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[Xmca-l] Re: CHAT Discourse

I think Vygotsky spoke optimistically about resolving the crisis in Psychology because he was writing in the wake of the successful Russian Revolution. Alas it was not to be so. But as a Marxist he would know that without the resolution of the crisis of humanity there could be no resolution in the crisis of any of the special sciences. Which is all the more reason to tackle the disciplinary boundaries inhibiting the development of both psychology and social theory.
*Andy Blunden*

mike cole wrote:
​Complicated discussion about CHAT and whether its a science or not.

One thing to keep in mind, perhaps:  Vygotsky said he was seeking  to
resolve the crisis in psychology as he diagnosed it a century ago. In my
view, he did not resolve it. I made the argument at the end of Cultural
Psychology and can post a draft of the chapter here if it needs rehearsing.
I believe, to the extent that it can be solved, it requires one to take
seriously the fusion of theory and practice. Seems like Vygotsky said
something along these same lines, too, about practice being the crucible of

The question of what can be learned from an analysis of projects such as
those present in Andy's collection seems an important one. I am biased. I
would hate to think that i learned nothing from the past 30+ years of
involvement in the 5th Dimension!



On Tue, Sep 16, 2014 at 12:43 PM, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>

I'd note that in addition to Andy's introduction, there was a "spirited"
contribution (or two or three...) that use empirical stuff to contribute to

On Tue, Sep 16, 2014 at 2:06 AM, David H Kirshner <dkirsh@lsu.edu> wrote:


Thanks for the link to the TOC of your edited volume, which perhaps
unintentionally illustrates my point that empirical studies using
CHAT/sociocultural theory generally aren't intended as contributions to
theory, per se; as you noted, the affordances for theorizing were brought
out by you, rather than by the authors as part of their motive for
producing the empirical work.

I've hung out with cognitive psychologists quite a bit, and there's a
clear demarcation between applied studies which utilize cognitive theory
for applicative purposes and pure studies whose sole raison d'être is to
inform theory. Furthermore, it is a fairly rare occurrence for anyone to
attempt to address theory in any other way than through the lens of
empirical studies.

My own experience of this community includes appreciation of the tight
logic of their theorizing, and also of the inventiveness of researchers
generating truly provocative data that they are then forced to contend.
it also includes a sense of frustration with the absence of any critique
or input to theory from outside of the little studies that, one after
another, niggle away at the theoretical infrastructure. Excluded, here,
not only philosophical inputs to theory, but even broader methodological
constraints regarding the character of good theories. (My own grounding
mathematical theorizing includes a deliciously salient sense of the
“elegance” that makes a theory truly admirable and worthy.)

Somehow, it seems noteworthy that CHAT/sociocultural psychology—whatever
its virtues—isn’t organized like other branches of psychology (e.g.,
behavioral, cognitive, developmental) with respect to the role of
data in theory construction. Andy, in your response to Jenna, you
science as an objective practice that “is not dependant on what you and
writing here on xmca in 2014, says it is.” The question all this raises
whether CHAT/sociocultural psychology actually qualifies as a scientific


-----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 7:59 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: CHAT Discourse

David, in the recently published book, "Collaborative Projects. An
Interdisciplinary Study," authors were invited to submit studies with
empirical content (in the sense in which you are using the word) which
illustrated the use of the concept of "project" within CHAT.


As you can see from the Table of Contents, more than a dozen different
practical studies were contributed, and I am satisfied that the
functioned to illuminate the philosophical issues about the nature of "an
activity," and its ue as a unit of analysis, even though they are only
explicitly addressed in the long Introduction.



*Andy Blunden*


David H Kirshner wrote:

Clearly, as in Katherine Neal's response, and in MCA,
theory informs empirical research.

What's less clear is that empirical research informs CHAT/sociocultural

Not quite sure what to make of that.
David -----Original Message----- From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of mike cole Sent: Monday, September 15, 2014 11:15 AM To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: CHAT Discourse Your followup comment is closely related to the second part of your
initiating message, David. So i will respond in line.

