From ancient wisdoms to modern mediated places/spaces: Relationship between meaning and action

Panel to be presented at the 11th East-West Philosophers’ Conference (opening reception May 24 – May 31 closing banquet) at the University of Hawaii Manoa.


Dongping Zheng, Ph.D., Department Second Language Studies, University of Hawaii,


David McCraw, Ph.D., East Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Hawaii

Brett Oppegaard, Ph.D., School of Communications, University of Hawaii

Yuanfang Dai, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University

Dongping Zheng, Ph.D., Department Second Language Studies, University of Hawaii

Yang Liu, MA candidate, Department Second Language Studies, University of Hawaii

Daniel Holden, MA candidate, Department Second Language Studies, University of Hawaii

Jared Tomei, MA student, Learning Design and Technology, University of Hawaii


Peter Shaindlin, Author and COO, Halekulani


This panel collects works from four disciplines: literature, journalism, and philosophy and language education. Yet when place is “superimposed” on these projects, we are immediately transcended into a common space where time and place, ancient and modern, the East and West flow in a continuum between past, present and future that breaks the boundary of disciplines. The four papers seem to be in agreement on the notions of: 1) time/space coupling; 2) soft boundaries of meaning-making constrained and afforded by modern developments and technology advancement; 3) seeming correspondence between ancient Chinese philosophers and Marx and Heidegger’s concepts of time and being, even though Chinese philosophers’ yin-yang balance on place implies both being and moving. Another underlying notion implicit in the emergent theme is the notion of care: 1) Tuan’s notion of “fields of care”, 2) Hodges’s theory of language as “caring system”, and 3) Heidegger’s Dasein as “Being is carried out and guided by the care of to be”. To relate care to Chinese philosopher’s “highest good”, Dao/the way implies the incessant being and becoming with the world. The four papers explore being and becoming with the world and relationally tie place within and with other things through Chinese classics, geolocation media, identity construction, and values realization.

Our discussant embodies the philosophy of the panel in that his identity speaks to what the four paper tries to reveal: A Dasein being/philosopher in action in place. Peter Shaindlin: though not an academic is an autodidactic philosopher, cultural critic, novelist, photographer, musician, poet and COO.

Metaphors of place in Pre-Han Chinese thinking

David McCraw

Ancient Chinese texts, like the Lunyu, Mengzi, the Laozi and Zhuangzi, inscribed quite distinctive notions about place. Their notions about place involve metaphors that would prove central to their explorations of philosophy, social structure, and political organization. A careful (textual) archaeology can uncover some salient metaphorical foundations for much that still seems distinctive about old Chinese thought. A full account of these must await completion of our “excavation”; however, we can sketch a few preliminary observations:

*These texts do not support a hard-fast distinction between time and space; instead, you find a continuum.

*They do not support a hard-fast distinction between dwelling-in and movement-between; action and rest got conceived off as mutually entailing.

*As a result, the metaphorical uses of place get bound up with those of moving along a way, so that place becomes an essential part of the central Chinese preoccupation with ways and waymaking. In a seminal phrase like the beginning of the crucial text “Way of Higher Learning,” we read: 大學之道…在止於至善. The process of learning, then, “comes to lie in alighting upon highest good.” While the ways of cultivation have no endpoint, they will necessarily involve resting-places, and ancient texts quite often depend on visualizing progress as developing gradually through a series of stages, which they conceived of as places, or, roughly, “sites of instruction.” Unearthing these sites will help us retrace and better understand the intellectual journeys they undertook, despite the vast gulfs of time-and-space that seemingly separate them from us.

How media lost its place and found it again: Proximity issues from the penny press to the smartphone

Brett Oppegaard

Our places can be conceptualized as our information interfaces, increasingly integrated with overlapping digital worlds through mobile technologies. These juxtapositions of digital media and physical environments can generate deep, complex, and personal meanings to us, and consumers suddenly can’t get enough of mobile news and geolocated content that enrich our places. Media organizations, though, generally have been befuddled and unable to align the potential of locative and contextual information much with their current business models. Academics meanwhile have been struggling to find ways to empirically study the related emerging media forms, with their complex dynamics. Through medium theory and historical perspectives, this presentation will describe how journalistic media lost its connections to place during the time of the telegraph and railroad – when Marx and Heidegger warned of ramifications caused by the annihilation of time and space – and recently has been reconnecting to place again through experimental prototypes using geolocation technologies, such as smartphones and tablet computers. To illustrate the increasingly important intersection of technology and place, several field studies and case studies will be shown, focused upon the growing importance in media today of tailoring information by proximity and the emerging genres.

