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RE: [xmca] scribner notes
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- Subject: RE: [xmca] scribner notes
- From: Peter Smagorinsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2012 20:55:56 +0000
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- Thread-topic: [xmca] scribner notes
Thanks Vera. The LCHC Newsletter archive at the XMCA site has all the back issues, including that one.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Vera John-Steiner
Sent: Monday, June 04, 2012 4:21 PM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: RE: [xmca] scribner notes
Sylvia was a very special person who was able to synthesize her work for unions in her earlier years with her scholarship after she returned to graduate studies later in her life. Because of her history she did not follow the usual high (quantitatively) productive profile in scholarship but carved out topics which she often pioneered. There is a special issue of the LCHC Quarterly devoted to her writings. I don't have it in front of me, but it should not be hard to find (I think it was published in the early
90s.) Her impact on her students at CUNY was considerable, you may be able to get Joe Glick to share some of his memories of her contributions to the program and the students.
BTW, I just came from the eye doctor and am unable to read these comments, but wanted to respond quickly.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Helena Worthen
Sent: Monday, June 04, 2012 2:02 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] scribner notes
Thanks very much for doing this and posting it. It's got immediate relevance for me. I am currently working my way through an extended argument about workplace knowledge, drawing on garment and apparel shops, a regional mental health center, a power plant, the whole range of public sector workplaces (using scholarship application essays as data), construction and higher ed institutions that employ contingent faculty to illustrate how people produce, teach and use this knowledge. I focus on how they learn to make a living, not just how they learn to do the jobs. If anyone else is working in this area, I'd be grateful if you'd contact me.
21 San Mateo Road
Berkeley, CA 94707
Visiting Scholar, UCB Center for Labor Research and Education
On Jun 4, 2012, at 12:22 PM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
> Hi, sorry if I'm in your mailbox excessively today, between xmca posts
cultural-historical SIG archival recovery.
> Anyhow, I mentioned earlier that I've been reading Sylvia Scribner's
and Practice: Selected Writings of Sylvia Scribner. I'm attaching notes I took, mainly from the latter part of the book which compiles her post-Vai research in a dairy plant in the US. These notes may be of little interest to most, but in case anyone wants to see a quote-driven summary, it's attached. Keep in mind that I took these only for myself to help me think about issues involved in a very different sort of workplace, a public school (and interestingly, SS delineates schools and workplaces as separate sorts of sites, which tells me about the state of teacher education/professional development research in the 1980s, i.e., that it wasn't much of a field).
> I originally hoped that the volume would help me understand more about
mental health issues, which was an early interest of hers and present interest of mine. But she worked mostly at a very broad policy level, trying to move mental health care more toward a state of personal dignity (also a Vygotskian emphasis in his defectological writing), and out from the lunatic asylum approach.
> The middle section, broadly speaking, draws from the Scribner & Cole
documented in The Psychology of Literacy, with which I was familiar.
> The final section covers her dairy factory research, which was still
way at the time of her death in 1991 (born 1925). My notes mainly cover these chapters, given that they were new to me and relevant to what I'm working on this summer.
> Scribner had an interesting career, it seems, and I was barely in the
field when she left us (got my Ph.D. in 1989 largely with an information processing framework, doing studies of high school writers in relation to writing instruction in English classes). My reading of cultural-historical work didn't get underway until I moved out into the field in the 1990s and my grad school blinders began to fall away. I read Psychology of Literacy in my early autodidactic education about CH research, and mainly knew of her career through her the Vai study reported therein.
> She was not a prolific writer, perhaps because her career was well
way when word processing changed writing and publication, and also because she spent a lot of her time in social activism rather than at the keyboard.
A lot of what's collected in this volume is conference presentations; she didn't appear to publish a lot in journals, which I've always been taught is the gold standard for social science scholarship. So she's the rare person who, with a relatively small career output, nonetheless is regarded as a major figure in her field.
> I'd be interested in hearing from those who studied with her or were
around when she was in her prime to get a better understanding of the way in which her reputation grew without her being a prolific writer. I assume that she had unusual personal presence. She also had great ideas, and appears to me to be a pioneer in seeing the workplace and everyday activity to be significant research sites and practices; psychology was still (and is
still) a laboratory/clinic-based field, so it was quite a departure. She also invigorated her perspective with real-world engagement, e.g., in the field of mental health treatment, in the lives of Vai "ordinary" people, in factory workers. (I thought of Mike Rose's workplace studies as I read her workplace research.) I also learned some interesting tidbits, such as the fact that King Beach was one of her students and did his dissertation on bartenders-an interesting topic for a guy so immersed in Eastern religion, but a logical workplace topic for someone studying with Scribner.
> In my initial reading of this volume, I thought that Scribner might be
most important as a historical figure in studying everyday cognition among "just plain folks," but in the end think that she's still worth reading for what she can contribute to new inquiries. p
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