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Re: [xmca] Project


But that's not what I am suggesting - to "stick together in a model some attributes." Have I used the word "model"? No, it's the term you used in your webpage. What I am suggesting is that if a unit of analysis is to offer any real purchase in helping us understand how we live in the (social) world it has to provide some insights into the character of that world.

For example, most of us live in societies in which there is a profound division of labor, and also diverse institutions, institutions which go so far as to define distinct spheres that many times seem to have no sensible connection with one another.

That suggests to me that any concept of 'project' has to include not only the process or characteristic of collaboration, but also that of differentiation. I think it would be hard to find any collective activity in which everyone does the same thing. Collaboration and differentiation are reciprocally related, and both need to be included in the concept of 'project,' not only the first.

Equally, to suggest that a project arises when there is a problem, and ends when a solution is achieved, seems to me only a partial conceptualization. As I have already said, it fails to capture the overwhelming necessity of reproduction. And this suggests to me that a more adequate concept of 'project' would see it as a response to a human need. The project has as its product something which can satisfy those needs. But because needs are never satisfied for long (one has to eat every day; one wants to go to the movies every month), a project never truly ends; it recycles. 

And that draws attention to the fact that a 'project' doesn't simply have an objective, it produces a product, an object, an objectification. The product of a project has to be something concrete and tangible. This *may* be a 'problem solution,' but more fundamentally it may be food on the table. Once again, one has to define 'project' in a way that is not completely dissociated from the realities of human existence - including the ontologically undeniable (but often forgotten) fact that we are animals that have to eat, breath, and raise babies. There are surely "contradictions" or "problems" along the way, but to define a 'project' only in terms of these is, in my view, to turn it into something purely intellectual


On Apr 4, 2013, at 6:37 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> I was really hoping that someone else would take this up, but ...
> Go to http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/toc.htm - Engestrom's famous 1987 book in which he derives the famous "expanding triangle" (See chapter ch2.htm in particular). He does exactly what you suggest. He talks a lot about the "unit of analysis" and then goes on to derive the "expanding triangle" as a *root model* of activity. He does not claim that it is a "unit of analysis," just a "model." Referring to that triangle a "unit of analysis" is something which has just developed over the years, which is very confusing, because it is not a "unit of analysis."
> Like you suggest, Martin, Engestrom thinks of some attributes which he thinks are important to the complex to be modelled and then sticks them together in a model. If the result is successful then the theory will give you back just what you put in. If you pick on wage labor, exploitation, conflict and reproduction, then your "model" will display wage labor, exploitation, conflict and reproduction.
> But this is not what Goethe did, but he does at times describe his Urphaenomen as a model. See http://www.ethicalpolitics.org/seminars/urphaenomen.htm. It is certainly not what Hegel did, nor did Marx "model capitalism." Modelling is a perfectly respectable activity. Billions are spent every year modelling different industries, the world economy and even the climate. But is not what Vygotsky was doing. I suggest you read "Thinking and Speech": http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/words/index.htm Vygotsky talks a lot about "model" when he is described how an infant forms the pseudoconcept of a "model" but he does not see the "unit of analysis" as a model. (He does talk about "artificial concepts" though in Chapter 5.) Modelling is part of what Goethe, in his day, called "hypothetico-deductive" science. In the words of Goethe scholar Frederick Amrine:
>   "As the /Urphänomen/ is not an abstract /terminus/ (in either sense
>   of the word) but a pure activity, it can be accessed and realized
>   only through practice. Thus Goethe conceives of the scientific
>   experiment as the systematic exploration, practice, and elaboration
>   of a mode of representation. In the hypothetico-deductive method,
>   one begins by projecting a structure upon one’s observations, then
>   isolates what is held to be the crucial factor, thereby cutting
>   oneself off entirely from the phenomenal context. As we have seen,
>   what takes the place of an abstract hypothesis in Goethe’s method is
>   an intuition that arises within the graded series. It is the pattern
>   of the phenomena as a whole. The source and guide of one’s thinking
>   is the /energeia/ of the phenomena. ..."
> Andy
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> It probably seems as though I am simply trying to rain on Andy's parade, or on his project. And I'm really not. There are important issues here.
>> Remember LSV's advice that the unit of analysis should still have the key characteristics of the phenomenon we're trying to understand. So to study water you don't study its elements, hydrogen and oxygen, you study the molecule, H2O, in its various qualitative forms.
>> That begs the question, then, what are the characteristics of the phenomenon we're trying to understand? Recall that we were discussing occasions of emotion - my example of a 'Gott!' when trying to open the window; Manfred's example of the bank worker getting angry at her boss.
>> Brecht gave us a wonderful detailed portrait of what's happened in Egypt - in which exploitation and conflict seemed to me to be write large. So let's select those two as key characteristics. Surely there are others; I've suggested reproduction (we don't want to be asking, does the chicken produce the egg or does the egg produce the chicken).
>> We need, then, a unit for the analysis of human activity that includes at least exploitation and conflict and reproduction. Activity (as per activity theory) doesn't seem to have these. Neither, in my view, does "project" - at least I don't yet see how it does.
>> Don't ask me to define it (!), but I've been having my students go out to conduct field work in a 'form of life' that they select. One group has been visiting a panaderia (a bakery, basically) - and they've done a great job describing the production (of breads) and exchange (to customers), the way the business is being reproduced on a daily basis, the degree of exploitation of workers, tempered somewhat because it is a "family business," in detail.
>> So what is all that? A project? An activity? An assemblage? That's what we need to figure out.
>> Martin
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