Re: [xmca] Uptake and Takeaway

From: Jonna Kangasoja <jonna.kangasoja who-is-at>
Date: Tue Jul 01 2008 - 12:41:42 PDT

Hi David,

The play issue (MCA Vol. 15 number 2) reached me in Helsinki end of
last week. There is another very interesting editorial by Wolff-
Michael on ontology of difference.


David Kellogg kirjoitti 30.6.2008 kello 21.44:

> Mike:
> I'll try hard to do as you say, because I think that the issue of
> affect and intellect (emotion and rational thought) is an almost
> perfect issue for a guest editorial.
> But I don't think I am a perfect candidate for the guest. First of
> all, as you can see from the last line of my contribution below,
> I'm still confused about the difference between microgenesis on the
> one hand and learning on the other.
> Like many sloppy thinkers, I tend to proceed by bold analogy and
> then fiddle with the results until they fit well enough for
> whatever practical purpose I have at hand.
> In this case, I tend to think of the distinction as similar to the
> distinction we find between Darwinian phylogenetic evolution on the
> one hand and Marxian socio-historical change on the other, or
> between Marxian socio-historical change on the one hand and
> Vygotskyan ontogenetic development on the other.
> For me time scale is what makes each of these distinctions both
> distinguishable and indissolubly linked: in each case, the
> distinction is something like that between climate change and
> weather change, and the similarity is similarly similar.
> Phylogenetic evolution is on the scale of hundreds of thousands of
> years, while Marxian socio-historical change occurs within
> centuries. Yet FUNCTIONALLY they appear remarkably congruent: the
> production of coats, so well elaborated in the first volume of
> Capital, is a logical attempt to accelerate the production of fur
> to match the colder climes encountered outside Africa, and the
> production of houses is a socio-cultural response to the dearth of
> caves.
> Similarly, Vygotskyan ontogenesis takes place on the scale of
> years, but functionally it appears as both a reverse-engineering
> and an extension of the socio-cultural development of clothes,
> housing, and of course language.
> In each case the slower process provides the environment for the
> speedier one, but the speedier process lays down a foundation for
> the next phase of the slower one. In each case, the speedier
> process is a functionally similar extension of the slower one by
> radically more rapid means (cultural vs. natural, semiotic vs. tool-
> based)
> I'm afraid I'm still thinking about the distinction between
> microgenesis and ontogenesis in an analogous way. Ontogenetic
> development provides the preconditions in which microgenesis
> unfolds, and in return microgenesis enables the next phase of
> ontogenetic development. And in that sense microgenesis plays
> precisely the role that LSV assigns to learning: it leads
> ontogenesis by socially awakening processes that give rise to
> psychological development.
> I understand perfectly what you said about microgenesis being
> simply a moment of ontogenesis, about it being part of a
> revolutionary transformation rather than the kind of incremental
> and easily forgotten experience that we see in learning. But all
> this suggests to me at this point is some kind of selection akin to
> evolutionary selection (my sloppy analogy ridden thinking again!).
> Some transformations live and reorganize the child's mind, in which
> case we call them microgenetic, but these are a subset of a much
> broader set of transformations, most of which simply persist
> without any radically reorganizing effects or even wither and die
> on the vine. This larger set of transformations are what we call
> learning. I'm afraid that's the limit of my understanding at this
> point.
> The second reason I'm not sure about being the guest editor on
> affect and intellect is that I think we're going to have a special
> issue on Gunilla Lindqvist and playworlds soon. The current issue
> of MCA contains two really smashing articles on this very topic;
> perhaps one of the authors could contribute a guest editorial
> developing the affect/intellect issue, so obviously implicated in
> playworlds, for that issue.
> I think that would work much better to achieve Wolff-Michael's real
> goal, which is establishing a kind of inter-issue coherence, so
> that every issue of MCA appears as an installment of some larger
> project without end. (Not to be confused with a process without a
> product!)
> When is the play issue coming out? Anybody know?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> --- On Sun, 6/29/08, Mike Cole <> wrote:
> From: Mike Cole <>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Uptake and Takeaway
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
> Date: Sunday, June 29, 2008, 5:34 PM
> David et al---
> I come very late to this note and for the moment wish only to
> emphasize my
> appreciation for David
> taking notice of the invitation for readers of MCA to write
> editorials. The
> idea is indeed to take up
> some issue or issues that have appeared in the past and comment on
> them with
> respect to the present.
> This is a different function than summarizing what is to come.
> So far as I know, except for David's Xmca note below, there has
> been no
> uptake of this takeupable idea.
> Why not?
> The door is open. Why not walk in?
> For openers, David, perhaps you could work your comments below into
> a guest
> editorial of your own.
> After all, there are lots of readers of MCA who are not members of
> XMCA (and
> versa vice, alas).
> mike
> On Wed, Apr 23, 2008 at 5:35 PM, David Kellogg
> <>
> wrote:
>> I just got the latest MCA and read Wolff-Michael Roth's guest
> editorial
>> (!). It's really a brilliant idea, to have readers pen the
>> editorials.
> At
>> first I thought it wouldn't work, because readers won't have
> advance access
>> to the issue copy and can't do a "round up" the way
> Wolff-Michael used to
>> do.
>> But of course that's NOT what Wolff-Michael's got in mind at all.
> What he
>> has in mind is not a round-up but an up-take, something like this
>> conversation which he uses as data between a schoolchild and the
>> head of
>> about a science project involving the measurement of water
>> temperature:
>> D: It's like nineteen.
>> N: Whoo, it's it's GONE UP a degree since this
> morning.
>> Nineteen what.
>> D: Nineteen degrees fahrenheit
>> N: Nope.
>> D: in...Nah. I just fogot it.
>> N: Nineteen degrees what?
>> D: Uh, nineteen degrees I forgot.
>> N: It's not...
>> D: I keep forgetting everything.
>> N: OK, alright. That's right. There's no such thing as being
> dumb.
>> Notice how the words "nineteen" and then "forgot" run
> like song refrains
>> through this little two-part aria. First D says it, and then N
>> uptakes it
>> and then D uptakes THAT, and so on.
>> So now we readers get a chance to UPTAKE an issue from a previous
>> issue
>> (Nystrand, Slimani) rather than try to foresee the theme of the
>> present
>> issue. In this case it's Wolff-Michael's own problem of linking
> emotion and
>> intonation. So even the non-editorial writing reder can get
>> something much
>> more important than a "round-up" for readers who are too lazy to
> go and read
>> the articles or even the abstracts. We get continuity and coherence!
>> That's my (hugely appreciative) uptake of Wolff-Michael's
> innovation! Now
>> here's a comment on the uptaken issue, the link of emotion and
> intonation.
>> There are really three points in the article where I disagree a
>> little,
> and
>> I think they all point to a slightly larger disagreement:
>> p. 3: Wolff-Michael argues that N's "nineteen degrees what"
> should
>> normally RISE rather than fall: "...(W)hereas in usual
>> utterances-intended-as questions the pitch level would rise toward
>> the
> end,
>> the pitch level was falling in her utterance as if she were making a
>> statement." This rise is indeed characteristic of
>> "utterances-intended-as-questions" when they refer to already
>> AVAILABLE, OLD information, like this:
>> D: It's nineteen degrees Fahrenheit!
>> N: It's nineteen degrees....? (UP)
>> N: It's nineteen degrees FAHRENHEIT? (UP)
>> N: It's nineteen degrees WHAT? (UP)
>> But it is NOT characteristic of
> "utterances-intended-as-questions" when
>> they refer UNSTATED, NOT YET AVAILABLE, NEW information, like this:
>> A: I'm going to be LATE.
>> B: Late for WHAT? (DOWN)
>> A: Late for work!
>> B: Late for WORK? (Incredulously, up-DOWN) It's SUNday! (DOWN)
>> You can see that here the intonation is very consistently DOWN,
>> and the
>> (up-DOWN) movement simply serves to give the speaker more room in
>> which to
>> fall. I think that this is because the default intonation in
>> English (and
> in
>> many other languages as well) is DOWN, and it is this intonation
>> which is
>> used to impart new information. The marked intonation is UP, and
>> this is
>> used to cast doubt or critical distance on old information.
>> This is why, by the way, rhetorical wh-questions tend to be UPly
>> intoned,
>> even when they are written. If I were shamelessly touting my own
>> wares, I
>> might mention at this point that Jungran Yi and I wrote about this at
> least
