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[Xmca-l] Re: Why Computers Make So Little Difference



I confess to being quite uncomfortable with Mike's substitution of "vulgar"
for my "crude". Structurally, a theory that is "crude" is simple (e.g. a
theory that does not distinguish between signs and tools but lumps them
both under the single category of "artifact") but a theory that is "vulgar"
can be very complex indeed (e.g. pornography as a model of sexuality, or
sit-coms as a model of family relations). Functionally, a theory that is
crude works extremely well for a limited number of applications (e.g.
behaviorism, which is actually a pretty good description of the lower
psychological functions) but a theory which is vulgar is in some ways the
opposite: widespread because it works badly for a very large number of
applications (e.g. bureaucracy). Above all, though, they are different
genetically: a crude theory is one that has just begun and is in the
process of being refined, while a vulgar theory is one that is clearly in
decline.

I'm even more uncomfortable with the idea that I am supposed to name the
names of "vulgar" AT people and suggest exemplars of subtle and refined
practitioners.  Actually, when I gave references from MCA, I wasn't passing
judgment on the authors or even on their articles; the page references I
refer to are neither authors nor articles but only diagrammes which either:

a) do not distinguish between tools (subject-to-object) and signs
(subject-to-subject)
b) DO distinguish between an "object" and an "outcome", and/or
c) treat the use of signs as the acting of a subject upon an object rather
than the action of one human consciousness upon another.

I admit that I sort of deserved this, because my initial post used
rhetorical tropes like "your average psychotic serial killer" and drew
heavily on personal experience instead of sticking to a fairly generic
attack on the usual culprits (e.g. bureaucracy and positivism). In any
case, turn about is fair play--there was a fair a mount of my yanking
everybody's chain (or rather their extension cord) in the subject line of
this thread. But there is a real problem: how do we make our contributions
to xmca colorful and readable without annoying others? How to start a
lively discussion without starting flame wars? I think, actually, Helena's
idea of not apostrophizing anybody is, at bottom, a good one, but the fact
that I just broke it without really meaning to shows that it is not very
practical.

Mike also invites me to name works that I consider exemplary: now here is a
trap I will gladly fall into. I am not sure this is the best one, Mike, but
it is certainly the book I turn to most often and the one that I know best
(for example, I was teaching it last night in my wildly unpopular course on
story telling). More, it is the book I find it hardest to live up to:

https://www.sensepublishers.com/media/2096-the-great-globe-and-all-who-it-inherit.pdf

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies


On 12 March 2015 at 10:15, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:

> Thanks for pushing this inquiry of mine another few paces up the hill,
> David. I believe I have all those issues of MCA to hand. I'll scout them
> out and consider them in light of the distinction between vulgar and
> less-vulgar forms of activity theory. But see if I have this straight.
>
> A vulgar AT person reduces mental life to a subject-object dualism in which
> the fact of an always present subject-subject (essential!) relationship is
> obliterated in one way or another.
> I expect that each of your examples will show problem in its own way, but
> the directionality of the reduction is clear.
>
> I believe that this is a common interpretation of Leontiev's form of AT.
> The Rubenshteinians' slogan was "All to the subject" in protest.
>
> I will start looking for the examples you picked out for us. Might you, as
> a further step, provide examples from published studies (not necessarily in
> MCA which denies any claim to AT-guru status!) that support
> non-reductionist versions of AT? Who should we be emulating?
>
> I'll stick with this topic, although the general issues of history of
> mediational means and their activity doppelgangers  that others are
> dangling before us is very tempting. As I wrote previously, I think a
> common approach to making both subject-object/and subject-subject relations
> BOTH a part of our analyses would be a positive step. Then we might be able
> to complexify.
>
> hedgehog for now
> mike
>
> On Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 2:52 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> > Human language learning at the University of Chicago in the mid-seventies
> > (which I did as an undergraduate in the Chinese department) was a lot
> like
> > rodent maze-learning. You checked into the language laboratory for two
> > hours of drilling almost every day. It went something like this:
> >
> > TAPE RECORDER: "Ni you shu mei you?--piao" (Do you have a book--a ticket)
> > STUDENT: "Ni you piao mei you?" (Do you have a ticket?)
> > TAPE RECORDER: "Ni you piao mei you?" (Do you have a ticket?)
> > STUDENT: "Ni you piao mei you?" (Do you have a ticket?)
> >
> > As you can see, there's a stimulus, a response, a reinforcement, and an a
> > reinforcement of the reinforcement, just to be extra sure. That was from
> > the educational psychology point of view then current, which Mike may
> well
> > recognize from HIS undergraduate days.
> >
> > >From the early activity theory point of view, I take it what I was doing
> > was something like this: I was the subject, the language laboratory was a
> > tool/sign artefact, the correct model was the object upon which I was
> > operating and the correct response was the outcome. The rules were that I
> > was to do this five days a week, and there was a sign-in sheet delivered
> to
> > a teaching assistant on a weekly basis. The community, therefore, did not
> > include a professor, but it did include a fellow student paid minimum
> wage
> > to supervise the language laboratory (I speak feelingly, I did it before
> I
> > got a better paying job as a janitor), and I could glimpse of the tops of
> > the heads of my classmates in other cubicles when I stood up to leave
> after
> > two hours. Such was the division of labor.
> >
> > You can see this fairly crude version of AT in a lot of articles in MCA.
> In
> > Vol. 15, No. 3, on p. 182, Wolff-Michael Roth uses it to lay out the A.N.
> > Leontiev's prototypical primitive communism situation (the hunters and
> > beaters). Iin vol. 15, No 4. on p. 327, Helena Worthen uses it to talk
> > about teaching people to negotiate working conditions. In Vol. 16, No. 2,
> > on p. 136, Norman Friesen uses something even more crude--the so-called
> > speech circuit, from Saussure's 1911 Course in General Linguistics
> > (complete with droopy lines connecting a speaker's mouth to a hearer's
> > ear!) I take it that the model of language in ALL of these is basically
> > that of my old language laboratory: the objects of language are
> essentially
> > objects without minds, aspects of the environment to be acted upon in
> order
> > to achieve particular outcomes, no different from a stone to be made
> into a
> > tool, or a mastodon to be transformed into dinner.
> >
> > The problem is that this view of language is essentially that of your
> > average psychotic serial killer. It doesn't capture the simple fact that
> > the object of language is not an object at all, but rather a fellow
> > subject--often--yea, if we believe Chomsky, most often, that is, in the
> > vast majority of instances of language use we encounter in a single
> > day--the object is actually myself. I think there are some uses of AT
> (even
> > the Engestrom triangle) which very clearly DO take this into account. I
> > have seen some versions of the Engestrom triangle where it is used to
> link
> > two subjects and there is no object at all. In Vol. 13, No. 4, Katherine
> > Brown and Jule Gomez de Garcia point out that even in the unnatural
> > conditions of language use we find in a literacy classroom, the object of
> > language use is always SHARED with other human subjects.
> >
> > In 1984, eight years after I'd left the University of Chicago, I found
> > myself on a bus in Beijing. The bus was full as only Beijing buses could
> be
> > in those days, and a scratchy din emanated from a tiny loudspeaker near
> > where I was standing. I watched as people one by one got on the bus,
> pushed
> > their way to the conductor, and bought a ticket, and only then did I
> > realize that the loudspeaker was a human voice saying:
> >
> > "Mei piao mai piao, a! Mei piao mai piao, a!"
> >
> > In other words, "Do you have a ticket?"
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On 12 March 2015 at 01:11, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
> >
> > > It is great to see this discussion broaden out temporally to take us
> back
> > > to the oldest of communications media we can manage. The question
> raised
> > in
> > > this manner is more or less what we set out to explore when we created
> a
> > > Department of Communication at UCSD with checkered success.
> > >
> > > Very interesting to see the lists and previously unspeaking voices
> > appear,
> > > almost as if a minicurriculum in "The history of human mediational
> means
> > > and their associated lifeworlds" were lurking out there in xmca-land.
> > >
> > > To help me understand just a corner of this vaste terrain, might you,
> > > David, expand on these comments:
> > >
> > > Nevertheless, the tape recorder has had an impact on pedagogy that is
> > > almost negligible. In EFL, where I now work, it served to make a huge
> > > amount of money for the distributors of language laboratories. But
> > language
> > > laboratories worked by fencing learners into cubicles, and *replacing
> > the*
> > >
> > > *subject-subject relation we find in natural language use with
> > > asubject-object relation which we find in crude versions of Activity
> > > Theory.*
> > >
> > > Given our ongoing discussions about the varieties of and attitudes
> toward
> > > different versions of "THE" Activity Theory, it would help me to
> > understand
> > > clear examples of a crude version
> > > of AT and how it is applied alongside a subtle/better version of AT and
> > how
> > > it is applied in a different way.
> > >
> > > I am conjecturing that if we could get some broad, "germ cell"
> > > understanding of the issue in bold above, it might serve as an analytic
> > > lens through which to view of the history of mediation and activity in
> > > human life.
> > > mike
> > >
> > > On Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 4:36 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu>
> > > wrote:
> > >
> > > > Seven things I learned from What People Said About Books in 1498, by
> > John
> > > > H. Lienhard (http://www.uh.edu/engines/indiana.htm):
> > > >
> > > > 1. Sharing is a cultural invention, not a technological one. Sharing
> > must
> > > > be reinvented in each community and in each generation.
> > > >
> > > > 2. Caxton was not a cultural snob.
> > > >
> > > > 3. Margaret was one cool hipster.
> > > >
> > > > 4. Mennochio and I have a few things in common, but I hope to live to
> > be
> > > > an old woman and not charcoal on a stick.
> > > >
> > > > 5. I regret Lienhard's the analysis of Medieval scholars using
> > > > Myers-Briggs. I wish that rubric would just die.
> > > >
> > > > 6. "We cannot have a clue as to what any technological future will be
> > > > until we learn it from a new generation of users." <-- What he
> said!!!
> > > >
> > > > 7. We can only know what we know when we have an idea what we don't
> > know.
> > > > Which is why I love what he said about seeking our ignorance. And:
> "To
> > > > impose is not to discover."  Yeah. That.
> > > >
> > > > Kind regards,
> > > >
> > > > Annalisa
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > >
> > >
> > > --
> > > It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an
> > object
> > > that creates history. Ernst Boesch.
> > >
> >
>
>
>
> --
> It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an object
> that creates history. Ernst Boesch.
>