RE: [xmca] Explaining the construction of "real things" & "systemsdon't think"

From: David H Kirshner <dkirsh who-is-at>
Date: Mon Sep 03 2007 - 20:43:13 PDT

Two lovely conundrums. Together they conjure up a spiritual issue of
corporate identity I've been pondering for a while. Example: As the 2000
presidential election unfolded in the US, I had a strong intuition that
the outcome would reveal something decisive about the "American
character"--whatever that is. In other words, in an amazingly close
race, my sense was not that US citizens are nearly evenly divided in
their visions for the future, but rather that the tiniest nuance that
would give the victory to one party or the other reflected something of
essential importance about the state of the "American psyche"--whatever
that is--and so be a part of each American (in some metaphysical sense).
I wonder about this deep-seated need I have to personify something as
diverse as a nation.


-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Peter Smagorinsky
Sent: Monday, September 03, 2007 12:19 PM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: RE: [xmca] Explaining the construction of "real things" &
"systemsdon't think"

A classic:
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together
Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of
and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that
though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to
it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered,
his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from
-- "I refute it thus."
Boswell: Life

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Behalf Of Michael A. Evans
Sent: Monday, September 03, 2007 12:36 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [xmca] Explaining the construction of "real things" & "systems
don't think"

Dear All,

Despite it being early in the semester, my grad students have already
managed to stump me on two critical issues in a course I'm teaching on
computer supported collaborative learning <Syllabus:> paraphrase, students want satisfactory
responses to:

1. From a social constructivist ontology/epistemology how does one
"real things," like trees, buildings, and keys?

2. In a theory such as CHAT, how does one prevent the individual from
"lost to the system or collective"?

As to crafting a response to the first question, I vaguely recall an
that explained that a social constructivist position does not deny
reality" but is concerned with meaning making - an example in the
(if I recall correctly) had to do with "misplaced keys" - i.e., the
is not whether the keys continue to exist (though being "out of sight")
what it means in terms of "not having keys to unlock the front door"...I
wondering if anyone was familiar with that article (or something equally

As for the second question, two interesting derivatives: a) students
strongly maintain that "systems can't think, only individuals can"; b)
Asian students are more immediately comfortable with the notion of a
collective than US domestic students...again, I was wondering if there
was a
reference I could use to help students (and myself) analyze this
agreeing to accept the notion of "group cognition" <Stahl (2006), Group
Cognition, MIT Press> without denying that the construct remains
for many...


michael a. evans
assistant professor
306 war memorial hall (0313)
department of learning sciences & technologies
school of education
virginia tech  
phone: +1 540.231.3743
fax: +1 540.231.9075
xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list
Received on Mon Sep 3 20:45 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Oct 08 2007 - 06:02:26 PDT