Category Archives: Uncategorized

Gone Thesis-ing

Container Ship

Image by MGSpiller via Flickr

As you might observe from the infrequency of posts, I have something else going on right now.  Frankly, I am frightened that the ideas I am mulling over for my thesis will get wasted by playing them out in blog posts, so I am conserving them as I do some other work.  But! Once I find my bearings I will begin to share the process so that it can be a collaborative process in the tradition of good science.  In the meantime, I might occasionally post stuff about fun things in my life like sailing, or hiking, running, birthday parties, dreams about wrestling beavers in woodpiles, gardening, or aesthetic minimalism.

Ok.  Stay tuned.  Seriously.  I know that people always write this on site pages that should really be 404 pages, because they never return to make good on the promised “coming soon”, but I have some serious fun lined up that because of my life and academic schedule WILL be completed on time; and when those deadlines come, I promise you with both sincerity and fortitude that I will begin posting again in earnest.  Subscribe to the blog with the sidebar button and you will know when I return.

Peace be with you.

Building Narratives with Pictures

Occasionally I repost this picture book that presents a series of images and lets the viewer surmise a probable narrative.

Take the time to check it out.

Truffle to Truffle: Metaphors of Dirty Decadence

Truffle Market in Carpentras.

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t tell if I like truffles the mushroom better than I like truffles the chocolate, but one thing is for sure, truffles of any kind offer a guilty pleasure.  From a cognitive science perspective both types of truffles are related to each other, perhaps not on the Linnaean taxonomy, but certainly from a metaphorical position.  Look at these facts:

Take the features of the Mushroom:

  1. Relative Rarity
  2. Decadent and Dark Earthiness
  3. Lumpy & Dirty
  4. Expensive

…and metaphorically translate them into Chocolate:

  1. Good ones (i.e., NOT Lindor or Trader Joes) are Rare
  2. Dark Chocolate Decadence
  3. Lumpy & Dusted with a fine cocoa powder
  4. Expensive

The idea is to get a sweet version of the savory kind, find a translatable equivalent from the language of savory to the language of sweet.

Both the mushroom and the chocolate share these two characteristics:

  • They are both Expensive, where: a) Cost correlates with Quality and b) Cost correlates with Rarity, and,
  • They are both Dirty
I have been making truffles by hand for a little over a decade and at first I followed a recipe but over time it has kind of evolved to the point that I feel that I can call it my own.  Here is my process:
Typically I take about a pound of a rich dark chocolate (try a slave-free chocolate from this list), shave it, melt it in a double boiler, concurrently bring about a cup of heavy whipping cream just to a boil (without scalding), remove it from the flame and fold the chocolate into the cream.  At this point I will add something special (i.e. dark rum, cayenne, or marmalade) and set it aside to cool.  This is the ganache for the truffle filling.  Once it is cool I scoop it into small marble-sized balls using a melon spoon, place them in my freezer and leave the door open (I use the freezer as part of my extended working space and it is easier than opening and closing the door).  Have on hand a deep bowl with an non-dutched cocoa powder (something French is nice).  I bring about 10 ounces of a different grade of chocolate to melting point (temper it if you know how) and one at a time roll the frozen ganache balls in the melted chocolate, gingerly dropping them into the bowl of cocoa powder and quickly swirling the truffle around in the powder.  If you do this right the powder covers the entire truffle and evens out the coating of tempered chocolate.  Remove it from the powder with a plastic spoon and return it to the chilled freezer to let it set up.  Keeping them any longer than a week diminishes their quality.

Now that I shared my recipe I want to address the metaphor.

The idea about the metaphorical transfer that takes place is that concepts from one domain are mapped onto referents in another domain; in this case: mushroom maps to chocolate.  Interestingly, like many metaphors, this directionality is a one way mapping, in other words, it might be hard to map concepts from the chocolate truffle back onto the mushroom truffle.  But this is not impossible, for instance, say that someone begins to wrap their truffle mushrooms in a foil bon-bon wrapper to add a touch of novelty – then this behavior would be a feedback mapping of the metaphor.  That said, no truffle vendor in their right mind would cheapen the mushroom with that kind of kitsch, and no sensible market customer would buy a wrapped truffle they could not see.  So practically, it is probably safe to say that the metaphor only goes one direction.

