EDPS 360 (A2) Fall 2013

What is social theory (I): Scoping the Social as a “Brother from Another Planet”

In Activities on September 16, 2013 at 11:15 am

One of the aims of this course is to help you develop your capacity to link theoretical concepts and the “real world,” and to use these analyses to formulate practical action. The activity below is designed to introduce you to the concept of social theory and to push you toward a more theoretically informed way of looking at the world. It will also prepare you for the first day of class.

Have a look at Visualizing the Social, the opening chapter of Anthony Woodiwiss’s (2005) excellent book Scoping the Social (2005). Part way through, Woodiwiss writes that…

The first step towards overcoming any resistance to the idea that theory might be visual work is to understand that even ordinary sight involves not only our eyes but also, minimally, our brains, language, social position and even our political commitments (p. 11).

He then recommends an exercise:

in order that you quickly gain a sense of the degree to which your sight is already structured by social life and theory, I would suggest that you carry out the following exercises: watch at least the first 20 minutes of John Sayles’ wonderful film The Brother from Another Planet (1984); imagine yourself as the proverbial visitor from Mars, but in this case one who cannot hear or read anything and who has been asked to stand in a busy part of a town or city well known to you and write down what you think it could see (pp. 11-12).

In the comments section below this post, write a brief entry (~250 words or more) as a “brother from another planet.” Then,

when you have finished writing please refer to note 1 [on p. 19] to see what you have taught yourself (p. 12).

____

References

Woodiwiss, A. (2005). Scoping the social: An introduction to the practice of social theory. New York: Open University Press.

Rajski, P., Renzi, M. (Producers), & Sayles, J. (Writer/Director). (1984). The brother from another planet [Motion Picture]. (also on netflix.ca)

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  1. Churchill Square, Edmonton, Alberta

    People everywhere are moving their mouths, yet they do not seem to look at anyone in particular. They walk but then stop, paralysed by red light.
    Pictures are everywhere; do these people not know where they are? The pictures depict strange, stick-like people that seem to inspire the actions of all the people. When one appears the people move towards him. Suddenly, a new, red shape replaces it. The people again seem paralysed, some run before the red emblem has fully taken shape.
    The people all look so different. Many clean looking people walk into the big buildings; meanwhile the unclean people sit outside. Most people ignore the ones sitting outside, although they sometimes have very spirited and awkward confrontations.
    Big machines take people away, but they too seem to be paralysed by red light. Why red? I feel as though I can move freely when the scarlet light gazes upon me, so why is everyone else lulled into an inert state?
    The people and machines seem to have little interaction aside from when the people climb inside them. People are clearly superior as they are allowed to walk on the black ground, yet the machines are limited to the tracks. The do show signs of some respect as they rarely try to cut in front of one another.
    Although many people seem to occupy this area, I cannot image any live here. There is hardly any food available, save a few small flying things and small green patches, and the only water supply has frenzied people running in it.

  2. ” I noticed that the creatures of this planet function on a system of role distribution. There are sets of creatures, and each set is assigned a set of tasks. For instance, there are specific creatures that distribute food, let’s call these creatures “keepers.” The creatures of this planet perform a ritual where one must give a seemingly inedible set of thinly sliced, flimsy objects in exchange for food to the keeper. However, I do not understand their system very well because when I tried what I understood of the process of acquiring food, the keeper had me chased by another creature who carried what seemed like a weapon and approached me threateningly— I’ll refer to this creature as “chaser”.
    Chasers are a set of creatures who can assert their authority on the rest of the creatures. I observed that they have the power to cause harm to those who do not follow the strict rules of this planet. I saw a miniature model displayed in a glass casing that illustrated the severe distress the chasers can cause. At first I didn’t understand what the display meant, but then I saw a chaser forcing a creature to stand in the same position as the miniature display and realized that the miniature display is to warn the creatures of the planet to remember their tasks and always follow the rules of this planet.
    I then went to a strange place the purpose of which I am yet to figure out. The creatures there seemed to have no particular role other than interacting with each other.
    It will take me a long time before I can completely understand the way this planet functions, for although the creatures of this planet have similar physiology as ours, their rules of functioning are quite different.” — The Visitor

    • The notion of role distribution is an interesting one. It suggests, more or less, that people do particular things in relation to others because the group relies on such a distribution in order to survive or function. Note that this is a theory that ascribes a less than full role to “choice” in explaining the behaviours/actions of human beings.

    • I must be overtired. I can’t figure out what the “miniature display” and “strange place” are.

      • I used the “brother from another planet” video to write my response. The “miniature display” is the crucified Christ that the alien notices in a shop’s window display — didn’t know how else to describe it. I used “keepers” to describe shopkeepers and “chasers” for police officers in the video. The “strange place” is the bar that the alien goes to and is unable to figure out the role of the people in that setting. Since the body of the alien was that of a human, I noted that although the physiology is similar, the rules of functioning of the humans are new to the alien. I found it extremely difficult to describe things from the point of view of an alien without any references and assumptions from the human world.

      • Thanks, Ramita. As I mentioned in class today, I made my comment to compliment how effective your entry is at pointing up the usefulness of the exercise.

