[-empyre-] Words and borders

Dear All,

I?m enjoying the views and frankness of the participants in this list and so am inspired to offer my 2 bytes worth. I couldn?t help relating a lot of this debate to a paper published in 2000 that discusses the ?pre-paradigmatic? state of VR. [Swann, P., Watts, T. (2000). ?Visualization Needs Vision: The Pre-Paradigmatic Character of Virtual Reality? in Woolgar, S. (Ed.) Virtual Society?: Technology, Cyberbole, Reality, New York, Oxford University Press: 41-60.]

Although about VR, the paper does have resonance in these discussions:

 ?the current state of VR is a powerful illustration of an often-overlooked reason why markets for new technologies do not materialize?it is because of a lack of coordination of expectations and vision between diverse technology developers and diverse users. ?At present VR remains in a pre-paradigmatic stage and until that stage is passed diffusion will remain slow. VR lacks a coherent vision and is, in a sense, a victim of its own ubiquitous potential.?

For Swann and Watts, a paradigm is needed for the growth of a market. A paradigm is a socially constructed model that is ?not uniquely determined by any ?inherent character? of the technology?. They listed the following four steps as reasons why paradigm is needed: 
1.	A common language is essential for the growth of trade;
2.	A common language emerges around a paradigm;
3.	The risk-averse buyer faced with undue complexity does not buy;
4.	New technologies tend towards unsurveyability without a paradigm.

Step one is trying to be addressed or at least explored by the participants of this list. Step two, however, is perhaps a guide as to why we have not solved it so far. Swann and Watts cite the research of Dalby (1998) on the factors involved in the divergence and convergence of languages. Divergence for Dalby is natural but can also be deliberate (what we are trying to do here). Convergence of language is attributable to trade, travel and communications. In our context convergence occurs as the result of the contribution of findings between researchers ? therefore having, needing shared models. 

My reason for sharing these views is to highlight the following observation: New terminology emerges and is adopted out of consensus. Neologisms or added meanings to existing words are agreed upon not just by researchers but also by consumers. Adoption by many involves consensus between those that need to use the language to identify a product or technology and those that want their work understood. However, researchers and creators (not necessarily distinct individuals of course) will have a further expert language. So, when we try to rename a whole field that is referenced in the marketplace as well it is no wonder we are having difficulty: it is not within our power to do so. Therefore, we may have more freedom and fewer obligations if we angle the approach towards sharing views and offering suggestions for a language that relates to specific areas of content and research and not the whole shebang.

Christy (yeah, I?m from that field, you know the one with the flashing lights and beeps).

School of Creative Arts
University of Melbourne

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