Sunday, March 27, 2011

PUAs and discursive social psychology 1: Speech acts

In my early twenties I read some social psychology to improve social skills, which I already knew to be a problem. The books didn't aid me, as they were very abstract or focused on leftist goals of dealing with social problems, for example by analyzing interactions between a government agency and a victim group. However, they made me familiar with social constructionism, a postmodern sociological theory guiding modern social psychology.

Back then, this blog was named Rakentumistyƶmaa, a construction yard for the social construction of reality. (In Finnish, the work rakentaa means physical construction of buildings and the word rakentua means the social construction of reality.)

One thing that appeals to me in Roissy's writing is that it fits perfectly to this earlier understanding of social life. I can leave my fundamental ideas unchanged and merely supplement them with extra chapters on how women behave and what I should aim at to get where I want to go.

Austin's theory of speech acts [1, s. 14]

The parts of the long quote that matter have been bolded.

Words as deeds: speech act theory
It is important for a clear understanding of Austin's ideas to have some indication of the situation in phiolosophy which he was both reacting against and commenting upon. His main target was the logical positivist view that sentences which cannot be verified, that is sentences for which there is no way of checking whether they are true or false, should simply be treated as meaningless. From this view points, for instance, the statement "God does not exist" should be treated as nonsensical since the truth of the statement can never be validated. In addition, Austin's argument was directed at a wide swathe of views of language which take it to be an abstract system whose central function is the description of states of affairs. What Austin set out to do was to undermine the notion that an understanding of 'truth conditions', states of truth and falsity, is central to an understanding of language.

Stating versus doing

Austin began with the observation that there is a class of sentences which are principally important for what they do, not because they describe things. For instance, the sentence

I declare war on the Philippines

is not a description of the world which can be seen as true or false but an act with practical consequences; ... Austin called sentences of this kind performatives. ... Austin contrasted these kinds of sentences with others whose primary role did appear to be the description of states of affairs, naming them constantives.

The general theory of speech acts

The general theory does not distinguish between sentences which do things and sentences which say things, between performatives and constantives, but casts this distinction in a different way. The fundamental tenet of the theory is that all utterances state things and do things. That is, all utterances have a meaning and a force. In fact, Austin suggested that with any utterance a speaker is simultaneously doing three sorts of things.

First, the speaker is uttering a sentence with (1) a specific meaning - it has a certain sense and may refer to specific events, persons or objects. Second, the sentence is uttered with a particular force. We know what the words 'shut the door' literally mean, but they can be used with (2) the force of an order, a request or even a question. Force is thus an element of utterances which is dissociated from their meaning, although it is often indicated by the use of a certain verb: promise, order, state, and so on. The third feature refers to (3) the effects or consequences of the first two. The sentence 'shut the door' may be uttered with the force of an order but it may have the effect of making the hearer shut the door or it may simply make the hearer annoyed.

Speech acts in seduction

For example, Roissy recently wrote about The "I can leave you if you want" shit test. He met a girl at a nightclub and teased her about her accent. The girl feigned indignation and asked "Do you want me to return to may friends?".

According to speech act theory,
  • The meaning of the sentence is to ask about his mental state; whether he prefers her to return to her friends or not.

  • The force of the sentence is either a question or a show of indignation

  • The effect of the sentence is to execute a shit test. If he is eager to keep her close, then he considers her presence an exceptionally good deal and he has a weak negotiation position. If he eagerly advices her to indeed return to her friends, then he is used to the company of girls like her and has a strong negotiating position.

In Roissy as in discursive social psychology, all utterances are speech acts. What matters are the deeds and effects people want to achieve with them.

[1] Potter and Wetherell: Discourse and Social Psychology: Beyond Attitudes and Behaviour

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Methane blasts in Pakistan coal mine kill 6, trap 46


A methane gas explosion in a coal mine in southwestern Pakistan killed at least six miners Sunday and trapped 46 others, a top mining official said.

The mine, which is located in Baluchistan province, was declared dangerous two weeks ago, but the warning was ignored, said Iftikhar Ahmed, a top mining inspector. The mine is owned by the state-run Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation but leased to a contractor, he said.

Rescue workers were trying to reach the trapped miners, but methane gas was hampering their attempts, Ahmed said.

