Generalized reading for everybody

by Crispy Chicken

Epistemic Status: Trying to make the discourse among colleagues legible to the outside world.

Generalized Reading is a simple and basic TIS concept: if people can manipulate a certain state, that state will be used to express information, and other humans will come to read it as messaging because a human could use it as an information channel.

Letting your mom repeatedly misuse a word in an embarassing way is still communicating that you weren’t willing to help her out, you heartless cad.

Saying it that way is a bit abstruse, so let’s explain it to a few different people.

Generalized Reading for a 5yo: You want the cookie in the cookie jar. Your parents try to stop you from getting it. When they’re not looking, you climb the cabinets and get it. You go back down before your parents can see you. But you weren’t careful! You have cookie crumbs on your shirt, and your parents catch you and you can’t watch youtube for a week. Your parents know where you’ve been because they can read” the crumbs on your shirt. That’s generalized reading: it’s like reading books, but it’s about reading everything. But you’re smart. The next time you sneak a cookie, you wipe your shirt off in the sink and run the water so they aren’t visible in the sink either. You change your appearance so that your parents can’t read the crumbs. That’s generalized writing: it’s like writing books, but it’s about writing with everything you can touch and change. Your parents catch-on that too many cookies are missing, but instead of stopping, you do better: you take the crumbs and put it on your sibling’s shirt. That’s generalized writing like a pro.

Generalized Reading for a Teenager: Everyone knows Mr. Badman is an asshole teacher, he makes impossible tests that aren’t hard they’re just bad. Everyone cheats on his tests and there’s honor among students about not snitching, because he’s just a bad man. Mr.Badman knows everybody cheats on this and so he’s always interrogating people to see if they cheated. Everyone just tells him perfunctory answers in perfect deadpan. Why? Because they don’t want to leak any information, so they actively write artificial neutrality to their faces. That’s Generalized Writing: controlling the mesages you write everywhere they come out. But why is Mr. Badman so sure they’re cheating? Because students wouldn’t all be writing artificial neutrality to their faces if there wasn’t something fishy going on. That’s Generalized Reading.

Generalized Reading for Couples: He has a certain kind of laugh when he’s nervous. She knows this, and she gives him a hug when he laughs. It happens a few times and then he realizes that his laugh can tell him when he’s nervous. That’s generalized reading: he read her response, to undersand what she’s responding to. But sometimes he doesn’t want to impose. Sometimes he needs to know that he won’t be a mental burden on her. So when he hears the laugh, he alters it. She doesn’t need to come give him a hug and give him attention. He can man up, when she needs it. That’s Generalized Writing: manipulating a state, previously unconceptualized, as communication. But here’s the thing: pretty soon both of them know they’re both doing this. They still do it though, so no one has to feel guilty when they let themselves show the nervousness or not, because that’s how they express what’s needed.