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

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane <ana who-is-at>
Date: Sun Jul 27 2008 - 17:56:23 PDT

Dear Steve and Haydi and all,

Thank you for creating this great space for dialogue about the ideas
in Ljubica Beljanski-Risitic's and mine paper. There are so many
thoughts in your first posting and in Haydi's qiestions and challenges
and also in this last posting. It is hard to decide which one to start

I will spread ut my answers to several e-mails, because it is hard to
focus on everything at the same time. In addition I am not sure I will
have time to discuss everything in one sitting.

So, please look at my points below in between your lines...

On Jul 27, 2008, at 12:03 PM, Steve Gabosch wrote:

> As you asked, Haydi, I have been thinking about your thoughtful
> comments. Thank you, they were appreciated. I agree with you that
> there is a lot in Ana and Ljubica's paper to think about. I touch
> on some things in their paper below.
> On some of your specific points, one line of thought I have been on
> is the evolution of CHAT through Leontiev and then Engestrom,
> comparing features of their "2nd" and "3rd" generation activity
> theorizing. Wolff-Michael Roth has a new editorial in the latest
> MCA, entitled On Theorizing and Clarifying, which takes up, among
> other things, differences between action and activity, a key theme
> Leontiev stressed. Some of the questions you ask (motive,
> redundancy, what mediates the subject and object, etc.) might be
> best discussed by revisiting some relevant texts by Leontiev,
> Engestrom and others on questions like motive and goals, activity
> and action, activity and activity systems, mediation, tools/signs/
> artifacts, the role of "social environment" categories such as
> rules, communities and divisions of labor in production, exchange,
> distribution, and consumption, the role of labour within activity
> and activity systems, etc. Perhaps a paper will come our way that
> could help us create a "common focus" on such questions (to play on
> a theme in Ana and Ljubica's paper).
> Another line of thought you provoked for me is over the ancient but
> still very relevant subject-object problem. CHAT insists on the
> object-relatedness of activity, yet at the same time, CHAT is
> challenged to more fully account for subjectivity,
> intersubjectivity, and the subject - singular and plural - in its
> work. I found myself re-reading some relevant articles, some which
> we have discussed on xmca, such as Michael's 2007 article on
> emotions, identity, motivation, and emotional valence (a potential
> unit of analysis?), and Anna Stetsenko's discussion of the need for
> CHAT theory to more fully account for, incorporate, and research the
> externalization of individual subjectivity, and the object-related
> nature of subjectivity as a whole. I see new, exciting things
> happening in this arena of studying emotions, subjectivity,
> intersubjectivity, subject-subject relations, etc.
> I have been thinking about the Marjanovic-Shane/Beljanski-Risti
> paper in the light of the above, especially the "two kinds of
> relationships" concept they bring up. I am wondering if there might
> be another way to depict Ana and Ljubica's observations about
> mediation and subject-subject relations while staying within
> mainstream "3rd" generation activity theory.
> I see the drawings as having a couple minor problems. They offer
> triangular drawings that essentially depict these relationships:
> 1) subject ====> tool ====> object
> 2) subject ====> symbol ====> subject

Some of the triangular depictions we placed in the article were used
to situate our analysis amongst the existing depictions, like the ones
you describe under 1) or 2)

Our analysis, however found either one of these two not adequate, and
we moved on to find another way to describe the unit of analysis of
meaning. We called that unit a "Proposition" (and the name is still
just a working title). We then saw that the necessary elements and
relationships within a Proposition have to be a "ME" (an Active
subject as you call it) a "YOU" (a relational subject as you call it),
a TOPIC (or a joint focus as you call it) and a COMMENT -- an ACT of
creating and recreating specific relationships between a ME a YOU and
a TOPIC. The ACT of commenting was described elsewhere (my doctoral
dissertation) is the crucial COMPONENT, of this dynamic unit. It is
MOTIVATED by a GOAL to achieve a particular MEANING - i.e. a
particular state of the relations between the ME the YOU and the
TOPIC, and by changing these relations to change these three
"elements". Every COMMENT changes the TOPIC (how this joint focus is
seen) and the "ME" (who the ME is) and the YOU (who the YOU is) at
that moment.

So one can not actually flatten a "triangular" relationship
(me:topic:you) into a straight line with arrows going to one
direction. We see that each relationship between each two factors is
mediated by the third one. So for instance -- the relationship between
a ME and a YOU (and these do not coincide with physical bodies!!!) is
mediated by a TOPIC. You and me now relate ABOUT this discussion. Our
relationship would probably be something totally different if our
topic was a movie, music, a political topic, etc...). The relationship
between a ME and a TOPIC is mediated by a YOU. For instance, My way of
seeing and understanding something depends on the YOU to whom I want
to communicate something at that moment. What do I find the MOST
salient, the most significant, the most vivid, and what fades into the
background for a moment. Sometimes, one can see totally different
aspects of a TOPIC because it is mediated to one by a different YOU.
The same or similar argument can be made for the relationship between
a YOU and a TOPIC -- this relationship is mediated by a ME.

