To give an example not explicit in Heidegger, the canonical rock that’s used as an example of a real thing is present to us as real because it points beyond our awareness of it; it’s only a real rock (as opposed to, say, an imaginary one) if it is present to us as something that exists independent of its presence to us. In computer terms, that’s metadata. In Heidegger’s terms (well, sort of), that’s a gesture. [Tags: ]

4 Responses to “Gestures and metadata”

  1. gestures.

    there is a lovely story about Wittgenstein. While he still working on the notion of essences, platonic forms and meaning tied to “objects in the world” he was on a train journey with a friend – an Italian economist, who argued against a one-to-one relationship between meaning and objects. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piero_Sraffa
    [man i can't believe it was 17 years since i studied this]

    Sraffa made the famous neapolitan hand under the chin gesture, according to malcol, which enabled a conceptual breakthrough and the drive towards a theory of “meaning as use”

    Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same ‘logical form’, the same ‘logical multiplicity’, Sraffa made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: ‘What is the logical form of that?’

    Wittgenstein was of course, not a Nazi.

  2. Man! That’ll teach me to be slow to respond — I was thikning of exactly that story.

  3. “it’s only a real rock (as opposed to, say, an imaginary one) if it is present to us as something that exists independent of its presence to us. In computer terms, that’s metadata. In Heidegger’s terms (well, sort of), that’s a gesture”

    I totally don’t get this comparison to metadata. Are you suggesting the relationship between data and metadata is like the relationship between a real rock and an imaginary one?

    I’d suggest: the relationship between data and metadata is like the relationship between rocks in a rock garden and rocks used to line the border of the rock garden.

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