RE: [xmca] Creativity & Social Transformation

From: larry smolucha <lsmolucha who-is-at>
Date: Tue Apr 08 2008 - 08:34:39 PDT

Thank You David,
I appreciate the recognition of my work. For people who are interested in my work,
I will be attending the ISCAR conference in San Diego and we can have coffee and talk.
My career has been on "the road less traveled" and "that has made all the difference."
Let me give you a little info about where I am coming from as a Vygotskian.
And then I will give my thoughts on the older child as the experienced
play partner.
My background: I have never been to Russian or studied with Russian psychologists.
But, I have had positive feedback from Elena Budrova (Russian play researcher still in Colorado?) and Tatiana Aktina (Luria's student still in Russia?). My knowledge of Vygotsky's theory comes from reading the text (in the original Russian). I have also read the Russian text of El'konin's book "The Psychology of Play."
Consider, that I am a "South-Sider" and I was raised as a fan of the Chicago Cubs, and you
have a glimpse into my psyche. My parents where first generation Polish-American factory workers. [Also, the University of Chicago is on the South-Side.]
As a freshman/sophomore, I took five courses in Russian at the Chicago City Colleges
(a community college system.) In 1984, while brushing up on my Russian in order to
pass (with honors) the University of Chicago's graduate reading exam in Russian, I started
to translate the Russian text of Thought and Language. To my surprise, I quickly
discovered that the then current English translation by Hanfmann & Vakar (MIT Press,
1962) had omitted half the passages in a random fashion. So that's why we struggled
so hard to make sense of the 1962 publication of Thought and Language (all those years.)
In 1986, Alex Kozulin's full translation was published by MIT Press, and the book doubled in size and the text flows more smoothly. The younger generation of Vygotsky students
does not know what the earlier generation had to struggle with (sigh).
In 1984, I decided that I might as well, just find a Vygotsky text that I was really interested in
and practice translating that. I had already pioneered research on my own developmental theory of creativity as the maturation of children's play (with my husband, Larry, a Visual Artist,
South-Sider, Midway Studios University of Chicago) - debuted at a Conference on Psychology
& Art University of Wales 1983. So I translated Vygotsky's paper on "Imagination and Creativity
in Childhood" (originlly 1930 in Russian, published in Russian again in 1956, my translation
published in 1991 in the Journal of Soviet Psychology.)
I passed the Russian reading exam with honors, fulfilling my Ph.D. requirement. And went on to translate two more Vygotsky papers on the development of creativity. I reconstructed the Vygotsky theory of creativty; my understadning of the Vygotsky theory of play was enhanced; and my understanding of the scope of Vygotsky's metatheory was transformed. Much of this was not well-received by leading American Vygotsky experts who worked directly with a Russian psychologist who was the "gatekeeper" who guided their interpretations of Vygotsky's works.
(I am not talking about Luria who had passed away.)
In regard, to the role of an older child as the more experienced play partner:
This takes us into a discussion of "The Semiology of Childhood" (Smolucha & Smolucha's presentation in 2002 at the University of Birmingham, U.K.) Sociodramatic play is not the same in every culture, its form and function vary. There is a particular type of socio-dramatic play that has a history in European cultures. [Being Euro-centric in origin does not mean it has to be
"dissed" as a tool of European colonialism. There are plenty of cultures that are non-European
that have histories of imperialism and colonialism.]
Freud, Erikson, Piaget, Vygotsky, and El'Konin are talking about the European tradition of
symbolic play (Piaget), pretend play, make-believe play, or socic-dramatic play. They all
focus on object substitutions during pretend play, where one object is used as if it were
another object (riding on a stick as if it were a horse.) They do not put the focus on re-enacting
adult roles. This is an important distinction for Montessori, whose curriculum includes the
re-enactment of adult routines (using child sized replicas of tables & chairs, etc.) but does
not include pretend play where one object has to be substituted for another. For example,
re-enacting dinner time one could provide plastic noodles (replica toys), or provide no
replica food leaving an opening for creative collaborative problem-solving. The teacher
would ask the preschoolers "what can we do?", "we have no food", "what could we use as
spaghetti?" Even two-year-olds can find some yarn or ribbon, older children might think of
shredding paper. Of course, the children have to be allowed to go into the craft area and
bring yarn into the play area of the room. I learned the importance of not providing
