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[Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities
- To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Martín John Packer <email@example.com>, Lubomir Savov Popov <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities
- From: Greg Thompson <email@example.com>
- Date: Sat, 17 Aug 2013 11:36:20 -0600
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Antti and other inter-Actants,
I think that the notion of sensory fabric in an observational study of
naturally occurring interactions is NOT too far fetched. Seems like
something like this is absolutely needed. And I'd be interested to hear how
you would plan to use Goodwin's Professional Vision article - it is a
personal favorite (so maybe offline if others aren't interested).
Also, Antti, in your work, I like your attention to the role of the
physical body in making frames.
(see also John Rae on body posture and framing, e.g. see:
maybe more central in this regard is Adam Kendon's work on body posture).
I might add to this that Goffman speaks of the way in which motivations
are, to a certain extent, entailed by frames (yes, "to a certain extent" -
this does not mean the frames determine them!). Thus, frames bring with
them motivational relevancies as much as individuals do!
We could speak of the way that frames create certain affordances that
solicit various types of behavior (whether "cognitive", "emotional", or
some other emically named type). When we are in certain types of
interactions, it suddenly becomes possible to *feel* a certain way that one
couldn't otherwise have felt. Similarly, one can be a head taller than
oneself when in certain interactions. And, conversely, one can find oneself
becoming quite smaller in others!
I think that this role of context is important and can be easily overlooked
if you start from the motives of individuals.
In addition to Goffman, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty also point in this
direction with their notions of "calling forth" and
"affordances/solicitations", respectively. These approaches to
understanding people result in a reduction of the perceived agency of the
individual (and hence a reduced role for intentionality, motive, and even
conscious reflection), and I think many people often chafe at these ideas
(esp. in American where the individual is king! Sovereign Lords - all of
But, imho, there is still an agent in all of these accounts - perhaps a bit
smaller than in other accounts, but present nonetheless. And, as the
phenomenologists like to say, this account is truer to the phenomena. [and
I don't know whether this is relevant or not, but it seems to me that this
account accords well with my reading of Marx].
At the end of the day, I think the central issue that all of this turns on
is our ontology of *the mental*. Phenomenologists like to suggest that
others subscribe to "a myth of the mental" (see Hubert Dreyfus's paper The
Return of the Myth of the Mental:
This is a pervasive belief and perhaps there is some justification for it,
but I happen to find the phenomenologists' position compelling. I further
wonder if CHAT tends to subscribe to the myth of the mental? Do our
concepts of concepts involve reifications of mental processes that perhaps
are not warranted?
If the phenomenologists' position hold water, and admittedly it's a lot of
water to swallow, then the question is really Lubomir's question of whether
or not CHAT can integrate other perspectives, here the phenomenological
perspective (and it seems like some say yes, some say no), or whether you
will necessarily have to go somewhere else to get that perspective. So, is
this an ontological commitment of CHAT? Can there be some middle ground?
It seems like Shotter and others (e.g., Martin Packer here on XMCA) have
been marking out this space, but perhaps what remains to be seen is whether
or not this space falls within
the bounds of CHAT.
Who decides that?
On Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 6:21 AM, Antti Rajala <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Thanks for inviting me to the discussion and for your nice introduction to
> Goffman's work. I indeed found these reflections about the relationships
> between Goffman and AT very useful. My project in which I am considering
> using Goffman's concept of frame together with Leontjev's theory of
> activity is still at a very initial stage (I had to postpone this project
> for a while to engage in another project meanwhile).
> My take into the discussion is that I am interested to analyze sensory
> aspects of students' actions (of observing birds) in bird-watching school
> fieldtrip. Like Larry, I have previously worked with concepts of personal
> sense and meaning, and now I found very interesting Leontjev's explication
> of the structure of consciousness in terms of three dialectically
> interrelated elements (or moments), personal sense, meaning, and sensory
> fabric. Yet, Leontiev seems not to have written much that would help me to
> analyze embodied interactions from video. I think that I need to
> incorporate concepts from elsewhere to capture the evolving
> moment-to-moment interactions. Here, I was turning to Goffman's frame
> analysis, and the work of his students M. and C. Goodwin may be
> interesting, too.
> I have talked to many colleagues in CHAT and so far everyone has encouraged
> me to explore the connections between frames and Leontiev (even though a
> lot of work needs to be done). In this connection, I found interesting
> Lubomir's opinion of the incompatibility between the two. I add Gutierrez
> to Greg's list of scholars who connect Goffman and Leontiev.
> Gutierrez and colleagues have used defined their well-known notion of
> script in terms of the notion of frame. In their article (1995, Script,
> counterscript and underlife in the classroom;
> http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/kris.pdf) they write: "Nevertheless, the
> teacher's script is hardly interrupted by student re-keyings, his script
> (or "frame" in Goffman's terms) has ..." (p. 460). Gutierrez and colleagues
> also use other Goffman's concepts such as keying and underlife.
> One connection to Greg's reflection about motives and frames. To me, it
> seems that there are some connections between the notions of personal sense
> and framing. "Sense expresses the relation of motive of activity to
> immediate goal of action" (Leontiev, 1978, p. 171). For a participant of an
> activity, explication of this relation between motive and goal seems to
> amount to asking: "what it is that is going on here?", that is, what is the
> I would also like to ask the list, if you think that involving the notion
> of sensory fabric in an observational study of naturally occuring
> interactions is too far fetched. After all, Leontiev's own studies employed
> exprimental research methods. I am considering dropping Leontiev altogether
> and use work like Goodwin's professional vision instead.
