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WS 325 Developmental Systems Theory (DST)

Applying Development Systems Theory for "Portrayal of Gender and Sexualities in the Media" class

Joel Geske

on 27 August 2013

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Transcript of WS 325 Developmental Systems Theory (DST)

Developmental Systems Theory
With Alfred Kinsey we saw that sexuality can be fluid over a lifetime with many people falling somewhere in the center sections of the 7 point scale between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual.
1. Processes live at multiple levels from culture to genes.
Genes create proteins, building blocks, and guide processes.
The environment (culture) helps determine how those building blocks form into the organism.
2.There are cascading, nonlinear, and often nonobvious interactions among levels.
The existence of complex processes at multiple levels creates one set of complications, but even more complications arise when we consider interactions among levels:
how genes affect neurotransmitter release;
how neurotransmitters modify the activity of neurons;
how the activity of populations of neurons are coordinated through time;
how this population activity can in turn change gene expression;
how behaviors are generated, producing new patterns of stimulation that drive change at lower levels.
3. No one (level) is in control.
The role of genes is not just to create the brain and body of a newborn, but to create an organism that is flexible enough to deal with an ever-changing world.
In fact, genes don't create anything, let alone brains, bodies, and flexibility.
Genes participate in the production of proteins and in the regulation of other genes.
The building of brains, bodies, and flexibility involves a cascading developmental process in which genes and their products interact within their local environment to create the substrates for further development.
4. These nested interactions propagate over multiple time scales.
Developmental processes unfold over time, and therefore cannot be viewed in isolation.
Rather, the real-time activity of a child in context lays the foundation for integrated experiences occurring over days, weeks, months, and years.
And these processes that live at longer time scales provide the fuel for cultural and biological evolution.
Thus, when we put our experimental foot down somewhere in time, we must be ever mindful that the processes we just caught by the tail have a history that extends backward in time and will have a future that extends beyond the time scale of our experiment.
5. Nested interactions can lead to the emergence of new patterns of organization in context.
One of the central insights of a developmental systems view is that new forms can emerge over time, that is, something fundamentally new can be created over development
From: Seeing the world through a third eye: Developmental systems theory looks beyond the nativist-empiricist debate.
John P. Spencer, Larissa K. Samuelson, Mark S. Blumberg, Bob McMurray, Scott R. Robinson, and J. Bruce Tomblin
Delta Center University of Iowa Iowa City, Iowa 52242
Ann Fausto-Sterling applies this theory
to the analysis of Sex and Gender.
There MAY be differences in brain structure between men and women or hetero-sexual and homosexual individuals.
However, it is more important to ask developmental and functional questions about the differences.
Most important is to realize that differences found in adults arise during development.
This leads to what is known as embodiment by theorists.
DST assumes softly-assembled states (not hard wired.)
Although relatively stable, such states can dissolve into chaotic periods out of which new stable states emerge.
So, when it comes to gender
expression and sexual preferences:
For each individual sexual attraction is a stable state of desire.
It can be destablized and after a period of disarray, some new "quasi-stable" form of desire can emerge.
Memories are made through neuron groupings and when a memory is drawn upon and stored again, new memory proteins are made.
During this time memories are destablized and open to revision for a brief period of time.
Many LGBT persons will report they always
remember feeling different. Perhaps they remember liking dolls or dress-up rather than trucks or sports (or vice-versa.)

At a young age they don't know about homosexuality or gender expectations.
As they get older the memories get adjusted to fit with new information.

The memories and experiences that build through childhood and into adulthood take into account new information and new experiences.
A Dynamic Process.
Fausto-Sterling argues that it is most important to think about individuals and less about group averages.
There are many individual paths that lead to global outcomes (for example no two children learn to walk exactly the same way).
Children by about age 2 and a half start to recognize gender differences and display gender stereotypes...gender emerges but how does it stabilize?
A quick video shows how one couple has dealt with emerging and changing gender identity. He is a transgender male that presents as a female and is legally married to a female.
He (is assumed) to have XY chromosomes which makes his sex male.

He is transitioning to female (gender presentation).
Apply Developmental Systems Theory....

Is this genetically driven or culturally driven?
How would you term the sexuality
or sexual orientation of this couple?
How many of you have read about these types of situations in main stream media? What is the media's role in educating? Why don't we see more?
In states where gay marriage is not allowed....are they still married? Even if he transitions completely to the opposite gender has his "sex" changed? At what point does "he" become "she"? Does he?
Genetically is he a different person? Developmentally is he a different person?
(The genes are the same...or are they?)
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