RE: [xmca] action based research

From: Alexander Surmava (
Date: Fri Dec 01 2006 - 17:55:38 PST

Hi Mike, Martin, Michael et al.


First of all my great excuse to Martin and Michael for the delay with
answer. I've found your posts very inspiring but it takes me much time to

1. because I have to think :-),
2. because I have to formulate all this in my heavy academic style in
3. because I have a free from university duties time only at night and
I'm sinking with fatigue

Anyhow my answers to your posts are in process.


But before going to bed (It's 5 a.m. now) a short remark to Mike's post.


You argue that "The difference between skinner/pavlov and the russians is
their emphasis on semiotic mediation through artifacts."

I want to agree and in the same time disagree with this statement. If you
omit the term "semiotic" and mention only "artifact mediation" I should
agree without any objections.

But in this combination I can hardly agree with you. Point is that just
Pavlov with his fundamental concepts of unconditioned and conditioned
reflexes, as well as the idea of speech as the Second Signal System
("Second" because the "First" one - the system of natural reflexes - is also
a "Signal System") based on ideology of arbitrary signs (signals), on
ideology of semiosis. (Look it in detail in Nikolai Bernstein).

As for mediation with artifacts which take place in object oriented human
activity it has nothing to do with traditional (Piercian) semiotic approach
cause it doesn't deal with arbitrary but with ideal signs.

That is not a question of terminological purism, but very principal
distinction, because, as I know no Pierce, not Bakhtin even stand near
dialectical comprehension of ideality. In case of Bakhtin I can argue that
his understanding of ideality was directly opposite to Il'enkov's one. Thus
Bakhtin insists that "signs are growing exclusively from the process of
interaction between (emphasized by Bakhtin himself - A.S.)

individual consciousnesses" while Il'enkov and Marx insist that ideality
grows from historical predominantly material praxis. An axe can be regarded
as a sign of firewood, but it can hardly be regarded as an arbitrary sign,
like the word "axe". The shape of axe contains not only arbitrariness of
blacksmith, but in the very shape of axe is crystallized the ideal
representation, comprehension of nature of wood, the comprehension which
arises from collective material praxis of humans, rather than "interaction
between individual consciousnesses".

That is why when a child masters a culturally normative modus operandi with
such containing ideal sense artifacts like axe or spoon or anything else
he/she masters not only arbitrary sign or the arbitrary will of sign's
inventor, but the real understanding of nature of say wood, or liquid food.
We will remind, that according to Spinozism the comprehension of something
means ability to act with this something according to its nature, not only
to operate verbally with empty arbitrary signs.

So when LSV was dealing with artificial, conventional signs to mediate the
operations with artificial, conventional objects like in Sakharov's method
or in most cases of double stimulation method he followed the semiotic line
in his research, while when ANL and especially Alexander Mescheriakov taught
healthy or deaf and blind children to act with culturally developed
artifacts they followed the Spinozian trend in Vygotsky's research. They
simply did the same thing we do without any theoretic reflection with our
own children giving them a chance to grow not a speechmakers but clever
persons with ability to see and to comprehend the nature of things.




-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Saturday, December 02, 2006 1:35 AM
Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] action based research


ERci-- The Kharkov school makes the distinction! They were all about


Try reading them in Soviet Psychology. I'll send a long a ref when I get a



The difference between skinner/pavlov and the russians is their emphasis on


mediation through artifacts.



On 12/1/06, <> wrote:



> Thank you for the interest Mike:


> Why is it that you make a distinction between action and activity?


> My main reference is Valsiner's "Developemental Psychology in the Soviet

> Union". I like the word action because in most of the experiments that

> utilize the dual stimulation method there is an expectation set by the

> experimentor that the subject is to bring action to the experiment by

> actively achieving a goal as well the action utilized by the experimentor

> in directing the goal. For example, the "forbidden color" experiment,

> the

> card is both a semiotic psychological tool used by the subject as well as

> a

> culturally mediated tool that allows the experimentor to set the

> parameters

> of the experiment.


> What do you see as the main difference between the Skinner/Pavlov

> experiment and the Vygotsky/Leontiev/Luria experiment?


> eric




> "Mike Cole"

> <lchcmike who-is-at gmail. To: "eXtended Mind,

> Culture, Activity" <>

> com> cc:

> Sent by: Subject: Re: [xmca] action

> based research

> xmca-bounces who-is-at web




> 12/01/2006 02:08

> PM

> Please respond

> to mcole; Please

> respond to

> "eXtended Mind,

> Culture,

> Activity"







> What references are you using to chactertize the Kharkhov School, Eric?

> Why

> action when it is there that activity came to the fore as a central

> concept?

> mike


> On 12/1/06, <> wrote:

> >

> >

> >

> > I believe there is a distinct difference between the Cartesian dualism

> of

> > the subject-object psychological experimentation and the action based

> > research of the 'Kharkov School'. In the action based psychological

> > experiment the emphasis is upon goal orientated social behavior.

> > Therefore, I believe it is this focus on the social otherness that sets

> > apart the action based research. This otherness at some point becomes a

> > tool for a person to utilize to further their own development. That I

> > believe is the kernel, the nut, the essence of what needs to be

> answered.

> > At what point in development does a person realize that the otherness

> can

> > be a tool to further their own development?

> >

> > In action based research there is not the sterile confines of a

> laboratory

> > but rather 'experiments' can be conducted anywhere as long as the goal

> > being attained is clearly defined. The empirical evidence gathered from

> > these action based experiments gleaned information for researchers to

> > place

> > great emphasis upon semiosis. However, this still anchors a person's

> > thinking within the materialistic realm of subject-object but I believe

> it

> > to be a different anchoring than what results from mere

> > antecedent-behavior

> > associations. Besides being associative and quantitative in nature the

> > results of an action oriented empirical experiment provides qualitative

> > evidence towards answering the question posed in the above paragraph.

> >

> > what do others think?

> >

> > eric

> >

> >

> > _______________________________________________

> > xmca mailing list

> >

> >

> >

> _______________________________________________

> xmca mailing list










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