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



I guess I think that the main way in which any technology (the printing
press, the computer) influences language is not directly but mediated by
society, and the main form of social mediation of language change that I am
interested in is language teaching. In some ways, the way in which the
printing press influenced English language teaching is quite easy to
discern--in 1472, William Caxton presented a printing press to Edward IV,
and within months the first bilingual, situational, phrase-based "books for
travellers" were being printed in Westminster. Interestingly, the immediate
effect was to REDUCE the number of teachers, but greatly expand the number
of learners: learning English and French became a middle class pastime (and
an extremely lucrative one, as England was a backwater, and France the most
developed economy in Europe).

But the more indirect influence of the printing press on language teaching
was more long-lasting and profound. For there, in France, thanks
to Gutenberg and his partner, Bibles were already being distributed, and in
the long run these Bibles were going to have a far bigger impact on
language teaching than Caxton's "books for travellers". Europe was in the
business of setting up absolutist regimes, and national religions were
essential to the project. In Spain and Italy, it was Catholicism, and in
Prussia and Switzerland, it was Protestantism. In France, though, it was a
mixture. Only about an eighth of the population was Protestant, but it
included sectors whose support was essential to the monarchy (e.g. Navarre,
Burgundy, the dukes of Bourbon and the valley of the Loire).

I think we COULD argue that influence of the first printed Bibles on
language teaching was ideological--it is certainly true that, Bible in
hand, the idea that every man could be his or her own pope encouraged the
merciless French rationalism that eventually, around 1660, created the Port
Royal grammar books, which were the source of Chomsky's belief that the
structure of language is the structure of the human mind itself. But the
idea that the laws of thinking and speaking could be codified by a written
text rather than by the notoriously fallible institutions of a priesthood
was already there in the form of the Quran (when Caxton brought the
printing press to England, the Moors still occupied large areas of
Spain). If we want to seek for the ideological echoes of the printing
press, we should probably look about a century earlier.

In August 1572, almost exactly a hundred years after Caxton presented his
"books for travellers" to Edward IV, the  Catholic League (with the support
of Spain, the Pope, and Charles IX and his mother Catherine de Medicis)
tried to create a religiously homogeneous France through the time-honored
tradition of genocide--the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre. It
eventually did produce a beautiful Meyerbeer opera, Les Huguenots, and the
bloody, horrifying film based upon it, "La Reine Margot", but it didn't
succeed in its objective of creating a religiously homogenous
France.  Overnight, refugees flooded into England--with a year or so, one
in ten Englishman was a Frenchman, and we had the very first (but not,
alas, the last) teaching of English by a refugee population to itself:
English taught by non-natives to children who were destined to grow up
natives.

I've been reading the materials developed by this generation of English
teachers, and it's quite striking how different they are from the Business
English materials created by Caxton. First of all, they are dialogues.
Secondly, they are all affective or emotional in color--mostly about the
sufferings of people in France. And thirdly--most incredibly--you have
dialogues of parents with their children in a foreign language. There is
even pillow talk between a French husband and his French wife...in English,
because they recognize that for better or worse this is the language they
and their children will be speaking for the rest of their lives. True, back
home, a once-Protestant king, Henri of Navarre, was on the throne and the
creation of Europe's first multi-confessional nation-state was under way.
But the various acts of toleration were seen, by the religious minority, as
everywhere temporary (and sure enough Henri was assassinated, and his Edict
de Nantes was eventually revoked by Louis XIVth). Now that the Huguenots
had learned the trick of emigration for survival, they were not going to
forget it (which is why there are large populations of the descendants of
Huguenots all over the world, even as far as America and Australia).

And now for something completely different. At this point let me abandon
the spurious coherence that a strictly historical presentation lends to the
argument; I too shall make an almost purely ideological leap. It seems to
me that one of the legacies of this period was, actually, a much more "in
situ" approach to language teaching, one that emphasizes the inner life of
the student, and requires face to face encounters in the classroom. The
reason I was so shamelessly touting my book was that in on pp. 3-5 of the
link I sent is a short resume of the argument AGAINST computer mediated
language teaching, that runs parallel to the argument I was trying to make
about the language laboratory. It's not, actually, original with me, it's
the argument of the Dogme school of language teachers, who drew THEIR
inspiration from a kind of Brechtian revolt against Hollywood on the part
of German and Scandinavian film makers in  the nineties (Lars von Trier is
probably the best known exponent of Dogme).