Looking at the dusting of the truffle with cocoa we can see how the dirt environment of the mushroom acts as a containing boundary, in fact, the irregular shape of the mushroom comes from the fact that it grows underground and the pressure of the soil molds the mushroom, the soil embodies a force schema of restraint and acts as a container.  Likewise, the swirling of the truffle in the cocoa powder shapes the truffle and envelopes the chocolate truffle in a skin of powder (another container).

To wrap things up, think about this super simplified rendering of the metaphor:

Can you think of any other types of food that could be mapped using this simple template?  If so, post a comment with an example, we should try and get a little typology of food process metaphors going.

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Why Fictive Motion Matters (briefly)

One of the interesting features of fictive motion is that the processing of fictive motion engages the mental resources used in performing the fictive motion, or at least correlates with time (saccades and scanning). This accords with the ideas of simulation semantics and spatial relations. Matlock & Richardson claim that distinct spatial relations can be evoked through fictive motion when contrastive literal recount of motion does not evoke that same degree of spatial relations (p. 12). They suggest that verbal and visual processes work together to interpret fictive motion. Consider the sentence, “Her hair ran all the way past her butt.” which likely evokes a visual representation of the back of a woman, long hair, her landmark butt, and the way that the hair traverses the distance.

Matlock argues that If we understand fictive motion as simulated motion it is probable that the simulation emerges from the collection of real world encyclopedic knowledge that we gather through our everyday experiences (p. 10). Consider this example “Apply the grout so that it runs between the tile” as compared to “Apply the grout between the tiles”. In the first example, the mental scanning likely causes the reader to mentally draw on our knowledge of stretches of tile and to follow them in a scanning motion for several tiles in a sequence. The second sentence probably evokes a more static image of two tiles with grout between them. This is interesting because it reflects the connection between mental processing, language, vision, and embodied experience.

How Goldbergʼs Cognitive Construction Grammar differs from Langackerʼs Cognitive Grammar

Cognitive Grammar (CG) views categories at a level of granularity that is below the views espoused in the current edition of Cognitive Construction Grammar (CCxG); instead of using prototypes, CG relies on an quasi-atomistic assemblage model for category formation. CCxG on the other hand could be seen as a more stochastic stab at the problem of category structure, since it is based on prototype effects. To me, these do not seem to be mutually exclusive foci; CG answers a lower level problem than CCxG. CCxG does not need that level of analysis because of the emphasis on generalization in construction use which exist at a higher level of concern.

Also, CG differs from CCxG in that CCxG looks at construal of meaning to be situation based and a matter of choice, CG, on the other hand, views construal as a fixed attribute of form. Consequently, CCxG may have a better view of semantics than CG since CCxG is not rigidly tied to the formalisms required by a reductionist model (even if it does maintain the claim that constructions are form-meaning pairings).

CG in this view, seems to be more focused on an association-based model to account for form-meaning pairings and CCxG seems to rely on construction generalizations to establish the meaning and frequency to confirm the form.

On walking and mediated embodied experience in ethnographic map making

Girl walking in a beach. Porto Covo, Portugal.

Image via Wikipedia

Recently I’ve been thinking about my spatial experience of my contextual environment and about what I have learned over the years in consciously encountering space as a user of space, a creator of space, and a participant in community through space.  I am thinking about this as I am getting ready to do some tutoring on domain mapping in ethnographic research.  Here is a summary of my spatial experience.

As a child most of my experience with space was either moving through it on foot or by being driven around in a car.  Toss in the stroller, occasional plane ride, boating, crutches, sledding, riding a bicycle, but by and large WALKING and RIDING dominated my childhood experience of space.

As an adult I would live in cities like Chicago and Honolulu, places where the infrastructure encouraged walking.  This changed my understanding of terrain, and walking became my primary vantage point for my movement through space, although each place did have new modes of movement; Chicago had a train, Honolulu had surf boards.

