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[Xmca-l] Re: units of analysis?

Patrick, there is no word in any other language for perezhivanie. The word has a lot of connotations arising from its use in Russian culture. See http://www.ethicalpolitics.org/seminars/perezhivanie.htm for a collection of excerpts on perezhivanie. In German Ein Erlebnis and in Spanish el vivencia I am told have similar meanings. But sticking to English, "an experience" captures some of the meaning of perezhivanie (NB, not "experience"), but the Russian word also has the meaning of catharsis or working over/through or surviving which are certainly not present in "an experience" (I don't know about the German and Spanish translations). That is why we have to use the Russian word, because there is no near English equivalent.

*Andy Blunden*

Patrick Jaki wrote:
Does perezhivanie have a direct equivalent translation in English?  Is this
not part of the problem that a word in its original language, in this case
Russian, cannot be translated directly into other languages, which adds
onto our problem of making sense and meaning of it.

On 13 October 2014 10:57, Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>


I agree that it's an example and illustration that cannot capture

But I think you've got the chemistry wrong! If I remember my college
chemistry correctly, H2O isn't a combination of H+ and OH-, because that
would imply an asymmetry that does not in fact exist. Oxygen is strongly
electronegative, meaning it draws electrons from the hydrogen atoms,
leading to a bond between an O+ ion and two H- ions.  This has the
consequence that the water molecule a dipole, which leads to hydrogen
bonding between water molecules, the result of which is that water is a
liquid at room temperature while other hydrides formed from elements that
are close to oxygen in the periodic table are gases.

So, yes, there are tensions and contradictions in the *formation* of
water. My point was that once formed, there are no contradictions driving
further development. That's not entirely true; water does partially
dissociate, into H3O+ and OH-. This means that a body of water is actually
in constant change, creating and breaking hydrogen bonds, and dissociating
and reassociating. A dynamic stasis, if you like. But it doesn't develop


On Oct 12, 2014, at 11:51 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

Martin, I think it is nothing more than the limitations of a metaphor -
it can only illustrate one aspect of the target. In this case it is simply
saying that a quantity of water is just thousands H2O molecules, and
nothing else. No addition is required to manifest all the properties of
You would have to be a chemist to know the forces that bind the H and OH
together and how they can be separated, H containing a positive charge and
OH containing a negative charge - a good old positive/negative
contradiction. All chemicals with the H ion are acids and all chemicals
with the OH ion are alkali, but water is both acid and base and therefore
neither. *If you want* the water molecule is a tangle of contradictions and
transformations, along with Carbon, the foundation of the chemistry of
life. :)
*Andy Blunden*

Martin John Packer wrote:
Good question, Mike!  What you're pointing out is that LSV's own
example doesn't quite do justice to his analysis in T&L.  Water is not a
dynamic system: once hydrogen bonds with oxygen the process stops: water is
a stable molecule. He should have picked an example in which an internal
tension or clash of some kind provides a continual motor for change.
In somewhat the same way, I'm trying to figure out how a triangle is
dynamic. It's one of the most stable geometric shapes.  :)
On Oct 12, 2014, at 10:26 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:

Martin. What is the contradiction between hydrogen and oxygen such
that two
atoms of hydrogen combined with one atom of oxygen give rise to water
its distinctive qualities? Knowing that should help people to rise to
concrete for their own cases.

On Sun, Oct 12, 2014 at 6:43 PM, Martin John Packer <
     Well, if it works for you, Helena..!  :)

Clearly Yrjo does claim that the triangle represents a dynamic system
contradictions. I'm still reading the chapter that Mike linked to,
and I
already some questions. But I'll wait until I read it all before

On Oct 12, 2014, at 6:10 PM, Helena Worthen <helenaworthen@gmail.com>

On the contrary.

To me, that very affordance is one of the great things about activity

theory and the activity system as a unit of analysis. A very simple
is that if you change something in the norms/customs/laws/history
corner of
the triangle (like win a court case that gives you a stronger footing
bargaining), then your tools also change. Another: if by bringing new
members into the community (the base of the triangle) out of which
of labor raises the subjects, you may find yourself with a leadership
that is not all white, or not all primarily English-speaking, which
in turn
will change what tools/resources you have and may, if you're lucky and
quick, change your history.

Helena Worthen

On Oct 12, 2014, at 2:54 PM, Martin John Packer wrote:

And what's neat about this way of thinking is that it implies that,

once one understands the relationships among the components, one can
about changes in one component in the totality by acting on *another*
component of the totality.

The activity system triangle does not suggest to me this type of

relationship among components. Instead, it seems to represent
elements that
are only accidentally brought together.


On Oct 12, 2014, at 2:43 PM, Martin John Packer <

mpacker@uniandes.edu.co> wrote:

Seems to me the problem in many research projects is that the
is not formulated in an appropriate way. LSV was exploring a method of
analysis that seeks to understand the relationship among components
in a
complex totality. Not the causal influence of one factor on another,
is often how students frame their research interest. And this means
the unit of analysis has to represent, exemplify, this relationship.


