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Re: [xmca] Concepts as sedimentation

Actually Tony this is precisely a way of avoiding dichotomising, because there is actions, activities and artefacts, and it is a simple matter that artefacts are the material objects in this relation. The artefact, apart from being a material object, is constituted as an element of social practice by its use in actions and its significance for activities. The word "baseball" for example is the ideal uniting billions of such words (tokens), which are known only to English-speakers who utter and write them and meaningful mainly to Americans and Japanese, but every single token of the word is a material object. History and culture is possible with limited accretion of sedimented artefacts. I think it is fair to say that among artefacts, it is objects, icons and modifications to the environment which we count as sediment, and the spoken word, is an artefact, but not a sediment, but I don't regard this as a fundamental distinction. For me, "artefact" is the more fundamental category, but sediment marks an important subset of artefacts. A culture in which there is only spoken word, and no dress code for the story tellers, no places associated with mythology, no icons and symbolic constructions, all this is of course possible, but it is not the usual thing. We live in a world where the majority of our culture is sedimented and brought up into life and sedimented again, every moment. Imagine "baseball" in a world with no baseball pitches, no team uniforms, no bats or balls, no radios or newspapers, ...


Tony Whitson wrote:
Thanks, Andy, I understand an insistence on "matter" to the exclusion of
"activity" as in some part a corrective measure. I wonder, though, about the
measure of the price paid by taking it so far.

You point to the sedimentation of language in the material of texts, etc.,
but what about unwritten languages -- which comprise most of the languages
in human experience?

Or, consider this example* (with apologies for using such a US

It has been said that the culture of any organization is found more in the
unwritten and unexamined stories and mythology that drive it than in
specific rules and regulations. For example, baseball, "America's pastime,"
has a well-established set of rules that have changed very little over the
past century: three strikes and you are out, 90 feet between the bases, the
infield fly rule, and so on. The rulebook identifies 23 different ways in
which a batter can reach first base. Baseball also has an elaborate set of
unwritten rules that have evolved over the last 100 years that all players
are expected to observe. For example, a player who hits what he knows will
be a home run must not stand in the batter's box to admire it because to do
so insults the pitcher. A player should never steal a base late in a game
when his team is far ahead because it is considered "showing up" one's
opponent. If the star player of a team has been hit by a pitch, his pitcher
is expected to retaliate by hitting a member of the offending team with a
pitch because part of a pitcher's job is to protect teammates. In short,
there are unwritten stipulations that some things simply are not done in
baseball, and those who violate those norms can expect to pay a
penalty--usually in some form of retaliation from the other team.

For one thing, I think we can see in this an example of the generalizability
of the langue/parole distinction beyond just "language," as such. When a
pitcher aims his fastball at the batter's triceps in retaliation, this is an
utterance (parole) in the language (langue) of playing baseball.

In the case of the written rules, those are "sedimented" in the matter of
the printed rulebook, as well as in the matter of the physical bases
themselves, the physical matter of the basepaths between the bases, etc. But
in the case of all those unwritten rules, these rules are sedimented in the
shared practices, and the shared memories and understandings, of the
players, fans, etc. We might strain to insist on traces of these sedimented
forms of activity in just matter--more strictly speaking--but at what cost?

It seems to me that such insistence implicates a way of dichotomizing matter
vs. activity that implies a dualism that denies the materiality of such
things as shared memories, shared practices, etc., as such.

What do you think?

*DuFour, Richard, Rebecca Burnette DuFour, and Robert E. Eaker. Revisiting
Professional Learning Communities at Work: New Insights for Improving
Schools. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2008, pp. 79-80.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2011 8:52 PM
To: Tony Whitson
Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Concepts as sedimentation

I recognise, Tony, that others use the term "sedimentation" differently, but
I choose to use the word with this very specific meaning. But the meaning is
not a lot different from the langue/parole distinction. If la langue is not
embodied in the actual daily use of words then I presume it is embodied in
text books and other material artefacts reflecting past usage. I am not
language-centric, so I tend to base the distinction on activity and the
artefacts it leaves behind to afford future activity
- that includes language-use but it not limited to that.


Tony Whitson wrote:
On Mon, 26 Sep 2011, Andy Blunden wrote:

(specifically matter rather than activity)
Andy, I'm not sure what you mean by this.

As I was understanding sedimentation, it would pertain to something like the grammar of a language. This is not activity as in Saussure's _parole_; it is the regularity of _la langue_. It's not something non-material; but is it "matter," or is it a matter of form?

Or am I understanding "sedimentation" too inclusively?

*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

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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

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