A relational space for language learners’ mobility between built and natural environments

Dongping Zheng

Yang Liu

Daniel Holden

Jared Tomei

Language learning in classrooms can imply the reinforcement of abstract rule-learning first and language use in its aftermath. “Place” is a secondary phenomenon, rather than a lived and functional space that is relationally and temporally meaningful.

This paper aims to rethink the function of classrooms, a conventional learning space, to expand the ecology of language learning to natural and sociocultural places where learning while doing on the fly is of a normative practice. In place-based learning, learning materials are used as resources. Learners are brought out of the safe haven as protected by well-defined textbook boundaries, teacher expectations and classroom norms. Learners are forced to encounter strangers, odd things, and texts not written for language learners. The same place offers different features to natives vs. non-native speakers. Perception of place results from cultural experiences, which gives rise to different action potentiality (Chemero, 2009). Being in places extends language to things, signs, actions, and a sense of normativity (dialogical third parties in Linell’s sense (2009). Taking action in places cultivates and attunes learners’ affectivity to care for the world and themselves.

We use examples of language learners’ play of a mobile game, Guardian of Mo‘o locating Hawaiian culture within UH campus diversity and cultural artifacts along the East-West Road. The game was designed using concepts of place, and never-ending perception and action cycles with the affordances of virtual and real world spaces for action taking; and therefore to demonstrate the technologically enabled meshed spaces for language learners’ wayfinding.

The “place” of identity construction

Yuanfang Dai

Dongping Zheng

Yang Liu

In this paper we to address learning experiences via mobile technology that take place where social space and school space meet. Using a different dataset sampled from the same project as in the third paper, Guardian of Mo‘o, we argue that this meeting place is also a place of identity construction that can accommodate the multiplicity of identity. We draw on the idea of “genuine pluralist categorization”(Marilyn Frye 1996, 2005) to interpret language learners’ identity and agency shifts as they move between game space and built environments such as the Japanese garden and Korean center on UH campus.

According to Frye, a category is constructed by working differences into structure, rather than sorting things according to a list of properties and attributes.

The structure requires that the elements that it arranges be in a significant variety of relations with each other and that they have internal complexity, thus difference of any specific kind is preserved and organized. For instance, the category of “women” should be demonstrated by images such as an individual woman located in “a correlational density in a multidimensional quality space” (2005). In a similar vein, the category of “language learners” should be constructed through multilayered correlations, which involve surprise, satisfaction, confusion, struggles, and conflicts. In a sense, this is a matter of overlapping clusters of similarities and differences among language learners. An identity of a language learner is constructed in the multidimensional space where the past self meets the present self, the Western culture meets the Eastern culture, and the social space meets the school space.


Chemero, A. (2009). Radical embodied cognitive science. MIT Press.

Frye, M. (1996). The Necessity of Differences: Constructing a Positive Category of Women,” in SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 21(3), 991-1010.

Frye, M. (2005). Category Skepticism and its Cure: A Comment on José Medina’s ‘Identity Trouble: Disidentification and the Problem of Difference’,” Symposia on Gender, Race and Philosophy, 1(1).

Linell, P. (2009). Rethinking language, mind, and world dialogically: Interactional and contextual theories of human sense-making. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Heidegger, M. (1954). The question concerning technology. New York: NY: Harper &  Row.

Marx, K. (1993). Grundrisse. London: Penguin.

Tuan, Y.-F. (1974). Space and place: humanistic perspectives. Progress in Human  Geography, 6, 211–252.

Tuan, Y.-F. (1977). Space and Place: the Perspective of Experience.            University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.







My Finnish Experience




I spent the month of May as a visiting researcher at University of Jyväskylä, Finland. I worked with Hannele Dufva who is one of the few applied linguists in the world who can talk to both psycholinguists and sociolinguists. Hannele, like our well-respected, well-read, Leo van Lier, can speak both intellectually and in lay-person’s language about the historical progression of language and second language acquisition theories and practices. Hannele, also like Leo, does her research and reveals her perspectives in subtle ways, does not say this is THE way of doing applied linguistics, and does not make a loud noise to prophesize a ground-breaking theory of how languages should be learned. Rather, one needs to navigate one’s own path to figure out her wayfinding. One will need, perhaps, to understand Finnish culture in order to find Hannele’s way.



On the surface, Finnish people are reserved and private. But once you get to know them, you cannot help but being compassionate about them because their compassion will change you and the surroundings. How am I, a Chinese, feeling this deep connection with the Finns? Growing up in Northeast China in severe cold winters with hot, spicy and richly herb-flavored stews, it is not hard to develop a strong personality that seeks rhythms of life in all aspects. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I realized this part of me by being in Finland. I immediately fell in love with Finnish music, a lingering of Russian melancholy, the depth and strength of Beethoven, the orderliness and Romantics of Germany, the hopeful and pioneering spirit of America, and hospitality and wisdom of ancient China.