On Oct 12, 2014, at 1:31 PM, Helena Worthen <

As someone who uses the concept of "unit of analysis" in a very

down-to-earth, quick and dirty, applied way to shape collective
to a crisis in a labor and employment relationships (like, when a rule
changes creates difficulties for workers), I would agree with Andy:

The other thing is that discovering a unit of analysis is an

*insight*. It

is not something that can be achieved by following a template,
it is

breakthrough in your research into some problem, the leap. It

usually comes

*after* you've collected all the data for your research using

unit of analysis.

First comes the story, the details, the experiences. The question

lying behind the telling of the stories is, "What are we going to
do?" The
unit of analysis gets defined by the purpose we are trying to
Are we trying to get the employer to back off temporarily? Are we
get the rule changed? Example:  In a big hospital system in Chicago,
clerical workers were no longer allowed to leave an "I'm going to be
to work today" or "I have to stay home with my sick kid today and
will miss
work" message on the answering machines of their supervisors. We're
about a workforce with hundreds of employees, most of them middle aged
minority women -- with grandchildren and extended families to be
responsible for.  Not being allowed to leave a message on a machine,
being required to actually speak to a supervisor in person who would
keep a record of the call, was a problem because supervisors were
away from their desks and the whole phone system was unreliable.
Also, a
lot of workers didn't have cell phones at the time this was happening
(2004) and pay phones are few and far between, so if someone it out
more asthma inhalers for a grandkid, making a phone call is not easy.

So, exactly what is the purpose that we're trying to accomplish,

here?  To repeal the rule? To fix the phone system?  To educate
members of
the union and other others about how to respond collectively to
that only affects some of them? To make a profound change in society
that middle-aged women are not the primary caretakers of an extended
family?  Pick one. Once you've picked one (hopefully, one that you can
carry out) you can define the unit of analysis and then reviewing the
Engestrom triangle and evaluating your strategy becomes, as Andy
says,  a
matter of solving puzzles.

From the employer point of view, asking workers to actually
speak to
a live supervisor makes a certain sense. That's why we talk about
system(s), not just one activity system. But they are often in
with each other, which adds to the drama.

Is the data in your study being gathered with some purpose in
Is the purpose the purpose of the children, the purpose of the class,
the purpose of the PhdD program?  To me, what would be most
would be a comparison between the unit of analysis (purposes of
and unit of analysis (purpose of classroom). I'll bet they're not

Helena Worthen

On Oct 12, 2014, at 10:20 AM, Katerina Plakitsi wrote:

This problem of the ' unit of analysis' is my concern too. I


three PHD students on Science Education in a CHAT context. Two of

them on

early childhood science education and one on primary science.

collected log files, children discourses consisted of
scientific justifications, accepted rules, and forms of division

They have collected children narratives, and drawings. When they

decided to

analyze their data they follow different paths into CHAT context


modeling them using Engestrom's triangle. They still doubt about
" unit

of analysis".

Στις Κυριακή, 12 Οκτωβρίου 2014, ο χρήστης Andy Blunden <



Katie, picking up on your concern about units of analysis, it
one of

the points I mentioned in my "report" from ISCAR, that this

almost lost to us. A phrase I heard a lot, and which was new for

me, was

"unit to be analysed." If anyone knows the origin of this

expression, I'd

be interested in hearing. It seemed to me that what it referred
was a

"closed system" for analysis, that is, abandoning CHAT

keeping the word. If I am mistaken about this, please let me
The other thing is that discovering a unit of analysis is an

*insight*. It

is not something that can be achieved by following a template,
is the

breakthrough in your research into some problem, the leap. It

usually comes

*after* you've collected all the data for your research using

unit of analysis. In Kuhn's terms, discovery of the unit is the
paradigm, after which it is just a matter of solving puzzles.
So for
graduate students to use the concept of unit in their research,


depends on the wisdom of teh direction they get from their

supervisor. I

don't know how many PhD students I've met who have got to this

point in

their thesis and discover that the data they have is not the
they now

know they need.


*Andy Blunden*

Katherine Wester Neal wrote:

I like Holli's plan to commit some time to reading the two

articles. But,

as usual, I don't know that I'll have much to contribute in

usually get deep in thinking about the posts and don't follow

to write something. The writing is much harder, and I am

trying to keep up with reading!

For me, the thread has been fascinating, probably because I'm


in different units of analysis, what they might be used for,
how they

fit together with theory and conducting research. What are

with units of analysis and why? Or why aren't units of analysis

being used?

If anyone wants to write more in that direction, I'd be very

interested to

read, and I'll try to respond, although the questions might be
basic as


Lastly, Andy has basically been articulating my thoughts (in a

much more

eloquent way than I would) about action as a unit of analysis.

example about driving and thinking and writing, I'd add that
action is

mediated. Together with sociocultural and historical factors
influenced those actions (and which, as has been said here

often difficult to get a look at), the actions create a
picture of

more than just Mike's behavior.

Katie Wester-Neal
University of Georgia

Katerina Plakitsi
Associate Professor of Science Education
School of Education
University of Ioannina
University Campus Dourouti 45110
tel. +302651005771
fax. +302651005842
mobile.phone +306972898463


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