Canon? Canon? What is Canon?

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Jungle Kitty

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Mar 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/25/00
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> > --On Friday, January 14, 2000, 11:17 PM -0500 Mary Ellen Curtin
> > <mecu...@alumni.Princeton.EDU> wrote:
> >
> > > Now as JK has pointed out in another thread, there's no
> > > screen canon evidence that Vulcans bond, or have
> > > mind-melds for sex. But *everyone* thinks so: it's not
> > > just a fanfic convention, it's now part of the culture as a
> > > whole.

Really? I thought *everyone* thought Vulcans associate a bond with sex.
But mind-melds? I don't think there was a sexual aspect in every
mind-meld we ever saw. Spock & Van Gelder, Spock & Kalos, Spock & McCoy
(Spectre of the Gun and TWOK), did he meld w/ Chekov in Spectre or was
he dead at that point? Sarek & Kirk (TSFS). None of those strike me as
sexual. I'm leaving out Kirk b/c I know I'm swimming upstream on those.

--
Jungle Kitty
http://www.accesscom.com/~jkitty

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Laura Jacquez Valentine

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Mar 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/25/00
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> Organization: Society for the Preservation of Kirkology
> Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 17:13:55 -0800
> From: Jungle Kitty <jki...@accesscom.com>

>
> From: Jungle Kitty <jki...@accesscom.com>
>
> > > --On Friday, January 14, 2000, 11:17 PM -0500 Mary Ellen Curtin
> > > <mecu...@alumni.Princeton.EDU> wrote:
> > >
> > > > Now as JK has pointed out in another thread, there's no
> > > > screen canon evidence that Vulcans bond, or have
> > > > mind-melds for sex. But *everyone* thinks so: it's not
> > > > just a fanfic convention, it's now part of the culture as a
> > > > whole.
>
> Really? I thought *everyone* thought Vulcans associate a bond with sex.

Mmm.

It's canon that Vulcans link the minds of betrothed children. It's also
canon that they do this to draw the two individuals together when the
male enters pon farr.

There is no canon evidence that there is anything deeper than a "Uh-oh,
the fiancee's gone into heat" notification from the bond, nor any
implication of such.

--laura

Mary Ellen Curtin

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Mar 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/25/00
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>Mary Ellen wrote,
>
>> "You have to know three things: what's real, what's not,
>> and what's the difference."
>
>And I say,
>
>"You have to know what is fact, what is construct and what's the difference."

Exactly! To my way of thinking, those are two different
ways of saying the same thing. Although, following one
of my favorite historians of science (Ludwik Fleck), I tend
to think of "facts" as constructs -- I'd say, "You have to
know what is data, what is construct, and what's the
difference."

The only data we have for ST fanfic is a set of pictures
and sounds, and at the extreme that's the only thing I
call "screen canon." Everything else is construct -- but
not all constructs are created equal, either logically or
in the effect on the reader.

That's one reason I find fanfic such a good model for life:
because I can more easily see, in fanfic, what the
connections are between:

1. the data onscreen;

2. the "facts" -- that is, the conclusions most readily
derived from the data, e.g. Kirk is Captain of the Enterprise;

3. possible theories to explain the facts: Kirk is Captain
because he's so good at it, Kirk is Captain because he
killed Chris Pike, Kirk is Captain because his Daddy had
important friends;

4. the readers' reactions to those theories -- yes, Mirror
Universe ewww, and he's not that kind of guy!, respectively.

5. As we talk, I'm seeing another element that I don't know
how to categorize, yet. It's "canon/fanon/assumptions",
conventions that creep in and become generally accepted
without all the bother of species 1&2 -- such as, "Vulcans
mind-meld during sex."

What I call screen canon is species 1; what JK is calling canon
I gather is a mix of species 2 and conventional-wisdom species
3&5. When you, Judith, say:

>I'll repeat, canon is a construct, not a set of facts.

I guess I'm getting confused partly because to my
historian-of-science thinking, facts are already constructs --
but they're constructs in which one player is nature, if you
follow me. I'm not sure what you mean by "canon" in the
above quote, if it falls within any of the species I've listed
or not.

No wonder the idea of the mind-meld is so attractive --
this trying to figure out what the other person means
business is not easy. But since I often only find out
what *I* mean by trying to explain, I wonder what novel
ways of being confused telepaths might have? hmmm . . .

Mary Ellen
Doctor Science, MA
http://www.eclipse.net/~mecurtin/goodbook
Now featuring: Good Book of the Millennium
- - - - - - - - -
Good Book of the 17th Century:
"Hamlet," by William Shakespeare

Duny...@aol.com

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Mar 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/25/00
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Mary Ellen wrote,


> The only data we have for ST fanfic is a set of pictures
> and sounds, and at the extreme that's the only thing I
> call "screen canon." Everything else is construct -- but
> not all constructs are created equal, either logically or
> in the effect on the reader.

What do you mean here? Are you referring to the point Jat made, that canon is
really about "authority"? That, for example, John Ordover's construction of
canon is somehow more privileged than that of Mary Sue Trufan?