Julmat Iammet

Julmat Iammet

Now back to Hannele’s work, with its dialogical roots as quiet as a Finnish lake in Spring, as straightforward as a Finnish pine forest, as cheerful and bright as Marimekko design, as solid and nutritious 100% rye bread, and as deep and simple as Lao Zi’s Daoism philosophy. As for our collaboration, we didn’t rush into a project or a publication. I was provided time and space to get to know my Finnish colleague’s work, the Finnish culture through different levels of interaction with the Finnish education system and graduate students. It was as if we were planting bamboo together, maybe a bamboo forest. It takes bamboo 4 years to establish its roots before the bamboo shoot comes out of the ground in the spring, but once it is out , it grows at lightening speed. The characteristics of bamboo also speak to Finnish culture, in my view. It is a hidden Nordic bamboo, quite and modest, strong, elegant, stylistic but not domineering, not in a hurry to catch up nor fear of falling behind, which I surmise, attributes to the reasons Finland is a leading country in education.

Magic reflection

Magic reflection

Though I have been planning to write a blog about my Finland experience, it only came three months later, while I am healing from a recent health problem, while Mäntylä Katja wrote a thank you note, while FB friends were bragging about our CILC II Conference at the University of Jyväskylä, from which I was sadly absent.

More photos of My Spring in Finland Collection 

Research Fellow at Oxford Univeristy Harris Manchester College


with fellows from Hawaii: Peter Shaindlin (Halekulani Corporation), Edna Magpantay-Monroe (Chaminade University)

Oxford-2 Oxford University is one of the most beautiful, charming and quintessential places I’ve studied and worked in. Its beauty and charm lie in the relevance of both the old and new. The old lies in its architecture, tutorial system, and social traditions. And the new (to me) lies in its exuberating social dialogue opportunities found in the dining hall, which reflects the tradition Socratic conversation of hundred of years past.

My daily routine as a fellow during the Summer Research Institute is simple but highly educational: I have 3 meals in the OLD Dinning Hall with other fellows, go to the library and attend some evening activities. My downtime was spent on going to the museums, taking a walk in different parts of the city and jogging in many colleges. The library system is impressive and the colleges are just beautiful with a rare combination of a perfect English garden and classic architecture style. However, the most educational experience comes about from a deeper understanding of the need for communication across disciplines and education of independent thinkers and agents.

With the Principal, Revd Dr. Ralph Waller and Fellows from Thailand on the roof top of the chapel of Harris Manchester College

With the Principal, Revd Dr. Ralph Waller and Fellows from Thailand, Witsanu Attavanich and Nadhawee Bunnag on the roof top of the chapel of Harris Manchester College

Oxford uses a tutorial system. The critiques of a such a system are of anarchism, inefficiency and even to the extent of being anti-collaborative and anti-cooperative. However, if one takes the students’ dinning hall social life as part of the education system, one will have a different perspective of how the tutorial system works in the large picture. In the dinning hall routine, conversations are usually centered on serious topics expressing a project or a topic to someone from a different discipline. It is also not uncommon that one will sit next to an expert or a prestigious alumnus who joins the dinner on different occasions. So in my view, one cannot give a quick causal judgment that the tutorial system is old and not efficient. One has to take in how other events are going on in a student’s life to evaluate certain pedagogical effects. Conversation in the dinning hall is a very major part of the system. These social opportunities that are both life and academic in nature are engaging, and I personally believe the Oxford system is a gem for educating independent thinkers and socially and globally responsible agents.


Harris Manchester College

See more of My Photography of Oxford

Every fellow has a project to work on during this intense week. My

English Language Specialist by the Department of State

I was recently selected by The Department of State’s English Language Specialist Program – See more at: – as an English Language Specialist.
This means I can give workshops and lectures by either traveling to the institutions or conducting video conferences and webinars for those who requested my areas of specialization. Requests can be made to U.S. embassies and Regional English Language Officers (RELO). I am excited about this unique way of serving my expertise to the world.

In order to better communicate with different disciplinary traditions and help English language learners benefit from my trans-disciplinary research agenda, I have specified my areas of specialization in the following 5 categories, ranging from practice-based to research-based topics. Since I have taught and conducted research in both young learners in K-12 settings and tertiary level, the following topics can be tailored to all levels in K-16 education.

