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The Meaning of Things
Domestic Symbols and Self
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi & Eugene Rochberg-Halton
Cambridge University Press, 1981
Publication Date October 30, 1981
330 pages
ISBN 052128774X

Psychology: Attention invested in one thing will be missing somewhere else. > psychic energy

Flow: "The optimal state of experience for the individual is one in which intentions are not in conflict with each other. In this state of inner harmony people can freely choose to invest their psychic energy in goals that are congruent with the rest of their intentions. Subjectively this is felt as a state of heightened energy, a state of increased control. This experience is considered challenging and enjoyable. In previous research this state of vital activity and inner order has been described in detail as the "flow" experience."
p. 10

Simmel 1908: Mastering of things has led to a point, where the things are mastering us.

Cultivation: creation of cosmos out of chaos.
C. refers to the process of investing psychic energy so that one becomes conscious of the goals operating within oneself, among and between the persons, and in the environment.

1) Exploring the theoretical links between people and things
2) Presenting the empirical findings of describing the interaction with the household object.
3) The relationship between this empirical patterns and the goals people in our culture cultivate to give meaning to their lifes.

Some things represent: crucifixes, wedding rings, trophies, diplomas, water and electricity where luxuries when they were introduced.

Symbols used to be Freud and Jungs domain: they focus more on the functional role and visual properties and less on the impact people have with transaction, existential context.

Jungs symbols have transformic potential for development.
Objects as signs for status.

There are three levels of representation:
Two dynamic centres:
personal <-> social
purposes
(cosmic)

Objects represent the relation of man to himself, to his fellows and the universe.

Searles p. 39 > Man struggling for differentation
Paradox: - thus creating an increasing by relations with environment and fellow humans.
(why is this a paradox? You become more yourself by knowing other people better.)

p. 41 core data: Individuation
dia-ballein - throwing apart

Intelligent objects make intelligent people.
Each new object changes the way people organise themselves and experience their lives.
The stirrup, spinning wheel, hay, mobile phones.

p. 53 The danger of focussing attention exclusively on a goal of physical consumption - or materialism - is that one does not attend enough to the cultivation of the self, to the relationship with others, or to the broader purposes that affect life.

last update: 4/20/02010 15:48

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