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Re: [xmca] What is "structural change in the psyche"?

Tony and Larry,

We are all *born realists*, well, not quite born realists, as we learn realism during our first year of life. And we all learn it and it is built into our lingua franca. Tony, you distinguish between things and "signs" and between things and "structured patterns of activity" and things and "elements" and things and "relations." I have nowhere claimed that a person's psyche is a thing rather than an element or a structured pattern of activity or a sign or a relation. I can't help how someone else construes "the psyche," at least not in a very short email. But if you ask me what the psyche is, I would answer using action nouns and gerunds ("element" I don't understand). As I would for "game" or "Mike Cole." Like with other things to which we impute objective existence, a personality is, could I say, "really reified"? :) That is, not only do we assume that another person, for example, "Mike Cole" exists and has a personality of his own, but by our actions in relation to Mike we continue to construct and reconstruct him. Let alone any other person in the world less self-possessed than Mike!!! :) Reification (= Latin for "making into a thing") is not just a mental activity, of course, but a social and practical activity, by means of which we create a stable world in which we can live.

By "a structural change in the psyche" I mean for example making the change from being an infant to being a child, which entails both the child and their carers collaboratively changing the way they interact. To the extent that I would subscribe that structural change to the child, I guess I am an idealist; to the extent that I ascribe that structural change to the child's social environment I am a materialist. I recognise it as a collaborative process. I don't know enough about child development pscyhology to go any further than that. But there is some measure of stability about a personality.

When we are talking about the psyche or consciousness of small children, the difference between the dollar in my pocket and the dollar in my mind does not arise, because the child knows nothing of dollars and the content of that debate would go way above their head. It is a conversation relevant only to adults capable of philosophical reflection, and refers to the difference between my thought and something existing independently of my thought, such as your thought.

Does that help at all?


Tony Whitson wrote:
I look forward to following this thread, although I won't have time to participate.

I might be able to offer a suggestion at the outset, however: I think it could be helpful to try avoiding reference to "signs" that could be understood to take signs as _things_. Signs themselves are relations in which mediating elements are mediating active relations among elements other then themselve. This mediated/ive activity becomes more regular (habituated) in more developed signs over time. These are matters of structured patterns of activity, which do change over time.

It's the "in the psyche" part that I don't think I quite get.

On Thu, 20 Jan 2011, Gregory Allan Thompson wrote:

Hi Andy,
I was just wondering whether you might be willing to say more what is meant by "a structural change in the psyche" in your post. This seems a rather idealist (vs. materialist) notion. Is that how you mean it?

In trying to reformulate it in less idealistic terms, I came up with: "a structural change in one's understanding of the relationships between signs, and in the relationship of those signs to oneself". But I don't know that this gets us out of idealism and the attendant dualism.

Relatedly, you had once posted a question about the difference between the "dollar in your head" and the "dollar in your pocket". I assume that this is a similar question/problematic.

Maybe if we spoke of "habits and practices that involve the relationships between signs and their relations to us", maybe that gets closer to a non-dualistic way of talking about these things?

Any suggestions?

Message: 4
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2011 15:33:51 +1100
From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Leading activities and central lines of
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Message-ID: <4D37BB2F.9000709@mira.net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed

Larry, I am not familiar with Mike and Natalia's paper, and they
obviously will speak for themselves. But I think that the central or
leading activity, and certainly a central or leading *motive* is not the
same thing as "central line of development," which refers to that
activity which promotes development towards a structural change in the
psyche of the developing person. This may or may not be present in any
given situation, for a child playing a game or a grad student participating.


Larry Purss wrote:
Help with a question
Recently Andy asked a question about clarification of the concept of
"central lines of development.
I have been reading the article by Mike Cole and Natalia Gajdamaschko and
there is a section with the heading
"Heterogeneity of 'Leading' Activity in the Course of a Single Game Episode"

Tmike and Natalia suggest there were several "leading" activities
POTENTIALLY present, each associated with differentage periods. Leading
activities such as:
- need to be loved and accepted
- play
- learning
- peer interaction
- work

My question is if these leading activities may not be age specific. Each of
us may be centrally motivated by a particular leading activity which
fluctuates from moment to moment in activity. In the example in the article an undergraduate, Jill Silverstein, was writing field notes of the fifth
dimension activity.  Mike and Natalia when interpreting the fieldnotes
suggest Jill initially had a central motive of affiliation while play was the leading activity for the children. There was a confusion about the rules of the game and the adult entered into the game and learning at that
moment became a central motive.

There were many  transitions in motives during the game  and Mike and
Natalia summed up this section by stating,

"As this example makes clear, not only are the girls able to be a "head taller" but a "head shorter" in the course of a single stretch of a joint
game play mediated by the computer game and each other" [p.275]

This statement points to notions of volition [agency] which are fluid and interchangeable when contained within supportive contexts [interweaving]

How does this observation fit with the notion of a CENTRAL line of
development? Is it possible that there is more heterogeneity in the lines of development than implied in the concept "central"? Could the concept of
central lines of development be describing historical forms of
development which develop in particular settings when 5 year olds enter
school environments?

I may still be confused and misinterpreting Mike and Natalia's position but I am trying to understand if some of the more basic leading activities [such as affiliation] remain central WHEN THREATENED but become implicit and taken for granted when the person is secure and contained. If there is some merit to this position then issues of security and attachment needs may recede into the background and other leading activities come to the foreground when basic attachment needs are met. However when there is a perceived threat to basic security needs then earlier leading activities or motives also
return at any age.

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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK  DE  19716


"those who fail to reread
 are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                  -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Journal/
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
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