Re: [xmca] Play to Art: Experience to Insight

From: Haydi Zulfei <haydizulfei who-is-at>
Date: Sun Jul 20 2008 - 02:37:36 PDT

Dear Steve Gabosch, As for others , I don't know but as for myself , there are so many ideas in this weighty article of Ana and Ljubica's that one remains standstill as to where to begin and how . But concerning these two paragraphs of yours : [The proposal of the “propositional act” as a basic unit of meaning- making especially gets my attention.  Using a CHAT framework for their  theorizing, Ana and Ljubica speak of two kinds of general  relationships, subject-object and subject-subject. Subject-object relationships, as suggested by Vygotsky and later  developed in CHAT theory, are mediated by artifacts - tools and/or  signs.  This mediated relationship is often used as a unit of analysis  in activity analysis, expressed by the familiar activity triangle,  which proposes that not only tools and/or signs mediate the subject  and object, but so also does the social environment, in the form of  mediating factors such as rules, communities, divisions of labor, etc.] First , two kinds of general relationships : What you're mentioning refers to Engstrom's version of the Acticity Theory , not Leontiev's . And there's no dispute over this . However , please think about these ideas : a. Did not Leontiev know there are so many thousands and millions of individuals engaged in different activities of their lives ? Then why did he choose just one agent/subject ? I mean not sunject-subject relationship ? The answer is not so difficult . For him one subject was an ensemble of social relations ; hence on his view when one subject engages himself with an object in the outside world , he , in fact , is sort of a representative of all other subjects . As individual individuals , they would have exploded the social / society into billions of bits irresponsible or inimical towards one another never to think a tiny bit of mutual interaction . b. It seems it's not correct that the formula subject===> sign ===> object belongs to an
 activity theory analysis as you are referring . Activity theory , as I recall from Leontiev , has this design to work with : subject ====> activity itself ( the whole ) ====> object and this is what comprises the whole dispute . c. Is not the *object* of Engstrom's , the ultimate *motive* of Leontiev's  according to the six nodes of Engstrom's known figure ? d. To what extent are acts ( whether communicative , propositionsl or speech ) applicable to the clear-cut goal-directed actions of the Activity Theory ? e. Taking into consideration the concepts of *universal* , *necessary* , don't you think the idea expressed thus : * ...which proposes that not only tools and/or signs mediate the subject  and object, but so also does the social environment, in the form of  mediating factors such as rules, communities, divisions of labor, etc.* , could be considered *redundant* ? Which of these concepts you've taken and recounted from Engstrom's (rules ...) , is really necessary to convery the concept of *man/human* save *tool* ? You well recall *man is a tool-making animal* scientific definition ! And if you conclude from this that : *then , the formula : subject ====> tool ====> object* , I would remind you , you who so many times have taught us about the *labour activity* , of the relation which exists between the *labour activity* and the *tool* .   Second , ... I should faithfully add your ever comments and interpretations have helped me get clear with ambiguities ! Thanks Best Haydi haydizulfei who-is-at ----- Original Message ---- From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch who-is-at> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca who-is-at> Sent: Friday, July 18, 2008 10:12:15 AM Subject: Re: [xmca] Play to Art: Experience to Insight Below is an attempt at a summary of the theoretical ideas of the  article, preceded by some commentary. BTW, the article is still currently available for free at the  publisher's site, Sometimes, when I am trying to parse the theoretical ideas in an  article, I will use a word processor and spread sheet to arrange the  material into themes to get a clearer idea of what is being said.  I  did that for this article, listed below.  In this message I am only  sending the themes I wrote up.  I left out the original text for space  reasons (about a fifth of the original article, last I looked). I liked a number of things about this paper.  And I have lots of  questions inspired by the paper's ideas. One thing I really liked is the way it elevates play and playlike  activity to a central role in human activity – in the use of symbols,  in language, imagination, cognition, communication and development.  “Work” and “nonwork” are not uncommonly the implied framework for  theorizing about such things, but this article explicitly shifts the  framework to “play” and “nonplay.”  I find that perspective eye- opening and inspiring. Another is the suggestion of the "propositional act," featuring the  concept of the "TOPIC" (a joint focus), as a basic unit of meaning- making, which can be observed at early ages, such as communication  through pointing.  