Doing fieldwork in West Africa I would never drive; I saw most of sub-Saharan Africa in a van, or a Volkswagen, or a Renault, but I was always the passenger.  At least I could stare out the window and imagine what it was like at a walking pace.

Where I live now has a walkability score of 25 out of 100.  Where I lived in Chicago had a score of 98, Hawai’i had a score of 78; clearly my current 25 is pitiful in comparison.

To be fair, where I live now there are some residents with a score of 82, so, it is not like walking is precluded by living here, just that it is not easy for everyone (like me).  I walked home from work once and it took me three hours.

This has restricted my daily routine movement to driving.  These days I experience my landscape from a vehicle (much like my Africa passenger days), but this time I don’t even get to look around and pay attention to what zooms past my face; no, I only pay attention to that which is necessary to avoid collisions.

Driving has seriously hindered my sense of place.  I used to spend a lot of time walking, exploring, noticing things at street level, at a pace that let me participate and observe; being a car driver has forced me to give up participation with a place in favor of being a consumer of that place, the road is just a conduit.

Instead of participating with the place I now participate with my driving peers as we consume the street on our way to our various destinations.  The interactive dynamic is not with the people who reside in a place, but with people who routinely pass through the place.  This is like the boat that is moored to the riverbank, the boat might not move but the river has certainly changed.

Compared to the speed with which I now drive through my neighborhoods, walking is practically standing still.  Walking is being the boat moored to the bank; driving is the rushing river.  And the places I drive through do not really change either, but I have nothing to do with the neighborhoods which I zoom through, not the shops, not the landscape, not the people.

I need to stop driving so much.

I need to learn to walk, again.

I need to experience the physical crust of earth and to encounter a place with my feet, unmediated by round rubber tires and a gas pedal.

Being a driver has abstracted my encounter with a place by removing the minutia and patient tiny details made visible to the walking man.  I say “man” because I speak of myself; I was a walking man, like James Taylor, but now, where I live, if you walk expect to be stared at, honked at, yelled at by crazy fun-loving child-drivers, and occasionally the target of someone’s empty sodacan/coffeecup/waterbottle hurled out the window with an insult.  I am serious; walking is stigmatizing, and dangerous.

This is partly why I drive places.

My level of attention to place as a driver does not decompose into lower level experiences with place like it does on a stroll where those small experiences gradiently build up to become a walking journey, instead I pay more attention to how many red lights have impeded my progress.

Walking for me does more than serve the function of travel between places; I walk to know a place.

When I move somewhere new (or even visit from out of town), the first thing I do is walk around a place, in an ever widening gyre, a scroll stroll uncurling through a city emanating away from my apartment or hotel room.  I walk around and I get a feel for what surrounds me.  I don’t even look at a map until I have learned the map through my feet.  By doing this I start to learn my place in the broader context, and this is where you encounter the joys of a place, its people, its vitality, its curiosities; by walking you learn the identity of a place.

This afternoon I thought about how walking is natural for me as an ethnographer; in fact, walking is essential.  And one of the reasons it is so important is that it helps in making maps of a place, in mapping the domains and the various spatial relations found in that place.  Sure, you can sit somewhere and draw a map of everything you see, but I promise you, if you walk around a place and look first with your feet, your map will be more detailed, more accurate, and more relevant as you come to capture the reality which each participant experiences as they use that space.

I might have seen a lot of sub-Saharan West Africa, but it doesn’t mean too much to me, and I certainly could only attempt to map it out from an approximation of the various landmarks I happened to have noticed from the window.  This is because the dynamic and progressive movement of a vehicle is that your sense of figure-ground organization is constantly shifting, and it goes as fast as the driver feels is necessary.  But when you walk around, if something becomes figural in your field of vision, and you feel it is important, you get to pause for a moment and reflect on the significance of what you have seen.  This kind of intentional embodied experience is vital for making sense of a place.

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Language Change and Burritos

A Chipotle restaurant sign

Image via Wikipedia

Driving home from class last night I spotted a new Chipotle billboard and it made me think about language change.  The copy-writer used indefinite article a but not the form of the article usually expected for the context (I usually expect an with a vowel-initial word).  Here is the text:

“Our ingredients on a ego trip.”

