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



Some of the images in Greg's response to my post are somewhat unsettling
(e.g.  the black guy eating gruel?). But I think the main problem with it
is that, like so much of the uncritical, positivistic, even
Whiggish, celebration of  the powers of computers, it doesn't deal with the
distinction between (essentially gradualistic) improvements in the
instruments of production and (essentially catastrophic) changes in the
relations of production.

Yes, the printing press did vasty increase the number and variety of texts
that were available to readers. But in some ways the most revolutionary
transformation of Europe was brought about by the publication of just one
of those titles. When Gutenberg invented the printing press, he enabled
every thinking Christian to own a copy of the Bible. Before that moment,
the only tangible proof of the Christian doctrine was the existence of the
world itself; everything else had to come through the Church. Now, suddenly
everyone had the same texts that the Church had been mediating for hundreds
of years--and it turned out to be a set of texts much like any
other--passages of history, long chapters of legal codifications, beautiful
pornography in the Song of Solomon, and even individual psalms that
combined exquisite lyricism with disgusting exhortations to genocide (Psalm
137).

I think that the the great struggle between Protestant and Catholic, and
the underlying struggle between whether language--sacred or
profane--inheres in social institutions or reflects the intrinsic
architecture of the human mind, dates from then, and has still not been
resolved today. But this struggle has been, at bottom, neither a struggle
between technologies (oral vs. printed) nor between ideas (dogmatism vs.
rationalism); it's been a struggle between living, breathing, fightig and
dying human beings. The grist of the struggle was ultimately
neither technology nor theology but rather the rise and fall of the
absolutist monarchy, and with it the last productive relations of
the feudal order. As was recently pointed out on this list, some forms of
primitive accumulation from absolutist times (e.g. the role of debt in
appropriating surplus value from sectors of the population not engaged in
commodity production) have still not disappeared.

One of the vulgarizations in Marxism that Stalin introduced in crushing
Trotsky to the left of himself and Bukharin to the right was to declare
"diamat", or "dialectical materialism" the "official philosophy" of the
USSR, making the Soviet state the world's first secular theocracy. In
history, this meant the introduction of a rigid set of five stages:
primitive communism, barbarism, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, with the
distinction between the stages reducible to the instrumentation of
production: as Lenin had said, the construction of socialism was to
be essentially a matter of adding electrification to the political power of
the democratically elected Soviets. By removing the democratically elected
Soviets, Stalin made sure that this would be a liberal, Whiggish,
gradualistic affair, with no underlying transformation of the relations of
power.

Interestingly, the same thing has happened in work by Leontiev on the
problem of child development known as the crisis. Here's what Vygotsky has
to say in his lectures on the crisis which we are currently translating:

"These ages (i.e. stable ages--DK) and this type of child development have
been studied more completely than ages characterized by a different course
of child development (i.e.the crisis--DK). These latter were discovered by
empirical paths, one by one, in a haphazard manner, and many have still not
been shown by the majority of investigators in systems and are not included
in the general periodization of child development. Many authors have even
doubted the evidence of the inner necessity of their existence. Many are
inclined to take them more as “maladies” of development, as deviations of
the process fromthe normal path, than as internally necessary periods of
child development. Almost none of the bourgeois investigators have realized
their theoretical signfiicance, and the attempt in our book at their
systematization, at their theoretical interpretation, and at their
inclusion in the general scheme of child development for this reason should
be seen as perhaps the first attempt of this kind."

Compare:

  “These crises—the three year old crisis, the seven year old crisis, the
adolescent crisis, the youth crisis—are always associated with a change of
stage. They indicate in clear, obvious form that these changes, these
transitions from one stage to another have an inner necessity of their
own. The existence of development of crises has long been known and their
‘classic’ interpretation is that they are caused by the child’s maturing
inner characteristics and the contradictions that arise on that soil
between it andthe environment. From the standpoint of that interpretation
the crises are, of course, inevitable, because these contraditions are
inevitable in any conditions. There is nothing more false, however, in the
theory of the development of the child’s psyche than this idea. In fact,
crises are not at all inevitable accomplishments of psychic development. It
is not the crises which are inevitable, but the turning points or breaks,
the qualitative shifts in ddevelopment. The crisis, on the contrary, is
evidence that a turning point or shift has not been made in time. There
need by no crises at all if the child’s psychic development does not take
shape spontaneously but in a rationally controlled process, controlled
upbringing.”  (pp. 398-399)