  3. As a brother from another planet I would first recognize whether the new planet I have arrived to is similar or different from that of my own. Once recognizing the difference or similarity from my home planet, (For instance if I was dropped at the U of A campus), I would see numerous beings that are animate ,mobile, and interacting with each other, and with my lack of hearing I would observe their non-verbal communications (i.e. hand gestures, hugs, kisses, touching as means to transferring information from one being to one another), I would immediately either identify or not identify these creatures with myself based on my vision and understanding of what I am (who I am). I would interpret automobiles, and buses as bigger creatures carrying smaller creatures from one place to another. I would interpret buildings as structures that separate locations or contain beings/creatures within them. I’d Survey this new environment thoroughly. Be aware if my stimulation from this environment is overwhelming or not. I would recognize the heat of the sun, feel the summer breeze, and my ability to breathe or not to breathe (or any level of comfort and discomfort for that matter).Without the ability to hear or read I will base my interpretation of this new planet on touch, taste, smell, and sight (assuming these are all senses that Alien life forms also share with humans). I would see if I can communicate with the new planets’ beings/creatures. I guess as a visitor relying on sight as my major sense, and observing this new planet, you can’t really know how to interact unless you watch the creatures/beings that inhabit it. In all honesty the visual stimulation may insight overstimulation of the mind or lack thereof (i.e Fight or Flight).

  4. Wee Links Mini Golf In Grande Prairie, AB

    Around me seems to be many aliens of different colors shapes and sizes. It seems as though the little aliens follow the bigger aliens, and they are wearing material with different types of patterns, shapes and colors. There are large characters on the side of this box with a whole in it. There was an alien on the inside of this large box helping other aliens as they approached it. They received a large stick with a colored object after they handed the worker alien some currency I presume.
    The big alien proceeds with the stick and colored object and does a demonstration for the smaller alien. The objective seems to be to tap the colored object with the large stick until it makes its way into the dug out spot on the colored flooring. There are a few rows with dug out in the ground, the rows seem to curve or have slight bumps possibly to cause some difficulty i presume. The smaller aliens look as though they are exerting much more force than the big aliens, seems like they are getting better as they play.
    After the aliens have finished with the colored objects making it into all the dug out areas in the colorful ground, they return their large sticks and colored objects and make their way to an odd looking machine. The machine seems to only work when every alien has made it into the machine, and it only goes one direction at a time, it looks as if it is connected to the ground beneath it. The aliens have made it into their land craft and are headed away from the box with characters all over it. What a peculiar activity that these aliens seem to enjoy, I wonder how often one would do this?

  5. To be an alien in another land, whether extraterrestrial or a normal person in an unfamiliar place, is to be set apart and completely alone. To be thrown into a completely new country, new culture, new everything, is a shock, to say the least. I have absolutely no concept of the normalities of daily life. Does normality even exist here or is everything chaos as I see it, all the time, everywhere. I step on burning, hardened black dirt, hear loud pitched noises coming from fast moving objects of some kind; the smell is sickening. I am hungry, my first familiar feeling thus far, but I possess no way of knowing how to satisfy that hunger. This world is overwhelming to the point of exhaustion, unbearably foreign. There are people, people all around me but none of which I know how to communicate with. I am surrounded by people and strange things everywhere I turn, yet I have never felt a loneliness so deep and unquenchable. How will I function in such a place, let alone adapt. Adapt. I must adapt: the only hope there is for me. I crane my neck from side to side, up, down and back again from side to side. No matter how fast I try to watch these people in their habitat, I cannot keep up to their pace. They seem like they walk in haste with meaning in their step, yet their eyes tell me they don’t wish to reach their destination. Why they run to it I don’t know. I follow one person, walking fast to keep up, walking alongside the fast moving objects but not with them. Take note: walk beside, not with. The person sees another person, they look similar. The corners of their mouths turn up making a new shape to their mouth and look to their face. What could this mean? What emotion does this display? They hold hands for a moment. Interesting. A sign of peace? My next goal: hold hands with one of these foreigners. Make peace. I come in peace.

  6. People are walking. They walk on raised portions of the ground, all in a straight line. Some go one direction, others go another. Next to the raised walking section of the ground is a larger, wider section of the ground, where humans pilot mechanical vehicles while sitting down. Some of them are large, some are smaller. They too, travel in a straight line, in different directions. When the walking humans want to cross the larger, wider section of ground, they line up and wait for the humans piloting the machines to stop, then cross this section. The human’s movement is decided by coloured lights on large metal poles that tell them to walk, or not walk. The humans in machines use these lights as well. The large and small sections of ground direct the humans to different building structures in this area. The buildings are commonly square and rise high into the sky. Even though they are similar in shape, they differ in their colours and sizes, as well as the activity that seems to be inside them. The walking humans enter these buildings for long periods of time and exit with nothing. Others enter different buildings and exit carrying goods, and sometimes putting these goods in their mouths. One building in particular, larger humans seemed to enter quite often. The outside of the building was characterized by large, golden arches, and a pungent odor was being emitted from the entrance. I entered this building and saw the humans standing in a line, communicating with a human behind a counter, who gave them food in exchange for thin metal circles. I managed to find many of these circles scattered on the ground, and after gathering them I exchanged them for a food item at this golden arches building. It consisted of Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, all on a sesame seed bun. It was delicious.

