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

Re: [xmca] Re: Sanctioned Imitation and Sanctionable Creativity

The word "sanction" means both itself and its opposite.  We use it to mean something is permitted ("Teabaggers look back in reference to a Constitution which sanctioned slavery.”)' But of course we also use it to mean that somethng is punished (“The United States, which has imposed the most stringent economic sanctions in history upon North Korea, is a direct perpetrator of the starvation it supposedly abhors”). So "sanction" is one of those words, like the word "subject", the word "agent" and the Latin word "altus" in which Vygotsky takes an interest at the end of Section 12 of Chapter Six, Thinking and Speech, a tool for (over)generalization.
I think the idea that Vera puts forward (here and also in her book on creative partnerships) of long term and intentional, even co-intentional, creativity write large and deliberately, recognized and sanctioned creativity, creativity with a big C, has to be squared, eventually, with the unpleasant idea that much if not most creativity is unwanted, unappreciated, and even sanctioned, not just by the teacher and by society at large but even by the creative person implicated. (Vera points out that the mutual sanctioning, in both senses, of creativity is part of what makes creative partnerships work,) 
Let me avoid demagogy. I take a genuinely unwanted example of creativity, one which is neither deliberately creative on the part of the creator nor desirable from the point of view of the social collective of which the creator wishes to take part. Say that a teacher takes seriously our recent discussion of Poehner and Lantolf and their dynamic, dialectical view of assessment. Said teacher decides to grade students not on this paper or that paper but instead upon the difference between the first paper of the term and the last paper of the term. Say that a student understands this system perfectly and deliberately turns in an incompetent first draft. Said student then performs to the very edge of his or her competence on the last draft, thereby producing the impression, but not the actual substance, of development and getting a high score. 
As a solution to the problem of getting a high score, the student’s idea is indubitably creative; the student has imitated the thinking involved in the teacher's grading scheme and devoted it to the solution of his or her own problem, that of getting a high score. So by my standard there is undoubtedly conscious, deliberate control of the new scheme, and it is creative. With a capital C which stands for Conscious Control.
On the other hand, the purpose of that conscious control is imitative; it is devoted to a goal that is singularly noncreative, namely obtaining that funny money that we all turn out in inflationary quantities at this time of year, the company scrip of school grades (not legal tender outside school walls). The very existence of this currency depends on a false and phoney self-identical unit, a unit which supposes that human creativity, of all things, can be made both aliquot and fungible.
Which brings me to a response to my own question, my question about whether there is really anything more involved, psychologically, in creativity beyond the deliberate, intentional, voluntary control of what we would, in another context, call error-in-imitation. That something else is the application of creativity not simply to the process of creation but also to the goal to which creativity is directed. 
How does this come about? It seems to me that it cannot come about through entirely rational (in the sense of goal directed) means; something must happen which enables, and even demands, that the goal of an action should be CRITICIZED rather than striven for. But what?
In "Psychology of Art", as well as in Chapter Two of Thinking and Speech, Vygotsky occasionally draws attention to the link between AUTISTIC thinking and creativity. I think he's not really interested in the romantic, anti-rationalistic, anti-Enlightenment idea of individual genius; he is far too interested in what Vera would later call creative partnerships. 
Actually, Vygotsky is probably much closer to the old Enlightenment view of what constitutes wit (as opposed to judgment). Wit is the generalizing ability to see, complexively, two completely different and opposite things as being in some way identical (while judgment is the analytical ability to see two almost identical things as being in some way different). 
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education 

--- On Thu, 12/30/10, Vera John-Steiner <vygotsky@unm.edu> wrote:

From: Vera John-Steiner <vygotsky@unm.edu>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: Imitation and Creativity
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Thursday, December 30, 2010, 2:39 PM

Hi Lois et al,

I am still ambivalent about the use of "creative" in creative imitation. As I mentioned in my previous e-mai, I like to reserve creative--as much as possible--to long-term, purposeful efforts toward creating the new. I am comfortable with innovative imitation and I do agree that imitation is part of the "C" activities even,  the planned imitation in the apprenticeships of composers (Notebooks of the Mind " Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsikov .) But unless we specify gradations in creative activities  from spontaneous, social imitation,to  structured (social) imitation, to  invention, to performative creativity, and lastly long-term,planned creativity which combines all these forms, we may be refering to analogies rather than studied practices.
It is fun to think in the midst of a snow storm,

----- Original Message ----- From: "Lois Holzman" <lholzman@eastsideinstitute.org>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 3:13 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: Imitation and Creativity

Hi All,

Just from this morning, the conversation has gotten away from me and so I apologize if what I add now is not relevant to where folks are going. I wanted to respond by way of sharing 1) where in Vygotsky’s writings I get the ideas I do about imitation, mimicry, performance, creativity, play, etc.; and 2) what I am trying to say and the departure from Vygotsky and goal-directed understandings and toward a performance (play, pretend) understanding of imitation and its relationship/role in development. I leave it for others or for later to explore whether any of it fits into a matrix of concepts.