"We are trying to make a path, but the presence of gas is restricting the rescue effort," he said.

The mine is located some 25 miles east of the provincial capital, Quetta.

If gas explosion collapses a mine, would it have withstood a 9.0 magnitude earthquake?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tampere Film Festival: My Village in 2007

Village Documentary Project distributed filming equipment to 10 rural villages for amateur filmmakers, including Zhang Huangcai, a 50 years farmer at Shijiazai village. His third documentary My Village in 2007 shows what life is like in a very backward village. What makes the film special is that the storyteller has lived there his whole life apart from doing odd jobs in cities. The lifestyle is normal for him, while being utterly alien for Westerners viewing the film at Tampere.

The village was so backward that the film had just 3 motor vehicles: a car, a harvester and a motorcycle. They still collected hay by raising it manually to drying poles. In the scene where they went to a city to sell handicrafts, they walked. By contrast, in rural India motorcycles are widespread.

The villagers subsisted by farming corn. The houses had big bunches of corn drying on their walls, suspended with ropes. Apparently they were well nourished, as there weren't any excessively short people in the film.

My father lived his youth in Tuupovaara, a settlement in Eastern Finland in the middle of forest and tens of kilometers from the nearest city. He said that they lived practically in subsistence economy, by fishing and farming, rather than in money-based economy. Logging and construction were ways to get some income. When he visited Haiti, he was a bit shocked from seeing how life was there and said that in no situation would their life in Tuupovaara be that bad. Getting basic needs met does not depend on technology, it depens on how people organize their lives. In Shijiazai as in Tuupovaara, poverty does not mean malnourishment or exploitation. Rather, it means hard manual work, little education, shoddy houses and thrift.

Talking about education, the film didn't touch literacy directly, but stacks of books and magazines were nowhere to be seen. Another factor which hinted at low reading fluency was lack of imagination. All topics discussed in the film were very concrete and practical. There were some memories from cultural revolution and a few mentions of work gigs in the cities. Other than that, they only talked about things that happen in the village.

Social porn does not turn on healthy people. This film managed to pull off the hard trick of describing backward life as normal. The film had low technical quality - it was more like a collection of home videos without plot, exposition of background etc. It was still the best out of 4 films who described rural workers in China, because it had insider's perspective.

Overall, about half of the films in Made in China series were designed to raise awareness of various social issues. It mirrored Western mass media's bias of seeing China primarily as a collection of human rights violations, third world poverty and totalitarian oppression. This bias nowadays irritates me after seeing what overseas Chinese write about their country themselves.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Nothing happened, except for news artificially fabricated by media contained two eyewitness reports about scheduled jasmine strolls. The main news in Shanghai was that 15 foreign reporters were arrested for 3 hours. One of them reports that "The actual scale of the movement is very small. At the door of the cinema there were some tens of people, they didn't carry slogans or loudspeakers, only calmly stood there."

In Beijing, a reporter went to a nearby bookstore and saw nothing but a lot of policemen and a few foreigners who looked like they were waiting for something to happen.

An eyewitness said that the commotion two weeks ago was basically about foreign reporters gathering to a busy street after hearing the rumors about jasmine strolls, and curious people who flocked around the foreign reporters, expecting something to happen.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Ye Xiaowen calls jasmine strolls "performance art"

CPPCC's yearly conference started on Wednesday. In one symposium, Ye Xiaowen emphasized that the Communist party has nothing to fear from jasmine strolls, because 30 years of economic development demonstrate the superiority of Chinese institutions. This is notable, since elsewhere all things jasmine are censored.

"Jasmine? What a joke. China has developed rapidly in the last 30 years, and the common Chinese people support this development, no? If the want this jasmine revolution and starve, are they going to take jasmines to their coffins? Unlikely to happen. What a joke! This is all basically just performance art."

This matches international opinion: Bai Xia, a French sinologist sent a similar message in a Deutsche Welle interview:

"Many international observers believe that the 'jasmine revolutions' in Middle East can't reach China, because the economic development has been fast, recently China's economy became the second biggest in the world. Therefore social contradictions and unrest should not cause too many legitimacy problems for the regime. But Chinese officials are not that confident after discovering that some factors of jasmine revolutions, like corruption, unemployment of univesity students, people's rights being violated etc. exist also in China. Therefore the most outstanding feature of jasmine strolls is the tense insecurity of Chinese high-level authorities."

