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RE: [xmca] Marked joint activity affects neurons and synapses

Thank you for that last response. There is so much in your post that I wish
to respond to and most importantly the use of "reflection" as a metaphor in
your attempt to place personal development within sociocultural contexts. I
share in the struggling over this particular topic. So bear with me as I
attempt to voice the difficulty with using "reflection" as a metaphor for
biological, mental, social processes. It is not so much "reflection" in
itself but the distinction at first implied by the metaphor as a way to
characterize dynamic/active/interactive processes. In the past I have been a
fan of reflection as a metaphor so it is with the awkward discomfort of
retracting prior arguments I work through this apparently and newly emergent
First, on the distinction between tacit understandings and implicit
understandings. If something is understood tacitly first, you use the
descriptors "primary" and "secondary", which imply to me an order. It is a
linear sequence, first one and then the next. This could be considered as a
serial sequence. Can one, which emerges developmentally out of the other,
ever really exist as separate from that which was the occasion for its
origination in the first place? It is the same difficulty with serial models
of lexical access. Is it a step by step process? It does not seem likely
with more research available, and the old models have evolved to fit with
our new data and our new hypotheses.
Besides being visually attractive, reflections as images made of light,
capture some of the nature of the reflexive relationship between the whole
person, the construct of the self, and the person as seen by others:
resemblance, representation and possibly bi-directionality of influence.
However, these qualities do not, in my humble opinion, adequately encompass
all the implications of dynamic, living relationships at any level, micro,
macro, etc. and it's these implications within the larger theories that
cause my difficulties in teasing the parts from the whole, which you
describe as "inextricably co-constitutive". "Reflection" as a metaphor
implies three separate images that correspond with three separate
constructions: the person as a whole, the construction of the image of self
as separate from the whole the person (like a reflection in a mirror), and
the person as he/she appears to others (like in a painting or photograph or
even a video). One of my favorite Spanish paintings for thinking upon this
topic is Velsaquez's "Las Meninas" (1656), which depicts the image of a
scene which is a reflection in a large mirror of the painter (Velasquez
himself) painting the very same painting of the scene he is working in. All
three of the constructions can be discussed in the content of this scene:
Velasquez the physical man, the reflection of him as a self-construction,
and the man-the painter-as seen and included by the society around him (the
King and his daughter, the court,etc). However there is just one actual
image of the man before us when we stand and look at the painting. While
Velsaquez does a considerable job creating a sense of the dynamic
relationship, even involving the viewer of this painting (at a distance of
over 300 years later) through the direction of eye gaze, to consider the
dynamics between self, subject and object, do we do the same justice to our
concepts if we continue to use the metaphor of "reflection" which might
continue to impede understandings of the person, the self, and the
sociocultural context as inextricable linked? The nature of the relationship
of a living thing within a system of other living things is both dialogical
and ecological. I concur with your last statement: 
The self-in-context points to the reality that self and context are
INEXTRICABLY CO-CONSTITUTIVE.  Therefore, from my limited perspective, self
is as much backGROUND for the sociocultural as  the sociocultural is
backGROUND for the self.
The self as constructed is experienced is a whole within the context.
If you are interested in more supporting arguments at the neurobiological
and evolutionary levels, Antonio Damasio's new book, Self Comes to Mind
(2010) which was just released this week is headed in this direction.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Larry Purss
Sent: Monday, November 08, 2010 3:04 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Marked joint activity affects neurons and synapses

Hi Monica and Rod

Rod, your point that "attunement" is actually the adult orienting to the
infants need for engagement supports the point I was making that the adult
MARKS [draws attention to] the infants activity and draws the infants random
buzzing incoherent movements into a coordinated meaningful interactivity.

Monica, the concept "reflective" seems to be a central idea in my struggling
attempt to understand personal development as emerging within sociocultural
contexts. [contexts as interweaving]  The distinction I'm reflecting is
between primary TACIT understanding and secondary EXPLICIT understanding
[and reflection] as a process that emerges from more PRIMARY ENACTMENTS that
are PRECONCEPTUAL and are TACITLY COORDINATED with others within a shared
sociocultural life world.

I'm making an assumption that human infants enter the world capable of
limited NONREFLECTIVE movements and sensory awareness and a PREREFLECTIVE
ability to "remember" something of what is sensed and tacitly coordinated.
I'm assuming that MARKED interactivity is registered and "remembered" and
guides future interactivity.

Now whenever the young infant APPEARS [as interpreted by the adult] to be
attempting some action such as grasping the adults SUPPLEMENT the infants
actions through MARKED interactions that coordinate the infants PRIMARY and
NONREFLECTIVE actions and direct the infants actions into SHARED
sociocultural activity.

