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[xmca] The "Tool" Revolution and the Sign "Revolution"
In his tennis example, Farber seems to be getting, somewhat ineptly, at the distinction that Leontiev makes. As we all know, Leontiev distinguishes between operations and actions. Operations are where the immediate responses to operational conditions are conscious (that is, noticed) and the objectives are not conscious (that is, not present to mind, although we can call them up when we need them). Actions are the other way around: the immediate responses to operating conditions are not conscious (that is, unnoticed) but the object of the action is conscious (that is, present to mind).
I never liked this distinction very much. It seems to me to describe skills but not knowledge, tasks but not play. Above all, it seems to me to be almost irrelevant to the main occupation of my day to day life, which is conversation. In conversation, we are constantly switching attention from what is being said to how it is being said, the operational condition AND the objective are both present to mind when we answer questions and pose them.
And it seems non-accidental, to me, that the learning theory that emerges from Leontiev's distinction is a very boring one: from the bottom up, operations become automatized so that attention is shifted to objectives. Or, from the top down, what used to be an activity broken up into actions by different people is internalized as an action broken up into different operations. This applies to changing gears while driving, shooting a gun, playing tennis, almost everything--except everything which is most important to me, namely verbal activity.
Martin pointed out that the Piaget that Vygotsky is attacking in Chapter Two is really the Vygotsky that so many (including, I think, Leontiev) have constructed. This Vygotsky, whose real name is Piaget, sees socialization and not individuation as the object of development. And this Vygotsky, a.k.a. Piaget, has very little room for free will.
It seems to me that most of what I do is directed towards what Farber would call disordering the will, that is, allowing people to exercise conscious choice over things that are normally not chosen and which are almost in principle not subject to volition at all (e.g. what language they use, what speech genre to employ in a given classroom situation, how to make stereotypical language alive again).
I certainly don't understand how technology can do this. I can see that a great deal of technology is currently employed in three ways that I would consider highly non-developmental, but none have to do with applying object-aware volition to what are normally conditionally-aware operations. They are all really just the opposite.
First of all, it seems to me that technology is used to replace signs that are symbolic (that is, which are linguistically mediated) with signs that are either icons or indexes (that is, which have some lower-level, necessary relationship with their object). So for example text is often replaced by graphics. This means, of course, replacing a higher level psychological function with a lower level psychological function in the receiver.
Secondly, it seems to me that technology is used to replace cognition with an almost entirely affective response, replacing news with commentary, narrative with emoting, and verbal interaction with physical action (porn, violent movies, tennis, golf, and so on). In our intellectual discourse, enthusiams for "embodiment" is used as a cover for de-intellectualization (as Eagleton points out, when people enthuse over "embodiments", they tend to be slavering about copulating bodies and not enslaved and exploited ones). Once again, I think that a higher level psychological function is replaced by a lower level one.
The thid way is superficially, exactly the opposite of the first two: it is the replacement of actual events with informational simulacra of events, e.g. face-to-face meetings with virtual interactions, movie theatres with streamed video, and commodities with information (real books with e-books, CDs with MP3s, paintings with photographs). Although this looks like the increasing idealization and symbolification of life, I think it means LESS of what language use really confers on the individual, which is the objective distance conferred by physical objects, the conscious awareness made possible by language use in real time, and as a consequence genuinely informed free choice.
The "industrial" revolution doubled and tripled productivity. The information "revolution" has actually replaced a good deal of productive labor with unproductive labor. The nineteenth century replaced an overwhelmingly rural society with an overwhelming urban one, and transformed everything about life, from life expectancy to population density to housing. The twenty-first century has given us mortgage-based financial instruments. Oh, and iPads with Angry Birds.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Mon, 3/28/11, Larry Purss <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: Larry Purss <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] lsv "sketching the future" -- From tool and sign?
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Monday, March 28, 2011, 10:56 AM
Hi Mike and David
The topic of the development of voluntary behavior that does not lean on the
present but orients towards future possibilities seems central to various
notions of psychology. Leslie Farber, who worked closely with Rollo May,
was preoccupied with notions of the "will".