Firstly, I think it would be helpful to distinguish between MCA and
The idea behind xmca was to provide a discussion forum for articles
appear in MCA so that instead of authors having to wait 2+ years for
feedback on their ideas (which rarely comes, even then!), we could
the published work and learn from it in a timely manner. By an large,
effort has, in my opinion, failed. Thanks to the recent decision to have
the editors pick out articles for discussion which include the author(s)
the discussion, this situation has been somewhat mitigated. But only
somewhat. xma discussions have all the characteristics of Vygotskian
chaining, as a rule.

Secondly, when I take down a bundle of recent MCA issues and look at
titles, they at least sound like they are about empirical matters ranging
across a wide variety of content areas. Are you saying that these
are not really empirical? Or that they are not really helping us to
better methods to deal with perceived problems of social value? Again,
raises the question of "MCA or xmca".

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

Maybe its just all verbal sound and fury, signifying the usual!
mike On Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 8:50 AM, David H Kirshner <dkirsh@lsu.edu
<mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu>> wrote:

Does CHAT theory really advance with respect to empirical studies?
If so, then why isn't the XMCA discussion a discussion about so-and-so's empirical results and how we should interpret them? Various branches of psychology (e.g., cognitive and developmental) do address concepts, and do conduct empirical research related to
It's true, they rarely enter into full-blooded discussion of what is
a concept. But perhaps that's because they're scientists rather than philosophers. They're operating within a framework that is bounded primarily by empirical and methodological expectations and obligations; theory evolves within those boundaries. It's not clear to me that the Vygotskyan research community ever operated in that fashion, and I'm wondering what would happen if it
-----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 10:23 AM To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: CHAT Discourse Well, Lisa, I think that is a project which requires a lot of what David would call "philosophical" discussion. :) The Psychology of Concepts, as it is know to American psychology, i.e., the "mainstream" do endless laboratory tests and questionnaires and surveys and so far as I can see have still haven't figured out what a concept is. Andy --------------------------------------------------------------------- - -- *Andy Blunden* http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/ Lisa Yamagata-Lynch wrote:
Well I am guilty for being fixated about thinking and talking about
methods and how to better understand how we can make a trustworthy leap from understanding the world to understanding concepts. Again just talking aloud. Lisa Yamagata-Lynch, Associate Professor Educational Psychology and Counseling http://www.lisayamagatalynch.net/ A532
Education Complex
IT Online Program Coordinator University of Tennessee http://itonline.utk.edu/ Knoxville, TN 37996 https://www.facebook.com/utkitonline Phone: 865-974-7712 On Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 11:11 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote: I guess because xmca is a discussion list, Lisa, and we all have our specific research interests. But when we publish, most of us have something to report. I have to plead guilty, I suppose, to spending more of my share
    time arguing about concepts though. It is my special interest.
- --
    *Andy Blunden*
http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/ <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> Lisa Yamagata-Lynch wrote: Why is it that we came to what David stated as: Generally, we CHATters do not "collaborate and argue over facts." We are engaged in making endless theoretical elaborations, distinctions, and qualifications almost completely detached from empirical specifics. Lisa Yamagata-Lynch, Associate Professor
        Psychology and Counseling
        Bailey Education Complex
IT Online Program Coordinator University of Tennessee http://itonline.utk.edu/ Knoxville, TN 37996 https://www.facebook.com/utkitonline
        865-974-7712 <tel:865-974-7712>
On Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 10:56 AM, David H Kirshner <dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu<mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu
20%3cmailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu>> <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu

        <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu>>> wrote:
Andy, I don't think it's at all clear that CHAT is a scientific project, though it might initially have been conceived as such. Generally, we CHATters do not "collaborate and argue over facts." We are engaged in making endless theoretical
            distinctions, and qualifications almost completely
detached from empirical specifics. And as your note has revealed, even at the level of theory, we're not all playing the same game. I agree with you that simply creating an obligation that claims be framed empirically does not imply we will "agree on the significance of that claim." But perhaps in an empirical setting theoretical issues surface as methodological issues. In this case, there is a possibility that disagreements lead to separation of research enterprises, with (greater) theoretical
        as a
consequence. David -----Original Message----- From: Andy Blunden [mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>] Sent: Monday, September 15, 2014 9:24 AM To: David H Kirshner Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity Subject: Re: CHAT Discourse David, CHAT is a scientific project. Insofar as it is science it
            strive to produce empirically verifiable claims which are
meaningful irrespective of the conceptual frame into
are accepted. But as a project it is characterised by a system of concepts. People can agree on this or that hard

