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[Xmca-l] Re: CHAT Discourse



Agreed, Henry! This discussion is certainly a tool for expanding my thinking, and I have enjoyed the different examples.

After looking around at several different theories, I find Vygotsky's work to be immensely useful in empirical work. For my research, the usefulness of Vygotsky lies in, as Wertsch termed it, "the primacy of mediated action," which puts my work more in the sociocultural vein than the CHAT vein. People are acting all the time, so I study their mediated actions to better understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what meaning they derive from it. I recently conducted a small study about how a group of middle grades teacher candidates learned to teach in a university-based teacher education program and another small study about how a group of middle grades language arts teacher thought about their learning from their teacher ed program and whether it helped them as they entered their first teaching job. 

Currently, I'm working on my dissertation study in which I'm following a group of middle grades language arts teacher candidates to explore how they learn to teach reading during their final year in a teacher ed program. I come to this work with the theory that (to paraphrase Andy's post from this morning) everything these teacher candidates do in their field placements is mediated culturally and historically through the artefacts they choose to use as they are teaching and learning. 

As to Mike's comment about the sound and the fury, I see that as the major problem facing ed research. What does all this research mean, and what good does it do? I don't have an answer to the problem per se, but I find this forum is a step in the right direction--that is, toward amassing a large body of work that advances the importance of culture as the defining factor in all that humans do in the world. I think if more people were drinking that Koolaid, it would be a good thing!





On Sep 15, 2014, at 3:33 PM, "Henry G. Shonerd III" <hshonerd@gmail.com> wrote:

All,
I am loving this dialog, thinking it is, in its "materiality", a tool for both communication and thinking. I humbly observe that, for me, Langacker provides a psycholinguistic analysis of the grammar of language that helps our understanding of both conceptualization and discourse in general, and this dialog in particular. Grammar is a reification of discourse processes, narrative and dialog being prototypical, AND of categorization. Grammar is constantly in a process of disintegration from below and the entrenchment of new (or recycled) language structures from the top. Typical of this is relaxed pronunciation that, over time, changes the phonological structure of language, but the loss of analyzability affects semantic structure inexorably as well. Concepts that used to be psychologically and socially clear, analyzable, over time, lose their focus and specificity, unless they are constantly a focus of dialog (internal and external). Language use is always both conventional and creative. The conventional is well represented by Andy's constant reminders about what "concept", "artifact" and "mediation" are taken to mean by experts (Vygotsky, Hegel,…). Mike has done his part both by explaining and giving examples (things to read). Let me make clear, that "conventional" is not a dirty word, without it we couldn't communicate! The creative (dynamic, chaotic) is well represented as well as CHAT interlocutors negotiate the blending of the "old" (Vygotsky, Hegel) and the inclusion of new perspectives (Shott, Gibson) to the stage. A project is not only a work in progress, but its primary tool, dialog, is working against the clock to keep both coherence and analyzability. This happens in complex dialog (including with oneself) all the time, where people take the time to be clear, but THAT charge is in tension with the need to "get it out", to talk at the speed of thought. Language use, prototypically dialog, whether with oneself or others, is the crucible not only of synagmatic structure (syntax being prototypical) but of paradigmatic structure, the basis for categorization. Where Langacker and other cognitive linguists part ways with generative linguistics (Chomsky, Postal, etc.) is in including imagery, metaphor, narrative and prototype in construing categorization, not just attribute checklists, enriching the "data base". I think this allows for the synergy of conceptual and pre-conceptual modes of thinking. Reading Andy's "Is Science a Humanity" and "Narratives and Metaphors" was a breakthrough for me on this score.  Regarding the XMCA project and the XMA project: temporally the XMCA email chat is at the synchronous side of things (face-to-face dialog being prototypically temporally immediate, not to say unmediated), whereas the XMA publications are at the asynchronous side. Speech and writing, but note how technologically (artefactually) complex our understanding of "media" is compared to when Vygotsky was working and writing!  In none of the areas, as I understand it, can we say, definitively what Vygotsky thought. But taken together, and thinking of "the project" (with so many projects nested therein) as society-wide, not just in schools, it (the Kool Aid)  drives me on. 
Henry
P.S. Not all of this is Langacker. I have taken also from Dan Slobin on the charges of language, from John Lyons on syntagmatic and paradigmatic thinking, from Vera on creativity, complementarity and cognitive pluralism and am darned sure William James and Chafe are there. 



> On Sep 15, 2014, at 12:49 PM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Helena,
> 
> It seems to me that an important factor in this kind of participation
> research is that the workers at the coal-face (who are closer to the
> "truth" of the situation) recognise the appropriateness of your proffered
> forms of organisation, which has an objective status as a socialised
> variant of Polanyi's personal knowledge, i.e. as a necessary methodological
> component in the fullness of activity.  Presumably what you're then looking
> for is an alignment between your proffered explanation (a tension between
> two ongoing concerns) and the workers recognition of this as a good fit?
> 
> Huw
> 
> 
> 
>> On 15 September 2014 19:04, Helena Worthen <helenaworthen@gmail.com> wrote:
>> 
>> In writing my response to Mike's invitation to post brief summaries etc, I
>> realized something that may explain why there is a question about the
>> usefulness of CHAT in doing empirical work (I'm not saying just research,
>> but work - intentionally).  That is that in order to engage with
>> non-academics using CHAT, you have to be able to explain to them why you're
>> doing what you're doing. You can't make the fine distinctions that typify
>> conversations on XMCA. This may sound like simplification with resulting
>> loss of meaning, but I don't think that actually is what happens. Instead,
>> the practice into which you pull people brings out the meaning.  But  while
>> that's going on, you have to be able to explain what's going on in plain
>> English (or whatever language you're working in).
>> 
>> I'm not talking about students. if you're teaching CHAT to students, of
>> course you can use the terminology that has become the standard for CHAT.
>> That's part of what you're teaching. They're expected to be able to use it
>> themselves and join the discussion (cocktail party?).  I'm talking about
>> adults with whom one is working on a project., who didn't sign up for
>> having to learn a lot of strange-sounding vocabulary. Getting them on board
>> with the project requires letting them in on the theoretical framework that
>> you are operating with, right? So they don't feel blindsided, and so they
>> can have some control over what's happening. And in order to do that,
>> you've got to minimize the terms of art that require too much background.
>> 
>> Helena Worthen
>> hworthen@illinois.edu
>> 
>>> On Sep 15, 2014, at 9:15 AM, mike cole wrote:
>>> 
>>> 
>>> Lastly, perhaps it would be helpful if those of us who believe that
>>> empirical work guided by CHAT ideas of some value has been produced in,
>>> say, the past two decades, would post brief summiaries of that work with
>>> references.
>>> Maybe its just all verbal sound and fury, signifying the usual!
>>> mike