Chun Kai Feng at FOST Gallery, Gillman Barracks, and the Theory of Things.

We’d originally entered the FOST Gallery (1 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks) to ask for directions to an Art Day Out! tour, but I was promptly mesmerised by Chun Kai Feng’s work.

What stopped me in my tracks was that Chun’s works weren’t Singapore-icon kitsch. We’ve had loads of that for SG50 and I’ve purchased my fair share of jiu cheng gao doorstops and racial harmony doormats and chope magnetic keychains (thanks, Stuck Shop).

Yet, neither were they pretentiously arty.

Everyday objects recognisable by any person on the SBS bus were taken out of their usual contexts and rephrased slightly so that an air-conditioner diffuser hung on a wall, spray-painted carefully so that its converging lines were emphasised, giving a linear perspective.
FOST Gallery: The Key to this Mystery is to Rephrase the Question Slightly, solo exhibition by CHUN Kai Feng. Art Day Out 2016, Gillman Barracks, Alexandra, Singapore “The Key to this Mystery is to Rephrase the Question Slightly”

And it was hard not to burst out laughing at the yellow “Caution – Wet Floor” sign, that itself appeared to be slipping on a blue wet patch on the ground.

Art Day Out 2016, Gillman Barracks, Alexandra, Singapore
“Falling Falling”

I’ve been thinking quite abit about a/the theory of tangible things recently, specifically, Graham Harman‘s object-oriented philosophy of the relationship between objects, Bruno Latour‘s actor-network theory (ANT, see Reassembling the Social), Peter-Paul Verbeek‘s theory of technological mediation – that things mediate relations between people, between people and technology, and between people and the world.

design books and Singaporean Hainanese local breakfast - teh si, kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, a cupcakeWhat anthropological, cultural studies, material culture studies questions can we ask about Things? More thinking to be done…

The Sushi Bar (Far East Plaza) and the Non-objectivity of Moral Theory

Dinner at The Sushi Bar (facebook. #04-28, Far East Plaza) was, in the end, a happy affair. L grumbled at first about how the prices compared with Sakuraya Fish Market, but was later won over by the quality of the sashimi – fresh and sweet.

The Sushi Bar, Far East Plaza, SingaporeIt was not without a tinge of sadness though that it became obvious that we had little in the way of common topics of conversation now, despite being roaring good friends a decade ago. I should have found a way to talk about my current intellectual obsessions – but they probably aren’t L’s cup of tea anyway…

Was chatting with NC tonight about my frustration at how discussions about moral theory fall into the same problems as that regarding the existence of God. And while it is easy to state the negative – what moral theory must not be based on (usually, Organised Religion), it has been more difficult for philosophers to state positively what common objective morals are (Dworkin’s morons?) and how they can be derived. All efforts trip themselves up with a priori presumptions.

NC claimed that one can speak of moral theory without referring to ultimate values, and sent me over to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on justice in public reason. The objections in paragraph 7 articulated much of my own views on the theories. NC also recommended John Rawls’ early Outline of a Decision Procedure for Ethics.

The Sushi Bar, Far East Plaza, Singapore Sadly, none of this was satisfactory. The strategy of a procedure for ethics is questionable: after all is this “reasonableness” that the “competent” judge is to have? What is  the “rule of common sense” that he is to apply?

It comes back to the fact that there is a inviolable three-way nexus between ontology, epistemology, and ethics (of which, I assume, moral theory is part). Any heuristic device needs to address all three of these guardians. There is no point trying to trying to prohibit the use of divine revelation if one runs into problems of a similar kind using human reason. The Sushi Bar, Far East Plaza, SingaporeDoes this mean that most discussions must inevitably be apologetic and evangelistic?

“Look, mate. It’s not that I want to bring religion into the public square, but how can we even begin to talk when you think you have complete autonomy to construct your own idea of right and wrong, and I insist that only God determines what is right and wrong? Therefore, we need to talk first about who’s mad and who isn’t.”

Ontology, Epistemology, Learning Theory, Instructional Theory, and Instructional Design

Have been thinking again about how best to teach the various groups I’m to train over the next few months. Here’s a back-of-the-napkin thought about how instructional design is based on theories of instruction, that are themselves based on theories of learning, that must be based on different epistemological and ontological theories. Cheap and quick, so probably many errors.

ontology, epistemology, learning theory, instructional theory, instructional design, and Stump Jump GSM

Materialism says that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all phenomena, including mental phenomena and consciousness, are the result of material interactions. Knowledge, therefore, comes only or mainly from sensory experience and can be evidenced.

Its/their natural (not nurtured?!) children are:
(i) behaviourism (primary psychological paradigm 1920s – 1950s): humans are born tabula rosa (blank slate), resulting behaviour is a result of stimulus and response, the environment.

“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select–doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years.” (John B. Watson).

Related instructional theories would therefore be something to do with conditioning, whether classical (Ivan Pavlov), operant (B.F. Skinner), or social learning (Albert Bandura). And the attendant instructional design would be stimulus-response, reinforcement by rewards-punishment, and modelling. Skinner would also advocate practice as part of reinforcement – by for a reason different from that of David Ausubel (see below) who wouldn’t have cared for repetitive rote-learning.

(ii) cognitivism (primary psychological paradigm 1950s-1990s): humans are born with minds like black boxes that influence behaviour. Focus is on neuroscience, the brain, memory (long-term, short-term). Cognitive development occurs in stages (Jean Piaget) by the construction of a series of schemata to understand the world (schema theory – Frederic Bartlett, Richard C. Anderson). Therefore instructional theory emphasises learning styles (for different minds), repetition and mnemonics (to aid the memory), progressive differentiation and advance organisers (David Ausubel).

Phenomenalism says that physical objects do not exist as things in themselves but only as may be perceived through a person’s senses or with their mind. We cannot experience anything beyond the phenomena of our perceptions. Solipsism then states that actually, we can only be sure that our mind exists. Therefore, it agrees with rationalism that truth is best discovered by the use of reasoning and logic rather than by the use of the senses. Learning is therefore done in the context of constructing on what is already known (constructivism) rather than acquiring new knowledge.

Each person has a different interpretation and construction of the learning process. But this can be aided within a zone of proximal development (Lev Vygotsky). Instructional theory would therefore include scaffolding (because of ZPD), collaborative learning, active learning, discovery learning, knowledge building. This would result in instructional design outcomes like problem-based learning, assignments, disputations, interrogations, individualised programmed learning.

And critical theory probably says that none of these theories are valid because they include oppressive use of authority by educators! 😉

*this is not to say though that each of these instructional design theories must definitely be based on the corresponding ontological and/or epistemological theories as set out above.