Frankly, this doesn’t make me mourn anything about the state of American English, instead I choose to see this as language change happening right before my eyes.

What are your thoughts about language change?

What are your thoughts about a usage-based grammar vs. a prescriptive grammar?

Leave some comments.

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Stone Soup, Bouillon Cubes, and Innovation

In my childhood I think it was the fable about Stone Soup that made me start to think about innovation.  As I learned to cook and came further into the world of soup-lore I realized that good soups rely on a reduction of some sort, some kind of richly delicious liquid broth.  In the food world reducing things to something rich and dense is worthy of gustatorial praise.  A brief tour of cookery terms reveal that we have many aspirations to reductions (I am thinking about words like reduction, concentration, syrup, et cetera) and our food science inventions reveal something similar: the bouillon cube.  I think beyond a soup stock, the bouillon cube is the pinnacle achievement of reduction.  It is an abstraction of flavor from the specificity of the ingredients.  But anyway, getting to the point, I don’t like to use bouillon cubes; instead, I make my own soup stocks from scratch in much the same manner as the man who first made stone soup.

For a while now I have been finding myself throwing my vegetable scraps in the freezer so that I can use them to make soup stocks from scratch.  I have recently started cycling through the process on a weekly basis.  Take a look at this week’s table-scraps: Continue reading

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Think Like a Bacterium: OSMOS, Naïve Quorum Sensing, & the iPad

I was recently sucked into playing OSMOS on my iPad.  I never play video games (usually I am too busy: wife, art, school, work) but I did happen to spend four hours straight playing this game over winter break.  This game synthesizes math, physics, biology, conceptualization and human enhancement.   Continue reading

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How I learned to make Instant Coffee taste BETTER than Properly Brewed Coffee

When I was living in West Africa I would wake up around 5 every morning, step outside my door and put my kettle on to boil on this fantastic little green kerosene stove:

I would sit and listen in the morning silence as the water heated in the aluminum kettle.  As the water started to rumble it would get to the point of pre-nucleation as bubbles would start to form around the wall of the kettle and a ring of bubbles mimicking the flame below would begin to emerge upwards from the bottom of the pot and release into steam on the surface of the water.  It was at this point that I would take the kettle off the stove, the point just before boiling when the tiny bubbles were just about to percolate and pour the water into my mug of granulated Nescafe. Continue reading

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Our Heads Get in the Way

If all systems self-organize, do opponents to particular perspectives only prolong the discord by vocalizing their antagonism?

  • Evolutionist antagonizes Creationist.
  • Pro-life antagonizes Pro-choice.
  • Et cetera, ad nauseam.

If both sides took a day off from playing God, wouldn’t it be more likely that self-organization would begin to fall into place?

Think about it, skeptic.

Perhaps the person who cannot look beyond the defense of their apparently certain stance is only entrenched and embittered by the fact that you would not listen to what they have to say with respect or dignity.

Do you listen to people?

Systems can appear to be in contradiction to one another when in fact they can be quite complementary. The problem is that people are afraid to be wrong.

Are you afraid to be wrong?

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HighLevel Issues in EthnoBotany; Interdisciplinary Cross-Pollination

My Shrunken Head - 2008 - RyanDewey.org

I started getting interested in botany during my undergraduate years when I wanted to complement the technical linguistics training with a tempered understanding of some practical skills.  I have always planned on doing anthropological linguistics and in most locations people grow their own food; learning about botany and horticulture would be good for my survival.  And since talking with people about plants is a great way to collect data I wanted to at least have the competency to grow plants and have some familiarity with the lives of plants.  I took a job working summers and breaks at a 100-year-old tropical aquatics greenhouse where I learned to cultivate Lotus, Victoria Regina, Water lilies, marginal plants, and how to raise fish and maintain healthy ecological systems.  This got me interested in algae, protists, lichens, mosses, ferns, et cetera…

Even earlier in life, during primary school I took part in a Naturalist Aid program which taught me about the medicinal uses of plants, biodiversity, and ecology.  I guess my first encounters with plants was really from a pedagogical perspective on ethnobotany. Continue reading

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SWEET! My paper made a Top Ten Download List!

