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[Xmca-l] Re: Systems views [leontievactivity]

Just thought I'd mention that it sounds like there are strong resonances
between Shotter's ideas here and Goodwin's paper Professional Vision that
Antti recently mentioned.

In that piece, Goodwin looks at the processes of coding, highlighting, and
the articulation of graphic representations. He shows first how these
practices function in archaeology to define particular shadings of dirt as
evidence of posts of a building (rhetorically the paper is brilliant - to
start off with a neutral profession such as archaeology and then move to
the much more emotionally charged issue of the police beating of Rodney
King). Then he moves to the Rodney King case to show how the coding,
highlighting, and representational practices of the police justified the
brutal beating of Rodney King.

Goodwin's key points resonate well with not just Shotter, but with Activity
"The ability to build and interpret a material cognitive artifact, such as
an archaeological map, is embedded within a web of socially articulated

and, "Within such a framework the ability to see relevant entities is not
lodged in the individual mind, but instead within a community of competent

and further:
"As argued by Wittgenstein (1958) a category or rule cannot determine its
own application; seeing what can count as a "change of slope" or
"aggression" in a relevant domain of scrutiny is both a contingent
accomplishment, and a locus for contestation, indeed a central site for
legal argument. Categories and the phenomena to which they are being
applied, mutually elaborate each other (Goodwin
1992; Heritage 1984; Keller and Keller 1993),"

I think Goodwin's account is interesting b.c. it is mostly descriptive of
the phenomena. While pointing in some ways to the injustice of the Rodney
King trial, he doesn't go so far as to say that the work of "professionals"
is entirely a ruse. Rather, it seems like his point is that there are
better and worse ways of doing it. E.g., the archaeologist student is able
to engage with the materials herself while learning, whereas the jurist is
expected to passively sit and listen to the testimony of "experts" (strange
to think that "inquiry" - as in "an inquiry" - and legal proceedings could
be linked - or, at least, this is a strange form of "inquiry" conducted
entirely by "experts").

Wondering where Shotter stands on the the usefulness of science. Is there
value to be had in the scientific field of meaning? Or is it just a ruse?
E.g., is there value in seeing "social structure" and "class" in the world?


On Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 6:47 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

> Christine,
> You are exploring structures and systems and whether the concept of
> *system* develops in a *general* way or does it appear [making or
> finding!?] immanantly within particular practices.
> I will share a perspective from John Shotter who is attempting to make an
> ontological case for *conversational joint activities. He critiques
> *systems* thinking as a form of *scientific* thinking and he links it to a
> particular form of social practices that could exist only within literate
> societies.
> He is not making a case for *literacy* in general but literacy as used
> within scientific communities. Here is a summary of his position, [coming
> from a bias of conversational realities as the background within which
> scientific and *systems* ways of *knowing* develop.
> Shotter's account takes place as a response or answer to Bhaskar's
> *realist* perspective on scientific knowledge. Shotter says Bhaskar [and
> realists in general] neglect the TEXTUAL nature of the productive and
> reproductive process in science. Bhaskar says the most important practice
> supporting a science is its *methodology*: the assumption that proper,
> scientific knowledge is ONLY acquired as a result of systematic thought and
> orderly investigation. Shotter says that this *methodology* only has sense,
> and only MAKES sense, within a context of other activities and practices.
> Central among these other practices is the production of WRITTEN TEXTS. All
> professionally conducted science moves from text to text, usually beginning
> with the reading of already written text and ending in the writing of
> further texts. Within the many forms of linguistic communication written
> text has a special place. Texts can be used by readers [with the
> appropriate prior showing training] to construct a meaning by reference to
> linguistic resources which the reader possesses within themselves. The
> reader [as writer] carefully composes an interwoven sequence of written
> sentences, structured within ITSELF [to a much larger degree than
> conversational compositions] by essentially intralinguistic or syntactical
> relations. Thus to a critical degree scientific text is a relatively
> de-contextualized FORM of communication. Shotter says, to the extent that a
> *scientific* theory is always something written and published and making
> claims that things are not what they ordinarily seem to be, but are IN
> REALITY something else, the theory is not intelligible in the same way as
> terms are intelligible in ordinary conversational language.
> If we want to be taken seriously in our scientific claims we need to be
> INSTRUCTED in HOW [knowing-how] to *see* various social phenomena AS having
> a certain psychological character. Shotter gives examples to be able to
> *see* social phenomena AS  social structure, or AS social classes. Other
> examples is to see social phenomena AS social representations, AS rules.
> Being instructed in HOW to read scientific texts INSTRUCTS us in how TO SEE
> social life AS consisting in structures and systems.
> What Shotter wants to add to this understanding is that science is also
> conducted within a context of argumentation. Shotter says Bhaskar's realist
> account lacks a certain *reflexiveness* and is biased toward propositions
> and statements rather than metaphors.
> Christine, not sure if my *turn* was a *swerve off course* but Shotter
> holds up *systems* as an object and gives us another perspective on this
> object of discussion.
> Larry
> On Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 6:36 AM, Christine Schweighart <
> schweighartc@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Jack,
> > Perhaps  a way of distinguishing significant aspects coherently across
> > various sciences would be helpful.
> > There is research in
> > http://www.journals.elsevier.com/psychoneuroendocrinology/
> >
> > cortisol and memory work
> > http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03064530/36/3
> > cortisol and stress kind of work done in variable separating lab work; *
> > but not reaching to  'values'as a bridge to be able to work in the
> > 'everyday' context in fieldwork.......
> > http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453013002667
> >
> > developmental influence on structural capacities.
> >
> > http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(12)00303-4/abstract
> >
> > Anyone with useful reading suggestions please send an email.
> >
> > Christine
> >

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602