http://esol.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/attachments/informational-page/AdogmaforEFL.pdf

On Tuesday we were discussing role play, and the experiments that Vygotsky
does in getting children to make stories using objects such as the inkwell
and a book. I had included the following picture in the agenda, just to
illustrate socio-dramatic role play:

http://www.greatnewplaces.com/images/Kids/img7189_30122012121700.jpeg

My students were struck by the fact that the child, surrounded by elaborate
tools not of her own making, seems much more interested in the objects as
objects than in their use as signs. I think in the same way, when children
play World of Warcraft, they tend to be much more interested in the roles
as roles than in the abstract rules of the game. It seems to me that there
are some trends in language teaching that are retrogressive in this way: an
activity which is intended to develop an orientation to the invisible is
reduced to one that is almost entirely visiographic, and an activity that
is intended to develop abstract thinking instead enmires it in a more
primitive form. In the same way, computers, instead of becoming means for
internalizing lexicogrammar, offer ways of keeping it at arms length.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

On 13 March 2015 at 20:29, Bill Kerr <billkerr@gmail.com> wrote:

> An attempt to briefly answer the original points made by David:
>
> > Chomsky was asked how computers would transform language ... (leading
> into comments comparing the transformation of language through printing, cf
> the computer)
>
> Since the issue is how will computers transform *language*, NOT how will
> they transform society (also important but not the question here), I think
> the answer has to involve computing programming languages.
>
> 1) The Alan Kay article which I referenced earlier
> http://edge.org/q2005/q05_8.html#kay refers to McLuhan in the context that
> new media enable new representations. What new representations? I'd suggest
> that emergent phenomena involving multiple variables - eg. economic crisis,
> climate change - have the potential (not yet attained) to be modelled
> through the computer in a way that our previous forms of language can't
> attain.
>
> 2) Theory of mind has been influenced by Artificial Intelligence theorists
> such as Alan Turing, Douglas Hofstadter, Marvin Minsky and others. Not
> resolved of course, still a controversial work in progress. I'm currently
> reading Hofstadter's *I am a Strange Loop*, which is a relatively easily
> accessible account of consciousness. Computers excel at modelling loopy
> phenomena and I agree with Hofstadter that they are important.
>
> 3) Also, James Gee produced an interesting argument that our concept of
> language ought to broaden to something which he called semiotic domains
> (*What
> Video Games have to teach us about learning and literacy*)
>
>
>
> On Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 8:40 AM, <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> >
> > I decided to extract this comment from Mike to David from the multiple
> > possibleopenings offered on this topic.
> >
> >
> > the vulgar [replace with crude or simple]  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.
> >
> >
> > Mike, you then mentioned trying to bring together reciprocal interactions
> > [Simmel’s approach] when you concluded with the statement:
> >
> >
> > 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.
> >
> >
> > The topic of the place of the “symbolic” [as in symbolic interaction] and
> > its relation to ??
> >
> > [is the symbolic in relation to the actual or the material or the
> real??].
> >
> > I found it significant that David was referring us not to texts but to
> > “diagrams” of the “subject-object” relationships/interactions.  The power
> > of “diagrams”  [as drawing/figures] to indicate the symbolic/realistic
> > interactions.
> >
> >
> > To complexify is to create a “site” [a third space] to ALSO bring in the
> > Rubenshteinian slogan [ALL to the subject] as well as Zinchenko's notion
> of
> > “oscillation”.
> >
> >
> > Gadamer’s approach also complexified the concept of hermeneutics by
> > engaging with "art” and “dialogue” that questioned the “objective status
> of
> > objects of interpretation and thus renders questionable the objectivity
> of
> > the interpretation itself” [cited by Richard Palmer]
> >
> >
> > There was great push back to Gadamer’s approach as it did not offer a
> > preconceived “method” or methodology for engaging with the humane
> studies.
> > It was exploring the basis of all method.
> >
> >
> > Larry
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Sent from Windows Mail
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > From: mike cole
> > Sent: ‎Wednesday‎, ‎March‎ ‎11‎, ‎2015 ‎6‎:‎15‎ ‎PM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > 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.
> >
>