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is a jargon term from somewhere (ethnomethodology? Brian Cantwell Smith?) that I find myself using sometimes, though I don't really know if I'm using it right. Anyway I like it. It would be good to look into its history but right now I'm just going to free associate for a bit about what it means to me right now.

Which is something like... making something more objecty, sharp-edged, defined. There's this one passage from Matthew Crawford's The World Beyond Your Head that I keep coming back to:

When my oldest daughter was a toddler, we had a Leap Frog Learning Table in the house. Each side of the square table presents some sort of electromechanical enticement. There are four bulbous piano keys; a violin-looking thing that is played by moving a slide rigidly located on a track; a transparent cylinder full of beads mounted on an axle such that any attempt, no matter how oblique, makes it rotate; and a booklike thing with two thick plastic pages in it.

… Turning off the Leap Frog Learning Table would produce rage and hysterics in my daughter… the device seemed to provide not just stimulation but the experience of agency (of a sort). By hitting buttons, the toddler can reliably make something happen.

I didn't use the term in my review, but I talked about how this Learning Table does a kind of stabilisation by converting random toddler swipes into a small number of predefined movements:

The ‘violin-looking thing’ has only one translational degree of freedom, along a single track. Similarly, the cylinder can only be rotated around one axis. So the toddler’s glancing swipe at the cylinder is not dissipated into uselessness, but instead produces a satisfying rolling motion – they get to ‘make something happen’.

This is a fairly straightforward, physics-y kind of stabilisation, but still counts I think - it stabilises the meaning of 'flail arm in roughly these sorts of directions' into 'rotate the cylinder'.

Then there are the sort of grand civilisational feats of stabilisation, like writing and mathematical notation. Ong and Dutilh Novaes as sources for these. I found this fragment where I used the term before:

I’m still very interested in whether any of this cluster of ideas about the differences between writing and speech and thought can be useful in thinking about mathematics… it’s a vaguely similar setup with marks on on paper used to stabilise and extend our limited abilities to think about quantity and shape unaided, but there are obvious differences (no real ‘speech’ layer, for one, and much more unforgiving rules for combining symbols than in normal writing).

What else is there that I've read that would fit in here? Vygotsky maybe? Yes, his stuff on concept formation in children, starting from mushy associative groupings of 'this and this and this and this' where the last thing has barely any resemblance to the first, and moving up to stabilised categories that are agreed on by multiple people. Also the part comparing inner speech with nonverbal thought, with inner speech as the more stabilised one of the pair.

Going back to simple everyday scenarios, maybe some of the examples in Seeing like a stationery aisle would fit? You could have a bunch of papers spread across your desk, and stabilise them into two piles of 'about topic X' and 'about topic Y', and then reinforce that by putting them into separate envelopes or box files. Something like that.

And... many other things, probably. Latour's immutable mobiles I guess, and probably lots of things from The Origin of Objects. This seems worth thinking about more.

Maybe I want a list of 'stupid stabilisation tricks' like David Chapman's 'stupid referring tricks'?