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[Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities

Dear Greg and Antti,

It seems to me that SI might provide a platform for integrating knowledge from several paradigms. SI is pragmatic and has a history of assimilating knowledge produced in other communities. Some of the leading figures in SSSI emphasize this pragmatism as a constructive way to integrate knowledge from different fields and paradigms. In my humble opinion, in comparison to its initial stages, SI has moved strongly towards the side of the humanist paradigms.

However, in my own practice, I still haven't achieved this. When I go interpretative, I move into an intellectual world that follows its own logic and doesn't connect that readily with Historic Materialism. One major problem is that when I immerse in SI or other humanistic paradigm texts, I intuitively adjust my scientific norms, criteria, and objectives, and have hard time accepting knowledge from the objectivist paradigms. One of the problems is that different paradigms focus on different objects of study, different aspects, and different topics. They use different rationality and ways of thinking and expressing, leading to terminological conundrums and risks of misinterpretation.

I am interested to see how others do that. I use activity theory as a methodology and depend to a large degree on the current accomplishments of our community. I cannot afford to put all my time in advancing activity research, although periodically I feel pressed to engage in such projects in order to support my focal research. If no one has done it, I have to do it, or I should simply stop my core project till better times.

Best wishes,


From: Greg Thompson [mailto:greg.a.thompson@gmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, August 17, 2013 1:36 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Martín John Packer; Lubomir Savov Popov
Subject: Re: [Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities

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:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/S15327973RLSI34-2_4#.Ug7fiJLiiM4 and 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 us!).

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: http://www.sjsu.edu/people/anand.vaidya/courses/c2/s1/The_Return_Myth_Mental_Dreyfus-1.pdf). 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 <ajrajala@gmail.com<mailto:ajrajala@gmail.com>> 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 <lpscholar2@gmail.com<mailto:lpscholar2@gmail.com>> wrote:

> Andy,
> I was hoping you could elaborate on the two terms *modes* and *archeTYPES*
> when discussing collaboration within projects [activities]
> *modes* seem related to *models* *media* *medium* *mediation*.
> *Actions* when *operationalized* are ALWAYS WITHIN modes of collaboration.
> 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 KINDS
> 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 for
> 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, unaccountable,
> chaotic activity.
> It is in these unaccountable, marginal regions - on the edge of chaos, away
> from the orderly centers of social life - that the events of interest to us
> 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 3
> types [master/servant - customer/provider - and collaboration per se]. Can
> *we* through *education* develop *dis-positions* which *turn* away from the
> 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 CHAT
> 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 a
> way to turn away from master/slave and customer/provider activity settings.
> Larry
> Larry
> Thanks Andy
> On Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 7:14 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net<mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> 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 game.
> > Like master and servant, people always collaborate in a particular mode.
> > The archetypes of these modes of collaboration are master-servant,
> > customer-provider and collaboration per se. It is important to recognise
> > these different modes of collaboration because otherwise we tend to force
> > *all* collaboration into the same mode, which may cause us to misconstrue
> > 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 action
> > prevailing in the project mandate different meanings, beliefs and actions
> > for different participants. The tensions arising from these asymmetrical
> > 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 the
> > 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 common
> >> 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