And so, first.

I suggest that imitation is necessary for creativity in general and for creating ZPDs (sorry, Mike, for not using “zoped” in this writing) in particular. In relation to ZPDs, I take my cue from Vygotsky:  “A full understanding of the concept of the zone of proximal development must result in a reevaluation of the role of imitation in learning” (1978, p. 87).

As part of his reevaluation, Vygotsky discounted an essentially mechanistic view of imitation that was “rooted in traditional psychology, as well as in everyday consciousness “(Vygotsky, 1987, p. 209).  He was also wary of the individualistically biased inferences drawn from such a view, as for example, that “the child can imitate anything” and that “what I can do by imitating says nothing about my own mind” (1987, p. 209). In its stead, Vygotsky posited that imitation is a social-relational activity essential to development: “Development based on collaboration and imitation is the source of all specifically human characteristics of consciousness that develop in a child” (Vygotsky, 1987, p. 210).

Children do not imitate anything and everything as a parrot does, but rather what is “beyond them” developmentally speaking and yet present in their environment and relationships. In other words, imitation is fundamentally creative, by which I mean that it helps to create the ZPD. The kind of language play that typifies conversations between very young children and their caregivers can perhaps provide clarity on this point. Here is one of Vygotsky’s many descriptions of early childhood language development. It is a difficult passage, one that I have to re-discover the meaning of each time I read it.

We have a child who has only just begun to speak and he pronounces single words… But is fully developed speech, which the child is only able to master at the end of this period of development, already present in the child’s environment?  It is, indeed.  The child speaks in one word phrases, but his mother talks to him in language which is already grammatically and syntactically formed and which has a large vocabulary… Let us agree to call this developed form, which is supposed to make its appearance at the end of the child’s development, the final or ideal form And let us call the child’s form of speech the primary or rudimentary form.  The greatest characteristic feature of child development is that this development is achieved under particular conditions of interaction with the environment, where this …form which is going to appear only at the end of the process of development is not only already there in the environment … but actually
 interacts and exerts a real influence on the primary form, on the first steps of the child’s development.  Something which is only supposed to take shape at the very end of development, somehow influences the very first steps in this development. (Vygotsky, 1994, p. 348)

Both developed and rudimentary language are present in the environment, Vygotsky tells us. In that case, what is environment? If both forms of language are present, then environment cannot be something fixed in space and time, nor separate from child and mother. Rather, it seems that environment must be both what is—the specific socio-cultural-historical conditions in which child and mother are located—and what is coming into existence—the changed environment being created by their language activity. In other words, this environment is as much activity as it is context. In their speaking together, very young children and their caregivers are continuously reshaping the “rudimentary” and “developed” forms of language. It is this activity, I suggest, that is and creates the ZPD—and through which the child develops as a speaker, meaning maker and language user.

And second.

I see creative imitation as a type of performance. When they are playing with language in this way in the language-learning zpd, babies are simultaneously performing - becoming - themselves. In the theatrical sense of the word, performing is a way of taking "who we are" and creating something new - in this case a newly emerging speaker, on the stage a newly emerging character - through incorporating "the other." The capacity to speak and to make meaning is inextricably connected to transforming the total environment (a socio-cultural form of life) of speakers in the activity of performing an ordinary “unnatural” act.

Helpful? Confusing? Both?

If Cathrene says OK I'd be happy to let people read the "draft" paper from the book.

Great conversation for the eve before New Year's Eve!


