[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

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

Thank you for this thoughtful and generous extended response in the
dialogical spirit. I do appreciate it. I have not come across Cheville's
work yet but it looks like a must read for me. Thank you for the reference.
I started with Rogoff, Lave & Wenger, and have been working through Lakoff
and Johnson. 


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Larry Purss
Sent: Saturday, November 20, 2010 4:40 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Marked joint activity affects neurons and synapses

H Monica

I have been meaning to respond to your very thoughtful and
insightful response to my reflections on reflective capacity. I appreciate
that you have previously struggled with the term "reflective" and have
recently been questioning the if the power of this metaphor is the best
metaphor to capture the complexity of sociocultural dynamic processes.

Monica, I also am struggling to find the "best" metaphors to understand the
complex process of the dialectic of culture and subjectivity. I have
recently tried linking the metaphor of reflection to other "re" terms such
as "recognition" "research" "return"  "reframe"  and "reflexive" etc. What
all these terms have in common is the recognition that "novelty" or
"newness" of changing perspectives and perceptions are always emerging from
previous experiences.

Your questioning the adequacy of the terms "primary" and "secondary" that
I've used to differentiate  between "tacit prereflective" understanding and
reflective understanding encourages me to reflect further on the
tacit/explicit distinction.  I am using the term "primary" as indicating
PRIOR TO in the phenomenological sense that an experience must FIRST be

When referring to prereflective and reflective awareness the "time"
dimension  is implied in the distinction "primary" and "secondary"  Primary
consciousness may be "lived through" and when we "return" to the primary
prereflective experience the secondary perspective is a process of looking
AT the primary experience.  This "return" creates a new or novel
perspective that emerges from a prereflective awareness.

Monica, if the metaphor of reflection has a tendency to separate the "self"
from other and the sociocultural then other terms may be better.  Are you
aware of Julie Cheville's work on the "theory of  embodied cognition"? This
theory explores the adequacy of the term reflection and contrasts it with
the notion of "reflexion" She wrote an article in 2005

"Confronting the Problem of Embodiment" in the journal "International
Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education" Volume 18, No. 1,
January-February, 2005, pp. 85-107

In this article she quotes Donna Qualley's explanation of reflexivity this

"Reflexivity is not the same thing as reflection, although they are often
part of the same recursive and hermeneutical process. When we reflect, we
fix our thoughts on a subject; we carefully consider it, meditate upon it.
Self-reflection ASSUMES that individuals can access the contents of their
own mind INDEPENDENTLY of others. Reflexivity, on the other hand, does NOT
ORIGINATE in the self but always occurs IN RESPONSE to a person's critical
engagement with an "other". Unlike reflection, which is a UNIDIRECTIONAL
thought process, reflexivity is a bi-directional, contrastive process"

Cheville's writings are grounded in sociohistorical analysis, as she tries
to document how we culturally have taken a wrong turn in collapsing accounts
of embodiment into two reductive exclusionary frameworks that locate culture
and cognition on oppositional terms.  Her article explores how this
exclusionary divide was constituted and gets perpetuated in our current
academic institutions of higher education.  She proposes a theoretic frame
that locates the human body at the INTERSECTION of culture and cognition.
However, in order to develop this notion of the body as intersection she
presents an historical analysis that explains how competing theories of the
body got institutionalized in academic disciplines

Following the historical analysis, she explores the literature on "situated
cognition" [Lave, Rogoff, Kirshner& Whitson, Walkerdine, Engestrom] and
Cheville argues a theory of "embodied cognition" must represent the human
body as at once an OBJECT of culture AND a SUBJECT of cognition.  Body and
language are examined as DISTINCT but interrelated mediational tools as
Cheville attempts to reconcile culture, corporeality, and cognition in a
theory of embodied cognition.
Cheville suggests embodied cognition, as currently elaborated, fails to
acknowledge the complexities of culture and subjectivity.  She turns to the
literature on "cognitive linquistics" which considers how distinct mental
schemata ORIGINATE in the body's experience OF SPACE. [Lakoff & Johnson,
Rohrer]  She suggests a shift to the spatial discloses how material,
historical, and interactional features CONSTITUTE not only physical space
but the BODIES that inhabit the space.  She explores Foucaults work but
suggests his reconciliation of interiority and exteriority is limited to
OBJECTIFICATION that explained how bodily activity and resultant attitudes
are PRODUCED, ENFORCED, and DETERMINED. Cheville suggests embodied cognition
must also document how the human body EXERTS SUBJECTIVE influence on the

