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Re: [xmca] Re: Imitation and Creativity

I want to put before you all the idea that the distinction between noncreative and creative imitation is directly related, if not identical to, another distinction. But first I want to talk about the problems with equating one distinction with another.
If I say that this process is like that process, there are two natural responses:
a) Of course.
b) I don't believe it.
These two responses are obviously not conducive to a permeable intellectual system and will not lead to much new understanding. They are also not very sensitive to the word "like"; they assume that I am saying that this IS that and therefore that IS this. 
But these two rather frankly philistine responses are really the correct response to any attempt to say that one distinction is really EXACTLY like another. So I am putting this distinction, which strikes me as perfectly true, in the hope that someone will say either "of course" (Mike, I expect!) or "I don't believe it".
The distinction I have in mind is simply the distinction between an nonconscious action (that is, an action performed without a conscious link being made between the structure of the action and its function; e.g. the child who thinks that "stand up" is a single word, or who thinks that a brother is his own elder brother) and one which is fully conscious and deliberate (that is, an action performed with a conscious and breakable link made between the structure of the action and its function, e.g. the child who can discriminate and differentially use "stand" and "up" or the child who sees his own elder brother as one instantiation of a ideal category of brothers which includes the child himself in relation to that older brother).

No matter what the child imitates ("stand up"), there is invariably a difference (and almost always a CLEAR difference) between the imitation ("standup") and the original ("stand UP"). This is the process teachers call "error".
When the child does not attend to that difference, the child assimilates the two to some higher ideal form, which is simply not analyzed (the set of all "standups"). This is the process LSV calls "generalization"..
But when the child attends to (notices, becomes consciously of, seizes awareness of, attain graspture of) that difference, the child is able to structurally differentiate some aspects of the action ("stand") from others ("up") and to manipulate them creatively ("sit up"). This is the process LSV calls "abstraction". 
But it's also the process that teachers call "creativity", because it leads in a fairly direct way to sentences like "sit up" and "stand down" and so on. Viewed objectively, these are simply deliberate errors, because they vary from the model. But viewed subjectively, they are instances of creativity.
Of course I don't believe it! But last night something happened that gave me pause. We are translating Thinking and Speech, and it's time to write explanatory, conceptualizing footnotes. Or rather, it's really time to start CULLING explanatory, conceptualizing footnotes. 
Let me give you an example. Vygotsky is discussing a simple, clear, obvious and nevertheless utterly mystifying result. The very child who can explain to us, in almost exactly the language that a teacher or even a scholar uses, the principle of buoyancy discovered by Archimedes, that is, the idea that the force keeping a boat afloat is equivalent to the weight of the water it displaces, will tell Professor Piaget, when he asks for the definition of a brother, that his brother is two years older, and when Professor Piaget asks whether that elder brother has a brother, the child will answer, in perfect confidence, "no".
Our task is IMITATE Vygotsky's discussion in Korean. There is a fair amount of context to fill in for the average Korean teacher (who Archimedes was, and why Professor Piaget's discovery matters, etc.). When we are done annotating the paragraph, it looks like a swarm of bees--there are superscripts on almost every other word.
When I look at the footnote for Archimedes, for example, I learn that Archimedes was given the task of weighing a particular crown of gold and one day sitting in his bath he thought of a solution which is VAGUELY related to the law of buoyancy (but not really) and ran naked through the streets of Athens. If I knew this story before, I feel immensely satisfied; I am a learned man. If I did not know it, then I now have picked up an interesting piece of cocktail chatter; ignoramus, as Will Rogers said, is when somebody dunno what ah just learn-ned.
But what I have NOT done is to understand the point that Vygotsky is making. It seems to me clear that we cannot actually understand Vygotsky's point by annotating in this manner any more than we can understand it by simply copying it into Korean word for word; when we do this, we are commiting the same mistake as the child who commits Archimedes' law to memory alongside the story about the glod crown and imagines that they are one and the same or the child who says he has a brother but his brother does not. We have internalized a link without analyzing it, and the knowledge thereby produced must needs be inert.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Wed, 12/29/10, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: Imitation and Creativity
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Wednesday, December 29, 2010, 8:34 PM

Hi Cathrene and Lois--

My copy of the book went to the person who is writing a review for MCA, so I
do not have it to hand.
But it is clearly a good source to turn to as a way of mapping out ways of
talking about imitation and zoped. For those who have not yet ordered the
book, its possible to get a good sample of what
Cathrene was referring to by checking Amazon.com, and searching the contents
for, say, imitation.

To much there for me to type out each example, but here is a passage from
Lois's chapter that I found thought provoking.

"Children do not imitate anything and everything as a parrot does,  rather
what is beyond them developmentally speaking and yet present in their
environment and their relationships."

So, there are several relevant distinctions implied in just this one
passage, including:

Children and parrots imitate differently
Parrots imitate everything (I am assuming that we are talking about language
spoken by humans?, not sure).
Children imitate only what is going to develop at some proximal time.

In this context, the use of the term "creative imitation" which I have been
trying to think about for the past several months, brings to mind the notion
that there must be something called "non-creative imitation" but
I am not sure what a synonym would be that could be substituted for
"non-creative" as a positive characterization.

So, Cathrene, Lois, and Ana, what "kinds of imitation" do you think it worth
considering for our purposes?

Harking back to Michael Glassman's earlier note in this thread, I do not
think that it is helpful to contrast imitation with mimicry without further
specification. The first three primary definitions of mimicry used by the
Oxford English Dictionary all involve the term, imitation, as a part of
their defining characteristics. If they are not simply synonyms according to
the OED, the variations are very underspecified.

Clearly Lois sees an intimate relation between imitation as she interprets
that process and zopeds and adds another important term, creativity.

We now have three core theoretical terms imbricated in the discussion of a
cultural historical approach to development. If there are three core terms
and, say, 3 interpretions of each term (imitation, zoped, creativity) seems
like a pretty large matrix of possible interconnections as part of the
system of development. My guess is that kinds of specifications cluster, but
I have only a vague sense of how, so far.

Is creative/non-creative the place to start, and then see what kinds of
additional distinctions are warrantable?



On Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 5:44 PM, Lois Holzman <
lholzman@eastsideinstitute.org> wrote:

> Thanks, Cathrene, for the plug! I've wanted to get into this conversation
> but just can't right now, so that article will have to suffice for anyone
> interested.
> Warm wishes to all for 2011 and new world creating,
> Lois
> Don't forget to check out the latest at http://loisholzman.org
> Lois Holzman, Ph.D.
> Director, East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy
> 920 Broadway, 14th floor
> New York NY 10010
> Chair, Global Outreach for UX (www.allstars.org/ux)
> tel. 212.941.8906 ext. 324
> fax 718.797.3966
> lholzman@eastsideinstitute.org
> www.eastsideinstitute.org
> www.performingtheworld.org
> loisholzman.org
> www.allstars.org
> On Dec 29, 2010, at 2:20 PM, <cconnery@ithaca.edu> <cconnery@ithaca.edu>
> wrote:
> > Hi there,
> > Lois Holzman has some excellent observations about creativity, learning
> and imitation in her chapter in Vygotsky and Creativity. So do Oreck &
> Nicholls in the same text, although their statments are less direct and more
> implied.
> > Happy New Year to all,
> > Cathrene
> > __________________________________________
> > _____
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> > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
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