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Re: [xmca] Re: microgenesis?

I don't know where Americans being dolts comes into it, Mike. Some of my best friends are Americans. :) But let's move on from that.

The point, as I see it, is trying to extract from what we can reaonsably understand Vygotsky to be saying, something which we believe could be correct and significant. To do this I think we have to understand the concept of "development" always in a particular context. A truism for anyone here I think. What it means to me is that I cannot just ask: what transformations in psychological functioning constitutes "development"? The necessary, relevant context is what role in what cultural and historical community is the person to play, in the short term and in the longer term. So the question of what constitutes development is age-specific, culturally specific and future-oriented.

(Of course, the world changes, and what was development yesterday may become oppressive and detestable tomorrow and vice versa, but let's abstract from cultural and historical change for the moment.)

From the standpoint of natural science what I have posed is an absurdity and incompatible with basic tenets of science ... because I have made development dependent on events and relations in the future. In my opinion, that is just as it should be: kids go to school "for a purpose" - although what we mean by "purpose" in this context (the child's? the parents'? the state's? in retrospect? under advice? sponatneous?). But again, let's just put the problems arising from the idea of human actions being part of object-oriented activities to the side for the moment.

So you ask: "what does the word DEVELOPMENT mean in the concept of a zone of proximal DEVELOPMENT?"

I have to ask /which/ zone of proximal development, which crisis or lytic period are we talking about. Now I guess we can manage to give a general answer to the question: general questions require general answers. What "development" means is relative to which ZPD you are talking about. On the other hand, the presence of the ZPD itself depends on the development being posed. Achievment of a specific new mode of action with those around you, transforming your relations and your identity and your actions in the social situation depends on the expectations of those around you, according to broader cultural expectations and possibilities.

A teacher or other "helper" interested in fostering development (if they can be presumed to reflect general, broader cultural expectations) has in mind what new functioning will be a necessary step towards the child becoming an autonomous citizen of the community.

As Vygotsky insists, this poses for the child and her "helper" two different kinds of situation: either /lytical/ development or /critical/ development. Lytical development is gradual and prepares the basis for developmental leap. To argue whether the gradual progress made in strengthening the relevant psychologhical functions in this phase is or is not development is in my opinion /just words/. Gradual accumulation of strength in those activities which the child is basically able to do, but maybe not very confidentally and well is a necessary preparation for transcending their age-role and entering into a phase of critical development in which they have a chance of successfully coming out the other side. It is by completion of the critical phase of development - the leap - which transforms the child's identity and role, that "/the development" is realised/. All the preparation in the world proves to be not development if it is not realised in facilitating the critical transformation.

So, excuse me please for however imperfectly rehearsing egg-sucking for grandma's erudition.

I personally regard it as a matter or "mere words" whether "child X at last managing to recognise the difference between d and b today," for example, is described as a development. In the context of course it is; it is a step. You want to call that a "microgenetic development"? Personally I don't have a problem with that. David may, but paraphrasing Oscar Wilde: "Microgenesis is not one of my words." But if the child at last managed to repeat the Gospel According to St Luke by rote, and you wanted to describe this as a microgenetic development, I would want to hear the developmental plan that made that claim coherent.

Where if anywhere does this leave us?

My apologies for using so many words to say so little.
Just trying to be clear and careful.

mike cole wrote:
Hi Andy--

Well to begin with, thanks for keeping the discussion alive. I am away from home without books or control of my time, so I want to ask a question that may highlight what is central to my queries here.

If what you write is correct, what does the word DEVELOPMENT mean in the concept of a zone of proximal DEVELOPMENT? Its all fine and dandy to point out what dolts Americans are for not understanding that learning leads DEVELOPMENT in classroom instruction, that but classroom lessons are clusters of events that take place in microgenetic time WITHIN ontogenetic lythic periods.

Where does that leave us?


PS- the url below lays out in some detail where the idea of acquisition of reading as a cultural-historical developmental process. Old and never published. But at least we might refine what is indexed by the phrase
"learning to read."


On Thu, Oct 11, 2012 at 7:32 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    So this thread does not die ...
    You said, Mike, "So I am seeing the same solution to thinking
    about the ontogeny/microgenesis relationships by analogy with the
    phylogeny/cultural-history relation."

    I don't see the analogy there. Phylogeny and ethnogeny are two
    (overlapping and mutually determining) processes with two very
    distinct material bases, viz., genes and artefacts. But learning
    to read/write and development of abstract thinking (and other
    leading activities in a developmental ZPD) is not such a relation,
    it is a relation between critical phases and lytic (gradual)
    phases of development. This is quite a different relationship.

    The analogy I would see for something which couold be called
    microgenesis would be the /situation/: a concept develops
    momentrily in a person and their actions in a situation. The
    situation is not a factor in phylo- or ethnogensis, it essentially
    belongs to the very short time scale, and its material basis is
    activity. I grant that no-one might use "microgenesis" in that way
    and no-one may be doing research into that process these days. I
    don't know. But the situation is a distinct material basis for
    development and one on which Vygotsky did a great deal of work. On
    the other hand, I think /all/ processes of development have both
    critical and lytical phases (c.f. Gould's punctuated evolution).

    What do you think?


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