Leontiev, A.N. (1981). Problems of the Development of the Mind. Progress:
Moscow


David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies






On 18 March 2015 at 10:11, Greg Mcverry <jgregmcverry@gmail.com> wrote:

> Some one questioned if computers made a difference:
>
> I decided to have a little fun with my response:
> http://jgregorymcverry.com/computers-versus-printing-press/
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On Mon, Mar 16, 2015 at 5:43 PM David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> > Yes, that was Leonard Bernstein's theory--that "mmm" was the first word
> in
> > every language, and also the first musical note. Vygotsky prefers Lear:
> > "When we are born we cry that we are come/To this great stage of fools."
> > And the girl in the advertisement for lunch boxes was certainly agreeing
> > with Vygotsky: "ing! ing!" is how Koreans transcribe the sound of
> weeping.
> >
> > Last night in my class on "Teaching Young Learners" we got to discussing
> > what Vygotsky means when he distinguishes so starkly between the naming
> > function and the signifying function of language: how exactly are they
> > different? One way to look at it is to say that naming is sticking labels
> > on physical objects--that is why children who do this are convinced that
> > names are part of the object itself, the way that a label is part of a
> milk
> > carton and the carton is what gives shape to the milk within. Signifying,
> > on the other hand is just like naming, but the named "object" is purely
> > imaginary--something like a mathematical set--a concept.
> >
> > The problem is that putting it this way makes it all about the object
> that
> > is being named or signified, and I'm pretty sure that's not what Vygotsky
> > is thinking about--or anyway it's not the only thing that he's thinking
> > about. Both Piaget and Vygotsky take as their starting point the
> > interesting fact that the child rejects the idea of calling the sun
> "moon"
> > and the moon "sun", and claims that the sort of a cow that you can call
> > "dog" will have little horns and give a little milk (not dog milk but cow
> > milk).
> >
> > But as usual from the same fact they draw totally different conclusions.
> > Piaget's conclusion is that the child will eventually have this illusion
> > crushed and come to terms with the meaninglessness of the connection
> > between sign and signifier on this great stage of fools. Vygotsky's
> > conclusion is that there really IS a set of words of which this true!
> >
> > First of all, we have words like "blackbird" and "sidewalk" where an
> > important, if epiphenomenal trait of the object really is encoded in the
> > word itself. Of course, you can complain that there isn't anything
> "black"
> > in the word black, but that doesn't change the fact that if you want to
> go
> > around call bluebirds "blackbirds" and sidewalks "center-runs" then you
> are
> > going to have to make major changes to more than one word in your
> language
> > system.  And, as Vygotsky demonstrates, if you go back in the etymology
> of
> > almost ANY word you will find something like a blackbird or a
> > sidewalk--even the word "cabbage" means "head" in its Latin root.
> >
> > Secondly, as Rod points out, there is onomatopoiea and what we in Korean
> > call "ouiseongeo", or words which are intended to imitate the sounds made
> > by actions and thereby signify the action (e.g. "crash", "smash", "bash",
> > "mash", etc.). Here the sound of the word is surely part of the meaning,
> > and here too the child is right when he/she insists on the
> > non-interchangeability of words. Both "shhhhhh" and "Ker-splash!" have
> the
> > sound /sh/ in them, but that doesn't make them interchangeable.
> >
> > So Vygotsky turns the whole question rather on its head: where and when
> > does the interchangeability of terms arise? When do we learn to look at
> > language and laugh that we are come to this great stage of tomfoolery?
> >
> > Perhaps here:
> >
> >
> > http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/paintings/rene-magritte-
> > ceci-nest-pas-une-pomme-5650359-details.aspx
> >
> >
> > Magritte's painting is not an apple or even part of an apple; it's a
> > painting of an apple. In the same way, if a child plays "war", the child
> is
> > not a soldier but a "painting" of a soldier. It's this negative
> > relationship between the sign and the thing which is abstractly
> everywhere
> > the same, and everywhere abstractly interchangeable: all words are NOT
> the
> > things that they signify.
> >