I. Classical topics on Teaching English as Foreign/Second Language

  • Computer assisted language learning
  • Information and Communications Technology (ICT) integration to language curriculum
  • Materials development with technology infusion
  • Language use and Computer-mediated communication
  • Distance learning and blended learning

II. New Tools for Teacher Professional Development

  • Action research assisted by easily adopted technological tools
  • Design-based research method for language educators
  • Multimodality in instructional design
  • Design distance learning and blended learning courses
  • Action-based, task-base, project-based and value-based learning

III. New (Media) Literacies and multiliteracies for Language Learning in and out of school contexts

  • Social media for language learning, translanguaging (code-switching) and identity development
  • Virtual worlds and video games for culture and language immersion, intercultural and communicative competence
  • Mobile-assisted language learning (MALL) for writing and integrated linguistic skills

IV. Interdisciplinary Research Methods

  • Qualitative research tools: Transana, ELAN, Discursis
  • Multimodal discourse analysis
  • Multimodal transcription and text analysis
  • Video-based research

V. New (Third-wave) cognitive sciences for Second Language Development

  • Sociocultural theory and semiotics
  • Distributed cognition and language
  • Ecological psychology and ecolinguistics
  • Dialogical perspectives on second language development

Virtual Seminar (II): First-Order Languaging Dynamics and Second-Order Language: The Distributed Language View of Agency

Paul J. Thibault

Paul J. Thibault

When: Tuesday April 2, 2013, 8:30–9:30 pm Hawai’i time.

Paul J. Thibault
Faculty of Humanities and Education,                      University of Agder, Dept. of Nordic and Media Studies

As part of SLS 750, Social media, agency, and languaging (Course site:; Instructor: Dr. Dongping Zheng),  a virtual guest lecture will be provided by Paul Thibault. Those interested may attend the lecture and participate in discussion virtually by logging in to a virtual room in Blackboard Collaborate.In case your computer does not have Java installed, you can download it from (it works best if you run this java download first)

First-Order Languaging Dynamics and Second-Order Language:
The Distributed Language View of Agency

This talk articulates some aspects of an emerging perspective shift on language: the distributed view. According to this view, languaging behavior and its organization is irreducible to the formal abstracta that have characterized the focus on a de Saussure-type system of formal regularities in mainstream linguistics over the past century. Language, in the distributed view, is a radically heterogeneous phenomenon that is spread across diverse spatiotemporal scales ranging from the neural to the cultural. It is not localizable on any one of them, but it involves

complex interactions between phenomena on many different scales. A crucial distinction is thus presented and explained, viz. first-order languaging and second-order language. The former is grounded in the intrinsic expressivity and interactivity of human bodies-in-interaction. Second-order patterns emanate from the cultural dynamics of an entire population of interacting agents on longer, slower cultural-historical time-scales. The talk also engages in a dialogue with Gibson’s (1966/1983, 1979/1986) ecological theory of perception-action. An analysis of a video-recorded interaction illustrates some aspects of the integration of scales involved in the whole-body sense-making that is talk. This talk also extends Systemic Functional Linguistics and accentuate agency and consciousness in the extended human ecology

Paul J. Thibault is professor in linguistics and communication studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Education, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway. He also currently holds the posts of Honorary Professor in the School of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Beijing Normal University and Honorary Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Hong Kong. He has held full-time appointments in the University of Hong Kong (2009-2012), Lingnan University, Hong Kong (2002), the University of Venice (1994-2005), the University of Padua (1992-1994), the University of Bologna (1984-1986, 1990-1992), and the University of Sydney (1986-1988), and Murdoch University (1982-1983). He completed his Ph.D., which was supervised by Professor M. A. K. Halliday and Professor Roger Fowler, at the University of Sydney in 1985. He is the recipient of various honours and awards, including, most recently, a University of Cambridge/University of Hong Kong Doris Zimmern research fellowship at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge (2011). He is on the Editorial Boards of the following journals:  Language Sciences, Language and Sociocultural Theory, Social Semiotics, and Text & Talk. He was a member of the international Organizing Committee of the 1st International Conference on Interactivity, Language and Cognition (CILC2012) held at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense campus, 12th-14th September 2012.  He is co-editor (with Anthony Baldry) of the book series English Linguistics and ELT, published by Equinox, London. His research interests include: distributed language and cognition, discourse analysis, functional grammar and semantics, educational linguistics, language development, multimodality and multimodal corpora, social theory, the bodily basis of cognition and semiosis, narrative theory, and philosophy of mind. His published books include: Social Semiotics as Praxis (Minnesota, 1991), Re-reading Saussure (Routledge, 1997), Discussing Conversation Analysis: The work of Emanuel A. Schegloff (ed., Benjamins, 2003), Language and Interaction: Discussions with John J. Gumperz (ed., Benjamins, 2003), Brain, Mind, and the Signifying Body: An ecosocial semiotic theory (Continuum, 2004), Agency and Consciousness in Discourse: Self-other dynamics as a complex system (Continuum, 2004), Multimodal Transcription and Multimodal Text Analysis (with Anthony Baldry) (Equinox, 2006) together with articles and book chapters. He is currently working on two new book-length projects: (1) Language, Body, World: A critical rereading of Hjelmslev; and (2) Distributed Language: The extended human ecology.