This secondary MARKED coordination of activity [leading activity
coordinates the infants  tacit primary, nonconceptual enactments.  In this
process of marked coordinated activity the infant slowly, through repeated
interactivity, develops the socioculturally structured patterns of
"mind"  shared with other members of her culture.

As the infant appropriates and internalizes these coordinated sociocultural
formations for thinking and understanding [interpreting] these
sociocultural forms or "tools" provide for increasingly reflective forms of
thought [like memory and imagination] that shifts consciousness from tacit
to explicit forms of reflection.
 With the emergence of reflective capacity, verbal thought takes the form of
a conversation and becomes dialogical and the person learns to talk and
relate to themselves in similar ways that OTHERS have talked and related to
them.   This EMERGING REFLECTIVITY makes possible the capacity to be aware
of oneself as BOTH subject and object simultaneously.  This is a Meadian
perspective where a sense of ones "self" emerges as an interpretive
REFLEXIVE form of understanding that recognizes self as a particular person
with individual existence WITHIN A LIFE WORLD.

This reflective "self"-understanding has the capacity to make explicit what
was tacit in sociocultural coordination.  With self reflection comes the
"limited" capacity to influence coordinated activity.

Jack Martin states "Even as psychological persons continue to be formed by
the relational and discursive practices in which they are embedded [TACIT
understanding] they also come to contribute to those practices in innovative
ways [both TACIT and EXPLICIT] that REFLECT a self-interpreting agency.

Monica, the terms "determined" "constituted" "influenced" are various ways
to reflect on the centrality of "joint coordinated activity" in forming our
sense of our "selves" Each term emphasizes a different dialectical tension
between how "free" or "constrained" we are in our sociocultural life
worlds.  How we answer this basic question is also an historically
constituted narrative construction with "modernity" and the enlightenment
supplying a particular interpretation of our sense of an "agentic self".  My
understanding of how postmodernism answers this basic question is a notion
of "self" as an interpretive process that is socially constructed "all the
way down"  There is no "self" that is capable of "self" determination and
narratives of self determination are just sociocultural "narratives"

My own hunch [at this moment in time] is that MARKED coordinating of
interactivity [tacit and explicit] LEADS the infant into the life world.
However, the "agentic self" [limited self determination]  is a process that
is developmental. Reflective capacity is situational and a sociocultural
process that emerges within particular historical contexts. Change the
context and reflective capacity changes.

  At this particular moment in time modernity seems to privilege the notion
of the "agentic self" as standing above or outside of sociocultural contexts
and the "self" [as "ego"] is  given a dominant status in our cultural
imaginary. As we explore -reflectively- alternative cultural models  I don't
want to loose a sense of "agentic self" but I want to see the "agentic
self" as "self-in-context". Context in the spirit of "interweaving"  or as
Mike Cole & Natalia Gajdamaschko suggest "self-in-context is a WHOLE in
relation to its parts.  [from the Latin origins of the term contexere = to
weave together]  The self-in-context points to the reality that self and
context are INEXTRICABLY CO-CONSTITUTIVE.  Therefore, from my limited
perspective, self is as much backGROUND for the sociocultural as  the
sociocultural is backGROUND for the self.


On Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 8:59 AM, Monica Hansen <
monica.hansen@vandals.uidaho.edu> wrote:

> Point taken. I think your example did this. This all sounds good.
> you define as "reflective" in this statement from your post: This activity
> may not be "reflective" but is purposeful. Reflective for who in this
> relationship? Do you mean consciously reflective?
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
> Behalf Of Larry Purss
> Sent: Friday, November 05, 2010 4:10 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>  Subject: Re: [xmca] Marked joint activity affects neurons and synapses
> Hi Monica and Rod
> In my example of trying to describe an incident of MARKED intentional
> coordination I was creating a boundary marker that was unintended. In
> mentioning birth as a starting point I was really trying to emphasize
> that coordinating activity happens "all the way down".
>  Monica I agree that interaction begins earlier than birth. The
> concepts MARKED and INTENTIONAL which I was trying to foreground point
> to the PURPOSEFUL and VOLITIONAL intersubjective activity from the
> adult engaging with the infant. This activity may not be "reflective"
> but is purposeful.  This coordination of activity directs the infants
> attention to THIS not THAT.  I agree that all senses, not only sight,
> can be coordinated.  The reason I gave the example of the eye needing
> to MAKE DISTINCTIONS for the brain's neurons to develop was to make
> the more general point that if distinctions are MARKED, neurons are
> reinforced, while neurons that are not used die off.  This pruning or
> channeling of neuronal networks [that depend on sensory and motor
> coordination] seems to be central to the developmental process.
> Intersubjective interaction, [which is a process of MARKED
> interaction] may be a central process for "recognizing" distinctions
> which  reinforce PARTICULAR neuronal pathways while other neurons die
> off.
> There may be biological interactions which are not intentional or
> MARKED that are also relational and central to development. However I
> was drawing attention to a subset of "relationaln interaction" which
> is MARKED coordinated interactivity.
> Larry
> On 11/2/10, Monica Hansen <monica.hansen@vandals.uidaho.edu> wrote:
> > Larry,
> > I am going to have to suggest the possibility that the of emergence of
> > intentional , joint mediated activity cannot be the fixed point of birth
> > because the fetus is viable at no arbitrary, universal cut-off (or would
> > that be on) date. Individual development can and does occur more quickly
> for
> > some perceptual and functional systems rather than others--it is not the
> > same for all babies, but there is a range of normal development. The
> visual
> > system is not the only perceptual system that can act as a channel for
> > mediation. Studies on prenatal learning have shown effects of decreased
> > heart in response to hearing familiar stories (DeCasper, 1994). Newborns
> > have been shown to discriminate between legal and illegal syllables
> (Mehler,
> > 1994) which implicates a consideration of the role of prosody in
> > and neonatal language acquisition. Although these references are dated
> and
> > more current research has surely been done, if learning is possible
> before
> > birth, it follows that intentional joint mediation is also possible. The
> > actual time of birth is not the impetus for these systems to begin
> function.
> > Does consciousness begin to emerge before the newborns eyes have been
> opened
> > to the world? Just a little metonymy to show how these things are
> sometimes
> > still meaningful, but can't be taken so literally).
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
> On
> > Behalf Of Larry Purss
> > Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2010 12:05 AM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: [xmca] Marked joint activity affects neurons and synapses
> >
> > Hi Mike
> >
> > You asked how early MARKED [intentional] joint mediated activity begins
> in
> > the development of the infant.
> > My answer is must start at birth. My limited understanding of
> neurobiology
> > is that the infants has over a billion neurons at birth.  From the
> of
> > birth the mother is taking the lead marking some sights [smiles & eye
> gaze]
> > and sounds [baby talk] that the infants is distinguishing.  My
> understanding
> > is the infant's nuronal activity is making DISTINCTIONS ABOUT THIS NOT
> > THAT.  The synoptic connections that are NOT being activated are dying
> out
> > in the millions, while the synapses which are firing are retained.
> > Therefore in MARKED joint activity Bateson's the "difference that makes
> > difference" could just at accurately be stated as the "the difference
> that
> > makes NO difference" is also affecting the structure of the neuronal
> >  This is why a baby at three weeks old that has had a cataract in one
> > since birth [with no neurons in the brain firing and synapses dying off
> > without use]  if the cataract is removed, must have the good eye patched
> for
> > A YEAR in order to force the eye that was repaired to focus and begin
> > to fire the neurons and rewire the brain. The good eye must be
> > for a year or it would continue to fire and the other eye that is now
> able
> > to see would NOT fire neurons thought the optic nerve had been
> > restored. After the year, the eye that was patched [which was working
> > the first three weeks] is still able to cordinate with the other eye and
> > double vision is restored.  If the eye with the cataract had waited for
> > weeks before removal, [instead of three weeks] the eye would have
> > been permanently blind.
> >   Now what was happening to the development of sight in these first few
> > weeks was that the neurons that were firing and responding to sight were
> > being activated and strengthened while the neurons that were not
> activating
> > were dying off permanently.
> > This seems to be an example of  the centrality of the human capacity to
> make
> > distinctions as a central capacity at birth. However humans are
> "seconded"
> > natured [cultural and historical] and therefore the "distinctions that
> make
> > a difference" are expressed as MARKED jointly mediated activity.  The
> > neurons for speech for example at 3 weeks can distinguish the sounds in
> > English, Finnish, Chinese, etc as the neuronal paths exist to
> > ALL the various sounds.  However, this window of opportunity stays open
> for
> > a very limited time and after a few months of hearing English sounds,
> > not Finnish or Chinese, the capacity to make these distinctions is
> > extinguished.
> > Now the central question is Does the infant IMITATE the sounds it hears
> or
> > is it more accurate to suggest the parents MARK their verbal speech with
> the
> > infant and in the process coordinate what sounds are accentuated and
> > relevant for neuronal activity?
> >
> > The marking of THIS not THAT as a second-natured process in the first
> weeks
> > of life have profound implications for what creates a diifference that
> makes
> > a difference and the complementary process of the difference that does
> not
> > make a differnce. What is marked becomes recognized and attended to and
> > materially transform the neurobiological networks of neurons and
> synapses.
> > Now the fact is that the brain DOUBLES in size in the first year of life
> >
> > I hope I have these temporal sequences accurate but the general point is
> > accurate.  From birth MARKED [intentional] coordinated activity is
> > CONSTITUTING the emergence of agentive capacity as the infant focuses on
> > THIS not THAT.
> >
> > Larry
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