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RE: Re: [xmca] Re: microgenesis?



(I'm addressing you personally here because I had an idea the other day that for some reason came with your name attached to it. Perhaps you will be able to explain why!)


The distinction Vygotsky insists on--between learning and development--is one of many terms (e.g. "pseudoconcept", "spontaneous concept", etc) that Vygotsky takes over and fills with all new content. In Koffka, it's really a botanical concept: some changes are "growth" of the mind, and other changes are simply changes. 


But Vygotsky changes the content of the concept and uses it as a weapon against Thorndike. For Thorndike, there is no such thing as learning; only learnings. And these little learnings are not generalizable; what you imagine is development is really just accumulated learnings.


This superficially "democratic" argument (which Thorndike uses to demonstrate the equality of skills and the pointlessness of formal disciplines) gives American education the basis for the long night of behaviorist inspired "banking education", only very partially relieved by (similarly individualistic) cognitivism in the later twentieth century. For Thorndike, knowledge is not knowledge but skill, and skills are individually wrapped, self-identical, independent, aliquot and fungible--just like coins and words. 


But what about letters? In "The Sound of Music", Maria sings:


When you read, you begin with ABC

When you sing, you begin with Do-re-mi


She is being only slightly over-grandiose when she adds:


When you know the notes to sing

You can sing most anything!


It's not quite that simple, but we can easily understand why that is how it looks to the child, and how he or she might compare this awakening awareness to the moment reported by the seven-year-old Helen Keller, where she said that "everything has a name!" and suddenly became aware of the key inner principle of language (as opposed to scattered labels for things, or names on the one hand and objects on the other). Not just learning. Microgenesis!


Now, here's the idea with your name on it. Unlike computer languages and unlike animal communication systems, all human languages depend on binding of some kind, and this principle seems to apply right up the hiearchy of linguistic organization, from phonology (where consonants are bound to vowels) to morphology (where there is a clear distinction between bound morphemes like "-er" and "re-" and unbound morphemes like "work") to syntax (bound clauses and unbound clauses) to discourse and text (bound initiates vs. proclamations). Of course, computer languages use this principle at some level. But when they do it is because they have been made in the image of their maker. Animal communication systems do not use boundedness for the simple reason that there all communication is bound to context and there is no such thing as a truly unbound communicative act when you are a chimpanzee or for that matter a one-year-old child.


With human languages, there is always a distinction between the traffic signal (which is self-similar, context independent, and thus unbound) and the car horn (which is continuously variable, meaningful only in context, and thus bound). Vowels are traffic lights, and consonants are car horns. Prefixes and suffixes are car horns and words are traffic lights. Independent clauses are traffic lights and relative clauses are car horns. An elliptical turn is a car horn, and a fully elaborated one is a traffic light. No such thing exists in nature, and I am strongly inclined to consider this principle a kind of linguistic analogy with human social relationships and with culture, and to point to discourse as the prime mover for that very reason.


It seems to me that letters and notes, alphabetic writing and even understanding the key distinction between the name and the noun all have to do with grasping and generalizating the distinction between boundedness and unboundedness. Thorndikean "learning", in contrast, has to do with rejecting it, and that is why Koffka and Vygotsky reject him. Thorndike sees every building as a rabble of bricks. Since he cannot even theorize the mortar, his "description" of development is not microgenesis, but mere learning-rubble. 


David Kellogg

Hankuk University of Foreign Studies









--------- 원본 메일 ---------
보낸사람: Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
받는사람 : ablunden@mira.net,"eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
날짜: 2012년 10월 14일 일요일, 00시 33분 05초 +0900
제목: Re: [xmca] Re: microgenesis?
Apologies for the intrusion, but I had a quick point of clarification, for
the uninitiated, what is meant by "lytic"?
(all I could come up with pertained to "lysis" or the breaking down of
cells - which would seem to suggest a different sense of "development" - a
breaking down so that things can be reintegrated. Is that the idea?).

On Sat, Oct 13, 2012 at 9:15 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> 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?
> Andy
> 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?
>> mike
>> 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."
>> http://lchc.ucsd.edu/People/**NEWTECHN.pdf<http://lchc.ucsd.edu/People/NEWTECHN.pdf>
>> 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?
>> Andy
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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Department of Anthropology
Brigham Young University
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