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[Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities

Dear Antti,

Thank you for the ideas and suggestions. At this point, I cannot say anything new about possible directions and outcomes. I will need some time to think over your post. But even then, my answers will probably be somewhat general. I am eager to see explorations in all directions. As I mentioned before, my strategy is not to develop new activity models, but to apply existing ones in my line of research. My biggest problem is that I don't see models that I can apply. The problem might be that there are no such models created up to now, or that I might not be able to find a way to use them. The option to create a new customized model of activity for my research needs is open and I might pursue it depending on my time. One reason for my posts on this topic is to create a community of scholars who have similar interests. In some domains, there are only a few people that work on a particular problem and there is no critical mass for making a breakthrough. 

Best wishes,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Antti Rajala
Sent: Monday, August 19, 2013 10:33 AM
To: Mike Cole; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities

Lubomir, thanks for suggesting symbolic interactionism as a frame of incorporating these ideas. Anna-Maija Puroila discusses the legacies of Goffman in her dissertation (in Finnish) and mentions that there are many competing and contested interpretation's of Goffman's work. Some say that his work was structuralist but more often he is associated with symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, or phenomenological sociology. Where would activity theory fit in among these?

To me Goffman's student's Goodwin's ethno-methdological approach seems partly compatible with CHAT. In his paper, Action and embodiment within situated human interaction (2000), Goodwin writes:

"This emphasis on cognition as a public, social process embedded within an historically shaped material world is quite consistent with both Vygotskian perspectives and recent work in the social and anthropological study of scientific and workplace practice ..., but adds to such perspectives an equally strong focus on the details of language use and conversational organization."

Like Goodwin, I believe that this attention to details of language use and conversational organization, and to embodied interactions, in particular, can enrich CHAT analyses. After all, in many classical CHAT work, we mainly see analyses of spoken interaction. Greg, to me Goodwin's work on professional vision gives an elaborate account on the relationships between meanings and sensory fabric. In particular, in my case of students in a bird-watching field trip the way he analyzes expert-novice interaction is very valuable. I can, for example, see lots of highlighting on the part of the bird expert.

Goodwin's focus on the practices of seeing seems to me very compatible with Leontiev's theorizing of sensory fabric as constituting and being constituted of action. Yet, in Goodwin's work the socio-emotional issues brought in with the Leontiev's personal sense - in line with what Larry has written - seems to be given less attention in Goodwin. I wonder whether Goodwin's approach contradicts Leontiev's approach that emphasizes such internal issues as goals and motives. In my understanding ethnomethdologists do not usually focus on goals and such.

The Gothenburg center lead by Roger Säljö has explored ethnomethodological inspired aspects of Goffman in relation to their version of sociocultural perspective. See e.g the dissertation of Annika Lantz-Andersson:

Greg, Greeno has theorized the ways in which frames "create certain affordances that solicit various types of behavior (whether 'cognitive', 'emotional', or some other emically named type)." To my knowledge Greeno's work here focuses more on cognitive aspects and not that much on emotional aspects. He uses the notion of positioning in association with frames (which he relates to Goffman).  "This refers to ways in which an individual is entitled, expected, or perhaps obligated to participate in interactions of an activity system, such as a classroom or an experimental session involving interaction with a computer program." (see, A Theory Bite on Contextualizing, Framing, and Positioning: A Companion to Son and Goldstone, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07370000903014386)

Greg wrote:
"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!"

I wonder if this interplay between collective frames and individuals can be conceptualized with meaning and sense. Object of an activity is framed in terms of collectively shared meanings. Yet, each individual develops a personal relationship to the object, that is, a personal sense.

By the way, thanks Mike for pointing out this overstatement of stability with respect to meanings. This has bothered me a lot, too. A colleague of mine even asserts that sense is never shared enough to become legitimately called a shared meaning in Vygotsky/Leontiev sense.


On Mon, Aug 19, 2013 at 3:01 AM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> I agree, very clearly statements of the sense/meaning relation, along 
> with the Mandelshtam line, " I forgot the thought I wanted to say, and 
> thought, unembodied, returned to the hall of shadows."
> In the quote here, I think LSV is somewhat overstating the stability 
> of meaning across contexts; yes relative to the microgenetic processes 
> of sense making capturable with modern technologies, but not totally 
> "context independent." Even dictionary meanings change, as LSV was 
> well aware from his interest in the history of words in relation to 
> their appearance in children's vocabularies in ontogeny.
> Keeping the simultaneous relevance of several time scales in mind in 
> these discussions seems really important, as hard as it is to do.
> mike