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

On Dec 30, 2010, at 12:58 AM, Ana Marjanovic-Shane wrote:

> Dear all,
> How can I resist answering when Mike calls with a particular question?
> OK -- Lois wrote:
>> "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."
> I would say that we have many different forms and purposes of imitation. Some of them are not conscious: tone of voice you use may resemble your parent's and siblings. I know whole families where it is hard to tell who answered a phone for quite a while in conversation -- even though there is quite a difference in age. People also imitate gestures -- I would say not consciously or purposefully. When my younger son started school, he would come home and talk with gestures of his teacher -- it was absolutely hysterical. But he did not "imitate" her -- he just soaked her idiosyncrasies.
> So there is a kind of "mimicry" in the way we "get" important communicational tools - on the quite sensory-motor level. Not even to mention accents -- that immediately identify you with a certain group (even when you yourself cannot hear them).
> This alone is a very interesting aspect of development, especially in the light of the relatively new discoveries coming from Diana Deutsch about the connection between speech and music (http://www.radiolab.org/2007/sep/24/): with the fascinating discovery that almost 75% of people who peak tonal languages (like Mandarin) possess an absolute pitch, something considered to be a rare talent among us, speakers of non-tonal English (Russian, Serbian, French, Greek or other Indo-European languages)
> But I think we were more interested in another type of imitation --  something that goes on with consciousness, maybe even reflection? Imitation that Peter was describing, and that Mike summarized as:
> "So imitation is actually a constructive process, and so, I think, is
> relevant in discussions of the ZPD in that it is relational, involves
> adjustment, is reciprocal, involves new constructions, relies on
> intersubjectivity, and so on. Just as the ZPD is often characterized as a
> flat, one-way instructional process moving easily from here to there,
> imitation can be pretty static. But not if the act of imitation is part of a
> more complex process of appropriation."
> It seems like a waist to imitate if it still entails constructing a novel behavior for yourself anyway! -- Why not just go ahead and do it your own way instead of imitating?
> When we were kids, my brother and our friends, we used to imitate each other in order to laugh, and then we would end up imitating each other's laughters, and laugh even more. We would  laugh until we could not breathe any more and end up on the floor! That is what we though of imitation.
> Ana: That is what we though of imitation!
> Ana's brother: "That is what we thought of imitation!"
> Ana: Stop it! Don't imitate me!
> Ana's brother: "Stop it! Don't imitate me!"
> Ana: Stop!
> Ana's brother: "Stop!"
> Ana: Zzzzzzz!
> Ana's brother: "Zzzzzzz!"
> Ana: "I AM AN IDIOT"
> Ana's brother: ""I AM AN IDIOT""
> Ana: Hah! You said it right!!
> Ana's brother: "Hah! YOU said it right!!"
> Ana: - - - - - - - - -
> Ana's brother: - - - - - - - -
> (and so on) -- we leave this scene now -- back to our laboratry.
> I want to say that play is too often seen as "imitation" -- when in fact it is a commentary on someone's behavior -- ways of saying something about that behavior, making an opinion, and provoking someone's reaction. But to make that opinion, to be absolutely sure what you are actually saying about it, you have to "do it for yourself", to live into it, to see it from inside. Kind of "see how it feels".
> I will never forget a friend of mine who was actually much younger than me. She used to play being a teacher to all her dolls and stuffed animals. She would put them all on a couch, and then stand in front of them and talk to them exactly the way her (and much earlier mine) teacher used to talk to students. The gestures, the tone of voice, and what she would say to the bears and Barbies, was almost exact! -- but at the same time it was a presentation with a critique -- like a good caricature that uncovers more about the person or a situation, that the original.
> I think that, imitation as explicit copying to learn happens only in situation of direct coaching -- of skills that can be learned like that: how to throw a ball, or how to knit or something very visible that can be dissected in parts and shown. Even then, it is never a direct copy.
> I don't think that we develop by such kind of learning. Although we can develop some rather defined skills. That may be useful for development, but needs to be somehow put to work.
> Creative imitation, as Lois called it, and as I tried to describe it a little bit above, is imitation with a purpose other than copying. And that other purpose -- whatever it is (I have several candidates) -- is something developmental.
> What do you think?
> Ana
> __________________________
> Dr. Ana Marjanovic-Shane
> Assistant Professor of Education
> Chestnut Hill College
> St. Joseph Hall, 4th Floor, Room #172
> e-mails:  Marjanovic-ShaneA@chc.edu
>                 ana@zmajcenter.org
>                 anamshane@gmail.com
> Phone:    215-995-3207
> On Dec 29, 2010, at 11:34 PM, mike cole wrote:
>> 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?
>> mike
>> mike
>> 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
>>>> __________________________________________
>>>> _____
>>>> 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

xmca mailing list