  7. Whyte Avenue on a Friday night

    The dark night is lit up by the tall posts that bend as if they too are tired. Light is also provided by the various establishments on either side of the large, dark and hard ground. Mechanical creatures are the ones to dominantly move about this ground. Some stop and open on their sides to allow the small creatures of this planet in. Most of these mechanical creatures that stop are bright yellow and the small creatures wave them down or race over to them. The small creatures also wait in long lines with others to enter the establishments. To enter these establishments they must present a small card to the large creatures that guard the doors. Those who walk past these establishments seem to lack proper motor skills and walk side to side and stumble often. They also mostly walk in groups. Few creatures appear to roam this area alone. Some of the creatures outside the establishments seem upset and are crying. It appears that most of the creatures that act this way are the females of this species. There are also creatures who stagger about and are ill and the sickness appears evenly spread between the males and females. One group of creatures passes another next to a busy establishment and two males bump. A hostile exchange occurs and the males begin pushing and punching. Members of the respective groups try to intervene but only aggravate the fight. Creatures with hats and matching attire that shines brightly in one spot arrive and the fight stops. These creatures look important as their presence seems to have intimidated the others. They pull out what looks like metal rope attached to circles of metals and attach them to the two creatures that were fighting. The rest of the creatures look worried and frightened as the important creatures take the two male creatures away in a mechanical creature that has colored lights flashing on top of it. I fear trying to communicate with any of these creatures.

  8. It’s a little community, with small structures, many large brown and green things, they sway when there is a gust of air. Further down there are three larger structures, one that is white and green, with posts that have a crescent moon and a star made of metal, a another is a reddish-brown, the other a greenish-blue. A barrier separates the reddish-brown and the greenish-blue structure. The greenish-blue structure has a side entrance. On each side there are more of these swaying things only they have slim pointy green things protruding, and to the right there is a field of green covered with yellow spots. There are patches of black where 2 white posts stand. The posts form the shape of a rectangle and a person stands the middle of this and people are running around chasing a circular object, attempting to get it passed the person in the posts. To the left there seems to be some sort of civilization made of colourful metal that is contorted and shaped strangely, but the young people seem to enjoy it, they are smiling while they go down the spiralled metal, climbing things, and going through cylindrical things. They walk on a light brown grainy element. The older people help the littler ones, and some seem to be monitoring them, they point and smile. There is a curved path that leads away from the field. It has many cracks. I have reached another barrier but it is open, it has some black and red signs. At the end of the path I see people walking, some have a thing tied to them, it has four legs, some are small others are large. There is a line small structures to my left and right.

  9. Scona Track, Edmonton, Alberta

    There are so many people outside enjoying the radiant sun. I am standing in the center of thick red lines and thin white lines that are all connected to one another. Young children stand far apart in these lines and they all crouch down. Are these children afraid? Should I crouch down too? The children begin to run at the exact same time; I now wonder if I should follow them. Many groups of people watching begin to touch their hands together, jump up and down and open their mouths wide. The children run into a curve portion, they are far apart from one another now. Their arms are moving so fast I am surprised their legs can move at the same rate. In the distance I see a single child jumping into a small rock pit. Ouch that must hurt! A man sitting then raises a flag and the crowd’s faces are unimpressed. I now walk on a soft green surface; I am only used to cold rocks beneath my feet. The children have finally finished running and they all stop at the exact same spot. The first child looks extremely happy while the last child looks disappointed. Objects are being hung on the necks of a certain number of children; I want to see how I can get one too. As I walk toward the children I am grabbed by the arm and taken away. All I wanted was to see the shiny objects but I am again on the green cool area. People back home are friendlier, I hope I go back soon.

  10. Pardon the psychobabble…first of all, based on observation alone, the alien has pre-learned concepts of its own that it has learned to associate with certain symbols (e.g. symbols for authority as the cop, thus causing it to run away). If there were no existent similarities or learned visualities from where it came, then the only reason it ran from the police was because it realised it was being chased; but is escape from the hunter instinctual on its own despite any lack of knowledge on what a ‘hunter’ would resemble, let alone do?
    The alien, being deaf and unable to read (that is, Earth languages), might perceive Earth to be hostile. In its first encounter, noises were coming out of the walls, ceilings and pews as vibrations and being highly emphatic, the alien sensed this as something unpleasant – solely on the fact that an alien with its own writing system (e.g. in its space ship) and abilities to heal itself may be more advanced than earthlings, thus might not need any means of verbal and aural communication (even evolutionarily speaking), thus vibrations (much like sonar) is one of its natural tools that assist it in its observation and learning. In relation to instincts mentioned earlier, the alien is able to understand that a pear is food, possibly due again to similarities back in Mars or that the smell and fragrance of natural/ready-to-eat food simply triggered its instincts to proceed and devour what seemed too good to be true, especially if that instinct stems from the alien’s natural tendencies of hunger. Unfortunately, concepts like monetary exchange obviously does not exist in Mars, but the alien has learned quickly that somehow pieces of parchments inked with government-regulated symbols are needed in order to obtain natural sustenance, but through observation alone, it was not able to primarily understand the concept of ‘bread on the table’, which is presumably also inexistent in Mars. As the alien has now entered the pub, it realises that it must only sit and observe, possibly learning to just keep still, and hoping that it might no longer be confronted with hostility – mostly based on learning that Earth is indeed hostile, especially when you just keep touching what you see. It has learned that consequentially, visual observation is much better than tactile observation. As already mentioned, out of growing fear (at least based on the 20 minutes of viewing), the alien chooses to sit idly as its lets the earthlings conduct their own tactile observations of it. The alien still regards the planet and its inhabitants as hostile (even with beverages as alcohol – which by observation, do not exist in Mars). Solely based on interpretation of what I would see if I were in the alien’s shoes, the alien was left to only observe rationally, due to disallowances of any empirical (or even realistic [realistical?]) observations. Inconclusively, this is what I saw.