            finding, but still not agree on the significance of that
claim. We CHATters talk to one another, collaborate and argue over facts; all of this is possible only to the extent that we share concepts. "Facts" are the lingua franca of science. As worthy a
        as it
is to lay out some agreed facts, I think it is ill-conceived to think that this is a means of consolidating a current of research like CHAT. You can call it philosophical or
        I don't
think that makes any difference. Andy
- --
            *Andy Blunden*
http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/ <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> David H Kirshner wrote: > Following on Andy's discussion of artefact mediation,
inherently a problem of CHAT discourse to distinguishing efforts to elaborate Vygotsky's psychology more fully, from efforts
            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
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
transmute (some) questions of theory into questions of methodology. In that way, CHAT could become
distinct psychological schools, each constrained by methodological strictures that also support a more homogeneous
            environment. At the same time, a wide-open CHAT community
could look across these various schools to pursue broader philosophical problematics. > > David > > -----Original Message----- > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>> > [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> <mailto: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

            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
            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
Still, I would prefer that if you were to make the point you were referring to you used some expression other than

> Artefact mediation of actions is a brilliant insight. I can do what I like, but to do anything (other than have dreams
            thoughts) I have to use some material object to transmit
            actions, so to speak - a tool, a word, a gesture, or
whatever - but all these artefacts which I use, without exception,
            products of the history and culture into which I was
        I can
choose which artefact to use, but culture and history

            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

            everyone interpreting the same material objects,
artefacts, that I am using in my actions. How can they do that? Because they
            mediate their actions with the same set of universal
artefacts! So all human action is opened to cultural and historical
            which is as objective as any branch of natural science.
Wonderful, eh? > > Andy >
            > --
> *Andy Blunden* > http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/ <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> > > > 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
        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

>> 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<mailto:

            <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net

            >> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net

        <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net<mailto:
ablunden@mira.net%20%3cmailto:ablunden@mira.net>>>>> wrote:

>> he, he, Huw! >> For me, reduction, simplification and typology are the very >> problems that need to be remedied by
        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/> <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> >> <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
            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
            needs to
>> obfuscate (see darkly) too. >> >> I think it is this "need for simplification"

            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

            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:

        <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net<mailto:

            >>         <mailto:ablunden@mira.net
<mailto:ablunden@mira.net> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net

        <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net<mailto:

            >>         <mailto: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*.
            course, every
>> action >> is both mediated and immediate, and in
>> contexts, >> "mediation" is a concept which may be evoked quite >> legitimately, >> but with no special significant for the

            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
            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
            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.
            point is
>> that a >> word is not universally and

            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
        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
>> Andy >> PS. And David Ki is completely right in
            comment, too.
>> >>
- --
            >>             *Andy Blunden*
>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/ <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> >> <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> >> <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/> >> >> >> >> Greg Thompson wrote: >> >> Does "mediation" only apply to
>> >> Or does it include nerve fibers? (in which case we >> would need >> to include >> reflexes) >> >> And does it include our
            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:

        <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu<mailto:

            <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu<mailto:

        <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu<mailto:

            >>         <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu

        <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu<mailto:

            <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu<mailto:

        <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu <mailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu<mailto:
dkirsh@lsu.edu%20%3cmailto:dkirsh@lsu.edu>>>>>> wrote:

>> >> Thanks for replies. >> I'm recalling several years ago
decided >> to stop >> talking about >> situated cognition because the pragmatics of >> adjectival >> use implies there >> has to be a contrasting
            cognition. He now
>> speaks of >> situativity theory. It seems, with

            exception of
>> physical reflexes (and >> perhaps pre-conscious infant activity), all human >> action >> is mediated (and >> perhaps a lot of non-human action,

            well). So, it's
>> worth noting that >> "mediated action" doesn't specify
        kind of
>> action, but >> rather a >> theoretical assumption about all

            action; though
>> there seems to be >> some variation in interpretation
        what that
>> assumption >> entails. >> David >> >> >> >> >> >> >> >> > >

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