Re: [xmca] LCA-- transparency

From: ruqaiya hasan (
Date: Mon Jul 04 2005 - 22:42:12 PDT

I came into this debate a little late; I am, besides, not familiar with the
language of description for talking of activity. So please bear with me. I
am puzzled.

My puzzlement is as follows: why should we deny the status of activity to
human actions which have become automatised/automatic? A fundamentalist is
most probably acting automatically in denigrating someone who goes against
their belief . But this action can have very far reaching effects on our
social existence. Or is this not one of the important points about activity
as social practice?

Is it not possible to think in terms of actions which implicate/assume an
other e.g. talking, and actions which are limited to the body of the doer
e.g. yawning. Now one interesting thing is that when one goes against the
social modes of performing the latter type (which are essentially
non-mediating) it comes to have a meaning that maybe quite potent eg if I
saw you yawning as you read this message I might wonder if you are implying
"how boring!"

All this may be quite beside the point of your discussion -- and so I
shouldn't go on. I guess it is a serious issue how to define/recognise the
distinction between activity and action (eg in the activity of reading and
the action of turning the pages). Rom Harre had some interesting thoughts on


----- Original Message -----
From: "Wolff-Michael Roth" <>
To: "eXtended Media, Culture, Activity" <>;
Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 8:24 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] LCA-- transparency

Mike and all,

> 1. For the novice, can "learning to drive the car" be considered an
> activity in and of itself? Say, for a 15 1/2 year old? Or it better
> considered a complex form of action, where the motive is to gain
> independence, etc?

We cannot answer this question other than by looking at some concrete
situation. Take a driving school. Evidently, this is a form of activity
that has formed from previous forms of activity in a division of labor
and breaking off. Within that system, producing people with drivers
licenses appears to be the motive.

 From the perspective of the youngster, it may actually be only a goal
toward getting a driver's license so that she or he can deliver pizza.
Learning to drive and getting a license then is a way to expand one's
action possibilities, gain control over life conditions, and this is
achieved through participation in existing forms of work.


> 2. Might the relation of language to acquisition of driving
> expertise be accompanied by a transformation of language as explicit
> to implicit semiotic means, a la Ruqaiya?
> Ed-- I will have to think more your example and interpretation and
> how to relate it to the Bateson example. Are the kids you are talking
> about to be considered expert in their use of cane's as tools of
> navitation?
> mike
> On 7/4/05, Blanton, William E <> wrote:
>> Mike and Michael, I
>> I am trying to work my way through transparency, mediation with
>> language, interlaization, action and operation, so stick with me on
>> this. We mediate the directing of our eyes to look, observe, notiice
>> with language as we learn to drive down the road. As in other
>> activty, the language we use to direct our eyes becomes internalized
>> and the use of our eyes during driving becomes as looking while
>> driving becomes an operation, even more so when we consider the
>> learning and predicting of the brain as it mediates many of our
>> unconscious lookings. If traffic signals were arranged differently
>> each morning, many of our lookings would rise to the level of action.
>> If I were to become blind and begin using a cane to move around, I
>> would use language to mediate activity with a cane in my hand,
>> directing the cane to move ahead as if feel and hear sensations
>> though the movement and touching of the came. Eventually the cane
>> becomes part of new functional system of seeing expressed through two
>> modalities. Soon language mediating use of the cane becomes
>> internalized. The cane has remediated my activity and rewired my the
>> fuctional system for seeing.
>> I wonder if the brain activity of one born blind and seing with a
>> cane is similar to the brain activity of one who becomes blind later
>> and mediates seeing with cane.
>> ________________________________
>> From: on behalf of Wolff-Michael Roth
>> Sent: Mon 7/4/2005 4:15 PM
>> To:
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] LCA-- transparency
>> > My observations of the blind have been a bit different than the one
>> > Bateson recounts (which doesn't at all contradict what he recounts)
>> -
>> > at one point I spent some time at a school for the blind outside
>> > Nashville, Tennessee. Many of the young people I observed swung
>> their
>> > cane to and fro in front of them (and in some particular situations
>> > they let it drag to the side). They didn't seem to be looking for
>> > confirming evidence (and they may, for the observant person sharing
>> > their space, have been simultaneously been socially clearing the way
>> > in front of
>> But Ed, do you look for confirming evidence when you walk? Do look
>> prior to setting your foot down, then confirm that it's gonna be okay.
>> . .
>> > them) but for disconfirming evidence - that is, when the cane
>> > exhibited stick-like properties. Opaqueness (as in a sheet of
>> paper),
>> > so to speak, was crucial and they seemed to be attempting to
>> maximize
>> > this with the cane. However, at the same time they needed to use
>> > something that could act as an extension of themselves (a heavy iron
>> > bar or a feather would not be ideal). Hence, it seems to me, it is
>> the
>> > doing (might one say the 'thoroughly internalized' here?) that was
>> > mediated that is/was at stake and, in many instance, the 'ideal'
>> tool
>> > might be, in use, both appropriately 'opaque' and 'transparent' or,
>> > perhaps, in use have the appropriate potentials for being both
>> > 'concrete' and 'abstract.'
>> Okay, I think we need to talk about these things not in the ideal way,
>> not in the abstract, but analyze real concrete practical activity. In
>> this, I think that both of your conditions are already met in the
>> normal stick, it is both transparent--not thought about, not only
>> embodied in operations, but also embodying operations such as
>> providing
>> a clearing before them--and material. It is only in their materiality
>> that the canes can be used for what they are used in practical
>> activity, that they have an effect, that they realize motives and
>> goals.
>> I think that a lot of our theoretical problems disappear when we
>> approach the issue dialectically, beginning with an analysis of
>> activity, not onsidedly with an analysis of tools or transparency or .
>> . . We then end up capturing both the material and ideal aspects of
>> the
>> CANE IN ACTIVITY. Outside real practical activity, the cane is
>> nothing,
>> like any sign or word is nothing outside real concrete activity.
>> Michael
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