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Re: [xmca] further thoughts on the book "Vygotsky in Perspective"

Mike and Martin

What an amazingly pregant and fertile perspective  Bruno Latour expresses
[enunciates] in this article exploring the relation between technology and
morality. I do believe Bruno is enunciating a central theme that plays out
within cultural historical and sociocultural concepts of "mediation".
Mike I agree that this article could be put in dialogue with Miller and I
hope we can do this together. However, for now I want to focus on
amplifying Bruno's profound insights into functional ways of viewing
reality and the place of technology in translating time, space, and agency.

Where to begin?? There are so many openings he invites us as we enter the
labyrinth. I want to jump in on page 251 where he talks about technology as
the art of the "curve" [the DETOUR] and contrasts that with epistemology,
the pursuit of the straight line. However, I'll resist and go back to page
248 where he is exploring "borders" and boundaries" [I imaginally add the
metaphor of "hinges"  to borders and boundaries]  Bruno is pointing out it
is becoming more difficult to trace the BORDER between "the empire of the
human and the ealm of technologies. He writes,

In any case, the IMAGE of a human being at the helm manipulating INERT
objects, to achieve ends, through the INTERmediary OF 'efficient action ON
matter' appears increasingly muddled. Technologies belong to the HUMAN
WORLD in a modality other than that of instrumentality, efficiency, or
MATERIALITY.... Technologies and moralities happen to be indissolubly
mingled because, in both cases, the question of the RELATION OF ends and
means is profoundly problematized."

Bruno wants to give tecnology the dignity EQUAL to morality that challenges
the common sense relation of tool TO intention.  Bruno wants to redine the
"technical" FROM a SUBSTANTIVE to an ADJECTIVE. He writes,

"It is pointless to want to define some entities and some situations as
technical in OPPOSITION to others called scientific or moral, political or

Bruno then goes on to use the word "enunciation" in a sentence which I
believe points to Merleau-Ponty's notion of "expression". He writes,

Technology is everywhere, since the TERM applies applies to a regime of
ENUNCIATION, or, to put it another way, to a MODE OF EXISTENCE, a
PARTICULAR FORM of exploring existence, a particular form of the
exploration of BEING - in the midst of many others.  If we are UNABLE to
distinguish BETWEEN a technical object and a non-technical one, we should
nevertheless be able to locate the dimension pertaining to technology in
some entity. The regime of technology, if you wish, is DIFFERENT from
another standpoint (scientific, rtistic, or moral) NOT in the way that a
REGION of reality would differ from another, but in the way PREPOSITIONS
differ amongst themselves, in much the same way as *in* is clearly
distinguishable from *by*, although there is no particular domain of *in*
that we cn separate from the territiory *by*."" [page 248]

Bruno's term "enunciation" seems to express a relation similar to
Merleau-Ponty's KEY concept of "expression" as modes of existence and
being. This similarity invites further reflection. The above excerpt seems
to be pregnant with new meaning.

The next critical insight in the article I want to elaborate is how Bruno
explores the relation of means and ends in functional enunciations.  He is
describing the concept of "folding" and uses the example of a hammer.  He

"It is impossible to proceed AS IF the hammer *fulfilled a function* for it
overflows the strict limits of THIS CONTAINER on all sides... With it [the
hammer] in hand the possibilities are ENDLESS, providing whoever holds it
with schemes of action that DO NOT PRECEDE the moment it is grasped...
thanks to the hammer, I BECOME literally another man, a man who has BECOME
*other*, since from that point in time I pass theough *alterity, the
ALTERATION of that folding [Gibson's idea expressed via Bruno]... Thise who
believe that tools are simple utensils have never held a hammer in their
hand, have never allowed themselves to recognize the FLUX OF POSSIBILITIES,
that they are suddenly able to ENVISAGE.... Far from PRIMARILY fulfilling a
PURPOSE, they [humans] start by exploring heterogeneous universes that
nothing, UP TO THAT POINT, could have FORSEEN and BEHIND WHICH trail new
functions" [page 250]

In other words functions are DERIVED FROM emerging technologies and
technologies are NOT RESPONDING to functions.
Seems to be an important distinction which challenges common sense. Bruno
then commnts on the term "mediation" when he writes,

"The term mediation always runs the risk that its message could be INVERTED
and one could turn whatever makes it impossible to transfer a meaning, a
cause, or a force INTO precisely what MERELY carries a force, a cause, or a
meaning. If we are not careful, we could REDUCE technologies to the role of
INSTRUMENTS that MERELY give a more durable shape TO schemes, forms, and
relations WHICH ARE ALREADY PRESENT in another form and in other MATERIALS."

