RE: [xmca] mythic/theoretic/virtual cultures?

From: Tony Whitson <twhitson who-is-at>
Date: Sun Jun 17 2007 - 14:32:47 PDT

Thanks for Reijo's paper, Mike, and also thanks for making the connection
with the Latour symposium.

While reviewing the Latour discussion, I noticed this opening paragraph in
the MCA Editors' Introduction (Volume: 3, Number: 4 1996, p. 227):

In his highly interesting manuscript "Concrete Human Psychology," Vygotsky
(1929/1989) commented on Pavlov's comparison of the nervous system with a
telephone network. For Vygotsky, this is wrong: "the whole uniqueness of
human psychology lies in the fact that the telephone and the telephone
operator are combined in him in one being, i.e., the apparatus and the
control of that apparatus by man" (p. 64). In other words, "tis not thought
that thinks: a person thinks" (p. 65). The point here is that we cannot
understand the brain, or any other organ, as a separate stand-alone entity
that is additively combined with an equally separate and mysterious human
subject. This point applies not only to bodily organs but also to all
artifacts and technologies, including sign systems. There is no subject
without mediating artifacts, and there are no artifacts without

Vygotsky, L. S. (1989). Concrete human psychology. Soviet Psychology, 27
(2), 53-77.

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Sunday, June 17, 2007 3:30 PM
To: Ana Marjanovic-Shane
Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] mythic/theoretic/virtual cultures?

Ana et al--

The symmetry (ANT) view is discussed by Reijo in an earlier MCA, which is
why I sent it around, and it is also discussed (with somewhat
different conclusions) by Viktor and Bonnie in Acting with Technology. There
is also the discussion around Latour's article on interobjectivity
in MCA where the issues are discussed.

Part of what makes this particular piece so complex for us is that it leads
backwards, outwards, and forwards from several partially overlapping
prior discussions which no one of us have fully incorporated into our
thinkings, all involving key thinkers of importance to us..


On 6/17/07, Ana Marjanovic-Shane <> wrote:
> I have a similar quantity of questions and half baked thoughts.
> For instance, What do we gain and what do we lose when we erase the
> asymmetry between thoughts and tools. On one hand, I do agree with the
> inseparable connection between the two phenomena and I still see them as
> phenomena -- or two different parts of the system. But to me it seems that
> creating a total symmetry is the same as saying that they have the same
> functions within the system. And that in turn annihilates the idea of
> mediation. Although David and Katherine claim that "all action arises from
> process of mutual mediation" (p. 289 -second paragraph from the bottom),
> seems to me that meaning is constructed because there are different types
> mediation within this system which are asymmetrical and which allow for
> internal dynamic, polyphony and creative restructuring. In this sense, I
> think that with denying the "analytic priority to humans" they are also
> throwing the baby with the bath water. In other words, I can see multiple
> and mutual mediation in the system, but I also see mutually asymmetrical
> kinds of mediation. It is not only asymmetrical between people and
> tools/symbols, but it is also asymmetrical between people - which
> like AC/DC - constantly changing directions of asymmetry.
> Another puzzle that I see as built into this theoretical model is the
> question of weather it is possible to "internalize" insights and knowledge
> which is constructed through the distributed mind -- in other words - is
> knowledge still possible? This view comes close to erasing the distinction
> between ontology and epistemology -- and if not what is the difference
> between the two in the light of this theory?
> Ana
> Mike Cole wrote:
> David and Katherine's toolforthought has stimulated so many different
> thoughts in so many different directions that I am uncertain where to
> begin
> in seeking to discuss it. Tony has urged that we read it in light of ideas
> in acting with technology, and it have spent a few hours with that book.
> I was pushed back to earlier discussions of CHAT and Actor Network Theory
> (ANT) and with help from you, have been able to recover Reijo's
> discussion of that aspect of the discussion (there is a discussion of
> these
> relations in Acting with Technology).
> Of the many potential starting places, the one at the top of the jumble in
> my head at this moment is the relationship between the idea of
> toolforthought,
> what is referred to in the abstract as new media (which I believe gets
> refined later to new computational media enabling complex simulations),
> and
> the
> "forms" of culture indexed by the adjectives mythic/theoretic/virtual
> culture..
> I have two confusions here.
> First, to what extent is it helpful to characterize entire cultural
> systems
> by the dominant modes of tool mediation? Were the people who constructed
> and
> used
> Stonehenge restricted to mythic thinking/narrative? Does Seymor Papert
> pondering the terrible accident that befell him in Hanoi think about it
> virtually? Theoretically?
> Do old forms disappear when when forms emerge?
> Second, and related, to what extent is the idea of toolforthought
> dependent
> upon such new media? For most of the article, it seems to me that the idea
> applies no less
> to people sitting on the lip of the caves of Lascaux, observing the moon,
> and inscribing its phases on a piece of bone than to my grandson playing
> world of warcraft. At
> other times it appeared (as in the statement in the abstract) that it was
> the new forms of computational media that give rise to a new culture and a
> new mode of thought
> where toolforthought applies.
> Plenty more questions.
> What do you think?
> (The now-absent-from-this-discussion-Eugene hereby invoked tentatively as
> a
> toolforthought)
> mike
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> --
> **
> ------------------------------
> *Ana Marjanovic-Shane, Ph.D.* *151 W. Tulpehocken St.* *Philadelphia**, PA
> 19144*** *(h) 215-843-2909* ** *
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