    • Your point about fear of police/being hunted/instincts are important. It raises an important question “theory of action” type questions. What drives human behaviour/action? Does the alien run because there is a similar authority on his own world? Is fleeing a reflexive respond to stimulus, fear of the unknown, a fight-flight response? The former indicates a degree of choice in the matter; he doesn’t have to flee. The latter suggests a lack of control over himself.

  11. Everything around me sounds distorted.. as if I am underwater. I see objects around me… or rather people. Their mouths are open and moving at an alarmingly quick rate and yet I cannot understand anything that comes out. As I walk through the throngs of inhabitants, I see around me strange scrawls or hieroglyphs I cannot comprehend. I continue to make my way along the smooth grey path, when I come across a section with four sets of lights. The light in front of me flashes a crimson color. As I make my way towards the light, I see people remain immobile; their mouths continue to pulsate rapidly. I try to tune into what they are saying, but still it sounds wonky and distorted. They stare at me as I make my way forward, when suddenly a small machine whizzes by, missing me by inches. I stand, puzzled, and people around me seem to be starring with a strange expression. Some people are trying to make contact with their mouths, but I stare at them blankly. I try to communicate, a simple gesture, but they don’t seem to understand me.

    Where am I? I continue to stay in place as machinery whizzes by, some people even seem to come out of the machinery and give me gestures that I cannot comprehend with their fingers. What are they trying to communicate?

    I do not know where to go next, so I stay frozen in place… I am filled with unknown. I need answers.

    The light in front of me turns green, and I glance around as movement happens. I follow the flow movement in front of me, starring aimlessly at the strange surroundings as we make our way to the next set of lights.

  12. Scared. Confused. Anxious. Excited? All these are emotions that are running through my head as I set foot onto this foreign land. What are these people saying? Where are they all going off in a hurry? How can I get food? This was too much, my head was just exploding. This was way too much information to process at once, I needed help. Even though these people looked somewhat like me, they were different. I can’t quite put my finger on how they are different from me, but it seems everyone is very absorbed in their own life. They have come to accept and understand the notions of society and like machines they seem to go from one task to another. Everything is about routine. How can I ever fit into this lifestyle? Despite not fitting in, my main problem centers on communication. How can I even try to become friends with these people? They probably think I’m an uncivilized individual. My clothes fit loosely on my body, and it’s a bit tattered, my pants are on the short side….just look these people in their fitted black clothing. They even have colorful cloth hanging around their necks. They all ignore me, no one even dares to attempt to speak to me. I try to push all these feelings aside. This is a new place, a new environment, new people, that means I can create a new me. None of these people know me; I can attempt to fit in. Maybe if I just sit on this bench and watch them I can learn their habits and mannerisms. Ok, it seems if I extend my hand out to someone, it seems like a greeting. I think I’ll try that. Oh, this man looks friendly. I walk up to him and extend my hand, he takes a look at me, shakes his head, and walks away. I’m an alien to them… just an alien. Now and forever.

  13. Banff, Alberta

    I see creatures walking everywhere. As I look around I see some of them sitting down on round circles with legs, in the center is a bigger circle which seems to be holding food. I continue my walk along a rough, cold textured floor. I’m surrounded by different size structures, which have different patterns on them. I walk inside these structures, the ceilings have a lot of bright lights, which remind me of stars. The inside of these structures are very small and it’s hard to walk around all these creatures. They seem to be fascinated by the gadgets in these structures. Each structure has different gadgets, some of them are furry and soft, while others are very shiny and have a rough texture. These creatures walk in and out of the structures, many carry containers but I’m not sure what’s inside them. I see smaller versions of the big creatures, the smaller creatures seem to run and push each other around. I look around and I’m fascinated by some tall brown structures that come out of the ground. These tall brown structures have a lot of green hair on them, which doesn’t stay still. If you stand close to these green-haired structures you feel a nice cold breeze. In the distance I see big pointy grey rocks with some white spots on them. There seems to be some type of machine that carries these creatures to the top of the large rocks. The machines are medium sized and have windows on them. The creatures sit inside these machines and hold black devices in there hands. These handheld devices give off a bright flash. I find myself in a very interesting place.

