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Re: [xmca] bodies and artifacts


In my first forrays into this discussion on emotion, I found myself introducing talk of physiological observations in a way I would never have thought of doing in relation to cognition. After reading about the 300 years of reflections on the physiology of emotion in Vygotsky's article, I was left asking myself: why? Why do I think it is important to investigate the physiology of emotion, while I hold such a low opinion of the place of physiological investigations in understanding the normal process of cognition.

Consciousness is the outcome of the intersection of two objective processes: human physiology and human behaviour. This is equally true of both emotion and cognition.

While the marketing, military and medial industries are spending billions of dollars on neurological investigations, I would think that CHAT people would be interested in questions like the role of emotion in learning, behaviour, addicition, the formation of social bonds, and so on, investigating such questions with dual stimulation type experiments, with artifacts that are more or less affect-laden.


Larry Purss wrote:
Your comment that this leaves us only at the starting gate of understanding how bodies can be "written on" points to the research and reflection on the relation of changes in the brain mediated by culture. One area of research that is exploring how the brain is changed via mediation is intersubjective infant developmental studies that are mapping physiological changes in one person's brain that "mirrors" similar physiological brain changes being generated during the activity of the other person. Fonagy is doing research in this area and has written a detailed summary of the research in this area. His term for this intersubjective process is "mentalization".

----- Original Message -----
From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Date: Saturday, December 12, 2009 12:19 pm
Subject: Re: [xmca] bodies and artifacts
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>

I do not have all this sorted out by a long shot, but my own way of thinking about the issue is that humans are hybrids, really complex one's. Their brains have LITERALLY been shaped by prior genrations of mediation of activity through material artifacts, their brains (and often other parts of the bodies) cannot operate normally without inclusion of artifacts, they can
be "written on" as jay points out.

The problem is that this leaves us only at the starting gate for furtherdevelopment of this point of view. I found that experimental study I sent around sort of interest in this regard, even though it provides such sketchy detail and assumes so much about its cultural content and organization. The developmental implications, which in our current discussion would mean, the organization of hybridity during ontogeny, which in turn has implicationsfor the cognition/emotion

On Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 5:36 PM, Jay Lemke <jaylemke@umich.edu> wrote:

One of the ways I have found useful to think about the body in
relation to
semiotic mediation is to see the body as, among other things,
a semiotic

What I mean by semiotic artifact is a material object or
substrate that can
be written on and read from, much like a printed page or an
architectural> drawing. Written on, in the general semiotic sense, not necessarily in
words, but in signs of some kind: meaningful features that can
be "read" or
made sense of by people (or nonhumans, but that's another
story) in that our
meaning-mediated world, and our actions that respond to that world
(including by trying to change or re-create it or just imagine
it in some
new way), are affected by our encounter with the features of
the semiotic
object, according to some community interpretive practices,
with our own
individual variations on them.

At a very obvious level, bodies can be dressed up in signs:
hair styles,
tans, cosmetics. And this can be taken to a more "artifactual"
form with
dress, or a more physiological form with, say, body-building.
From tattoos
to ripped abs is a small shift when we are thinking about the
body as a
writable/readable object. If we want to get still more
physiological, and
think not only about reading other people's bodies, but
reading our own,
then the proprioceptive feelings we sense within out bodies
can be
considered signs as well, whether exhilaration or nausea,
strength or
weakness, etc. The meaning of these feelings is certainly culturally
mediated. They are physiological phenomena, but they are also
meaningful> cultural phenomena, with value judgements attached, with intertexts in
literature, etc.

And we can deliberately write to our most physiological
states, e.g. with
drugs, to produce feelings that have cultural meanings and
values for us,
whether of calm or elation, energy or hallucination. And to a
considerable> extent, our modifications of our body physiology can be "read" by others,
just as can our made physiques, tattoos, or hair styles.

So I would say that the body mediates our sense of the world
and ourselves
and other people in at least two ways: directly through
physiology, as with
hormonal responses, sensory modalities of perception, bodily
affordances and
dis-affordances ("handicaps" for example), etc. AND also in
these other,
clearly semiotic and cultural ways, as a semiotic artifact, as
well as with
the cultural overlays of meaning that lie over and color the
meanings and
responses to all the direct physiological mediations.

I do not, however, know what being wooden on a rainy day feels
like to a


Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
www.umich.edu/~jaylemke <http://www.umich.edu/%7Ejaylemke>

Visiting Scholar
Laboratory for Comparative Human Communication
University of California -- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
USA 92093

On Dec 7, 2009, at 4:14 AM, Mabel Encinas wrote:

Ok. You have a point. Then, lets start thinking from an
embodied approach

Let's accept that the body is an artifact. What is then the
difference>> between a chair and the body. Both are yes, "products of human art", as you
express it. However, only in the process (practice) there
seem to be a
difference. Both are material and ideal (the body is not
separated from the
mind; the chair, this one here that I feel is made of cloth
and a cushioned
material, plastic, metal, and involves the ideal that a
designer and workers
in a factory transformed so people could seat on). What is
the difference?

 Date: Mon, 7 Dec 2009 22:53:40 +1100
From: ablunden@mira.net
To: liliamabel@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: [xmca] bodies and artifacts

Well, the body is the body is the body. The reason the
question arises for me is when we make generalisations in
which things like person, artefact, consciousness, concept,
action, and so on, figure, where does the body fit in? My
response was that even though it is obviously unique in many
ways, it falls into the same category as artefacts.

My questions to you are: what harm is done? why is anything
ignored? And, what is the body if it is not a material
product of human art, used by human beings?


Mabel Encinas wrote:

Is this way being fruitful? That is why I do not like to
consider the
body as an artifact. Did not cognitive pscyhology do that?
(Bruner, Acts
of Meaning). Then intentions and all the teleological
aspects are so
much ignored...


 Date: Mon, 7 Dec 2009 20:21:09 +1100
From: ablunden@mira.net
To: liliamabel@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: [xmca] bodies and artifacts

Sure. But the body has been constructed like a living
machine - the various artefacts that you use (especially but
not only language and images) are "internalized" in some
way. So one (external) artefact is replaced by another
(internal) artefact. Yes?


Mabel Encinas wrote:

However, sometimes practices do not involve other artefact
than the body (some practices are directed to the body),
and that was
why I was talking about the limit of thinking about the
body as
artefact... is that a limit? That is why I mentioned the
body as "the
raw material". I was thinking for example practices
linked to
and the like, for example, among many others.

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