‘Language Action Perspective’

“Two Decades of the Language-Action Perspective” is the title of this month’s Communcations of the ACM. Quite a few of these issues have been a “glance here” and “hmm, ok” there. This one actually caught my attention. Now I actually don’t know diddly about “LAP” (Language-Action Perspective) as they’re describing it – it’s some communications/negotiation computing theory stuff that I hadn’t been explicitly exposed to previously – for all it’s being 2 decades old now. Even so, it is an interesting concept and reading about the 20 year reflection on the theory was more so.

A lot of it revolves down into a thesis of “conversation is a generator of action, including organization”. I may be reading way to simplistically toward it, but the articles appear to incite faults with their own over simplification, so maybe not. Some conversation is definitely a generator of action, other is a transmission of knowledge. Maybe there’s a third category that I’m not thinking of, but there is at least knowledge broadcast and reception. You could make are argument for requesting information is “action”, but I don’t think that deals fairly with purely declarative statements.

The article that really piqued my interest was “innovation as language action” by Peter Denning and Robert Dunham. I didn’t get the “as language action” part of the article really at all, but the article was a great description of innovation vs. invention, as well as expounding a concept (that I generally buy) that innovation is and can be a learned skill. It’s not just clever thinking – and in fact that’s the smaller part of the innovation process. It’s taking the though, concept – invention – and running with it towards broader acceptance. They call these generative steps “offering new outcomes”, “executing plans and tools”, “adopting new practice”, and “sustaining integration into surroundings”. The tail end of the article actually sort of read like a “come take our professional course” advertisement, which I found rather disappointing – but I liked the core concepts.

Ah yeah, finally a reasonably useful (to me) edition of the Communications of the ACM. I am just so not an academic.

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