Contact Information:

Faculty of Humanities and Education,

University of Agder,
Dept. of Nordic and Media Studies,
Building E, Room 2.054,
Postboks 422,
NO-4604 Kristiansand S.,
tel. +47 38141058 (work)

Virtual Seminar: Human Interactivity and the Ecology of Problem-finding and Problem-solving


Sune Vork Steffensen
Centre for Human Interactivity
Institute of Language and Communication
University of Southern Denmark

As part of SLS 750, Social media, agency, and languaging (Instructor: Dr. DongpingZheng),  a virtual guest lecture will be provided by Dr. SuneSteffensen, Thursday Feb 28, 8-9:15pm Hawai’i time. Log in 15 minutes ahead of time in case of any technical problems. Email Dr. Zheng at or Twitt at @zhengdo on Twitter if technical support is needed. You will need to download the transcript in order to make sense of the virtual talk.

Those interested may attend the lecture and participate in discussion virtually by logging in to a virtual room in Blackboard Collaborate. This system can handle up to 100 viewers.

Click this link to log in: (no need to register, just type your name)

In case your computer does not have Java installed, you can download it from (it works best if you run this java download first)

This talk presents an interactivity-based approach to human problem-solving in the wild. It introduces the notion of ‘interactivity’, defined as sense-saturated coordination that contributes to human action. On this view, interactivity is an ontological substrate that can be studied as interaction, as cognition, or as ecological niche production. While theoretically arguing in favor of a unified, anti-disciplinary approach to interactivity, it turns its attention to the cognitive ecology of human problem-solving. It does so by introducing a method of Cognitive Event Analysis that leads to a detailed analysis of how a problem in the wild is being solved. The analysis addresses the cognitive dynamics of how two persons in a work setting reach an insight into the nature of a problem, including the spatial organization of the workplace, the interbodily dynamics between the two participants (especially in relation to gaze and the manual handling of papers), and verbal patterns that prompts them to simulate how the problem appears to a third party. It is argued that human problem-solving is far less linear and planned than assumed in much work on the topic in cognitive science. Rather than problem-solving, it appears as solution-probing in a real-time. The cognitive trajectory to a viable solution is thus self-organized, unplanned, and on the edge of chaos.


Sune Vork Steffensen is Ph.D., Associate Professor, and Director of the Centre for Human Interactivity at the University of Southern Denmark. His field of research includes ecological linguistics, distributed cognition and human interactivity. For more than a decade he has contributed to the development of ecological linguistics through numerous publications, including joint work with Claire Kramsch. His current research combines interaction analysis, ecological linguistics and situated, distributed and systemic approaches in cognitive science. He is one of the pioneers of Cognitive Event Analysis, i.e. the study of how short-scale interbodily dynamics, constrained by large-scale, evolutionary, developmental and sociocultural patterns, enable agents and systems to achieve results. His main empirical interest is interactivity in organizational settings (primarily within the health sector), e.g. expertise, decision making and problem solving in complex sociocultural environments.

Recruiting Ph.D. Students

Language learning has never been easier due to the accessibility of resources available online. The ways in which technology are used range from ubiquitous interaction to integration into curriculum development and policymaking. Investigation of how and why new technologies can provide special niches for language development underlines the main area of study for qualified candidates.

Professor Dongping Zheng is seeking applicants who are interested in conducting research from ecological, dialogical, and distributed perspectives. The successful candidate will have a strong background and efficacy with technology use and design, and interests in one or more of the following areas:

a) affordances of new technologies for rethinking second language acquisition;
b) language as social coordination in online learning environments, e.g., virtual worlds and massively multi-player online games;
c) comparison of ecological niches between online and face-to-face environments;
d) multimodality and new media literacies for L2 development.
e) both quantitative and qualitative inquires on the aforementioned areas

Please contact Professor Zheng ( with inquiries. See Department of Second Language Studies at University of Hawaii Graduate Admissions for details.