April 12th, 2006

ozarque figure

Touch dominance blog??; very hard post to put together....

After I said in a recent post that my attempt to set up a Touch Dominance Newsletter had failed, basketcaselady commented:
"This statement made me say to myself 'Of course the newsletter didn't work. The newsletter is sight dominant. You have to READ it.' "

And elfwreck commented:
"Maybe there's demand for a touch-dominant *blog*, rather than newsletter. ... I'm not so sure--but I know there's a great deal of interest in sensory perception methods online, and a blog might catch more people than a newsletter they don't feel they can interact with."

Two tentative hypotheses are floating around here, and I'm strongly inclined to believe that both of them are valid. I get a lot of requests for reading material about touch dominance -- that's why I finally wrote Try To Feel It My Way, because I couldn't find a book like it to recommend to people -- but the requests don't come from TD people, they come from their non-TD spouses and parents and friends and employers and relatives.

There was, so far as I could tell, literally no interest at all in the TD newsletter from TD people themselves, and because I was tailoring the material specifically for the touch dominant reader it had little appeal for the hearing and sight dominant. When I first began doing the research for the book I was flabbergasted by how hard it was to find non-medical material specifically on touch -- material for the general reader. There were three or four books, a very short list of articles, some hard-to-get-hold-of research studies funded by Johnson & Johnson, one website on nonverbal communication, the work of Tiffany Field, and that was about it. That has since changed dramatically with the boom in haptics and robotics, but still... For the non-specialist who is touch dominant, "You have to READ it" may still be an instant turn-off.

Is there enough interactivity in blogging to get past that barrier? I don't know. Maybe. I'd certainly be pleased if a touch dominance blog existed, and would support it in every way I could. But would it fly? I don't know, again.

One thing I know for sure is that the first priority would have to be a name other than "Touch Dominance Blog." Choosing a name is critically important; once you launch a name, you're stuck with it, and re-naming isn't a practical fix if you've made a bad choice. [Consider "the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." More than a dozen books into that series, plus audio programs and seminars and whatnots, that name is a millstone round my neck and always has been. Every time I do a medical seminar, the client tells me "You have to leave that word 'gentle' off the seminar handout, and we'll be leaving it out of the announcement. Our people won't attend anything that has 'gentle' in its name." Bad choice; hard to drag around.] The phrase "touch dominance" is fine in context, but by itself it immediately brings up connotations of sexual practices, and that introduces confusion way past the tolerable level.

A name that's more clear, and that would have some appeal, doesn't come leaping to my mind. Think of the set of words associated with the literature on touch: tactile, tactual, kinesthetic, kinesics, haptic, haptics, proprioception... That's a klunky and unwieldy set of words; typically for mainstream American English and culture, the topic of touch is made cumbersome to talk about by its own vocabulary. If I had to suggest something myself, I'd suggest trying to use "felth" in the naming process. Sight, hearing, and felth; good clear sturdy one-syllable English words. Sight people; hearing people; felth people. No Ph.D. required to understand "felth." But I know from experience that's there's a lot of resistance to the word; I've run into plenty of it in responses to posts in this journal.


All of this might matter in ways that aren't readily obvious. It has been suggested [starting with J.W. Prescott and Douglas Wallace, "Developmental Sociobiology and the Origins of Aggressive Behavior," a paper presented at the 21st International Congress of Psychology in July 1976] that the more biased a culture is against touch, the more violent it is likely to be. If that hypothesis is valid, a culture that places a high value on violence is going to do everything possible to maintain and nuture its anti-touch bias and keep down the level of acceptance for everything related to nonviolent touch.

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Two articles by J.W. Prescott online: "The Origins of Human Love and Violence," at http://www.violence.de/prescott/pppj/article.html [very long]; and "Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence," at http://www.violence.de/prescott/bulletin/article.html .
ozarque figure

Touch discussion -- some clarifications....

I'm enjoying this discussion, and I thank you for all of your comments. I think at this point that I can avoid future confusion if I clarify a few things.

1. The work that I myself do in this area is restricted entirely to its linguistic component. There's a lot of work being done in education, where you'd do a Google search under "learning styles" and "multisensory learning" and "multiple intelligences"; there's a lot of work being done in robotics and AI and in the broader general field of "haptics." In the literature of these fields you'll find all sorts of categories and subcategories described, with various combinations of "tactile" and "kinesthetic" "and "proprioceptive" emphasis. If you read in neurolinguistic programming, where "representational systems" are discussed in this context, you'll find various classifications and subclassifications.

Those are not my fields; I'm just a linguist. And so far as I have been able to determine, all of those touch-related taxonomies and labelings have available to them in American English only the vocabulary that I routinely refer to as "touch language" or as "Touch Mode." When people who consider themselves primarily "tactile" need to say something about position or balance, or when people who consider themselves primarily "kinesthetic" need to say something about texture as sensed by the fingertips or the soles of the feet ... and so on through all the combinations .... they have the same shared sensory vocabulary to draw on. [There are of course specialized vocabularies in geology and stonemasonry and many other areas, available for the learning; I'm talking here only about the vocabulary that would be familiar to most native speakers of American English.] I have never seen any point to dividing up what I perceive as an already impoverished vocabulary into even smaller sets; anyone who's interested in doing that is always free to go ahead with it.

Note: When I say that the touch vocabulary of ordinary daily-use AE is impoverished, I'm not talking about just the number of lexical items that it contains. I'm talking about the fact that so many of those items are considered "too colloquial," and "too informal," and even "crude"; that's a serious disadvantage for touch dominant individuals who are trying to compete in fields where success is tightly linked to writing (and reading) articles and lectures and essays and research reports, to presenting (and understanding) formal talks and speeches, and to passing standardized written exams.

2. In an earlier post in this discussion I said that if a touch dominance blog (whatever its name might be) existed, I'd be happy to do anything I could to help it along. I mean that seriously. If such a blog existed, I would be happy to help, but the blog itself would have to come from someone else. There are not at the moment even five free minutes in my workday; there's no way I could manage another blog. Plus, I'm just short of seventy, and mortal; I could disappear from the cybermap at any moment. I'd be glad to advise and/or consult, to do guest posts when asked .... that sort of thing. But I couldn't set up the blog myself and do it justice. It's just not possible.

3. For many years, I deliberately avoided putting any sort of emphasis on the concept of touch dominance as a communication problem. I felt (and still feel) that the last thing anybody needed was yet another "syndrome" -- yet another "disorder" shazammed into existence. I didn't want to be part of that process -- especially since I had no resources for doing solid double-blind research studies, and the anecdotal route doesn't appeal to me -- and I resisted it doggedly. But things kept happening that made it hard for me to maintain that position. Over and over again, in my work, it kept turning out that the basic cause of a serious problem -- between two individuals, in families, and in groups -- was someone's touch dominance, and that dealing with the touch dominance directly was the solution to the serious problem. I'm not going to bore you with details of these incidents; not to worry. But I did want to say this much, for the record. Because the time came when I could no longer go on downplaying the phenomenon and still live with myself.

If any of this isn't clear, let me know and I'll try again.