> What I call screen canon is species 1 <snipping in reverse>,
> 1. the data onscreen

which you distinguish from

> 2. the "facts" -- that is, the conclusions most readily
> derived from the data, e.g. Kirk is Captain of the Enterprise

and

> 3. possible theories to explain the facts: Kirk is Captain
> because he's so good at it, Kirk is Captain because he
> killed Chris Pike, Kirk is Captain because his Daddy had
> important friends;

My response here is fourfold. First, yes, I agree this is how fans create
their respective "universes" or personal versions of "canon."

Second, your species (1) is meaningless in itself; that is, it is of no use
to fans except as the predicate for getting to your species (3) and (4).

Third, it is not possible to move "objectively" and "scientifically" from
your species (1) to your (2) [let alone (3) and (4)] without some form of
scientific method. You would need controls for assuring reliability such as
tests of inter-rater agreement. Otherwise, anyone's interpretation of what
she sees on the screen is just as valid as anyone else's, which brings us
right back to "canon" as something each fan defines for herself.

For example, if you wanted to establish whether it is "canon" that Vulcans
cannot lie, you could develop a protocol for analyzing the episodes in which
that notion is referenced; train observers, test, retrain etc.; and determine
whether that process resulted in reliable findings. My guess is that you'd
never achieve inter-rater reliability on most of the really interesting
issues in canon.

Fourth, I can see wanting to do the above as part of a research project in
media studies or whatever, but as I said in an earlier post, I do not think
most Star Trek fans approach aired Trek this way. Personally, I have no
interest in revising my vision of Trek to conform to someone else's analysis,
whether or not the analyst can show that her vision makes "the best fit" of
all the data from aired Trek.

Mary Ellen wrote,

When you, Judith, say:
>
> >I'll repeat, canon is a construct, not a set of facts.
>
> I guess I'm getting confused partly because to my
> historian-of-science thinking, facts are already constructs --
> but they're constructs in which one player is nature, if you
> follow me. I'm not sure what you mean by "canon" in the
> above quote, if it falls within any of the species I've listed
> or not.

"Canon" isn't my term, of course, but generally, people seem to use it to
mean "what we see on the screen," with overtones of "the real" or "the
authoritative" Star Trek. See Jat's helpful post on this point. My point is
that when a fan author says, "I base my stories on canon," or "my universe
departs from canon in the following respects," she is talking about a
construct, not a set of facts (or data, if you will). "Canon" is something
she has constructed out of what she sees on the screen. I exchanged a post or
two with Jat on this thread on this topic. In other words, no such thing as
"canon" exists part from our own constructs and interpretations of what we
see on the screen.

There is another variable, of course, and that is the *social* context within
which we construct our concept of "canon." I think this is where your
category of "canon/fanon/assumptions" comes in:

> conventions that creep in and become generally accepted
> without all the bother of species 1&2 -- such as, "Vulcans
> mind-meld during sex."

They creep in because "canon" is at least partly a *social* construct.

But as I have said, my own use of aired Trek is heuristic. I respond to Trek
as a source of inspiration, instruction and example for action in the
so-called "real" world. (I am hoping Raku will analyze that George Herbert
poem from a Platonist perspective so we can talk about the highly problematic
concept of what is "real.") Therefore, I ignore what is unhelpful to that end
and focus on the rest. Seen always through the lens of my own concerns and
values, of course.

On that score, I have found that my relationship to aired Trek has evolved
and changed over the years. For example, the episode "Dagger of the Mind"
began to resonate for me after I began to visit institutions in the course
of my RL job. Then I found I had to deal with Kirk's exchange with McCoy at
the beginning of that episode, in which Kirk enthuses about the fantastic
treatment at Dr. Adams' penal colonies, and McCoy responds, "A cage is still
a cage." To me, Kirk comes across as an uninformed jerk in that exchange. (A
friend of mine who does research on deinstitutionalization and is an
unregenerate Spockologist without much use for Kirk would say, "But of course
he likes institutions. He runs one, doesn't he?")

I can easily account for Kirk's statement by the era in which it was filmed
(the 1960s). So I screen it out, as a product of the era in which it was
made, like the beehive hairdos and miniskirts. In the story I wrote in which
Kirk and Spock are in an institution (soon to be posted here, I expect), I
felt no need to reference "Dagger of the Mind" at all, let alone that comment
of Kirk's. So far, no one has told me I should have, but maybe folks here
will react differently.

Judith, hoarse from singing "We Shall Overcome"

Mary Ellen Curtin

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Mar 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/25/00
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>> > > Now as JK has pointed out in another thread, there's no
>> > > screen canon evidence that Vulcans bond, or have
>> > > mind-melds for sex. But *everyone* thinks so: it's not
>> > > just a fanfic convention, it's now part of the culture as a
>> > > whole.
>
>Really? I thought *everyone* thought Vulcans associate a bond with sex.
>But mind-melds? I don't think there was a sexual aspect in every
>mind-meld we ever saw.