secondary props (like plastic noodles) from reading El'Konin's description of Fradkina's dissertation
from the 1940's. My 1991 dissertation builds on this, as does the work of Budrova & Leonne, and the Reggio Emilia preschool.
     In my dissertaion (1991) I found that the children (at age 2) who could teach other
children the technique of object substitutions in pretend play, where the children whose
mother's had taught them this technique from the time they were 14-months-old
(Kendall's Tau non-parametric correlation at the .01 level of significance.)
     Object substitutions become the key to creative imagination in fine art (Arnheim's, & Gombrich's, isomorphisms), in technical inventions, in metaphorical thinking in literature and science, and in everyday problem-solving (using a brick as a doorstop). They can also facilitate learning social roles that vary from using a stick as a horse because you want to ride "the pony," to using the stick as an automatic weapon to "shoot the bad guy."
      In 2002, I was an invited speaker at the ISCAR conference in Amsterdam.
I talked about my work on Vygotsky's theory of creativity and play. To my alarm,
I discovered in another symposim on children's play that the American "play"
researchers, and the Dutch psychologist who was the discussant, pronounced that their
work was the very first work to be done on play from the perspective of Vygotsky's theory.
I had just published a review of the research literature on Vygotsky's theory of play in
a book on Early Childhood Education edited by Saracho & Spodek. For too long there
has been little to no dialogue between Vygotskian researchers who do not embrace
Leontiev's Activity Theory and the researchers who identify with Vygotsky's (Leontiev's)
Activity Theory (most members of ISCAR.) It leads to awkward situations like the
one at the ISCAR conference in 2002 in Amsterdam, where Activity Theory proponents
did not know there is an entire research literature on Vygotsky's theory of children's
    Without "Creative Tension" (to borrow Vera's phrase) there is no progress, too
much agreement might bring harmony and stagnation.
    David, thanks for raising the question about play. You see I can discuss Vygotsky's theory
at the "drop of a hat" or even in my sleep (and I have been waked at 5:30 a.m. with a call from Europe asking me about my work.)
> Date: Tue, 8 Apr 2008 05:04:08 -0700> From: vaughndogblack who-is-at> Subject: Re: [xmca] Creativity & Social Transformation> To: xmca who-is-at> > Dear Francine:> > Welcome! I've been reading Y.V. Karpov's book The Neo-Vygotskian Approach to Child Development (2005: CUP) and noticing that he references you a lot. I looked up one of your papers on play ("The relevance of Vygotskys' theory of creative imagination for contemporary research on play"), so I for one was not wondering who the heck Francine Smolucha was, but rather how the heck she knew all these wonderful things about Vygotsky's work before any of the rest of us did. > > Karpov's main use for your work seems to be to buttress his claim that socio-dramatic play needs to be directly taught by adults. This is part of his activity theoretic approach, which divides childhood into distinct periods which are not separated by crises but instead characterized by a "leading activity" with a new independent motive. This leading activity grows out of a goal directed action that was subordinated to the previous activity.> > That's my problem. I can sort of see how the manipulation of toys might grow out of emotional attachment. And I can almost imagine how sociodramatic play might grow out of the manipulation of toys (though LSV suggests that it has more to do with unrealizeable desires). And the adult playmate is indeed a logical stepping stone to schoolwork, but schoolwork in the sense of age-homogenous levels overseen by a single adult is a pretty modern invention. > > Mike is arguing, elsewhere on this list, for a looooooooooooooong co-evolution of culture and phylogeny;it is not the case that history begins where evolution leaves off. It seems to me that for most of this long co-evolution, the chief means of enculturation for both anthropoid apes and man must have been play. But it also seems to me that for most of human history and prehistory the child's logical playmates would be older siblings and their friends rather than adults, as we see in most cultures where the bourgeois family has not yet taken root and even in late capitalist families where both parents have to work. Isn't it the older playmate rather than the participation of adults that makes play into a "natural" zone of proximal development? > > David Kellogg> Seoul National University of Education> > > > > ---------------------------------> You rock. That's why Blockbuster's offering you one month of Blockbuster Total Access, No Cost.> _______________________________________________> xmca mailing list> xmca who-is-at>
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Received on Tue Apr 8 08:36 PDT 2008

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