He wrote a definition of will
Although the word [will] has been used as a synonym for decision, choice,
intention, passion, spirit, determination, control or volition, my use of
the term is general enough to include all these qualities: I understand
will to be the category through which we examine that portion of our life
which is a mover of our life in a DIRECTION or toward an objective in
time.... But now I must distinguish between two realms of will. So that the
reader will have something concrete in mind as I describe the
characteristics of these two realms, I suggest that he imagine some sports
activity that interests him - tennis for example. When our game is most
fluid and effortless, we cannot really be said to be planning our shots and
strategies: if we are thinking of the game we are not aware of thinking;
though will is involved in our shots and maneuvers, we cannot be said to be
aware of will itself. We are, so to speak, of a piece - mind and body
seamlessly and unselfconsciously joined in a totality. Will is so wedded to
our faculties, our perceptions, our motor possibilities that it may be said
to be unconscious in this first realm. It is only after the fact,
retrospectively, that we can INFER the place of will, thought, footwork, and
other components..... The first realm of will moves in a DIRECTION rather
than toward a particular object.... Direction, here, is to be understood not
as an ideal goal toward which we press, however much we falter, but rather
as a way interspersed with, yet not obstructed by, worldly detail and
worldly objectives. Direction, therefore is a way whose end CANNOT BE KNOWN
- a way open to possibility, including the possibility of failure.... No
human relation need occur within this first realm. Nevertheless, relation
is always a DIALOGIC POTENTIALITY." [Farber wrote this in 1969 but it was
republished in 2000 in the book "The Ways of the Will"rber
Farber contrasts his notion of the 1st realm of the will with the 2nd realm
of will which moves us toward a PARTICULAR objective, all such movement
being either conscious or potentially conscious.. In tennis, we grasp the
racket so its face is moe perpendicular, and as the serve arrives, we rush
deliberately to the ball, etc. Here, the experience is of CONSCIOUS
WILLING, successful or not. Farber points out that in our utter absorption
in the 2nd realm of willing we are LESS AVAILABLE to relation, should it
arrive. Farber points out we all live our lives in both realms. The
relative experience of freedom within the first realm and the willful
achievements of the second realm are both vital for our day to day
Farber has an interesting perspective on technology and notions of will. He
views technology as an extension of the second realm of will. He states,
I would call this the Age of Disordered Will, and I would do so because it
seems to me that increasingly we apply the will of the second realm to those
portions of life that not only will not comply, but that become distorted -
or even vanish - under such coercion." (p.79)
For Farber, the consequences of this idoltary of technology, of willing what
cannot be willed is that we fall into distress. Within this impasse of
disordered will meaning, reason, imagination, and discrimination fail, so
that the will is deprived of its supporting and tempering faculties. Man
becomes in a sense, all will or nothing but will. This state of being
governed by will is a "disordered" will in Farber's perspective.
On Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 7:08 AM, mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Thank you David. All of that is very helpful for helping me re-think a
> number of issues, particularly the temporal dynamics of experience and
> mediation which is preoccupying me in connection with re-reading VPZ's
> I can confirm that the passage in the reader is the same as in Mind in
> Society. That was the only copy we had. The footnote in the English
> Collected works about origins
> is, I suspect, simply uninformed.
> Perhaps it is also relevant to your archeological efforts that this passage
> sounds a great deal like Luria's writings about Lewin and quasi-motives in
> Nature of Human Conflicts.* I was surprised, coming from Zinchenko's 1990's
> thoughts in the passage where he cites "Vygotsky," to find the passage in a
> heading on the development of voluntary behavior. The two translations and
> wildly different context induced in me quite different interpretations.Now
> have to puzzle that out.
> On Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 3:39 AM, David Kellogg <email@example.com
> > Mike:
> > I am pretty sure that it's THIS, from the Vygotsky Reader, pp. 134-135..
> > You can also find it in your Collected Works, Volume 6, p. 36, second
> > The way in which this action, related to the future, arises has remained
> > to this time insufficiently accounted for. Now it can be explained from
> > viewpoint of study of symbolic functions and their participation in
> > behaviour. The ‘functional barrier ‘ between perception and motorics,
> > mentioned above, and which owes its origin to the intrusion of word or
> > other symbol between the initial and final points of action, explains
> > separation of impulse from the immediate realization of the act which, in
> > turn, constitutes the mechanism preparing postponed future action. It is
> > inclusion of symbolic operations which makes possible the formation of an
> > absolutely new psychological field in composition, a field that does not
> > lean on the existing present, but rather sketches an outline of the
> > situation of action and thus creates free action, independent of the
> > immediately effective situation.
> > The two texts are VERY differnt though, for the reasons I mentioned. I
> > gather that the Vygotsky Reader text is the one in Mind in Society.
> > David Kellogg
> > Seoul National University of Education
> > --- On *Fri, 3/25/11, mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>* wrote:
> > From: mike cole <email@example.com>
> > Subject: [xmca] lsv "sketching the future" -- From tool and sign?
> > To: "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > Date: Friday, March 25, 2011, 5:13 PM
> > David and others interested in Tool and Symbol--
> > In his article on Dot and Anna's fine collection of essays on ideas of
> > non-classical
> > psychology, Vladimir Zinchenko quotes from Tool and Sign (I think!), to
> > following
> > effect.
> > It is the workings of symbolic operations that allow for a completely
> > type of psychological
> > field to emerge; such a field is uniquely new because it does not rely on
> > what already exists, but
> > instead makes a sketch of the future, and in doing so, creates free
> > that in independent of the
> > immediate situation. (citation of Russian version, 1984, p. 50).
> > I have been searching the copy of T&S I have handy and can not find it.
> > Might you, who are now taking
> > a fine tooth comb to the text, be able to help out here?
> > mike
> > __________________________________________
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