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[xmca] The Grip of De-differentiation

I read the excerpts sent around about affect and mediation, level-4, and the U-shaped curve ala Valsiner, but it really didn't make sense to me. I am obviously missing a lot of his argument (not to mention some evidence), but at least as regards "de-differentiation" of higher affect, it seems to me to be completely wrong (or whatever more sophisticated locution I ought to use in place "wrong"). :-)

The examples he mentions don't seem to me to be de-differentiated at all, except in relation to a criterion that over-emphasizes linguistic mediation as the ONLY principle of classification and differentiation. It is relative to the semantic system for affect-naming that both level-3 generalization (or over-generalization, though I don't see any inherent excess in that, it's a matter of use and function) and the proposed level-4 de-differentiation might make sense. But that is to confuse a very limited and inadequate linguistic semantics of affect with the phenomenological and functional feeling system that is what I would say is actually developing ontogenetically. I don't have a problem for the most part with the level-1 to level-2 effects of adding in the linguistic semantics to some developmentally early differentiation of feelings (not unlike what LSV does for thinking and speech). The level-0 seems a rather romantic and too-readily biologized universalizing (I don't think young children and other mammals share a common base system of affect; I don't think different species do, though clearly there is something that has common phylogenetic roots for SOME kinds of feelings).

But Valsiner's exposition seems to miss the obvious alternative for what he calls level 4 that these are feelings that are MORE highly differentiated, but lie outside the system of semantics for affect. They are "too specific for words", not too vague. Vaguer versions or precursors are probably there at some early stage (closer to level 1), but not later, or maybe they persist and are simply paralleled and overlaid by the later semantically differentiable level 2's, the abstract generalizing level-3's (but how is that "higher"? it just seems like a specialized option building on level-2 for situations where greater differentiation does not matter). In his examples, it seems that we are dealing with very subtle and case-specific feelings, which are phenomenologically highly specified and differentiated, but no longer so relative to language. That does not mean that they are not still semiotically mediated, but there are other modes of semiotic mediation, such as body-states, actions/activitiies, scenes/situations, and even the poems or artworks AS SIGNS and as mediators.

A more subtle linguistic argument would also note that language as a semiotic mediator is NOT like the sort of semantic primitives and classification systems he refers to from Wierzbicka (whose work has some interesting elements, but also a lot of limitations). It is a common error to take LEXICAL semantic classification as fundamental or even as the whole of linguistic "differentiation", when in fact the reason that we create TEXTS and not just single words or even single short sentences is that the linguistic representation of and mediation of MORE DIFFERENTIATED meanings, and feelings, has to be done with LONGER more complex and extended texts. It is quite possible, as literary writing shows, to describe, or elicit/invoke very highly differentiated feelings through extended text in ways that go far, far beyond the capability of the lexical semantics of word-names, or short phrases to do this. (Even Wierzbicka's little logical progressions from prims to lexis shows this effect, but that's, to me, just reflecting the vastly larger resource capability that combines lexis into texts backwards towards a rather reductionist-atomistic conception of meaning, or of the semantics of language).

I also admit that I can't quite figure out from what I've read what the axis of "hierarchization" is supposed to mean. Each further step built necessarily upon the preceding?

I assume that the de-differentiation hypothesis is also supposed to parallel something in the case of concepts, presumably routinization or "black boxing" ala Latour? but I don't quite see the parallel in that case, as there is nothing de-differentiated about automated concepts. Maybe this is related to the mystery of the high status of pseudo-concepts, if somehow he sees "scientific concepts" as so embedded in their systems that they get more fully routinized? or maybe they lack "articulation" because they are so specialized, beyond ordinary reflexive uses of language? it seems like a total muddle to me.


Jay Lemke
Research Scientist
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
University of California - San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0506

Adjunct Professor
School of Education
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

On Aug 15, 2010, at 4:02 PM, mike cole wrote:

> Larry-- I know the abacus expert literature. In that case there is strong
> independent verification of the existence of an internalized image of an
> abacus because of experts' performance. When attributing a deep disposition
> of the sort "lack of attention span" to incoming college students in the
> case I have been discussing, there is no independent evidence, and, as a few
> have commented, pretty good reason to believe that it is mythical.
> So, your caution about reification is certainly warranted.
> I am unsure of the empirical basis of Jaan V's theorizing about affect and
> semiotic mediation.
> Yep, threads turn out to be related quite often. Something about less than 6
> degrees of separation!
> mike
> On Sun, Aug 15, 2010 at 11:10 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Mike
>> The phrase "willingness to make deep disposition claims" leads me back to
>> Valsiner's U-shaped model and level 4 de-differentiation of
>> overgeneralized/abstracted dispositions.
>> [I wasn't sure if this is a new thread or just multi-voicedness on a
>> theme???]
>> Your phrase also caused me to reflect on "skilled abacus masters" and their
>> ability to create GESTALT cognitive representations which allow calculations
>> that are as quick as a computer. Is this also another example of a  "deep
>> disposition" that is sociocultural and appropriated??
>> I'm wanting to be very careful not to reify this line of thinking and
>> making a "structural" cognitive reality claim.  However, phenomena that can
>> be labelled "deep disposition", may be explained as processes [and values as
>> Valsiner explicates at level 4], which cognitively become "implicit" and not
>> easily re-constructed and  reflected upon.
>> Now I also want to emphasize that a huge caution must be emphasized not to
>> explain these overgeneralized/abstract phenomena as "merely deep
>> dispositions" and INTRApsychic.
>> Is it possible to see that getting involved in active learning leads to
>> deep dispositions and motivations for AGENCY-distributing activity-centered
>> participation.  Once the person develops this deep disposition the
>> person will struggle to adapt to alternative direct instruction models of
>> learning.
>> In the edited book "The Development of the Mediated Mind" a chapter by
>> Lucariello explores this notion of deep dispositions [hermeneutics would say
>> BIASES] that may be operating at Valsiner's de-differentiated 4th level of
>> generalization and values.
>> "Socialization experiences vary with respect to self-concept and language
>> use. Socialization that emphasizes an interdependent self-concept and
>> pragmatic-interpersonal language use is likely to foster social ToM
>> development.  Socialization that accentuates an independent self-concept and
>> referential-INTRApersonal language use is likely to facilitate INTRApersonal
>> ToM development. Accordingly, children whose socialization was predominantly
>> of one form or the other would manifset differtial strenghts, hence uneven
>> ToM development across social and intrapersonal ToM kinds....
>> The theme of this quote as deep dispositions and values at Valsiner's 4th
>> level of de-differentiation is what I'm trying to highlight. [not
>> Lucariello's sociocognitive framework]  Interpersonal activity based
>> motivations and values has its roots in situational development that
>> emphasizes pragmatic-intersubjective language, concepts, and identity
>> dispositions that develop intersubjective "communal" self-concepts". When
>> persons with "communal" self-concepts are placed in social institutions that
>> value INTRApersonally REGULATED self-concepts the more "communally" oriented
>> person looses motivation because the person's IMPLICIT values are not
>> recognized or responded to and the person either "adapts" [learns to be
>> intrapersonally motivated] or withdraws.
>> I'm aware of how "internalized" the above descriptions are and there may be
>> better frameworks to interpret the above phenomena, but it does bring in
>> one perspective  for the perceived "tensions" of these various models of
>> institutionalized learning.
>> It also emphasizes how VALUES [human science] are central to cognitive
>> accounts of learning.
>> Larry

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