  14. River Valley

    The environment in which I find myself is strange and foreign, the feeling beneath my feet is uneven and I fall. I am now in a cold place and I do not know how to get out. This strange object passes by me with aliens moving their arms forward and backwards repeatedly. They slow down and stop, something is moving very rapidly making different shapes. I think they are trying to communicate something, but I cannot hear anything. There is a strange alien that is different from the rest, with a strange object. With its eyes on me its seems to change color and the other aliens look away and return to moving their arms swiftly back and forth, faster than before. I am slowly moving along in this cold place, until something sticking out stops me. Despite the force pushing against me I am able to pull myself out. I find myself laying on this uneven surface feeling very cold, and I notice many strange things. Across the cold place is a thing that reaches out across from one side to the other, overtop of the cold place. The aliens move in strange devices quickly over the thing and disappear from my sight. Other aliens move past me more slowly on these strange objects, which they are moving their legs up and down. I notice strange things hanging down from the alien’s heads, what could they be? There is one alien moving towards me with a strange small creature with hair all over it. The creature is baring its teeth as the alien moves closer and seems to be attached to the alien. There is more movement, but I do not understand what the alien is trying to say. The alien extends an arm and pulls me forward, the strange small creature is moving up towards me with its bared teeth. The alien looks at the creature and makes a shape with its face and it stops. Before I know it I am being pulled along behind the alien, with the small creature behind me. Strange things are moving above my head and I feel so lost. What will happen to me in this strange place? I am so lost and confused, unable to understand these strange aliens.

  15. University of Alberta Campus

    As I am standing in the hallway of a large building with many connecting corridors, something triggers a stampede of people. People of all sorts crowd the large hallway where I stand and I cannot make sense of why everyone is leaving their rooms. Is there something that is dangerous? Must I leave too? What is the rush? There are people who do not even lift their heads to see where they are going, and those who seem to be more concentrated on on a square box that lights up in thier hands instead of those around them. I decide to follow the crowd, for sake of my own safety, as everyone seems to be in a rush so something must be wrong. Although, there is a group of girls who seem to be unphased by the stampede going on around them and seem to be making very strange gestures and noises towards eachother – do they even know what is going on? Why are they in the middle of the hallway? It must be some sort of defense mechanism that these ‘special’ humans have adapted to deal with the danger? As I am swept towards a more open hallway, filled with even more people. I come across a room that smells different then the hallway, and notice the a long straight line of people – Is this where everyone was rushing too? It must be a sort of safety check-in or strategy to keep the masses calm – unlike those strange girls in the hallway. What is it though, that everyone is walking away with? An object they raise to thier faces? This must be required after an emergency – it must be something that has calming properties, for people to consume after they the stampede, after the danger. I decide to sit and watch the straight line of people slowly dwindle and I feel relieved that I too must be out of danger …. until there is something that sets off the trigger again, people all of a sudden everywhere, rushing, reforming the line, bumping into people, not even lifting thier heads, what is the danger this time I wonder??

  16. If I were a visitor from Mars that was plunked down in the heart of Whyte Ave with the inability of reading and hearing, I would imagine it would be very difficult. Whyte Avenue can be a very crowded place with a variety of types of people.

    So as the alien, I would see the people dressed in different ways, but may not be able to make the connection that people are expressing their individuality. When the sunlight is shining, the aliens I am among are going in and out of similar buildings and coming out with bags full of items. These aliens are all walking along the edges of the way, as there are several fast moving objects that transport these aliens down the middle. Where this edge temporarily ends to make way for these transport vesicles, these aliens will cross to the adjacent edge when there is a white image, but will not cross when there is an orange image. The transport vesicles also will stop and go, depending on the colour of the light. Several of these aliens have come up to me and handed out papers, but I can’t hear what they say or read what they have handed me.
    At night, this area is still busy, but they appear different from during the day. Some have a hard time moving in a straight line. Others are expelling some kind of mess from their mouth. I do prefer the daylight in this area, as the darkness brings out different creatures.

    • It’s difficult to describe something, to paint a picture of it, without having the words to do so. I think joseau has a good point above. No one has taken up the challenge in this way, but the alien might surely confuse some items in this world for things in its own, applying nouns of his own. This drives home Woodiwiss point of the more or less independence of things and the words that describe them.

  17. Kingsway/NAIT
    I am standing in an area that seems to be popular with the organisms of this planet. They seem to be waiting for large moving objects that house many organisms at once. There are many of these objects coming from one direction and going in another direction. Across my plain of sight I see organisms wearing brightly coloured cloths on their torsos and at the tops of their structures. There are large machines that these organisms are by, and the surface of the planet has been disrupted. There are barriers between the organisms waiting for the moving objects and the organisms with the large machines. Behind me is a large building but I am unaware of what is contains, I can see organisms moving in and out of the structure. There is a bright orb in the atmosphere that seems to be generating heat, but I am not certain of what to call it…

    I found the most difficult part of this activity was not to include sounds, I rely heavily on my sense of sound while interpreting my world around me so I struggled not include noise and sounds.

  18. Oblivious of where I am and what I see, I am in a strange world. There are creatures I can notice these creatures have a rectangle device on their hands and they are engrossed in it by looking down and moving their fingers. What is it? The weird thing is that these creatures can use this device to talk by holding on their ears. What are these people saying? Why can’t they just talk to each other face by face? Why that particular creature has water coming down from the eyes afterword? I am not sure. As I turn around, it is interesting to see that some creatures sit in a machine with four round little things attached to the bottom. I can see these creatures through the window, but only their hands and upper body. These machines look dangerous in a fast speed. Moving along with others then come to a complete stop. There are three different colour of lights attached the top of street pole in the corner of the intersection. It is RED. The other side of the street has machine with creatures in it moving and it is Green. Why is this? These creatures have to wait patiently. I look around and I’m fascinated by the different sizes of structures that come out of the ground. These structures also have different patterns I cannot read to understand. These creatures are rushing in and out of these structures. I am confused and tired. These creatures look at me weird, and I am frustrated I am not able to communicate with them.