This strikes me as a bold addition to CHAT theory,  and deserves a serious look. Vygotsky suggested - I may not be putting this quite right - that the  word or word-meaning is the most basic unit of meaning (would that be  true in the case of pointing a very young child toward a joint  focus?), but this proposal from Ana and Ljubica regards something  different: not just meaning, but meaning-**making**.  Ana explains  this in a recent post, and argues that Vygotsky was speaking about the  word (didn't Vygotsky also speak of word-meaning?) as an basic  analytical unit in conceptual development.  The idea that two people,  when they are relating, always have a common focus, probably isn't a  new discovery, but seeing "joint focus" as the basic unit of meaning- making between two people, that is, seeing it as the simplest, most  basic, indivisible, always-present form of human meaning-making, upon  which all the rest builds, does seem to be a new and refreshing idea,  at least to me.  Is it?  Another question I have is how essential is  the COMMENT or the mediating or connecting act following the creation  of a joint focus to the content of this meaning-making - is this  connecting act merely a validation that the focus is joint, or does it  contain additional, essential content that should place it at the  center of the generic propositional act?  I have been thinking the  joint focus is the core, but I might be missing something important.  I ask some more questions about the propositional act as a unit of  analysis in a moment. A theme that the article returns to several times that I also like is  the dynamic of switching back and forth from play frames to reality  frames.  This simple concept seems to offer real explanatory power,  such as easily describing what a metaphor is - using the elements in  an imaginary frame or chronotope to comment on a real situation.  I  was impressed by the simplicity of this explanation.  It also seems to  have analytical potential in situations where this switching process  plays a significant role.  Has anyone invented a term for this  switching process?  It seems like it deserves one.  That could be a  very useful word. The article is also fun for me because I was in the play workshop at  Seville that Ana and Ljubica describe.  It is interesting to think of  the different activities we engaged in as demonstrating four kinds of  stages or moments in the development of a play TOPIC - the  "bifurcation point" when a play situation emerges out of the reality  situation, creating rules on the spot for the emerging play situation,  negotiating switches between play frames and reality frames, and  making new connections between these play experiences and our lives.  I remember having a lot of fun in that workshop. Somehow, after all the other things we did, Ana and Ljubica got us to  divide up in teams to invent and put on 4 different enactments of some  lines from Hamlet, which was quite enriching, including making new  friends out of the collaborative "inner group" experience that  exercise offered.  Will we be seeing more such workshops? The article inspires an interesting idea for me, a reversal of  conventional thinking.  It suggests to me the idea that play/ imagination activity is the actual “norm” in human interaction, and  nonplay/reality-based activity is really just a special, derivative  form of playing.  Play (using imagination), in this sense, would be  more complex and higher on the "evolutionary" scale than nonplay.  In  this way of looking at all this, children learn to do the really hard  thing, socializing their imagination, before they get down to work  (externalizing what they are told), and adults have to keep re- learning how to play and be imaginative throughout life.  I like this  way of placing play and imagination in the center of human activity.  I find it helpful – and playful - to think about these things this  way.  This perspective certainly cuts across some traditional notions  of work and play.  But does it really make sense to view work as a  "derivative" of imaginary play? The proposal of the “propositional act” as a basic unit of meaning- making especially gets my attention.  Using a CHAT framework for their  theorizing, Ana and Ljubica speak of two kinds of general  relationships, subject-object and subject-subject. Subject-object relationships, as suggested by Vygotsky and later  developed in CHAT theory, are mediated by artifacts - tools and/or  signs.  This mediated relationship is often used as a unit of analysis  in activity analysis, expressed by the familiar activity triangle,  which proposes that not only tools and/or signs mediate the subject  and object, but so also does the social environment, in the form of  mediating factors such as rules, communities, divisions of labor, etc. Subject-subject relations, as I understand Ana and Ljubica, are  mediated at minimum (that is, at least) by the joint focus of the  subjects.  A joint focus, a “TOPIC,” can be anything - a tool, an  interpersonal act, a symbol.  The subjects are defined as an active  subject “ME” and a relational subject “YOU”.  