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[Xmca-l] CHAT Discourse

Following on Andy's discussion of artefact mediation, it seems inherently a problem of CHAT discourse to distinguishing efforts to elaborate Vygotsky's psychology more fully, from efforts to solve the problems Vygotsky was addressing, de novo. In tandem, is ambiguity as to whether CHAT is a psychological or philosophical discourse.

I wonder, in the spirit of psychology, if advancement of CHAT would not be better served by embedding theoretical discussion in analysis of empirical data. The point, here, would not be to make CHAT more directly relevant to domains of application (though that would not be a bad thing). Rather, an empirical obligation might transmute (some) questions of theory into questions of methodology. In that way, CHAT could become differentiated into distinct psychological schools, each constrained by methodological strictures that also support a more homogeneous theoretical environment. At the same time, a wide-open CHAT community could look across these various schools to pursue broader philosophical problematics.


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Monday, September 15, 2014 7:02 AM
To: Huw Lloyd
Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: mediate perception and direct perception

Ah! I see!
As Hegel said: "There is nothing, nothing in heaven, or in nature or in mind or anywhere else which does not equally contain both immediacy and mediation." I have no great problem with anyone saying that anything is mediated by anything else, where it is appropriate. My problem is that the specific insight of Vygotsky, that artefact-mediation of actions provides an especially productive unit of analysis for science is lost if mediation in the broad sense is mixed up in CHAT literature with artefact-mediation to the point that artefact-mediation is lost. Still, I would prefer that if you were to make the point you were referring to you used some expression other than "mediation."

Artefact mediation of actions is a brilliant insight. I can do what I like, but to do anything (other than have dreams or thoughts) I have to use some material object to transmit my actions, so to speak - a tool, a word, a gesture, or whatever - but all these artefacts which I use, without exception, are products of the history and culture into which I was born. I can choose which artefact to use, but culture and history produce them. So every action I take is essentially cultural-historical as well as personal. Also, because artefacts are material objects, their physical form is the same for everyone, it is universal. So communication as much as miscommunication takes place through everyone interpreting the same material objects, artefacts, that I am using in my actions. How can they do that? Because they too mediate their actions with the same set of universal artefacts! So all human action is opened to cultural and historical analysis which is as objective as any branch of natural science. Wonderful, eh?

*Andy Blunden*

Huw Lloyd wrote:
> If you want to study how action changes then you need to study the 
> history and production of the action.  Under such circumstances, 
> assertions that concepts cannot mediate (the production of) actions 
> become more obviously false.  If one has simplified, through 
> "clarity", the action away from its genetic base then it may seem 
> correct to assert that a concept cannot mediate an action.
> The conservation tasks (e.g. conservation of volume) are an elegant 
> way to demonstrate this.
> Best,
> Huw
> On 15 September 2014 04:26, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net 
> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>     he, he, Huw!
>     For me, reduction, simplification and typology are the very
>     problems that need to be remedied by clarification! and I really
>     don't think obfuscation is ever helpful, generally being used to
>     obscure the genesis of phenomena. Distinction is not equal to
>     separation.
>     I really don't know what you are referring to with product and
>     history. Perhaps you could explain?
>     Andy
>     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>     *Andy Blunden*
>     http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>     <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>     Huw Lloyd wrote:
>         I agree about precision, but not with a call for "clarity". 
>         Reduction to clarity is a projection or reification of the
>         need for simplicity.  Simplicity usually entails typologies or
>         other simplistic devices which prevent the conception and
>         perception of genetic relations.  Actually in cases such as
>         these we are interested in (clarifying) the entanglements
>         between artefacts and mind.  I think It would be equally
>         appropriate and meaning-prompting to state that one needs to
>         obfuscate (see darkly) too.
>         I think it is this "need for simplification" which leads me to
>         disagree with the 2nd paragraph.  For example, why separate
>         the act from its production and history? 
>         Of course, if one had the discipline to de-couple clarity from
>         modes of simplicity, then we wouldn't have the problem.
>         Best,
>         Huw
>         On 14 September 2014 07:02, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
>         <mailto:ablunden@mira.net> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net
>         <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>> wrote:
>             My impression, Greg and David Ki, is that in the CHAT
>         tradition
>             specifically, as opposed to the English language in general,
>             mediation refers to *artefact-mediation*. Of course, every
>         action
>             is both mediated and immediate, and in many discursive
>         contexts,
>             "mediation" is a concept which may be evoked quite
>         legitimately,
>             but with no special significant for the use of CHAT. In social
>             theory, for example, mediation of activities by other
>         activities
>             or institutions is as ubiquitous as mediation of actions by
>             artefacts is in the domain of psychology. But if the topic is
>             psychology, I think artefact-mediation is so central, that I
>             prefer to spell it out and use the term
>         "artefact-mediated" rather
>             than the vague term "mediated".
>             I have come across usages like "mediated by such-and-such a
>             concept." Like Alice in Wonderland one can use words to
>         mean what
>             you like, but I find a formulation like this in the context of
>             CHAT problematic, because it is using the idea of
>         "mediation" in
>             the most general sense in a way which obscures the fact that a
>             concept is not immediately present in any act of
>         communication or
>             any other act, and therefore *cannot mediate actions*.
>         Artefacts,
>             such as spoken words, which may be signs for a concept, can of
>             course mediate an act of communication. But the point is
>         that a
>             word is not universally and unproblematically a sign for
>         any one
>             concept. It means different things to different people.
>         Concepts
>             are not artefacts. Artefacts are universal in their
>         materiality,
>             but particular in their meaning. So when we have a concept
>         in mind
>             when we use a word in communication, the communication is
>         mediated
>             by the word not the concept, and it is a mistake not to be
>         aware
>             of that.
>             So I would prefer it if "mediation" were always used in
>         qualified
>             way so that its specific meaning is made clear.
>             Andy
>             PS. And David Ki is completely right in his comment, too.
>         ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>             *Andy Blunden*
>             http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>         <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>             <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>             Greg Thompson wrote:
>                 Does "mediation" only apply to language and culture?
>                 Or does it include nerve fibers? (in which case we
>         would need
>                 to include
>                 reflexes)
>                 And does it include our socio-contextual surround as in
>                 Bateson's man with
>                 the stick? (in which case, we would need to include
>         newborns).
>                 Just wonderin'.
>                 -greg
>                 On Sat, Sep 13, 2014 at 2:48 PM, David H Kirshner
>                 <dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu>
>         <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu>>> wrote:
>                     Thanks for replies.
>                     I'm recalling several years ago Jim Greeno decided
>         to stop
>                     talking about
>                     situated cognition because the pragmatics of
>         adjectival
>                     use implies there
>                     has to be a contrasting non-situated cognition. He now
>                     speaks of
>                     situativity theory. It seems, with the exception of
>                     physical reflexes (and
>                     perhaps pre-conscious infant activity), all human
>         action
>                     is mediated (and
>                     perhaps a lot of non-human action, as well). So, it's
>                     worth noting that
>                     "mediated action" doesn't specify a kind of
>         action, but
>                     rather a
>                     theoretical assumption about all human action; though
>                     there seems to be
>                     some variation in interpretation of what that
>         assumption
>                     entails.
>                     David