I checked my email this morning and received a message telling me that my recently distributed paper “Figure-Ground Organization in Attention and Construal” made it on a top ten list for downloads yesterday from both the Cognition & the Arts eJournal and the Cognitive Linguistics: Cognition, Language, Gesture eJournal…Awesome!

I hope you check it out! http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=1714063.

 

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Dead Sea Scrolls to be available electronically on Google

This is old news, but happy news nonetheless…its about freakin’ time.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11594674

I remember when they went on their first world tour…

Post-Colonial Thought in Literature, Ethics, and Project Design

I wanted to let you know about an online ejournal about Post-Colonial Literature and Culture, here it is:

Post-Colonial Studies in Literature & Culture eJournal

Having formerly worked in two former colonies (one in Africa and the other in the South Pacific), and having lived in Hawai’i which was also colonized, I am interested pragmatically in the ideas of Post-Colonialism.

While I am on the topic, I want to address post-colonial thought not only in literature, but also in project design for development and similar enterprises.

Furthermore, I am interested in how this model informs the ethics of project design and local ownership in situations of development.

I think it is great that development has gained currency with non-development workers, but I don’t want to see industries like micro-finance become another tool of Colonialism for the lay-person.  Avoiding a ‘savior complex’ is part of ensuring the stability of a project in a post-colonial context.

More to come….

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Medicine in the underdeveloped world

In line with this post (My Jungle Medical Kit) I wanted to pass this link regarding establishing expedient medical clinics in remote locations.

These resources come from the Hesperian Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing healthcare related books and documents.

Go to their webpage and check out some of these titles:

  • “Where There Is No Doctor”
  • “Where There Is No Dentist” 
  • ”A Book for Midwives”
  • “Water for Life”
  • “A Community Guide for Environmental Health”
  • “Where Women Have No Doctor”
  • “The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard”

There is even a section on resources for Cholera in Haiti.  Beyond Haitian Creole, many of these resources are available in Urdu, Sindhi and Spanish.

And they are all FREE. 100%.  You can buy paper copies of the books, but these can all be downloaded with ease.

Every document is high quality.  In fact, I have used these with development workers I have helped equip.  These are real world, real genuine content resources.  Some of these are 500 page books on how to establish a medical clinics (et cetera) and train indigenous leadership with the skills necessary to replicate the model.

One of the features of these documents that impressed me (from the vantage point of a professional student of cultures) is that they are not books that ignore the differences in cultural practices around medicine and social attitudes toward the illness and healing process.

Considering that in Western medicine we view disease as a pathological category, illness as an individual category, and sickness as a social category, these books skillfully navigate the ways in which different societies interpret these cultural experiences.

Check it out, especially if you work/live somewhere that medical resources are limited.

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Tome vs. Tablet: How the iPad Facilitated My Move From Digital Immigrant to Digital Native

So there was a time, not too long ago, that I couldn’t stand reading .pdfs on a monitor.  It didn’t matter if it was on a desktop or a laptop; I hated reading electronic files.  I bought my wife a Kindle about a year ago, it did nothing for me since I don’t get into personal gadgetry.  Lest you think me a Luddite, I am a fan of technology – I love electronic music, I routinely oscillate between Daft Punk and Bjork for my robot music fix; I love the internet; I love the hopes of AI, NBIC, and have my own space odyssey from time to time. And I have an archive of obsolete technology, less from nostalgia than from a fascination with how “artifactual” (yes, I made that word up) things die. My point is this, I consider myself to be pretty open to technology, but I have one tiny little problem:

I have a little too thick of a digital immigrant accent.

My wife was complaining about how much paper I had around the house because I was always printing articles that I had to read…and, well, if they are good articles I felt compelled to save them…(hint, my accent: I STILL print!)  Ugh.

