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[Xmca-l] Re: how to broaden/enliven the xmca discussion

This morning I had the great pleasure of waking up in my own bed and
listening to Yo-yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Itzhak Perlman playing this:


It's the D Major Cello sonata number two by Mendelssohn, played, as
Yo-yo Ma tells us, on the Davydov (no, that THAT Davydov) Stradivarius
that was probably used to perform the sonata for the very first time
in front of Mendelssohn himself. Now, throughout this concert, Ma has
been something of a stickler for "the original", and Perelman has been
pulling politely but pointedly towards a more personal interpretation.

So at around 6:45 on the clip, Perelman tells Ma that if Mendelssohn
himself had heard the sonata played on that very cello, then he,
Perelman, was sitting in the very seat that Mendelssohn had occupied,
and that therefore his freer interpretation was really closer to
Mendelssohn than any attempt to recreate the sonata with period
instruments. Mercifully, at this point, Ax interupts them and starts
to play.

Back in Sydney, Seth Chaiklin and I found ourselves in a somewhat
similar argument, with Seth in Perelman's chair, and me clinging
rather obstinately to a paleo-Vygotskyan interpretation which actually
rejects "activity" as a unit of analysis for anything but behavior,
and most certainly as a unit of psychological analysis. Seth's
argument was pragmatist: for certain practical applications, we need
new interpretations, including revisionist ones. Mine was an argument
in favor of species diversity: when the revisionist account supplants
the original to such a degree that Vygotsky's original argument is no
longer accessible to people, we need to go back to original texts (and
this is why it is so important to make the original texts at least
recoverable--once they are gone, it is really a whole species of
thinking that has become extinct).

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

PS: Andy, what shocked me about Bonnie Nardi's plenum in Sydney was
not her use of "society" or "object": actually, I think I would have
liked it better if she had used those terms a little more imprecisely,
in their folk meanings. In fact, a little more IMPRECISION might have
made it even clearer to us the sheer horror of what she was

For those on the list who missed it, the plenary focused on a world
without jobs--that is, a world where five-day forty-hour jobs are
replaced by "micro-work". Nardi admitted that this was a rather
dystopian state of affairs--but she also showed us what she called the
"bright side": more leisure, less greenhouse gases, and also human
identities less narrowly tied to work. As one person in the conference
pointed out, and Nardi confirmed, it would also mean more time for the
spiritual side of life.

What was not pointed out was the effect of all this on the "object" of
"society", using both terms in their folk senses. The working class is
being ground down into the economic position of short term sex workers
and atomized into the social position of housewives. Inequality is now
at levels not seen since 1820. Even a cursory study of history tells
us that the result of this is not going to be individual spirituality
but rather more violence. The only "bright side" I can see is if that
force is organized, social, and directed against social equality
rather than against fellow members of the working class.


On 5 October 2014 13:38, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
> I found Kaptelinin's article in MCA invaluable, Mike. Bonnie Nardi I had the
> great pleasure of meeting for the first time at ISCAR, and if she has
> written something on "object" that is very good news.
> I don't think the problem is intractable, though I don't think one good book
> or one good article is enough. But for example, for a long while I have been
> jumping up and down about how people use the word "perezhivanie" without an
> article (the, a, an some, etc) implying it is some kind of "substance"
> whereas in Russian it is a count noun. While there remains outstanding
> differences about what perezhivanie means, I notice that almost all bar one
> now use it with an article. So, however that happened that is a step
> forward, and people are aware of the differences in interpretation and they
> are being discussed. I think if we talk about "object" for a while, maybe
> this can be straightened out. I know the task of conceptual consistency in
> our research community seems to be a hopeless task, but I am optimistic.
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> mike cole wrote:
>> Those certainly seem like lively topics, Andy.
>> I had in mind specifically topics that are on peoples' minds that go U
>> discussed. I hope that the time spent at ISCAR produces a shower of
>> interesting ideas. Isn't that the object of such gatherings?  (Whatever
>> object means!).  :-). The Nardi and Kaptelinin chapter on basics of AT is
>> one good source, but it seems the problem is intractable!
>> Mike
>> On Saturday, October 4, 2014, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
>> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>     I don't know, but it's hardly surprising if things were a little
>>     slow this last week as a lot of xmca-ers are also iscar-ers and we
>>     were all chatting like crazy in Sydney at the ISCAR Congress.
>>     Everyone (and I mean everyone, including every passenger on a
>>     Sydney suburban train as well) has their iPhones and tablets etc.,
>>     so they could read/write on xmca, but I guess they were
>>     oversupplied with correspondents and protagonists.
>>     My impressions of CHAT research:
>>     On the positive side: very diverse, and at its best, sharp and
>>     critical in relation to the dominant political forces, and still
>>     way out in front in understanding the several developmental
>>     processes which all contribute to our actions (phylogenesis,
>>     historical genesis, mesogenesis, ontogenesis, microgenesis), and
>>     not focussing on just one. And I have to say it is a great
>>     community of research, relatively lacking in the competitiveness
>>     and jealousy which infects most research communities.
>>     On the negative side:
>>        * Most CHAT people still have a concept of "society" as some
>>          homogeneous, abstract entity which introduces problems into the
>>          social situation on which they try to focus, i.e., people lack a
>>          viable social theory or the ability to use theory they have to
>>          analyse the wider social situation in a differentiated way.
>>        * The idea of "unit of analysis" is almost lost to us. Only a small
>>          minority know what it means and use the idea in their research.
>>        * The concept of "object" is at the centre of a lot of confusion;
>>          few researchers using the concept are clear on what the concept
>>          is. This is related to an unwillingness to confront and
>>     attempt to
>>          resolve the methodological differences (I refer to systematic
>>          difference, rather than accidental misunderstandings) within the
>>          CHAT community; perhaps it's fear of losing the relatively civil
>>          relations between researchers - people prefer to let differences
>>          just fester without openly discussing them. The old Soviet
>>          approach is gone, but perhaps we have gone too far the other
>>     way. :)
>>     Andy
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>     *Andy Blunden*
>>     http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>     <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>     mike cole wrote:
>>         Hi-- I assume you grabbed it from my erroneous response to
>>         someone who
>>         wrote backto xmca instead of me.
>>         Had dinner with tim ingold yesterday evening. Such an
>>         interesting and
>>         unassuming guy.
>>         Any ideas about how to broaden/enliven the xmca discussion??
>>         mike
>> --
>> It is the dilemma of psychology to deal with a natural science with an
>> object that creates history. Ernst Boesch.