> On Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 6:22 PM, Larry Purss <email@example.com> wrote:
> > Andy,
> > I was hoping you could elaborate on the two terms *modes* and
> > when discussing collaboration within projects [activities]
> > *modes* seem related to *models* *media* *medium* *mediation*.
> > *Actions* when *operationalized* are ALWAYS WITHIN modes of
> > What phenomena are not included within human processes that are beyond
> > activities?
> > Shotter, exploring social life says,
> > "different people in different positions at different moments live in
> > different realities."
> > In other words "reality" we must re-think "reality" as being
> > differentiated, consisting in different regions and moments all with
> > different properties to these realities.
> > Shotter adds,
> > "WE can begin to think of social reality at large as a turbulent flow of
> > continuous social activity, containing within it [reality] two BASIC
> > of activity:
> > 1] a set of relatively stable centers of well ordered, self-reproducing
> > activity sustained by those WITHIN them being accountable to each other
> > their actions ... - but with the forms of justification used being
> > themselves open to contest (Billig, McIntyre)
> > 2] with these diverse regions or moments of institutionalized order being
> > separated from each other by zones of much more disorderly,
> > chaotic activity.
> > It is in these unaccountable, marginal regions - on the edge of chaos,
> > from the orderly centers of social life - that the events of interest to
> > occur"
> > Shotter is suggesting the *models* we specify to help us understand the
> > uncertainty, vagueness, and ambiguity [REAL features of much of the world
> > in which we live] influence the nature of our future lives together.
> > To return to collaboration operating WITHIN *modes* [as archeTYPES]. The
> > types [master/servant - customer/provider - and collaboration per se].
> > *we* through *education* develop *dis-positions* which *turn* away from
> > first two archetypes and *turn* towards collaboration per se? Can we also
> > through education envision a turn towards the *interhuman* as a *model*
> > that is a general archetype for understanding collaboration per se?
> > Is Shotter's composition of two basic KINDS of activity [sedimented and
> > disorderly] helpful in understanding community forming within types or
> > modes of communication [collaboration].
> > I struggle with the ambivalence of *addressing* my audience. This is a
> > forum and I have a tendency to *turn* the conversation. I will close by
> > re-focusing on the dialectic of meaning and *sense*.
> > Sense involves [revolves?] perception AND action mediated THROUGH felt
> > experience. I believe Shotter's conVERSEational "realities* as
> > collaborations per se may contribute to our interhuman understandings as
> > way to turn away from master/slave and customer/provider activity
> > Larry
> > Larry
> > Thanks Andy
> > On Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 7:14 PM, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > > Two things Greg.
> > >
> > > Firstly, most definitely the caddy and the player are involved in the
> > same
> > > project or activity. Self-evidently. Each are also involved in other
> > > activities, and reflecting on these other activities may shed light on
> > how
> > > they come to be collaborating in the shared project of the player's
> > > Like master and servant, people always collaborate in a particular
> > > The archetypes of these modes of collaboration are master-servant,
> > > customer-provider and collaboration per se. It is important to
> > > these different modes of collaboration because otherwise we tend to
> > > *all* collaboration into the same mode, which may cause us to
> > > some relations. The fact that different participants have different
> > social
> > > positions within a project means that they each are bound by different
> > > sides of the same norms. That is, the norms of meaning, belief and
> > > prevailing in the project mandate different meanings, beliefs and
> > > for different participants. The tensions arising from these
> > > relationships is one of the motors of change.
> > >
> > > Secondly, no, projects do not exist *between* persons, persons exist
> > > *between* projects. This is just another effort by you, Greg, to make
> > > unit of analysis the individual person. The relevants units of analysis
> > of
> > > Activity Theory are operation, action and activity. :)
> > >
> > > Andy
> > >
> > > Greg Thompson wrote:
> > >
> > >> ...
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> "Motive" seems a slippery concept to rest too much on. Andy I'm
> > wondering
> > >> how you answer the question you put to Roland, namely whether or not
> > master
> > >> and slave are participating in the same activity/project? Or, what
> > about a
> > >> golfer and caddy? And so on down to, as Phillip and Carol point out -
> > the
> > >> different participants in a discussion on XMCA.
> > >>
> > >> ...
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> Goffman's answer is interesting in that he doesn't rely on the motives
> > >> (motivational relevancies) of the participants, but rather creates a
> > notion
> > >> of the local context as a "frame" that exists somewhere between
> > >> participants. No one person can dictate the frame (even dictators have
> > to
> > >> deal with the possibility of duplicitousness - the word with a
> > side-wards
> > >> glance - hence irony is a powerful weapon of the weak - even if James
> > Scott
> > >> didn't recognize this, Bakhtin clearly did). Frames emerge as
> > participants
> > >> take parts in the unfolding play of some event or happening, and, to a
> > >> certain extent, without regard to alignment of the motives of the
> > >> participants. Every once in a while the motives of all participants
> > create
> > >> a frame may be relatively closely aligned, but it seems much more
> > >> that frames are built out of a plethora of motives.
> > >>
> > >>
> > >
> > >
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602