>> tangentially in an article in Language Awareness:
>> p. 5: Wolff-Michael says "In the speaking/hearing complement,
> collective
>> knowing and consciousness is expressed. This can be assumed to be
>> the case
>> as long as no evidence to the contrary is provided as part of a
>> situation,
>> for example, if one of the speakers were to have said, 'What did you
> say?'
>> or "What do you mean?' In such a situation, the sound--and maybe
> even some
>> words has been heard but the marked sense is not evident to the
> listener."
>> These are two VERY different cases as you can easily tell by
>> reading them
>> aloud and noticing that the former has UP intonation while the
>> latter is
>> normally intoned DOWN. In the former, the sound has indeed not been
> clearly
>> heard, and therefore the UP intonation is used to "scroll back"
> the
>> discourse. But in the latter what is being asked for is new and more
>> specific information.
>> p. 5: Wolff-Michael says that in modern art this kind of "what do
> you
>> mean?" is not possible, because "art is for its own sake, not
> signifying or
>> denoting something else." A great deal of modern art has TRIED to
> achieve
>> the Quixotic feat of not meaning anything. But it is in principle
>> impossible, a fantasy of the aesthetes in the late nineteenth
>> century;
> even
>> Jackson Pollock admitted that his paintings were INDEXICAL--they
>> meant the
>> actions that were used to produce them, and not simple ICONS. It's
>> not
>> possible to create art without meaning anything; it's like
> Chomsky's
>> supposedly meaningless "Colorless green ideas" (which next to
> "This sentence
>> has never before been written and will never be written again" is
> probably
>> the most widely quoted and thoroughly understood piece of Chomsky
>> ever
>> written).
>> It seems to me a larger disagreement looms in Wolff-Michael's
> analysis of
>> the data. He argues that N's response "There is no such thing as
> being dumb"
>> is a consolatory move intended to allay the negative affect of D's
>> forgetfulness, and I am sure that is how N sees it. But the object of
>> interest here is affect, and that means that what really matters
>> is how D
>> feels about this "consolation".
>> It seems to me unlikely that this consolation will genuinely lead
>> to a
>> zone of proximal development. On the contrary, by explicitly
> "uptaking" the
>> issue of dumbness which was only implicit heretofore, it seem
>> quite likely
>> to have the OPPOSITE effect.
>> This brings me to the larger disagreement. Wolff-Michael and I
>> are both
>> interested in affect and how thinking emerges from feeling, linked
>> yet
>> distinct. But Wolff-Michael is very much focussing on micro-
>> genesis, and I
>> think that LSV's main concern (as well as my own) was the role of
> affect in
>> ontogenesis, the way in which rational and objective thought emerges
> (again,
>> linked but distinct) from non-rational and affective feeling.
>> Microgenesis is important, and I have no doubt that we can indeed
>> study
> it
>> the way Wolff-Michael has pioneered, through intonation. The
>> problem is
> that
>> as we can see, there are cultural patterns that affect intonation
>> that are
>> quite independent of individual affect: they are concerned with the
> newness
>> or giveness or availability of the topicalized information rather
>> than
> with
>> the speaker's affective attitude towards it, and as with any language
> use,
>> the speaker's affect must take these cultural conventions (UP for Old
>> Information and DOWN for New) into account when the speaker expreses
>> feelings. So to a certain extent we've got a primacy of thinking over
>> feeling already, because of the cultural patrimony that the
>> speaker must
>> speak through.
>> On the other hand, it seems to me to be the case that while
>> children like
>> D have a procedural understanding of these cultural conventions,
>> their
>> affective experience is still overwhelming; the logical argument that
> memory
>> is not a measure of intelligence is simply not convincing (and
>> rightly so
>> given the salience of memory in education and in working life). So
>> the
>> take-away is not going to be the same as the uptake, and this cold
>> comfort
>> (how consolation pries!) is unlikely to create a zone of ontogenetic
>> affective development.
>> Can a zone of microgenetic development be said to be a zone of
>> development? Isn't it merely a zone of proximal learning?
>> David Kellogg
>> Seoul National University of Education
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Received on Tue Jul 1 12:43 PDT 2008

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