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

From: Anna P Rainio <anna.p.rainio who-is-at>
Date: Tue Jul 22 2008 - 11:41:43 PDT

Thanks for Steve Gabosch for the great summary of the article. I too
think that Ana's and Ljubica's article really does clarify the relation
between play and development - especially it helps to explain
/understand play as developmental without undermining the free,
improvized and open-ended nature of it. With the help of their idea of
frames/chronotypes and joint topic-mediation/ /it is possible to/ define
/the developmental "effects" of play/fantasy/imagination - and to
analyze /when/ playing turns developmental.

As Ana so elegantly put it in her email on this list:

"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..."'

Does this same logic apply to other kind of learning and experiencing,
too? If what one learns and reads say from a book, film, or so, stays
only within that activity (of reading, watching), it does not yet turn
development (the classic problem of transfer?). It needs the mediating
others (other books to combine the ideas to?) -- the subject to subject
interaction and the joint topic. (and it turns societal?) Well, perhaps
this is the problem of transfer put in a new way?

However, demonstrating developmental effects (for example in relation to
pedagogical play such as playworld activity where we often need to show
some results) can be difficult, as the point where development occurs
(that is, when the "creations" of play are brought to another frame,
reality frame) can sometimes take place very long time or far away from
the play situation, cant they? Even months or years after experiencing
something, we may finally be able to bring it to life outside the
initial experience.

- Anna P. Rainio

Steve Gabosch wrote:
> 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

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Received on Tue Jul 22 11:43 PDT 2008

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