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[Xmca-l] Re: Activity Setting

Thank you Mike,

I appreciate your expertise about the term "activity setting" in respect to the writings of Vigotsky. Considering your knowledge of Vigotsky, I am very comfortable with this situation. 

Best wishes,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of mike cole
Sent: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 1:07 PM
To: Andy Blunden; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Activity Setting

All concerned with this thread.

I am uncertain of anywhere that Vygotsky uses the term, "activity setting"
and most of the time when he uses the term, it seems that he does so in a common sense way, not as a technical term. Examples from text with citations would help here.

In our research in recent years we have worked with people who live in a subsidized housing project. When saying what we do to curious colleagues, we refer to "university- community partnerships/projects. But among ourselves, there is an ongoing discussion and considerable uneasiness in our promiscuous use of the term, community.

One thing about Cliff and Roland's article that I found myself wondering about is their use of the term, community. Culture is quite explicitly defined. Why not community? My guess is that the polysemy noted for activity and culture will reign here too, but I am a neophyte looking for direction which is why this article is interesting to me. I have downloaded two articles from a special issue of J Community Psychology from a special issue in 1996 that take on the notion of "sense of community" which is traced back to Sarason in Nelson and Prilleltiensky's text on Community Psychology. If people are interested, email me directly.

Concerning statements about culture, meaning, sense and understanding in the article an some of the comments here. The following kind of statement strikes me as ambiguous and potentially a source of misunderstanding, as reasonable as it appears (David's recent note is relevant here):

"culture is concerned with questions of shared *social *meanings, that is, the various

ways we make sense of the world."
I believe that Vygotsky distinguished sense and meaning, with meaning being "the most stable pole" of sense. To reduce culture to stable meanings runs the danger of losing the idea of culture as a process. At the same time, the notion that any word in any language has a meaning entirely held in common by all members of the social group involved seems really doubtful. The term, "shared" could use some reflection in this regard.

Reading with interest while dodging deadlines. :-) mike

On Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 11:03 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> Overlapping is OK, but I am intrigued by the problem of the conditions 
> which give rise to failure of mutual understanding.
> Cliff, are you familiar with Jean Lave's book "Situated Learning"? In 
> that she looks at several different traditional systems of 
> apprenticeship. With the meat-trade apprentices, the masters assign 
> the apprentices to completely different, low-skill tasks, located in a 
> different space from where they do the high-skill, valued work of 
> their trade. This contrasts, obviously, with other forms of 
> apprenticeship which facilitate graduated introduction to the skilled 
> work, including lots of opportunity for observation and partial 
> participation. Her observations tend to support your thesis.
> On the other hand, there are plenty of examples in all kinds of 
> hierarchical institutions from school classrooms to line-management 
> organisations to the Church, the family and voluntary organisations, 
> where participation in the same activity is presaged on very unequal 
> power relations being normalised in the activity. Now I think that in 
> our discussion of slavery we agreed that even with such an extreme 
> imbalance of power, some kind of understanding of the other is 
> achieved by each party, but I don't know if this would really count as 
> what you call "intersubjectivity." Ask a victim of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
> It seems to me that "shared" participation in an activity is a 
> precondition for attaining shared semantic, theoretical and practical 
> norms, but not sufficient. It also depends on the social positions 
> adopted by participants in the activity.
> Andy
> carolmacdon@gmail.com wrote:
>> Cliff
>> They share the concept of birthday party so for Andy that would count 
>> as shared meaning in a culture. Sure they see it differently but 
>> there is an overlap.
>> Carol
>> Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom - let your email find you!
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: "Cliff O'Donnell" <cliffo@hawaii.edu>
>> Sender: 
>> xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.**edu<xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>> Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2013 18:48:14 To: Andy Blunden<ablunden@mira.net>; 
>> eXtended Mind, Culture, 
>> Activity<xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.**edu<xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>> >
>> Reply-To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" 
>> <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Activity Setting
>>> What I am left wondering about is your observation in the context of  
>>> the intervention in the American Indigenous community that "the  
>>> groups (adults on one hand and youth on the other) formed different  
>>> cultural communities." Is the "cultural" qualification to  
>>> "communities" the operative word in this surprising claim? I.e.,  
>>> they belong to the same community, but not the same "cultural  community"?
>>         They belong to, i.e. live in, the same town, but not the same  
>> cultural communities. They participate in mostly different activity  
>> settings and have developed different shared meanings. Even when they  
>> are participating in the same general activity, say a birthday party,  
>> they still group with their own youth/adults and often have a  
>> different shared meaning of the event (as when female youth see adult  
>> men becoming intoxicated at the party and expect sexual abuse to  follow).
>>> It is quite the norm, isn't it, for such chisms to exist within  
>>> communities.
>>         Yes, it is common for different groups to vary, sometimes  
>> dramatically, in the activity settings in which they participate. 
>> This  phenomena can then be useful as an indicator of different 
>> cultural  communities within the same town, high school, etc.
>>         Cliff
>> Clifford R. O'Donnell, Ph.D.
>> Professor Emeritus
>> Past-President, Society for Community Research and Action (APA  
>> Division
>> 27)
>> University of Hawai'i
>> Department of Psychology
>> 2530 Dole Street
>> Honolulu, HI 96822
> --
> ------------------------------**------------------------------**
> ------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
> Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts
> http://marxists.academia.edu/**AndyBlunden<http://marxists.academia.ed
> u/AndyBlunden>