The TOPIC is a joint focus -- but it does relate to an OBJECT -- in
many complex ways that are at this time too complex for one e-mail. I
would just briefly want to say that the relationship between a TOPIC
and an OBJECT is something that is part of an explanation how SYMBOLS
work as opposed to SIGNS -- something also very important to explain
the nature of ARTIFACTS, both of which you discuss below.

> I see a slight problem with 1) - it mentions tools, but leaves out
> signs.

Precisely -- and that was our critique of this kind of an approach
among the others.

However, as you may already see from what I said above -- there is no
relationship between subject-and object without the simultaneous
relationship between subjects!!! The question is not so much whether
it is tools without signs --but that the mediation is really always
social, through tools and through symbols!! (I'll explain below why I
prefer to use symbols and not signs below).

> "Artifacts" would cover both, so that is an easy "fix".
I agree with you! In the sense that, YES, the mediators are the
ARTIFACTS, but NO it is NOT an easy "fix". I always regarded our study
as an analysis of the inner workings of artifacts! I take
communication and thinking to be an activity (of making relationships
between ME:TOPIC:YOU) related to real OBJECTS (material and socially
constructed ones like: Justice, Norm, Value, etc).

> I think it is important to account for the fact that the subject in
> relation to an activity object is mediated by artifacts that have
> both materiality and ideality (or meaning). Some artifacts in a
> given context function predominately as signs, and others in a given
> context mainly as tools, but all artifacts have features of both
> tools and signs in activity, and are both material and ideal
> (socially meaningful).
> Here is my suggested change to 1) (nothing innovative here):
> 1a) subject ====> artifacts (tools/signs) ====> object
> And there is a little problem with 2) that I think needs attention -
> it does not depict the joint, mutually confirmed focus of the
> propositional act. It does not depict an object.

> I also note it uses the term "symbol" instead of "sign." I suggest
> using the term "sign" because, as I understand it, it is the more
> general case of "symbol," which can be considered a special kind of
> sign.

Why do I use "symbol" rather than "sign"?
This is strictly technical and also not so strictly technical.
I adopted this differentiation from S. Langer. (Philosophy in the New
Key). According to Langer, there are two types of signs: signals and
symbols. Signals (like traffic lights or like the sound of thunder:
both artificial and natural) - point out to something immediate or
relatively immediate. They are a part of the situation and must have
only ONE unequivocal interpretation. (Imagine if you had to think what
a red light means -- "does it now men not to drive as opposed in
another situation in which it meant to go ahead or?...").
symbols, on the other hand, are not used to INDICATE, but rather, to
REPRESENT what they stand for. Thus Symbols do not have to have the
immediacy of signals. One can use symbols not only to indicate the
presence --but more often in the ABSENTIA of things. And finally,
there is no one-to-one relationship between symbols and what they
refer to as there is a relationship like that between signals and
their referents.
This distinction, in my pinion is very important: the fact that
symbols stand for something else they refer to is common to signals
too, and that makes both of these signifying entities -- SIGNS -- yet,
only symbols behave like artifact, while signals, even when artificial
(like traffic signs) are something used by all living organisms in
their relationship with nature.

> My suggested revision in 2a) takes into account the important fact
> that the subject is plural - there are two subjects, an active
> subject and a relational subject. And there is just one object, a
> joint focus. Also, it is important, in my opinion, to depict that
> the subjects are mediated by artifacts (tools/signs), as they always
> are in any action or activity.
> Here is a suggested revision, which aligns 2a) with 1a), and allows
> them both to be depicted in the usual way on a "3rd" generation
> Activity Triangle as everyday object-related actions:
> 2a):
The important part needs to be added to your modification -- the
relationship between the ME and the YOU (although both "subjects" they
are very different in relation to each other!!)
> subject #1 ====> artifacts (tools/signs)
> /\ \
         | \
         | \
         | \
> | common object (joint focus)
> | /
         | /
         | /
        \/ /
> subject #2 ====> artifacts (tools/signs)
> In my opinion, these minor fixes

The fixes are larger than minor!!

> bring the paper a little more in line with mainstream activity
> theory, upholding the paper's stress on mediation in all activity,
> yet maintaining the CHAT concept that all activity and actions,
> including language-based actions, and subject to subject
> relationships, are object-related.

It is interesting that in your diagram (that I "fixed" even more
above) you place "object" and "joint focus" as alternatives to occupy
the same position. I also struggled with this issue for a long time
until I realized that we are talking about the map and the territory!
You can maybe say that the object is the territory that the TOPIC maps
--(loosely!!). The point is that the TOPIC is on an entirely different
plane of activity than the OBJECT. and while it certainly relates to
OBJECT -- the TOPIC is ever shifting, ever changing, ever in process
social "object" -- something ABOUT which the communication and the
thinking goes on, yet -- not the OBJECT in its more stable, more
decontextualized, more universal form. The TOPIC can have a metaphoric
relation to an OBJECT -- because it can be made by comments (and all
TOPICS are always made by comments) that come from the play
(imaginary) realm!!! Think about it this way (crudely):

"DOG" (object) = "domesticated wolf" (TOPIC)
"DOG" (object) = "best friend" (TOPIC)
"DOG" (object) = "seeing eyes for blind people" (TOPIC)
"DOG" (object) = "first astronaut" (TOPIC)
"DOG" (object) = ?? whatever else you would bring up as a topic??

