Re: [xmca] Explaining the construction of "real things" & "systems don't think"

From: <ERIC.RAMBERG who-is-at>
Date: Tue Sep 04 2007 - 11:03:14 PDT

Great questions that have been asked numerous times by numerous
philosophers and depending upon a person's ontology can be answered
numerous ways. I believe Bruno Latour would be the best bet for the social
constructivist part. As for the second question I would return back to
Vygotsky's view that ""Every function in the child's cultural development
appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual
level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child
(intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to
logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions
originate as actual relationships between individuals." (p57) of mind and
society. CHAT may view the individual/collective differently but I am
presupposed to go to Vygotsky's original view on the individual/collective

hope this is helpful,

                      "Michael A.
                      Evans" To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
                      <> cc:
                      Sent by: Subject: [xmca] Explaining the construction of "real things" & "systems don't
                      xmca-bounces@web think"
                      09/03/2007 11:36
                      Please respond
                      to "eXtended
                      Mind, Culture,

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 explain
"real things," like trees, buildings, and keys?

2. In a theory such as CHAT, how does one prevent the individual from being
"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 article
(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") but
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) East
Asian students are more immediately comfortable with the notion of a
collective than US domestic students...again, I was wondering if there was
reference I could use to help students (and myself) analyze this question,
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
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Received on Tue Sep 4 11:14 PDT 2007

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