  19. Outside the Movie Theater

    The sun is going down and the air is getting cool. The smell of cooked food comes from the structure across the way. The humans come out of this structure and come over to the one that is beside me and they go inside. The humans coming out of the structure beside me all seem to be carrying this delicious smelling food in sacks. It seems that most of what these humans do is centered around food. The humans coming out of the structure by me all seem to be getting into these crude transportation devices. Some of these devices are small and can only carry one or two of the humans, but most of them are very large but they still only carry one or two of the humans. The structure I am in front of is covered in lights, and as I look around I can see lights coming on all around me. There are lights on tall structures that seem to light the way for the transportation devices that the humans are in. It almost seems like the humans fear the darkness, even the transportation devices seem to have lights on and in them. Some of the lights change their color. The Transportation devices seem to respond to these lights. When the light turns green the devices start to move, and when the lights tun yellow, most of the devices start to slow down. Some of the devices must not function properyl because they speed up when the light turns yellow, and this seems to make the humans angry. When the light turns red the devices stop and wait for the light to turn green again. I think that the lights are there to keep the crude devices from colliding with one another.

  20. At Church on a Sunday Mass.

    Room full of others……all staring at the centre front of the room. Watching and starring. So confused. Man at centre moving his lips but unable to hear or understand what he is saying. Everyone nodding their heads as if to agree with him. Others sleeping and looking down at the floor as if bored. Some others have a strange metal box with digitals and lights inside them. Their fingers touching at the screens, while others have them in their ears while moving their lips…….Wait all of a sudden man at the centre stops talking and everyone in the room stands together, moving their lips as if they are saying something. They hold hands, shake hands, hug and kiss one another.But why? Do they all know one another? I don’t know anyone. People offer me their hands do I shake it like the others?

    Others put different colours of paper like blue, purple, green, and red on baskets as those baskets are passed around the room to different people. What are those colours mean? And why were they putting them in baskets aren’t they just paper? Then everyone sits and stands while others in the corner are strumming an instrument full of strings while another hits set of circles, then more people moving their lips. Why do people seem to respond as if they can hear and not like what those people are saying and doing?

    Man at front goes centre again lifts a white circle and cup while moving lips. Then people lined up to go to the front and reach for something. I go into the line up and I reach the front and I received a white circle. What do I do with it? Is it tasty? I look and others put it in their mouth while others kneel with heads down. I looked at the white circle, an I put it in my mouth. Crunchy, but not much of taste. People stand again and the man in front centre walks down to the back, everyone staring and following him out of their seats. Who is this man? Why does he wear robes and people listen and follow him? Is he their leader?

    What a strange place where people look and stare at one man, eating white circles, putting colorful paper in baskets, and hugging and shaking with the hands with one another. How can I ever understand what they are doing?

    Kiel Jaravata

  21. I look down the long corridor, there are creatures on either side opening and closing the tiny doors that cover the walls. Some doors are high, while some are low. The creatures seem to not notice me. Some are standing making strange noises at each other (what I assume to be their form of communication) while others walk keeping the globes on their necks down. The slender, long haired creatures seem to stick together in groups. There are some very large creatures that seem to scare the smaller creatures. I see a group of creatures circling a small cowering creature with large eye coverings. Their mouths are open wide, they are showing their teeth and making a weird repetitive noise. They must be performing some sort of healing ritual. Creatures that are moving past, slow and stare at the small creature. Some join in and open their mouths like the other creatures while others speed up their pace. An important looking creature walks towards the group, its feet making a weird clicking noise. It slows for a minute, looks at the creature, and turns its mouth upside down; but, after a few seconds it continues on. Some of the creatures start chanting in their language; perhaps this helps with the healing ritual. The healing rituals on my planet require that everyone participates so I join the circle of creatures and open my mouth wide and try my best to mimic the strange creatures’ language, hoping that the poor creature in the middle of the circle will be healed, “LOSER, NERD, WEIRDO!”

  22. When my spaceship crashed, I landed on a territory unknown to me. The landing was rough and I was welcomed by a weird cloud of white billowing up from the ground and discovered that part of my foot had disappeared. When I stood up I felt disorientated I was surrounded by darkness except for a yellow glow coming from across a moving silver sheet. There were large green rigid monsters towering over me and surrounding some sort of white-slated building. Upon healing myself I knew I needed to find some place to seek asylum. The white building was a place to explore, but it seemed empty. There was dirt, like back home, all over everything and there was no noise and a large empty space. I decided to investigate a smooth wall but as soon as I touched it these strange noises started coming out. I thought I could escape them but the bench begins to hum these noises too, then they were surrounding me from every direction. I don’t know if it was fear or exhaustion but I soon found myself on the floor curled up.

    I went discovering today. This is a strange, strange land. There are all these two-legged creatures that appear similar to me but they speak something that I do not recognize and they watch me. They have strange customs here; you cannot help yourself to food. The one got really loud when I tried a funny shaped yellow thing and when I used the little sheets from that strange box she sent a man after me. The man had shiny badges on his head and body and a strange looking weapon but I knew that he was after me and I had to find a safe place to hide. After escaping the strange man chasing me I went inside this cool brown room. The noise in there was really loud and there was a large box making these weird noises and all the two-legged creatures kept staring at me. I don’t know where I am but so much of this world does not make sense to me, I am a stranger in a strange land.