Something happened though…

  1. One of the courses in my MA program had a 871 page “Introduction” text-book.
  2. I got sick of carrying it on the train.
  3. I bought an iPad 2 weeks into the semester and got the e-book version.

INSTANTLY my ability to comprehend electronic text increased by a factor of probably 800,000 or so.

INSTANTLY.

Do you have any idea why?

I do.

I was able to INSTANTLY increase my text comprehension in electronic documents because of ideas in theoretical frameworks like EMBODIED COGNITION and ENACTIVISM.  Heard of them?

Essentially, for me, a life-long reader of books in a particular orientation to my ocular path, namely flat on a table or holding it on my lap with the spine of the book resting perpendicular to the spine of my back.  I was so used to reading “important” text in a particular orientation that when I had to read electronic text which was in front of my face (LCD & laptop screens) I was not retaining the information with the same level of quality.  Hence, my electronic reading skills were relatively poor despite the fact that most books that I read are denser and more complex than what most people conceive of when they think of abstract math.

Buying an iPad changed everything.

Now, I know I am going to get a bunch of SPAM comments because of this post, and I will probably also get some flak for my endorsement of the iPad…I am not making any claims about whether or not it is useful for anything else…(actually, I do have 3 complaints: printing is near impossible, the version of Pages is a light version that doesn’t retain formating when synced with the desktop, &  the file tree is your iTunes file structure on your desktop)…I don’t really care about this stuff; over time it will improve.

All I care about is that I am able to read electronic text with complete fluency and have increased my reading speed in the process.

I even do my remote work through the iPad, it is completely flexible for some of the stuff I have to do and I have increased my productivity by a margin of 28-33% depending on the wi-fi strength.

If I had to do it over again I would certainly buy it again.

 

 

 

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I just bought Lawrence Roberts’ “How Reference Works” for $0.99

I am writing a paper on attention and construal and in my reading I came across Lawrence Roberts’ 1993 work: How Reference Works -Explanatory Models for Indexicals, Descriptions, and Opacity; I didn’t want to have to renew it from the library so I bought it used on Amazon.

It cost me $0.99 for a clean unread copy.

$0.99!

It came in the mail last night.  I opened it and saw that it was a signed first edition that the author gave to someone who had helped him with the book.  I know because I looked at the names in the acknowledgement section.  It could be one of four people.  Importantly, it could be from another researcher whose work influenced me when I was interested in AI.

I just think it is kind of crazy.

 

Quote from Harvard Business Review

“Put simply, people consistently act inconsistently, unaware of the contradiction between their espoused theory and their theory-in-use, between the way they think they are acting, and the way they really act.”

from “Teaching Smart People to Learn” [HBR: 1991]

Overcome Writer’s Block With Semiotics [Free Download]

I just posted a free download of an excerpt of my semiotics project which will be available as a paperback in September.  I encourage you to check it out and let me know what you think about it.

Most of the textual content is absent; I wanted this excerpt to be visceral and intuitive.

The backbone of the project actually came out of an art piece that I made a few years ago that was intended to question identity and the formulation of identity out of memories and possessions [You will read about it in the Disambiguate Me! series on this blog].

As I developed the art project I realized that it could stand in place for a generic narrative that depends on the ways in which the objects are combined and recombined along a plot line that suggestively emerges from the set of objects as a whole. Continue reading

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Apparent Classical Categories In A Cognitive Textbook!

I feel like I have a good vantage point for recognizing problems with cognitive linguistics, especially since I have a descriptive linguistics background and I know a lot of generative linguistics.  I know both sides of the arguments, that should give me a good perspective on the questions those arguments try to answer.  For instance, generative arguments against cognitive strategies of categorization say that classical categories have rigid boundaries that contain members which all share a set of characteristics, and that cognitive dynamic categorization fails to adequately account for these fixed strategies of containment and description.  But, not all cognitive approaches reject rigid boundaries, as I will describe momentarily.  This little argument about rigidity in categories came to mind today when I was reading Evans & Green (2006), and I happened upon a list of rigid characteristics for category membership which seemed very very objectivist and a little out-of-place in the cognitive framework. Continue reading

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