A “propositional act” or  “COMMENT” occurs when two subjects (ME and YOU) with a common focus (a  TOPIC) engage in a “mediating” (or perhaps connecting?) act or gesture  (a COMMENT). “What we described here” Ana and Ljubica explain, “is the basic unit  of making meaning through a COMMENT, that is, a communicational  gesture of establishing (or embellishing on) the TOPIC about which the  ME and the YOU create and re-create their relationship.” Examples of propositional acts include a young child pointing at  something and an adult responding to the child’s focus and gesture  with a connecting act, or a child proposing to another that they  pretend they are mommy and daddy having dinner, and the other  agreeing. Do I have this about right?  Perhaps Ana and Ljubica would  be so kind as to correct me if I have something wrong here.  It is a  new idea for me, especially as a general unit of human meaning-making. The authors emphasize that in human communication, the two kinds of  relationships, subject-object and subject-subject, are intricately  connected.  “Symbolic mediation should be seen,” they explain, “as  coordination and dynamic interplay between, on one hand, the subject- object relationship and, on the other, the subject-subject  relationship.” But how shall these two relationships and two units of analysis be  related conceptually?  Since both subject-orientedness and object- orientedness are intrinsic to all activity, perhaps finding a way to  combine both units of analysis into a unified model would help. Ana, Ljubica, anyone, what are your thoughts on how this might be  done?  Can the propositional act, as a basic unit of meaning-making  between two subjects, be combined with the activity triangle, which  depicts the basic unit of action-making by a subject on an object?  What would such a model look like?  What practical implications might  it have? Thank you for bearing with me in this long post.  I get the feeling  everyone is gearing up for the ISCAR conference, (and even the AERA  conference next year), and I too am excited.  But I hope that Ana and  Ljubica’s article on play doesn’t get too lost in the shuffle.  It has  a number of theoretical ideas I think are well worth discussing. Below are my attempts at summaries of the theoretical themes of the  paper.  Some of the language is in my own wording and I would  appreciate corrections if I have something wrong, or, more difficult  to detect, have missed something essential. 1. Play can be key to learning how to make meaning. 2. Play enables communicative acts to be transformed into cognitive  tools. 3. Mediation is a central concept. 4. Mediational factors can be any cultural or social entity (tools,  interpersonal acts, symbols, etc.). 5. Direct relationships become mediated relationships. 6. Symbolic mediation and the development of symbolic tools involves  coordinating both object-oriented and subject-oriented relationships. 7. The propositional act is key. 8. The propositional act is a basic unit of meaning.  It consists of  an active subject (ME), a relational subject (YOU), a common focus  (TOPIC), and a mediating or connecting act or gesture (COMMENT). 9.. Any form of communication can form a propositional act. 10. The TOPIC is a joint focus or common communication object and the  COMMENT is the associated act of creating that focus or object. 11.  Play frames and reality frames are key.  Switches between play  frames and reality frames, and ways that play frames are used to  influence real relationships, are very important. 12. A key difference between play and nonplay is that in reality- oriented activity, objects dictate meaning, but in play-oriented  activity, meaning dominates objects. 13. A "bifurcation point" can be said to emerge when a play frame is  introduced within a nonplay reality. 14. Metaphor can be explained in terms of this switching between play  or imaginary frames, and nonplay frames, where elements of the  imaginary frame are used to comment on elements of the reality frame. 15. The term "play chronotope" refers to the values specifically  contained within a play frame, as well as the imagined time and place. 16. Symbolic mediational acts, the creation of new symbols and  symbolic tools, require the externalization into the reality frame of  TOPICs (imaginary objects of common focus) that are created within  play or imaginary frames. 17.  There are three key differences between play and nonplay frames –  in play frames, participants interact indirectly through a TOPIC; play  frame TOPICs develop in many kinds of time frames, such as in the play  itself, in the personal development of a person, in the culture; and  play frames can become tools for complex ideas to be expressed in a  real situation. - Steve On Jul 16, 2008, at 1:14 PM, Ana Marjanovic-Shane wrote: > Dear Eric, > > Thank you for good words about our article! > > Below are some answers to the questions you asked - see my comments  > within your text: > > __________________________ > Dr. Ana Marjanovic-Shane > ana who-is-at > 267-334-2905 > > > > > On Jul 16, 2008, at 10:43 AM, ERIC.RAMBERG who-is-at wrote: > >> >> Ana & Ljubica: >> >> Such a well written and presented article, great quotes and  >> examples to >> illustrate your thinking.  It is always a joy to read something  >> that I >> viewed over time in discussions that appeared on this forum!  >> Hopefully >> others will join in the discussion of this great article. >> >> Briefly, here are a couple of thoughts >> >> 1)Having never read Bahktin ( iknow, i know. . .he is so often  >> referenced >> that it is simply horrible on my part that I have not) I had never  >> come >> across the concept of a chronotope.  Now that I have been  >> introduced to the >> concept I really like it!  And I should add i am now motivated to  >> read >> Bahktin.  The use of it to describe a play frame is remarkably  >> similar to >> Mikhail Basov's view on the importance of play in a child's  >> development. >> This can be referenced in:    Basov, M.Ia.  (1929) 'Structural  >> analysis in >> psychology from the standpoint of behavior'.  Journal of Genetic >> Psychology, 36, 267-90.  Basov speaks of the child moving from  >> loosely >> organized temporal events to incorporating 'schemes' into goal- >> directedness >> and planning.  Is this how chronotope is being used? > > ANA: I did not read Basov, but Bakhtin does not use the term  > "chronotope" to describe any particular developmental process. It  > refers to a unity of time and space and specific values  > (valorizations). It is a useful notion to complement shat has been  > know as a "frame" or more specifically a "play frame". While play  > frame refers more to the boundary and boundary construction -- we  > thought that we also needed to introduce a sense what the particular  > importance of the internal relationships within a specific frame --  > hence, "chronotope" > >> >> >> 2)Cognitive development in a child occurs as they experience a  >> methaphor in >> a playframe and as a child becomes familiar with the use of this  >> metaphor >> they see examples in their daily activities and when they enter into >> another playframe they have a 'ready-made' TOPIC that can easily be  >> played >> with? > > ANA: One of the goals we have in our research is to look at  > development in a holistic manner: not separating cognitive aspects  > from emotional and volitional.  Thus, we think that creating  > metaphors (and possibly meanings in general) is based on  > coordination of several relationships -- where relationships have  > not only cognitive aspects but also affective, ideological and  > volitional ones. > Metaphors, as we see them, furthermore require a specific  > coordination between play frames and and reality frames. Therefore,  > creating a play frame is not enough for development of metaphor -- a  > new way of seeing and organizing reality happens when the play  > chronotope can be used as a comment "for real" - i.e. to reorganize  > the actual, real, serious, ways of seeing, feeling and relating to  > life events. This change is not merely cognitive, it is a full lived  > through experience (perezhivanye) -- involving emotions, hopes,  > decisions, relations to others etc... >> >> >> 3)  One last thought pertains to the examples of how a TOPIC is  >> presented >> in the playframe.  "Pretend there is a monster coming" ; "Let's  >> pretend you >> are my father and I am your daughter."  In both instances it is the  >> word >> that comes first and not the behavior.  Perhaps is this why  >> Vygotsky viewed >> the word as the unit of analysis for the study of human development? > > ANA: In our examples "Pretend" was a word to signal a change of  > frame (chronotope). But the same effect can be achieved through  > different means: a wink, an exaggerated imitation, involvement of  > "impossible" elements in a story, etc... What is important is that  > the participants all agree that what they are doing is within a play- > frame. If such agreement does not exist, that can lead to different  > consequences (deliberate lies, misunderstandings, disorientation  > etc) -- which were out of the scope of this paper. > > We also did not discuss Vygotsky's notion of the word as a unit of  > analysis is this paper. However, our unit of analysis differs from  > Vygotsky's. We were looking for a unit of analysis at the level of  > the construction of meaning -- and not at a syntactic level to which  > "word" actually belongs as an analytic unit. This can be seen even  > on a purely cognitive plane: if one can place an equation sign  > between a word and its definition (given in a sentence or two), then  > it is clear that meaning cannot be reduced to purely linguistic  > level, but is something of a different quality. > > I also don't think that Vygotsky viewed the word as a unit of  > analysis for the study of human development, but for a much more  > specific aspect of development -- conceptual development. > > In our study we tried to look at the development of views and  > understandings of the world through different units and their  > combinations, however, we attempted to give the development a more  > dynamic character and to see it as part of the ongoing social  > processes and activities. > > >> >> >> Again, such a great article and thanks for sharing it with XMCA! >> >> What do others think? >> >> eric >> >> > > ANA: I hope I answered your questions, at least in part. > > Ana > >> _______________________________________________ >> xmca mailing list >> xmca who-is-at >> >> > > _______________________________________________ > xmca mailing list > xmca who-is-at > _______________________________________________ xmca mailing list xmca who-is-at
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