Bruno is pointing to the awareness that *devices* are not simply

"What they [devices] exactly DO, what they suggest, NO ONE KNOWS" [page 250]

Bruno then adds "the mediation of technology experiments with what must be
called BEING -AS - ANOTHER" [page 250]

This brings me to the last term that I found fascinating as Bruno explores
*detour*. He writes,

"It seems to me that it is more adequate to speak ABOUT technologies in the
mode of the *detour* than in that of *instrumentality*. Technology is the
art of the curve, or what, following Serres, I have called *translation*.
If we go in a straight line, AS EPISTEMOLOGY DOES, we do not need it...
Ingenuity begins with Deedalus, prince of the labyrinth, that is, with the
UNEXPECTED branching-out which at first DISTANCES from the goal [Bruno
references Frontist-Ducroux for this idea]"

Bruno is exploring technical problems as *detours*, entering the labyrinth,
NOT as instruments fulfilling functions.  Technology PREVENTS us from
having DIRECT access to goals.

This ends my brief summary of Bruno's enchanting opening up of the notion
of *mediation* as the curving path of detours. He challenges functional
*enunciations* with an alternative exploration of mediation and technology
as modes of *expression* that detour from the straight and narrow path and
plunge us into labyrinths.

If interested I can post an article that explores the "Medussa Myth" as
also exploring DIRECT and INDIRECT modes of expression. .

I hope that others put these ideas in play with Miller and activity theory.


On Mon, Mar 5, 2012 at 8:01 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> With respect to the concept of mediation, Martin Packer was kind enough to
> send along the attached article by Bruno Latour on Moralilty and
> Technology.
> A key idea is that mediation cannot be reduced to instrumentalism. I think
> it could interestingly be put in dialogue with Miller.
> mike
> On Mon, Mar 5, 2012 at 7:18 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Martin reminded me of the discussion on xmca [July 13 2011] when the book
> > "Vygotsky in Perspective" was discussed.
> > The aggressive tone and stance Ronald takes towards CHAT positions is
> > extremely rude and provocative.
> >
> >  He attacks Mike, Wertsch, Anna Stetsenko, and others who explore
> Leontiev
> > and Luria as complementary to Vygotsky. Ronald labels these authors as
> > creating an "alternative" theory so removed from Vygotsky that they are
> no
> > longer true believers.
> > For this reason alone I was tempted to not read further.
> >
> > But I was curious from reflecting on "book collections" as material
> "media
> > objects"  how the interplay of Ronald's perspective would engage Activity
> > theory.
> >
> > I was reading through the introduction on Google books and on page 17
> > of Ronald's introduction I became intrigued by Roland's understanding of
> > mediation.  He is offering a bipolar or "duplex" conception of
> subjectivity
> > in which of-ness [awareness] ANCHORS the present and consciousness
> > history and destiny. He argues that mediation is often associated with
> > DIRECT overt forms of instruction. Roland suggests a 2nd order of
> mediation
> > in which tools [as the products of human action] REFLECT [in their design
> > and structure] the conscious awareness of their makers.  A 3rd level of
> > mediation is elaborated in the social structures CONSTITUTED by the
> > relations between people and the relations between people and their
> > products.
> >
> > So far so good. This is all straight forward but it was the the next
> > section of his argument I found interesting.
> >
> > Roland suggests mediation is the antithesis of "agency"
>  MIS-understanding
> > is a KIND of understanding but the persons are UNAWARE that their
> > understandings are mis-perceived [and therefore cannot make the necessary
> > changes for understanding] Roland then states,
> >
> > "In order for mediation efforts to produce new understanding - it is
> > necessary to alter the way a person EXPERIENCES a situation by
> facilitating
> > new actions - including mental actions  or ways of thinking that provide
> a
> > NEW FOCUS of conscious awareness.
> >
> > All forms of mediation operate according to the same fundamental
> > psychological principles that entail,
> >
> >
> >
> > It is this "dual" process of BOTH "leading" and "being lead" that I found
> > interesting as a reciprocal movement of both breathing in and breathing
> out
> > in mediational processes. Both agency and loosing agency.  [Both
> "passive"
> > and "active"??]
> > What Ronald is exploring may be "common sense" to many others on this
> list
> > serve but I read this as a possible link to Gadamer's notion of all true
> > understanding as beginning with a  willingness to be unsettled  in the
> > dialogical process of not understanding [letting go of pre-judices] and
> > being open to the perspective of the other which opens a space for "fused
> > horizons" of understanding. Ronald, interpreting Vygotsky from his
> > perspective seems to be circling around similar themes of leading and
> being
> > lead.
> >
> > Ronald, though writing ABOUT this reciprocal process, obviously does not
> in
> > practice actualize this openness. How he dismisses others [especially
> > CHAT]  in this book is proof of his prejudices but he may still have some
> > valid points to contribute from his close eading of Vygotsky.
> >
> > I hope its ok to return and pick up a previous thread from last July even
> > from an author without good manners:-))
> >
> > Larry
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> >
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