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Re: [xmca] activity and a disourse

This is written at 5:50am. I couldn't sleep, because on reflection, I realised that though there is plenty of room for misunderstanding between me and Anna, *Anna's position is quite legitimate as an "analysis in units" in the very context in which she said*. There is also an unfortunate ambiguity in the English language: you can have "discourse" and "a discourse", with slightly different meanings. Anna actually bolded the words "discourses" and "discourse" to draw my attention to this problem. Culpa mea, Anna.

"A discourse" in the sense that we have here a discourse on netiquette, a discourse on CHAT, a disourse on units, a discourse on science, etc., etc, then in this usage, "discourse" is already a concrete concept, and close in meaning to Hegel's meaning of a "concrete concept" and a perfectly reasonable unit for the study of a social formation. I think that due to the shortcomings of both AN Leontyev and Engestrom in developing an Activity Theory, many people have adopted other already-existing concepts as units of Activity, and Discourse is one of these.

But I do think still think this is not what LSV meant by word. If I could quote the same section of Chapter 2 of Engsstrom's "Learning by Expanding," to explain why:

   "According to Vygotsky, the instrumentally mediated act “is the
   simplest segment of behavior that is dealt with by research based on
   elementary units” (Vygotsky 1981, 140). On the other hand, as V. P.
   Zinchenko (1985, 100) demonstrates, in concrete research, especially
   in /Thinking and Speech,/ Vygotsky used another basic unit of
   analysis, namely that of meaning or word meaning.

   "V. P. Zinchenko (1985, 100) argues that meaning “cannot be accepted
   as a self-sufficient analytic unit since in meaning there is no
   ‘motive force’ for its own transformation into consciousness”. Only
   the cognitive aspect of thinking is fixed in meaning; the affective
   and volitional aspect is left unexplained."

I think that here Zinchenko explains why "word" means, not necessarily a single word as such, but whatever can be the sign for a concept, often a phrase.

(back to bed before reading Martin's posts and losing the entire night's sleep!)

Monica Hansen wrote:
I can't speak for Anna, but I am thinking "discourse" as in linguistic
analysis, the larger "unit of analysis", larger than a sentence, in which
words, spoken or written, are used in a meaningful and social way. I am also
thinking of discourse as a context for understanding word meaning.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Saturday, April 23, 2011 7:52 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] activity and reification

Maybe I am in error because I don't know what people mean by "discourse"? I take "discourse" (in its current philosophical usage) to mean something like "institution." That is to say, a stable and /relatively/ closed pattern of meanings in a language community. Is that right? You think that is what Vygotsky meant by "word"?


Martin Packer wrote:
.... When LSV uses the term "word" I take him to mean spoken language -
that's to say, discourse.

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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=g932564744
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857
MIA: http://www.marxists.org

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