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[Xmca-l] Re: Intrinsic motivation?

Greg and Andy,

Thank you for your comments.

Greg, I absolutely agree with you about the difficulties of overcoming our
western language and thoughts, so influenced by the Cartesian dualism.
Andy, I hope to be able to show a bit how I connect activities in what

About my attempts to overcome a dualistic language: I tend to prefer to
talk about a) single development (as suggest by Cole and Wertsh) instead of
individual and activity (or context or project) development; b) dimensions
of a phenomenon instead of levels of a phenomenon (micro-meso-macro); c)
motives instead of motivation.

However it happens that I need to swing between ‘my’ new language and the
‘standard’ one, because I am living in a still Cartesian world and I need
to be understood by people (and even myself!) who are (am) made of this
Cartesian world.

My dissertation research has been on older workers (OW) and learning in the
industrial sector. I wanted to highlight the subjective dimension in the
case of OW’ workplace learning. (I use this locution instead of “the
subjectivity of the OW *in* workplace learning”, that is, a noun of a
*thing* *in* a context).

As I said in my previous email, I have used the Leontiev’s
conceptualisation of subjectivity which leads to use the concept of motives
instead of the one of motivation. The concept of motives is very useful
because it is behind activity and it is the same concept that we can use to
analyse the subjective dimension of an activity.

I have analyzed two industrial firms and their objects of activity – the
latter is the Leontiev’s concept of object-oriented activity.

I have elaborated the concept of ‘strategy of production’ and argued that
the strategy of production is the object of an industrial activity.

I have reviewed the industrial sociological literature to list the most
important strategies of production. The most famous is maybe the mass
production, that strategy of production which aims at producing a large
quantity of goods by organizing the production through the assembly line.

One of the two firms on which I have carried out one of my embedded case
studies is driven by this model of strategy of production. I call this firm

I am now trying to provide a taste of the concrete analysis that I have
done in my research work:

Ms D is an older worker and works at the assembly line in the enterprise E1
oriented to the strategy of production of mass production (that is, the
object of the activity of E1). In her interview she talks about her
professional and family life. She talks with passion about the importance
of quality in assembling parts in her workplace. She tells that she
“acquired” (Kantian and computational language about knowledge and the
possibility of “acquiring” knowledge) the interest in the quality through
the many training courses she had to attend at the beginning of her working
life in the 1960s. But immediately after this utterance, she seems to
correct herself and says that she have been having this interest for
quality “in herself”.

She seems to swing between two ways of looking at this: something *external*
that she acquired/ something which has been *inside* her from the
beginning. These two ways of looking at the issue corresponds to the
behavioural and cognitivist approaches. This is interesting because shows
how she is using the conceptual tools provided by the dominant collective

If I use my theoretical framework to interpret Ms D’s passion for quality
of the production, I would say that it comes from the internalization of
the motive of quality in the 1960s, when the firm was more oriented to the
quality of production. It is also possible that her interest-motive for
quality comes from her activity at home. She looks as a very well-groomed
woman. Everything seems to say that she likes ‘quality’.

Today the global completion is hurting the firm E1. Its strategy of
production is dominated by the quantity value and less by the quality
value. Ms D was struggling with this contradiction (she has now retired):
she wanted to keep caring with quality, but the firm to which she belonged
have moved toward a different strategy of production. Her externalization
of the motive of quality entered in tension with the new object of the
activity (or project) of E1.

Where have she learned to be how she is showing to be? We can see that Ms D
has been participating in many different activities. Where is that Ms D
begins as human being and where is that the firm E1 begins? I can see that
part of Ms D is part of the history of this firm E1. The firm also exists
because a part of this is made of Ms D and her passion for quality.

In short, we could say that the quality as a motive governs both: the life
of Ms D and the firm E1 (more in the past, less now).

In conclusion – to answer to the Greg’s questions - the solution I have
developed so far to adapt my language to a non-dualistic one is the one of

a) an interdisciplinary approach to increase the range of interpretative
conceptual tools;

b) a design research based on multiple embedded case studies and narratives
to collect data about the various dimensions of the phenomenon of older
workers and learning and

c) the use of concept as motive which is common to the subjective dimension
and the collective and material dimension of activity.

Hope this post can help Greg.

(my name is Maria-Cristina, a double name which is unusual in the
Anglo-Saxon culture. Between Maria and Cristina, I definitely prefer to be
called Cristina :-) )

2014-08-05 14:23 GMT+02:00 White, Phillip <Phillip.White@ucdenver.edu>:

> Michael, for sure i think that we can use other words than motivation.
> the way motivation is used is very much in the paradigm of stimulus -
> response.  or, direct cause and effect.  as an explanatory principle, the
> theories of motivation treat people as pool balls - this is Bateson's idea
> - that people are predictable and will behave in particular ways due to
> particular motivations.
> and, it seems to me that the only evidence we have for motivation is after
> the fact - motivation as positive or negative is only ascribed after the
> activity, as a way of explaining someone's behavior.
> my own experience is that attempting to define and provide evidence for
> the existence of motivation is about as useful as defining and providing
> evidence for a holy trinity.  in other words, some explanations for human
> behavior often lead us into explanations of a supernatural world.
> phillip
> Phillip White, PhD
> Urban Community Teacher Education Program
> Site Coordinator
> Montview Elementary, Aurora, CO
> phillip.white@ucdenver.edu
> or
> pawhite@aps.k12.co.us
> ________________________________________
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu]
> On Behalf Of Glassman, Michael [glassman.13@osu.edu]
> Sent: Monday, August 04, 2014 8:03 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Intrinsic motivation?
> Hi Phillip,
> So can we reverse engineer the idea of motivation (I actually don't know
> what that means but I like the way it sounds and I'm hoping it impresses
> people).  But can we take the word motivation and replace it with interest?
>  And can we take the concept of intrinsic out of the individual and put it
> in the activity itself?  So we do an activity for one of two reasons - we
> do it because we are interested in the activity itself, or we do the
> activity because we are interested in the external rewards we might get
> from doing the activity.  One form of interest is not necessarily superior
> to the other in getting individuals to accomplish a task - but, as they
> say, sooner or later the candy man is going to get up and leave, and then
> why would you keep doing the task it there is not outside reward?  It
> really does double back to the mathematics discussion.  Do we do the math
> work because we just have to know how it turns out or do we do the math
> work because we like the rewards we get for doing a good job.  The former
> and we're always playing with math, the latter and we go into the financial
> sector.
> Michael
> ________________________________________
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu]
> on behalf of White, Phillip [Phillip.White@ucdenver.edu]
> Sent: Monday, August 04, 2014 9:18 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Intrinsic motivation?
> i enjoyed reading your posting, Andrew, and would like to add to it
> (realizing that this may not be a path you wish to venture on)  -  in my
> own experience as an elementary school teacher, as well as a university
> teacher, i have lost any faith in the notion of "motivation", intrinsic or
> extrinsic.  regardless of the age of the student, when i notice a student
> not participating, i consider the lack of participation as a lack of
> engagement.  that way, i don't have to see myself as having to "motivate" a
> student, but rather to provide multiple alternative activities which may
> interest a student's engagement.
> Bateson, as far as i know, never addresses the notion of motivation.
> Marie Clay, who worked with students who failed to engage in reading,
> worked out a wealth of activities in which the student could both engage
> and internalize self-monitoring behaviors that strengthened the multiple
> activities of fluent readers.
> Holland, et al, in Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds gives little
> credence to motivation, seeing motivation as "formed" through social
> interactions.
> Michael Cole in Cultural Psychology: A once and future discipline, doesn't
> even directly address motivation.
> for me as a teacher, the conceptual framework of motivation is too
> enveloped in Skinnerian behaviorism, and is an epistemological failure as a
> explanatory principle of human behavior.
> my two bits.
> phillip
> Phillip White, PhD
> Urban Community Teacher Education Program
> Site Coordinator
> Montview Elementary, Aurora, CO
> phillip.white@ucdenver.edu
> or
> pawhite@aps.k12.co.us
> ________________________________________
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu]
> On Behalf Of Andrew Coppens [acoppens@ucsc.edu]
> Sent: Monday, August 04, 2014 3:46 PM
> To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Intrinsic motivation?
> Hi everyone -
> Thanks in advance for bearing with a long post from a usual listener here.
> I'm also working on an alternative to the deeply entrenched
> intrinsic/extrinsic dichotomy. I'm trying to explain a pervasive cultural
> pattern among Indigenous American children: the motivation to contribute
> autonomously (i.e., under their own initiative) and with responsibility to
> productive family and community endeavors, as integrated participants and
> meaningful collaborators in cultural activities. What are the motivational
> affordances of children having opportunities to "take part" in mature
> endeavors? What is the draw of "bigger than me" activities?
> First, I've found it instructive to consider parallels in historical timing
> between the emergence of a motivational science and the segregation of
> children from productive work in the middle-class West, both around the
> turn of the 20th century. Kurt Danziger has written on this in *Naming the
> Mind. *I believe this cultural pattern (the segregation of children and
> workers from productive activities and their motives) has become somewhat
> of an unquestioned epistemological principle in canonical motivational
> theory, and certainly in the intrinsic/extrinsic dichotomy.
> >From a CHAT perspective, would the idea of an "extrinsic reward" even hold
> water? Mainstream motivational research gives enough evidence to defend the
> idea that when "extrinsic rewards" undermine intrinsic motivation, what
> might be happening is a transformation of the student's/child's activity
> and the material reward is the pivot. That new activity (e.g., getting a
> grade) is not nearly as compelling as mastering material to do something
> productive and interesting. But "getting a grade" is inherent/intrinsic,
> not extrinsic, to the activity of IPBSchooling. This motivational
> transformation can happen in the reverse direction too (see WM Roth and RM
> Larson), through a move from periphery to center a la Lave & Wenger.
> So, not "extrinsic" but also not "intrinsic" in the conventional sense.
> When self-in-activity is the unit of analysis for questions about
> motivation, the intrinsic-as-internal metaphor seems very inadequate.
> "Intrinsic" comes to encompass the entire activity, and the self in
> relation to it. This dialogic relation between self and object-motive is, I
> think, what's intended by mutual constitution of the subject/object-motive
> in Leont'ev and others' formulations. This is where I've started to make
> headway in thinking about motivation when a child contributes
> collaboratively and with initiative toward a shared motive.
> There is definitely work on this topic. Ruth Paradise (2005) has a very
> nice paper in Spanish also using the term "inherent" motivation, and
> Barbara Rogoff has alluded to this idea in several places in the mid-1990s.
> Dan Hickey and others have written wonderfully about sociocultural
> perspectives on achievement motivation theory, in ways that would coincide
> with thoughts on this thread so far. Dorothy Lee (1961) calls this
> "autonomous motivation". There are many others, including key insights from
> Carol Dweck and Mark Lepper.
> Thanks for listening and hopefully correcting,
> Andrew
> ---
> Andrew D. Coppens
> www.andrewcoppens.com


Maria Cristina Migliore, Ph.D.

Senior Researcher

IRES Istituto Ricerche Economico Sociali del Piemonte

Via Nizza, 18

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