  23. Corner of 87 Ave and 109

    I am standing surrounded by a structure that has walls made from a see-through material. There is an entryway and the inhabitants of this planet are sitting on small circular bubbles that have branch like legs and are holding them up. The inhabitants of this planet are all different shapes and sizes but the circular bubbles with the branches are holding them up. Most of the inhabitants are using cylinders with holes in them. There seems to be a liquid of some sort within these cylinders and the inhabitants of this planet are bringing it to their mouths. It seems to me that they are ingesting the brown coloured liquid inside their bodies.

    All around me there are box-like containers moving at high speeds. They keep stopping and going in uniform like fashion. All of a sudden there is a very bright red light coming from a larger box and all the other boxes have stopped for it, as it sped in front of me. That box must be the leader because all the other boxes stopped and moved out of it’s way letting it pass ahead of them. Within these boxes that are travelling back and forth, towards me and away from me are inhabitants of this planet. The boxes keep stopping for each other in a planned interval of time. I was not aware what triggered this until I followed the direction of the gaze of one of the inhabitants. All the inhabitants were paying attention to the lighting fixture being held up by large pole at the edge of the black path. When the light was red the boxes would stop moving. When the light was green the boxes would begin to move then rush through the lights. I have still yet to understand the purpose of the amber coloured light, does it stop the boxes or make them move?The inhabitants were were turning a device in a circular fashion to manoeuvre the moving boxes. Most of the inhabitants were strapped with a belt to some sort of seating within the box, however some of them were not using it.

    I am intrigued by this planet and it’s inhabitants.

  24. I wriggle my toes in the green plant these things –should I call them things? They organize themselves. For now they will be creatures. Time will tell if they are people- these creatures seem so fond of. Around the approximately square patch of green divided by lines of grey are large blockish monolithic structures. The creatures make their way in and out of them. Many of the creatures who have healthy looking bodies travel over the green, while spongier grey furred creatures use the grey lines. The green is more comfortable to stand on, which made me think that perhaps the grey lines are a punishment for the weaker creatures, until I watched closely. Many of the healthy creatures compete for the attention of the spongier greyish creatures, they walk beside them eagerly listening to the noises the grey ones make, and often they avert their path so as to not inconvenience the grey ones. The ratio of healthy creatures to gray creatures is overwhelming. The grey creatures also leave the monoliths less often, while the –perhaps younger- creatures hurry over the green patches and grey lines between the monoliths. Every hour the flow of creatures increases exponentially for a short period of time, and then returns to the regular few. The fact that the healthy creatures seem to prefer the green patches –evidenced by their routes of travel and inclination to lounge on it between the monolith migrations- has led me to believe that they may cultivate it intentionally. Perhaps it is a key element of the creatures health? Lying on the green plants has not invigorated me specifically, and when I ate some many of the creatures began to look at me. Their faces contorted. I do not know if this was a manifestation of rage or fear, but I feared that if I continued they would protect their health giving plants. I shall wait until the lull between migrations to try again consuming their plants.

    • This is great. I can’t seem to figure out what the “spongier grey furred creatures” are, so I’m almost convinced you are an actual alien. How else to explain the insight? Back to Woodiwiss, the point of the exercise is to take note of how dependent our understandings of places and objects (not to mention people) on concepts, names, etc. that are given before hand. Describing something without accessing these is nearly impossible. This drives home the degree to which our perception of things is something quite separate from the thing itself. The question, of course, remains: how separate is perception, and how can we ever know that there is a “real thing” out there?

  25. I look around and I see an endless amount of moving living things. They are throwing around some sort of dead thing. I see a separation. Those movers are on one part and there are others on the side waving they’re sticks. Their faces look different. Maybe some are happy and some are sad. All of a sudden they are moving in very odd ways. I think they are jumping. Like we do back home.

    I tried to describe being dropped into a gymnasium during a volleyball tournament. It was extremely difficult as I had read the note before doing the exercise and that’s why I stopped. This made me aware of how many things in just one moment of my life are descriptions or ideas influenced by what I was taught, what society deems things as and what words or phrases stick to my mind. Perhaps if I were from another planet the round volleyball I see would be considered a square stick. I think it forced me to really think about even the simplest things and how my brain and its thoughts are affected.

    If I were to have continued the moment I walked into that gym it would involve words like players, teams, referee, whistle, parents and coaches. All are words and ideas which I now realize could be from something more than just a quick thought and story.

    • As you’ve already, this is the point of the exercise. How do we describe things we’ve never seen before? Also, note how nearly impossible it is to walk in the shoes of others, never mind to become someone else. It strikes me at this moment that for this experienceight be particularly poignant for those planning to teach overseas in the future. From first hand experience, those first steps into an “alien” society/culture can be nearly as disorienting as the experience
      If the alien brother.