Chinese officials have arrested over 100 human rights lawyers, democracy activists, dissidents and intellectuals in an attempt to "kill one and scare hundred".

To avoid giving authorities excuses to suppress rallies violently, china.molihua advises participants "not to shout slogans and not to carry signs or torches". China.molihua compares jasmine rallies to East Berlin's Monday demonstrations in 1989 which started with a few hundreds of people and expanded during several months up to 320000 people, ending in the collapse of Berlin wall.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Chinese documentaries at Tampere Film Festival

A collection of modern Chinese documentary films.
One each day 9.3 - 13.3.

Schedule (in Finnish)

I'll go there with the attitude "let's see well-chosen movies I would never have heard about otherwise", and will not read movie descriptions in advance.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A foreign reporter was beaten at Wangfujing, diplomatic commotion ensues

Bloomberg news agency says that one of their reporters was beaten by 5 plain-clothes policemen last Sunday in Wangfujing. His camera was taken away and he was detained in nearby store. Afterwards, he was taken to the police station and subsequently released.

White House press secretary Jay Carney commented that "we have heard reports about foreign reporters being detained and treated roughly. These reports cause us worry. We request Chinese government to respect foreign reporter's right to work, and urge law enforcement to guarantee their safety against illegal harassment and threats."

Yu Jiang, The spokesman of Chinese foreign ministry, turned tables by blaming the reporters. She asked why so many reportes gathered in the busy street (there were mainly foreign reporters and Chinese policemen present), and asserted that the policemen were only carrying out their legal duty by clearing the way. She also asked who gave the reporters instructions to come there, implying that it was an anti-Chinese conspiracy.

In Japanese newspapers, this was compared in ridiculousness to Gaddafi's statement that Libyan opposition consists of Al Qaida terrorist cells.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Third wave of rallies scheduled for 6.3.2011, but by whom?

Original article published 1.3.2011 by

China.jasmine calls for rallies in hundred cities, is asked to identify himself

Mingpao newspaper reports that the scent of jasmines is spreading to China. Someone calling himself "the originator of jasmine revolution" put a new announcement online that the third wave of rallies will be next Sunday, covering over 100 cities. He also asserted that "we will reveal our identity at suitable moment." At the same time, account names like "Jasmine Revolution News Center" and "Operation Jasmine" emerge in overseas websites like Facebook and Twitter. This indicates that the number of netizens answering the call is increasing and the scale of rallies will expand.

The Chinese "jasmine revolution" rallies have continued already for two Sundays and gained international attention. French News Agency reports that the self-titled originator of the movement announced that on last Sunday, in up to 100 cities people took part in rallies, far more than the previously announced 27 cities. "Our local organizer can already feel that it is the season when jasmine blooms".

Accusation: Hunderds of thousands of people attack overseas websites

The announcement claims that Chinese authorities are mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to attack foreign websites in order to stop the smell of jasmine. Boxun site already stopped forwarding rallying places etc. information, because it couldn't endure attacks. Proponents therefore opened accounts to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Blog and so on which are stable and secure. The spokesman said that the third rally will be codenamed "Two Conferences" [Note: this is a tactic to prevent the use of Great Firewall, as the real Two Conferences - the yearly meetings of CPPCC and NPC - are held at the beginning of March.] and also asserted that he will reveal his identity when the time is right. Little after this announcement, a list of rallying places for 35 cities circulated online. The place of Bejing rally moved from Wangfujing to another vibrant suburb, Xidan. The list also included Shenzhen, Lhasa in Tibet and Hohhot in Inner Mongolia.

Some people call 6.3.2011 "Three chuckles"

At the same time, the number of "jasmine" accounts increases. Some of them forward news about rallies, while others are suspected pranks. A Google Buzz account named "Jasmine Revolution Information Center" called the 3.6 meetings with code word "three chuckles", calling citizens to participate in rallies by "taking a walk, standing in circles and laughing heartily three times". Some people worry that it is a honey trap, while others supect it to be a practical joke which puts people in danger.