> At the same time, I do not believe these suggestions alter or dilute
> any of the themes of the paper, which I think are important.
> The two most significant themes in the paper for me are the joint,
> mutually confirmed focus as a potential unit of analysis, and the
> significances and uses of the alternation between the "play" frame/
> chronotope and "reality" frame/chronotope in development and in
> social discourse.
> What especially interests me about the "joint, mutually confirmed
> focus," as I am putting it, is that it does seem to have potential
> as a basic unit of analysis of human meaning-making acts, in the
> sense of being not just a useful act to "analyze," but a genuine
> concrete universal that is present in the development of all human
> communication (as in, meaning-making), historically and individually.

I think you meant the "propositional act" is the basic unit of meaning
making -- not the "joint, mutually confirmed focus" -- which is just
one of its components!!!

I will leave the rest of the e-mail for another comment (yes!!) in
another e-mail. Through this interlaced commenting on each other's
thoughts (otherwise described as a dialogue), we are simultaneously
looking at our topic(s) from many angles, bringing them in the
relationship to other similar and different thoughts in the ongoing
stream of conversation about them. We are also bringing others and
their "ME"s into the stream, picking up where they left, and we are
making each one of us into a part of a "YOU" and a part of a "ME". At
this particular point of time-- I am a "ME" for myself, but a "YOU"
for you when you read it. Who we are in the relationship to each other
in THIS conversation and about this TOPIC depends on so many things:
Some of them are about the way we treat each other during the dialogue
(are we courteous, rude, appreciative, dismissing, etc);
Others are about our respective positions regarding the TOPIC: we
agree or disagree; we both have the same background knowledge, or
largely different one; we have similar or different status regarding
our expertise on the topic -- in the eyes of the larger community
(part of a larger "YOU"), etc;
Even others have to do with common expectations regarding how this
particular TOPIC and our particular "ME"/"YOU" relationship needs to
be treated at the moment (situation: formal, informal, public private
-- etc).

What I think Ljubica and I were after in our article is to bring
another dimension into the activity theory -- by introducing the
necessity of stepping out of the immediate activity plane -- to create
a "play" plane (chronotope) where the relationships between the
ME:TOPIC:YOU is to be changed in a significant way -- and to then use
these new relationships to make a COMMENT in an actual propositional
act. This addition to the flat plane in which the triangles of the
activity theory can be drawn -- is adding a third dimension. If we
were to represent these in a graphic manner, we would need much more
sophisticated drawing that uses perspective and draws three
dimensional objects. Even that would not be enough, because -- it is
all in motion and that is the time dimension (the fourth one).

Thank you for bringing up these points in such a clear way -- so that
they let me make new comments to clarify how a ME imagines this TOPIC
and to try to make YOU see what I mean.


Dr. Ana Marjanovic-Shane


> It appears that it could be the smallest unit of social meaning-
> making that still contains the basic characteristics of the process,
> and it appears it could be genetically fundamental in the
> development of meaning-making behavior on the phylogenetic
> (species), historical (sociocultural), and ontogenetic (individual)
> levels of development.
> The phylogenetic possibility is, for now, speculative,
> unfortunately, since we have scant information about exactly how
> humanity originally developed its ability to share meaning.
> The ontogenetic possibility could be empirically scrutinized and
> critiqued in terms of developmental psychology research.
> Historically or socioculturally speaking, if the "joint focus" act
> is indeed a concrete universal, and could be the basic unit of
> analysis of meaning-making, it should be evident as an essential and
> enduring dynamic in the evolution of increasingly complex levels of
> human meaning-making over time, from gesturing, to talking and
> listening; myth creation, promulgation and learning; writing and
> reading; participating in music concerts; producing and learning new
> software applications. The persistence of this "joint focus"
> dynamic could be empirically examined. It may seem obvious or self-
> evident that "joint focus" is essential in any such examples, but it
> would be wrong to assume so, based on simple deduction. Serious
> deductive **and** inductive work is needed to justify the high level
> of generalization that a concrete universal represents.
> Like many concrete universals, such as the molecule (chemistry), the
> cell (biology), value (modern economics), word-meaning (semantics),
> and activity (human existence), "joint focus" is elegant in its
> simplicity as a unit, yet complex and varied in its countless
> permutations. It could become an important step toward better
> theorizing the realm of the intersubjective, and better
> understanding subjectivity. New concrete universals certainly don't
> show up every day, so this is exciting, if it is viable. Is it?
> Best,
> ~ Steve
> On Jul 20, 2008, at 2:37 AM, Haydi Zulfei wrote:
>> 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
>> ----- Original Message ----
>> From: Steve Gabosch <>
>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
>> 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
>>> 267-334-2905
>>> On Jul 16, 2008, at 10:43 AM, 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
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Received on Sun Jul 27 18:43 PDT 2008

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