Education Extended writing

No back row, no corridor: Metaphors for online teaching and learning

Publication note An earlier version of this was published in the Oxford Magazine No 422.  This post expands certain sections based on questions and feedback I received following the first publication of the piece. It is also available on Medium. The state of digital dislocation The current state of digital dislocation is forcing us to reevaluate what […]

Anthropology Extended writing History

It’s not personal, it’s family: Kin, strangers, guests, and the complexity of social obligation

Brooks on the alternatives to nuclear family Tyler Cowen called the extended essay by David Brooks called ‘The nuclear family was a mistake’ a “so far the best essay of the year with many fine and subtle points”. And he’s not wrong. Brooks who has frequently been caught embellishing data to make a point does a […]

Education Extended writing Linguistics Writing

How to actually write a sentence: The building blocks of written language

Some time ago, Thomas Basbøll followed up his excellent post on how to write a paragraph with a much more daring endeavour on how to write a sentence. And while the post is a pleasure to read, I think it did not quite overcome the challenge the author stated at the start: “it is substantially more […]

Extended writing Knowledge Metaphor Philosophy

Potemkin wisdoms, phronesis and Pixar: How wise sayings protect us from meaning

TL;DR This is an exploration of the difference between wisdom and practical wisdom (phronesis) triggered by this quote from a talk by Ed Catmull: “Once one can articulate an important idea into a concise statement, then one can use this statement, and not have to have the fear of changing behavior.” The main lesson is: if […]

Extended writing History Scholarship

So you think you have a historical analogy? Revisionist history and anthropology reading list

What is this about How badly we’re getting history While the world of history and anthropology of the last 30-40 years has completely redrawn the picture of our past, the common perception of the overall shape of history and the development of humanity is still firmly rooted in the view that took hold in the […]

AI Extended writing Linguistics

Turing tests in Chinese rooms: What does it mean for AI to outperform humans

TLDR; Reports that AI beat humans on certain benchmarks or very specialised tasks don’t mean that AI is actually better at those tasks than any individual human. They certainly don’t mean that AI is approaching the task with any of the same understanding of the world people do. People actually perform 100% on the tasks […]

Extended writing Linguistics Metaphor

Fruit loops and metaphors: Metaphors are not about explaining the abstract through concrete but about the dynamic process of negotiated sensemaking

Note: This is a slightly edited version of a post that first appeared on Medium. It elaborates and exemplifies examples I gave in the more recent posts on metaphor and explanation and understanding. One of the less fortunate consequences of the popularity of the conceptual metaphor paradigm (which is also the one I by and large work […]

Education Extended writing Framing Knowledge Philosophy of Science

5 books on knowledge and expertise: Reading list for exploring the role of knowledge and deliberate practice in the development of expert performance

Recently, I’ve been exploring the notion of explanation and understanding. I was (partly implicitly) relying on the notion of ‘mental representations’ as built through deliberate practice. My plan was to write next about how I think we can reconceptualize deliberate practice in such a way that it draws on a richer conception of ‘mental representations’. […]

Education Extended writing Linguistics Metaphor

Writing as translation and translation as commitment: Why is (academic) writing so hard?

This book will perhaps only be understood by those who have themselves already thought the thoughts which are expressed in it—or similar thoughts. It is therefore not a text-book. Its object would be attained if there were one person who read it with understanding and to whom it afforded pleasure. (opening sentence of the preface […]

Education Extended writing Knowledge Metaphor

5 kinds of understanding and metaphors: Missing pieces in pedagogical taxonomies

TL;DR This post outlines 5 levels or types of understanding to help us better to think about the role of metaphor in explanation: Associative understanding: Place a concept in context without any understanding. Dictionary understanding: Repeat definitions, give examples, and make basic connections. Inferential understanding: Make useful inferences based on knowledge about – but without […]