söndag 2 mars 2014

Professional vision

The other day I was arguing for the benefits, or rather the necessity, of conceptual knowledge (theoretical knowledge) in two student groups. I presented my view, at length, in both groups and my overall conclusion was that with conceptual knowledge within a certain domain your perception will be more differentiated and detailed compared with a layperson's perception. See also av Swedish posting here.

When I reflected on my presentations afterwards, it suddenly struck me that I forgot to present what , according to my view, might have been my most convincing examples. A recurring example in my lectures on this topic has been Charles Goodwin's article Professional Vision (URL: http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/clic/cgoodwin/94prof_vis.pdf). In his article Goodwin shows what a "professional vision" entails by taking, first, an example from archeology and, second, an example from a court trial.

In the archeology example Goodwin shows that the expert archeologist, through using the discursive tools of the profession, can perceive what the novices cannot yet perceive until the expert archeologist actually teaches the novices what to see while standing in the mud. The other example is quite a nasty example where an expert police officer actually convinces the court that a severely beaten black man has presented a threat to a group of white police officers. By showing a video from CCTV, frame by frame, the expert convinces the court that the black man was about to attack the white police officers and that they had defended themselves. Both cases are meant to illustrate the concept of professional vision even if we probably dislike the use of professional vision in the second example.

Whereas professional vision can be viewed as an argument for the benefits - and necessity -  of a formalized discourse in any practice, my other example could in some way be viewed as an argument for the informal and situated character of learning. John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid's Stolen Knowledge (URL: http://www.johnseelybrown.com/StolenKnowledge.pdf) shows that not all learning can be formalized into propositional knowledge and the striking example here is how a person learning to play an instrument succeeds in passing the difficulties by "stealing knowledge" while watching real musicians. The article is also a very handy overview of situated learning and legitimate peripheral participation.

Enjoy reading these articles which supplement (!) my presentation.

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