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[Xmca-l] Re: Activity theory approach to conceptualizing Community

The term community is indeed polysemous. Sense of community has been influential in community psychology (see the Fisher, et al. and Sarason references in our article), but it is one of many uses of the term community. We agree with "communities presented as activity systems." In our view community is defined by activity settings, which in turn can be interrelated in larger systems.

We didn't mean to imply that any word is held in common by all members of a group. Intersubjectivity and their shared meanings don't imply uniformity. In our view, these ambiguities are best resolved empirically, e.g., in interventions ("no speculation about underlying processes occurs without asking about its action implications.’’ Price and Behrens, 2003, p. 222). That is a important reason for greater unification of CHAT and Cultural Community Psychology.


On Aug 14, 2013, at 8:55 AM, Lubomir Savov Popov wrote:

Regarding the polysemy of the term Community, it might be useful to see the interpretations in Urban Planning and relate them to the conceptualizations in Urban Sociology. I am talking about territorial communities VS virtual communities.

In my opinion, the activity theory approach is very productive in conceptualizing, analyzing and developing territorial communities. In such cases, communities are presented as activity systems. The subjects and the culture become components or aspects of the system(s). Of course there are many other aspects that can be integrated in one whole through the activity system. In this case the concept of activity works as a conceptual configurator that provides a framework for integrating all aspects and levels. The whole society can be represented as an activity system with a number of major subsystems. Then each subsystem can be sub-sub- "divided."



-----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.