The scholar she turns to in order to bridge the culture/cognition divide is
Mark Johnson who wrote "The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning,
Imagination, and Reason"  His book argues that bodily activity is
responsible for an array of IMAGE schemata that are mental structures that
are DISTINCT from PROPOSITIONAL structures that originate from symbolic
activity.  These image schemata are not distinct mental images but rather
ABSTRACT structures that attune one to "causal relations" temporal
sequences, part-whole patterns and other structures. Through a process
Johnson terms "imaginative projection" these "embodied" or image schemata
arise FROM bodily activity to play a CENTRAL role in meaning and
rationality.  As Cheville points out

"Johnson's contribution is to suggest how an entire array of schemata
emerges solely from bodily activity,a view that encourages those in and
beyond situated cognition to consider language as only one of the tools that
mediate cognition"

Mark Johnson argues that a sense of containment arises from CONCRETE
experiences of "in" and "out" and orients one to recognize and identify with
distal or proximal conditions, even in an ideational realm.  He asserts that
"when we actually move from one place to another, we experience ourselves as
traversing a path from one BOUNDED area to another."  In effect the
recurring concrete physical experience of being "inside" and "outside" of
culturally CODIFIED SPATIAL BOUNDARIES shapes an individuals ABSTRACT, or
non-physical, understanding as an agentic actor or observing by-stander.

This is one example of Johnson's use of embodied spatial positioning
structuring cognition. I see Cheville and Johnson exploring the same
framework and extending Mead's notion of the "social act" as embodied

I also believe the theory of embodied cognition can add to the discourse on
"dynamic assessment" and the ZPD being discussed in this month's article by
Poehner & Lantoff.

Monica, I hope I haven't moved off topic but the extended response, in the
spirit of dialogical cognition is a way of bringing in the distinction
between reflection as "self-referential and "reflexive" as engaged
dialogical intersbjective referential.


On Thu, Nov 11, 2010 at 9:16 AM, Monica Hansen <
monica.hansen@vandals.uidaho.edu> wrote:

> Larry,
> Thank you for that last response. There is so much in your post that I
> to respond to and most importantly the use of "reflection" as a metaphor
> your attempt to place personal development within sociocultural contexts.
> 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
> critique.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> formations for thinking and understanding [interpreting] these
> sociocultural forms or "tools" provide for increasingly reflective forms
> 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
> 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
> with individual existence WITHIN A LIFE WORLD.
> This reflective "self"-understanding has the capacity to make explicit
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> Larry
> 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
> > > 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
> prenatal
> > > 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
> > 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
> moment
> > 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
> a
> > > difference" could just at accurately be stated as the "the difference
> > that
> > > makes NO difference" is also affecting the structure of the neuronal
> > > NETWORK.
> > >  This is why a baby at three weeks old that has had a cataract in one
> eye
> > > since birth [with no neurons in the brain firing and synapses dying
> > > 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
> suppressed
> > > 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
> for
> > > 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
> 6
> > > 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
> > > 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
> > 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
> > > English, Finnish, Chinese, etc as the neuronal paths exist to
> distinguish
> > > ALL the various sounds.  However, this window of opportunity stays
> > for
> > > a very limited time and after a few months of hearing English sounds,
> but
> > > not Finnish or Chinese, the capacity to make these distinctions is
> > > extinguished.
> > > Now the central question is Does the infant IMITATE the sounds it
> > 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
> made
> > > 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
> > > 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
> > > __________________________________________
> > > _____
> > > xmca mailing list
> > > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> > >
> > > __________________________________________
> > > _____
> > > xmca mailing list
> > > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> > >
> > __________________________________________
> > _____
> > xmca mailing list
> > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> >
> > __________________________________________
> > _____
> > xmca mailing list
> > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> >
> __________________________________________
> _____
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> __________________________________________
> _____
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list