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



Mike, what I got out of Seth's intervention was just a plea for people to stop claiming to have the "real Vygotsky" and I thoroughly agreed with him. And so far as I know Marx uses the German word for Activity, viz., Taetigkeit, in "Theses on Feuerbach" - that word which pre-dates "behaviour" and "consciousness" by centuries, but which is sometimes referred to nowadays as a unity of these two abstractions, and it was only later interpreters that introduced the term "praxis", which being Greek sounds a lot cleverer. Action and Activity, in my view and etymologically, are both thinking and behaving.
Andy
------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Andy Blunden*
http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/


mike cole wrote:
Thanks, David. I think i understand better what you mean by "LSV rejects
"activity" as a unit of analysis for anything but behavior,and most
certainly as a unit of psychological analysis. Somehow I was expecting text
from LSV where he says "activity is not a unit of analysis" because of all
the places in his text where he uses the term activity as a sort of "lay
term".

​...​
 Holbrook Mahn.
Holbrook began by saying that:

a) We do not "borrow" concepts made for one discipline and "apply"
them to another. Not even dialectical materialism can be "applied" to
psychology (or even sociology or economics--Marx didn't do applied
philosophy!). Holbrook then produced a number of quotations from The
Historical Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology to show that Vygotsky
knew this, and countered with other quotations from Problems of the
Development of the Mind to show that Leontiev did not know this.

​I know places where LSV is clear on this score, in Historical meaning,
for example, but not the evidence of Leontiev's errors.
​


b) The term "praxis" has been thus borrowed. It doesn't refer to
practical activity: it refers to a unity of thinking and practice.


​Borrowed from Marx by ..??? by Leontiev? There is any form of practical
activity without human thinking? ​


c) The term "social situation of development" has been thus borrowed;
it does not refer to a "context" but to the child's relationship to
the environment.


By whom? I am always in a puzzle about the use of this term. Isn't
perezhivanie the term that LSV uses to talk about relation of child to
environment? At least, there seems to be a lot of chatter about issue.​


d) The term "unit of analysis" does not refer to a God particle that
is indifferent to the problem of analysis. ygotsky did not imagine a
"unit of analysis" that fit any and all problems in psychology. Each
unit of analysis is specific to a particular problem of unity (e.g.
the problem of the unity of the child and his or her environment in
Problem of the Environment and the problem of the unity of verbal
thinking in Thinking and Speech).

​Amen to that. ​


e) The term "verbal thinking" is a mistranslation: Vygotsky is talking
about thinking by language, or thinking through word meanings, and not
some kind of verbalizable inner speech (which does exist, but which is
a distinct layer from thinking).

​There is a lot of confusion around this issue and would probably need
somewhat separate discussion. I interpret in the former way. The role of
meaning in inner speech, and the usefulness or not of the sense/meaning
distinction has me confused. Dima Leontiev has put the distinction behind
him and now refers to "cultural meaning" (paleo meaning ​

​) and
"personal meaning (paleo sense)." I am paleo in this regard.​

Most of this has been said before, not least by Vygotsky himself. I
know that Holbrook has been saying it at least since 2007 when I first
heard him at the American Association for Applied Linguistics in Costa
Mesa, and he develops it at some length in:


https://www.academia.edu/1803017/Vygotskys_Analysis_of_Childrens_Meaning-Making_Processes

Mahn, H. (2012). Vygotsky's Analysis of Children's Meaning-Making
Processes, International Journal of Educational Psychology1(2):100-126

It's been said by others too: Mike Cole actually makes many of the
same points in discussing how the Kharkov school deviated from the
work of Vygotsk,


​I did not know enough to make many of these points in 1978! They certainly
distanced themselves from LSV and PI Zinchenko went after the
natural-cultural memory distinction,​


​​


and J.V. Wertsch is quite explicit in his revisionism
when he presents "mediated activity" as a unit of analysis in
opposition to "word meaning".


​mediated ACTION and often as not, mediated action in context.​

But of course since a unit of analysis
must preserve in some shape or form the essential properties of the
whole, the use of "mediated activity"
​(action) ​
cannot be a unit of analysis for
the mind if we wish to retain the idea that the mind has a semantic
structure (that is, if the "whole" is structured something like a text
or a discourse rather than like driving a car, shooting a gun, or
hunting animals).


​When we get to semantic structure of consciousness, we know there was a
break between LSV and his buddies. It seems that it is in arriving at this
formulation that the charges of idealism and sign-o-centrism kick in.​

​My difficulty is in making arguments about consciousness- -in-general,
perhaps a relic of my behaviorist past. Luria appears to have come around
on this issue. I have had a difficult time understanding the changes in
Leontiev's thought over the period of the 30's and 40's. ​

Now, in the discussion of Holbrook's presentation, this wild-haired
guy who looked a little like Itzhak Perlman rose to argue that
Leontiev's interpretation was really one fair interpretation, and that
it really was addressed towards a specific problem, which is how to
prevent dualism from arising (that is, how to explain how word meaning
could arise historically).​Through joint mediated activity?​




He also said that Holbrook was juxtaposing
quotations out of context: the quotes that showed Vygotsky arguing
against a "Marxist psychology" were directed against a very specific
group of vulgar Marxists (e.g. Zalkind) and that is why Vygotsky uses
scare quotes around "Marxist".


​Not so?​


I then muddied the waters, first by addressing the wild-haired guy
instead of Holbrook (a major breach of protocol) and then by arguing
that speech really is sui generis, because it is a form of "activity"
(if we must call it that) whose conditions of comprehension are no
longer recoverable from the activity itself (and so the unit of
analysis for verbal thinking cannot be sought in activity). There
wasn't enough time to really develop what I wanted to say, so I went
over to continue the discussion, and it turned out that the wild
haired guy was none other than Seth Chaiklin, who is, we all know, one
of the foremost paleo-Vygotskyans when it comes to the much
misinterpreted concept of the ZPD.


​Speech is a form of activity or a means of activity? Or of action?​

​I guess I do not understand. If its worthwhile, perhaps spell the idea out
here?

So far as I can tell, there are ONLY misinterpretations of the Zoped. Seth
was right on about it being used in Anglo-American discourse as something
akin to zone of proximal learning,fitting into the associationist view of
development as more learning. But the one right interpretation has escaped
my notice.​

​Thanks again for taking the trouble to write that out. Perhaps it will be
generative for people.
mike​


David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

PS: Holbrook DID get one thing wrong. Stalin did not argue that
language was purely ideal and superstructural; that was Marr's
position. Stalin, or whoever ghost wrote his articles, argued that
language was base, and therefore somehow material, whatever that
means. But Stalin was not really interested in ideas; he was just out
for Marr's blood.





On 6 October 2014 22:21, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
Hi David--

The specific example of your comments on originals and adaptations hits
on
a point it would be helpful to hear more about:

You wrote:
 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).

1.   Could you guide us to a text you recommend where this interpretation
is laid out?
2. What sort of revision was Seth suggesting and why?

I have been reading Russian discussions around this issue. Clarification
would be helpful.
mike



On Sun, Oct 5, 2014 at 12:37 AM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
wrote:
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:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRkWCOTImOQ

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
contemplating.

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.

dk


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.




--
It is the dilemma of psychology to deal with a natural science with an
object that creates history. Ernst Boesch.