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Re: [xmca] Leading activity as distinct within stages

Hi Natalia

My first point is that we could  put aside the neo-Meadian tradition and ask
if my question about stages or layers could be asked and stay within the
activity model(s) that are contrasted in your article. {Russian and
American}  As an internal debate the question of stages or layers continues
to be valid.

2nd point.  I would say we have to be cautious about the various versions of
Meadian models of development.  I was attempting to summarize Gillespie's
and Martin's positions.  As I read their position, they would accept that
the child directs its activity towards her own forms of life activity and
towards HERSELF.  There is no assumption of "innate" cognitive structures or
mind separate from world. However the central question from a neo-Meadian
perspective is the processes which constitute MIND, self, activity as
volitional and agentic, and reflective capacity.  This reflective capacity
is fundamentally societal [not social] and emerges within SPECIFIC LOCAL
social ACTS.  The capacity to arm and rearm with different cultural tools
would be framed as armed and rearmed with different perspectives [which has
a very specific meaning for Mead that is much more general thg an cognitive
perception.  Perspectives capture the notion of "orientation to life" which
is fundamentally societal.  The central mechanism of expanding and
differentiating multiple perspectives is ACTUAL LOCAL SOCIAL ACTS or
interactivity.  The notion of interchangability of actual roles and
positions is foundational for the emergence of mind, self, agency & volition
as CAPACITIES that develop within REAL [not ideal] social acts.  With
increasing "distanciation" which emerges as a REFLECTIVE
capacity [perspective taking as particular systematic orientations to life]
perspectival REALISM develops.  Now this last sentence may be where Meadian
and Activity approaches are in tension  Would you suggest that "traditions"
[hermeneutical realism] or "ideologies", or perspectives [Meadian
perspectival realism] that posit  historically emerging societa REALISM
[regularities] that exist before the person is born [the person is thrown
into this reality] and continues to exist after the person dies,  is
"REAL"?  Or would you suggest this not be considered "real" and be
considered "ideal" because this historical process is not composed of

Natalia, I wonder if the confusion is in the term "perspectives" which in
recent cognitive theory is an epistemological and cognitive concept.  Mead
was using the term "perspectives" in a much broader way to specify societal
"realism"   "Leading activity" is a central construct in activity
theory.  In a similar way "social ACTS" is a central construct which
emphasizes the dynamic process of emerging capacities such as "mind",
"agency", and "self" in Martin and Gillespies's neo-Meadian model.

Now on the other key question of "stages" or "layers" neo-Meadian theory
 suggests each developmental level is "scaffolded" and  emerges from earlier
perspectives but that the earlier layers continue to be ACTIVE and engage
the person in coordinating social acts of increasing complexity [as
multiple perspectives become coordinated].  This capacity to coordinate
multiple perspectives is radically transformed when the person aquires
language and "significant SHARED symbols" BUT previously acquired ways of
coordinating interactivity continue to CO-EXIST and remain leading
activities within particular local situations.

Natalia, If I am still confusing Vygotsky's dialectical materialist approach
and how he engages with "ideality" and  unknowingly seeing parallels
with Meadian  "perspectives" on "ideality" which don't exist then I'm
willing to keep reading and "reflecting" and hopefully in the future try to
interweave these alternative approaches to "ideality" in a new synthesis.
At this point in my understanding I see striking parallels. But I also
appreciate the "differences" may be much greater than I appreciate and I may
be standing on "quicksand", and not firm sand.


On Sun, Aug 1, 2010 at 9:34 AM, Natalia Gajdamaschko <nataliag@sfu.ca>wrote:

> Hi Larry and Dear All
> Larry, I think it is important to remember that hiding behind the scene is
> a notion of "ideality" that could make this discussion tricky for some.
> Because dialectical materilist understanding of the specific nature of the
> social human relationship to the world is ... well, different.
> Look, for example, at the Marx quote that I've stolen this morning from
> Il'enkov:
> "The animal is immediately one with its life activity.  It does not
> distinguish itself from it. IT is its life activity. Man makes his life
> activity itself the object of his will and his consciousness".  This mean
> that when we discuss the activity of a child, it is activity directly also
> towards her own forms of life activity, towards himself.  This is why I
> think Vygotsky stressed child, confronted not only with tangible external
> world but also with the world of culture,  "arms-and-rearms" herself with
> different cultural tools available in different social situation of
> development. And those tools could sometimes bear no relationship to
> biological development because they are directed towards mastering
> "ideality" of culture through activity. And, yes, will and consciousness
> thus are very specifically human in its essence.
> Now, do you know how "ideality" is interpreted in other traditions you try
> to compare/contrast in this thread?  Because if we read the same text with,
> say, Platonic notion of ideality in mind, it make take us into different
> direction.
> Cheers,
> Natalia.
> P.S. By the way "Nataliya" or "Natalia" question of yours -- eigther is
> fine.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Larry Purss" <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Sent: Sunday, 1 August, 2010 05:49:40 GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
> Subject: [xmca] Leading activity as distinct within stages
> In previous posts Vygotsky's concept of "leading activity" was discussed as
> suggesting possible "regular" age related "stages" that predictably
> manifest
> characteristic modes of thought. Mike and Nataliya's article "Vygotsky and
> Context: Toward a Resolution of Theoretical Disputes" in Martin &
> Kirshner's
> edited book explores further the relevance of the idea of leading activity
> in the section of their article labelled "Synchronic Variation
> Reconsidered" (p.271)  As they point out Vygotsky's notion of  "Leading
> activity" in relation to stage models of development may have the potential
> to:
> "bridge between Russian cultural-historical developmental theory and
> approaches placing heavy emphasis on synchronic variability that derive
> from
> non-Russian developmentalists sympathetic to Vygotsky's ideas.  However, as
> currently formulated, the Russian proposal, in the same spirit as the
> notion
> of 'social situation of development' tends to ASSUME that there is an
> INVARIANT SEQUENCE of leading activities and that only a SINGLE kind of
> activity can play a leading role in ORGANIZING cognitive performance at a
> given time." (p.272) [emphasis added]
> If leading activities are viewed as proceeding in an invariant sequence and
> only a single kind of activity DOMINATES at each "stage" then this
> "perspective" will influence and constrain what is "seen" as the dominant
> form of activity required for further development at each stage and
> regulate
> the types of institutional structures assumed neccessary at each stage of
> the child's development.
> Mike & Nataliya contrast this focus on invariant sequences of leading
> activities with the "narrower interpretation of the 'social situation of
> development' in the American literature". (p.269)  American researchers
> tend
> to focus on the small variables of  local activity" [microgenesis] as
> contributing crucially to the manifestation of various CAPACITIES.  Recent
> American research recognizes that development becomes more COMPLEXLY
> MEDIATED and results in HIGHER levels of achievement as children grow older
> but American research also suggegst the level of cognitive development is
> not INVARIANT and the local context is crucial to the manifestation of
> various capacities. This approach suggests that multiple perspectives
> [orientations] can co-exist within a single "stage" of development and
> challenges the notion of INVARIANT stages with a more "layered" model of
> development. This alternative model of leading activities focuses on the
> possible heterogeneity of "leading" activities in particular local social
> situations of development.  As Mike and Nataliya point out the possible
> heterogeneity of leading activities suggests,
> "the possibility that multiple forms of activity (and modes of conception)
> can COEXIST in the same persons in the course of time spans too brief to be
> considered as candidates for general changes in STAGES of development.
> (p.272)
> This last quote suggests, using neo-Meadian language, that "multiple
> perspectives" can co-exist in the same persons in the course of time spans
> too brief to be considered as candidates for general changes in stages of
> development.
>  The concept of GENERAL CHANGES [which lead to changes in manifestation of
> CAPACITIES] as developing within multiple heterogenetic "forms of activity"
> [Vygotsky] or "SOCIAL ACTS" [Mead] which "lead development" seems to have
> many parallel ideas. The American re-visioning of Russian
> cultural-historical"stage theory" to embrace a notion of development as
> "layered" may find support in the neo-Meadian engagement with reflection as
> the capacity to coordinate multiple perspectives [orientations to life
> worlds]
> I will end with a quotation from  Vygotsky which Mike and Nataliya quote in
> their article.
> "The various genetic forms co-exist, just as STRATA representing different
> geological epochs coexist in the earth's crust. This is more the RULE than
> the exception for the development of behaviour generally. Human behaviour
> is
> not consistently characterized by a single higher level of development.
> Forms of behaviour that emerge very recently in human history dwell
> alongside the most ancient"
> If the various genetic forms co-exist, our models of development need to
> reflect the VALUE JUDGEMENTS we envision in this co-existence.  The terms
> "higher" and "lower" may reflect a particular bias that privileges
> "theoretical scientific" forms as higher than affiliative forms of leading
> activities that are "lower".  The term "distanciation" as indicating more
> or
> less complexity in coordinating heterogenetic "perspectives" may support
> notions of genetic co-existence that recognize affiliation, not as a
> "lower"
> but rather as a more concrete experience within social ACTS or social
> situations of development.
> Larry
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