I didn't say the latter -- I said there's the idea that they have
mind-melds during or instead of sex, not that all mind-melds are
sexy.

There is no screen evidence that Vulcans have mind-melds
during sex -- but even people whose knowledge of TOS
is based on hearsay "know" about the connection (as
the "Kudzu" strip shows). I don't want to call it "fanon"
because it's bigger than fandom. It isn't a cool or useful
meme like the double ridges, that spreads from fan to fan
within the community; it's so widespread but on so little
basis that I think it has to reflect something basic about
how people in this society (or maybe human beings in
general) view sex.

I think it's less confusing to call this idea a "convention"
than to call it "canon," given how many other ways we
use the word "canon." Especially for those of use, like
myself, that are interested in the tension between the
world and our ideas about it:

"You have to know three things: what's real, what's not,
and what's the difference."

Mary Ellen


Doctor Science, MA
http://www.eclipse.net/~mecurtin/goodbook
Now featuring: Good Book of the Millennium
- - - - - - - - -
Good Book of the 17th Century:
"Hamlet," by William Shakespeare

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Duny...@aol.com

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Mar 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/25/00
to

Mary Ellen wrote,

> "You have to know three things: what's real, what's not,
> and what's the difference."

And I say,

"You have to know what is fact, what is construct and what's the difference."

To rushed to write much now, but here's an example. "Person X cannot hear."
That'
s a fact. You can measure it with audiograms and the like. "Person Y has
mental retardation." That's a construct; it depends on your definition of the
term. When the American Association on Mental Retardation revised its IQ
score cut-off point (talk about a construct based on a construct) millions of
people were "cured" overnight.

Another example: In the old South, a person with "a single drop of Negro
blood" used to be labelled black. Elsewhere the same person would be
considered white. You can analyze a person's genetic structure and DNA (those
are facts) but the racial label is a social construct.

I'll repeat, canon is a construct, not a set of facts.

Judith

Mary Ellen Curtin

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Mar 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/25/00
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I said:
>> The only data we have for ST fanfic is a set of pictures
>> and sounds, and at the extreme that's the only thing I
>> call "screen canon." Everything else is construct -- but
>> not all constructs are created equal, either logically or
>> in the effect on the reader.
and Judith asked

>What do you mean here? Are you referring to the point Jat made, that canon is
>really about "authority"? That, for example, John Ordover's construction of
>canon is somehow more privileged than that of Mary Sue Trufan?

Only to himself.:-D

When I say, "not all constructs are created equal," I
mean that some actually do use more logic and fewer
additional (or outrageous) assumptions than others,
and some (not necessarily the same ones) actually do
provoke more emotional response in various readers.

In other words, some constructs are privileged because
they work. In this way, they are like scientific theories,
for which logic and utility are selling points, not necessarily
always hand-in-hand. On this empirical scale, Ordover's
canon is *less* privileged than most fanfic canon, because
it doesn't produce as effective a group of stories.

>Second, your species (1) is meaningless in itself; that is, it is of no use
>to fans except as the predicate for getting to your species (3) and (4).

I'm not sure I follow you here. The distinction between
screen canon and constructed screen facts enters fanfic
in two ways:

a) "Visit to a Strange Planet"-type stories, which play on
the distinction between the actors and the characters.
I gather "Galaxy Quest" is an example as well. Lots of
parodies play around in this area.

b) the "bad data" problem, which involves deliberately
throwing out or ignoring some species (1) material.

c) what things you actually see in the first place. How
many of us were counting EVEs the first time we
watched TOS? And how many of us are doing it now?

>Third, it is not possible to move "objectively" and "scientifically" from
>your species (1) to your (2) [let alone (3) and (4)] without some form of
>scientific method. You would need controls for assuring reliability such as
>tests of inter-rater agreement. Otherwise, anyone's interpretation of what
>she sees on the screen is just as valid as anyone else's, which brings us
>right back to "canon" as something each fan defines for herself.

Each interpretation is as valid, but each is not as persuasive.
Does that count as a test of inter-rater agreement?


While I was working on this email in the intervals of Tantrum
City, Judith moved on and clarified a few things, so I'll send
this one now and think some more.

Mary Ellen
Doctor Science, MA
http://www.eclipse.net/~mecurtin/goodbook
Now featuring: Good Book of the Millennium
- - - - - - - - -
Good Book of the 17th Century:
"Hamlet," by William Shakespeare

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Duny...@aol.com

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Mar 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/25/00
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Mary Ellen wrote, about the "reliability" of what fans see on the screen,

> Each interpretation is as valid, but each is not as persuasive.
> Does that count as a test of inter-rater agreement?

No, because this is not what inter-rater or (inter-observer) reliability
means. It's a measure, usually expressed as a coefficient, of the degree to
which different raters/observers report consistently the results their
observations.

What Mary Ellen seems to be talking about sounds more like a measure of face
validity ("that's what it looks like to me"), which is a weak and unreliable
form of construct validity.

Judith

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