  26. The people stand orderly, facing the wall which borders the dark tubes, bending around corners, fading from sight. Some of the people speak, their voices joined together in an incoherent babble. Suddenly a Louder voice projects from above, disembodied, and the people turn to face one of the tubes. The passage brightens as a metal behemoth screeches toward the platform on which the humans stand, then it stops. The people shuffle toward the metal beast, passing through portals which open all along its sides. People look curiously at me as I stand unmoving upon the platform, watch them pass into the new arrival, but not joining them. Some jostle me in their attempt to all squeeze in. Access to the innards of this metal snake must be quite appealing, as they seemingly subject themselves to some discomfort in order to join their comrades inside. Another disembodied voice, and a similar artifact approaches the opposite side of the platform, and more humans cram into this one as well. The clanking metal tubs move off in opposite directions, taking with them all the humans who I stood amongst. I am left alone on the platform, save for a man pushing some kind of contraption which seems to gobble up all the refuse lying around. He looks at me with puzzlement, then goes back to his work…

  27. 106 St and Corona Station

    Climbing some sort of electronic staircase I emerge from the underground transportation tunnels into the light of the day. I am surrounded by large structures that stretch way into the sky. The structures appear to have been crafted of various elements and most show uniformity in their design. Bring my gaze to eye level I see creatures that look no different from me, do they know I’m an outsider?, it appears as though they do not. Some creatures interact with one another communicating in a foreign tongue, others appear to be fixated on devices they carry in their hands i am unsure what these devices are, but i hope to get a closer look. Some creatures have long wires coming out of their hearing receptacles, could they be some sort of long distance communication device? I see a creature lying on the ground sleeping, his garments appear to be tattered and unkempt, he sleeps clinging to some sort of trolley that is stacked high with what appear to be valuable goods. Various form of transporters whirl by me in what appears to be random directions, some quite large and blue others smaller with only 2 skinny rotating discs. Various transporters are parked and appear to be handing out rations of consumables in exchange for colorful leafy parchment, The creatures appear to enjoy the rations. Strangest yet are the creatures who appear to be eating small white sticks, they go in as a solid but appear to come out as some sort of vapor, I am thoroughly confused by this action, but i suppose i will have lots to learn if i spend any more time on this strange planet.

  28. Whyte Ave
    I am standing off to the side of some sort of charcoal coloured pathway. On it, boxes with wheels move at unreasonably high speeds. In these boxes I see beings that look similar to myself. The ground I am standing on appears to be another sort of pathway in which more of these beings are walking. They speak in a tongue which I do not understand. They rush in and out of stores, bags hanging from their hands. Most appear to be smiling, while many others appear to be emotionless. I look at them, and most of them look at me with a face filled with disdain, I do not know what I am doing wrong. Surrounding me are extremely tall structures with numerous transparent squares along their sides. I begin to walk down the street and am unsure of which structures I have permission to enter. I do not know my role here, and I am afraid of making an error in judgement. When I try speaking to these beings they disengage eye contact and shake their heads while they continue to walk by me. I am the only one of my kind here.

  29. Costco

    I have encountered a strange open area. The aliens arrive in large metallic contraptions that move about on four circles. Some of the aliens move in packs of two and have small aliens with them. The groups all move toward an opening. They seem to be in a hurry often walking in front of each other and avoiding those metallic rolling things. Once they move into the opening they grab some sort of metal rolling holding device. There are groups with empty devices moving in and groups with full devices moving out. These aliens seems to utilize the circle shape for transport. I enter the inner area and see the aliens grab all kinds of objects and put them into the holding device. The aliens move around the inner area with no real direction just grabbing more objects and sometimes colliding with other holding devices. Once they have a full holding device they get into formation and proceed single file through some sort of identification area. The identifier checks all objects in the holding device. The aliens give the identifier some small thin rectangular objects and receive a longer thin object. The group pushes the device into another single file formation where the long thin object is checked before the group can leave the area. These beings must place much value on those objects to put themselves through such an ordeal.

  30. My apartment.

    I wake remembering the last thing that happened, I went through a dense, inorganic object. It felt like a force pulled me in towards the round planet, as if I were supposed to stay here, unlike many other rocks I have stayed on, where I was free to leave immediately. I am now in the object. To my surprise it is quite difficult to move myself. I feel my insides weakening but if I do not find out where I am and if it is safe for me to stay, then I must find a way to leave immediately.

    Ignoring my weakness I look around, the inside of the object is not round, unlike the round planet or other round planets I have been to. The inside is also inorganic. Much of what I thought could be the planets surface feels soft to my surface and really quite pleasing. They have placed objects on top of what I have now discovered is not the planets surface. I think these objects have different interactions but have yet to discover what. There are also many barriers in my path. Some are movable and some are not. The ones that move lead to another section of this not-round object. Something is irritating my sight in the distance. I try to go to the brightness but I have seem to hit an invisible barrier. I try to hit it but it does not weaken. I look to an object that seems to solid and movable. It seems an interaction I have discovered is that these objects are used to weaken these barriers so that I may pass through. It must recreate itself afterwards so I should take the object with me.

    I break down the barrier and move forward. To my surprise the surface I am feeling here is also soft, but feels much more alive, it must be the planet. I look to see what is disturbing my sight. This is confusing. I am here from the stars, yet I cannot see the stars. Another barrier? I try to reach for it but I realize now I spent much time traveling and this would take a while to tackle. I may use this object contained on me to break it for if I leave.

    As I continue to look around, I see organic life everywhere, they move but it’s hard to tell what they are exactly doing because they are cloaked in various materials. I am cautious to move and interact though as I may hit another barrier. I also feel very weak. This planet requires a lot of power to move in. I want to leave now.

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