> > There's a very beautiful and bloody children's story in Korea called "Sun
> > and Moon" about two children with those names. They are orphaned by a
> > tiger, but they take revenge on the tiger by climbing up ropes to heaven,
> > offering a rotten rope to the tiger, who tries to follow and kills
> himself.
> > Once in heaven, the girl named Moon at first insists on shining all day
> and
> > the older brother named Sun shines at night only. But after the first day
> > on her new job, Moon decides that she is shy--and she would rather have
> her
> > older brother's job. So they switch. After all, it's just role play.
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> >
> >
> > ...
> >
> >
> >
> > On 17 March 2015 at 01:39, HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > Hello All,
> > > The following has occurred to me as I follow this thread:
> > > -Perhaps it would be useful to think of computers as on the
> > > environmental-literacy side of literacy, as contrasted with a more
> > intimate
> > > book-in-hand side of literacy. Vera John-Steiner, in her Notebooks of
> the
> > > Mind, discusses how writers choose their tools: Some write long hand;
> > > others type. The mix of technologies seem to affect the reading/writing
> > > process in very deep ways. I wonder if this sheds any light on the tool
> > vs.
> > > sign distinction elaborated in Andy’s Academia article on tool vs.
> sign.
> > > -No one, as far as I remember, has discussed on this web the
> differences
> > > between logographic (Chinsese) and alphabetic writing systems. Again,
> > this
> > > seems to me to be a continuum, given the capacity, on the one hand, of
> > > Chinese literacy to write phonetically and the flood, on the other
> hand,
> > of
> > > icons in alphabet-based writing (take the McDonald arches).
> > > -Rod’s post reminds me of a long-standing problem I have with
> > l’Arbitraire
> > > du Signe “law” that there is no necessary connection between the
> > > phonological pole and the semantic pole, with the relatively unusual
> > > exception of onomatopeia or the MMMMM/YUCK distinction made by little
> > > gourmands. The best counter evidence, it seems to me, are the choices
> we
> > > make in how much our writing in English draws on vocabulary of
> > Anglo-Saxon
> > > origin and how much of Latinate origin.
> > > I’m not sure if I am hinting at a wider issue of how much culture
> > reflects
> > > differences BETWEEN cultures and how much reflects the way in which the
> > > mixes of technology of each culture point towards universal tendencies
> of
> > > seeking balance, some sort of homeostasis. Some may think I’ve bit off
> > more
> > > than I can chew. Yuck or Yum?
> > > Henry
> > >
> > >
> > > > On Mar 16, 2015, at 2:59 AM, Rod Parker-Rees <
> > > R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk> wrote:
> > > >
> > > > I wish I could remember where I read that the first 'words' are
> > > variations of 'yum' or 'mmm' for approval and 'yuk' for disgust -
> > > exaggerated vocalisations oral 'taking in' - ingesting what is
> > pleasurable
> > > and spitting out, ejecting what is unpalateable. So is 'ing' Chinese
> for
> > > 'mmm'?
> > > >
> > > > Rod
> > > >
> > > > -----Original Message-----
> > > > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
> > > xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of David Kellogg
> > > > Sent: 16 March 2015 08:28
> > > > To: Haydi Zulfei; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > > > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Why Computers Make So Little Difference
> > > >
> > > > This morning I went out shopping and noticed a billboard selling
> > > lunchboxes. It featured a young girl whose boyfriend was obviously off
> > > doing military service (two and half years of rigorously
> > institutionalized
> > > bullying and beatings); she was dressed up in a military uniform and
> > eating
> > > out of a lunchbox in solidarity with the absent one, and the sound she
> > was
> > > making was "ing! ing!"
> > > >
> > > > My sentiments exactly! I have been kicking myself, if not quite
> beating
> > > myself with a shovel, for arguing yesterday that consonants are
> > > differentiated before vowels. I am currently reading a set of studies
> > > coming out of China that try to argue this, and try to explain it on
> the
> > > grounds of the greater salience of consonant sounds. But vowels and
> > > consonants are not part of Chinese; the smallest meaningful difference
> in
> > > Chinese is a whole syllable. It's just another example of the
> imperialism
> > > of Western linguistics--everything has to be treated as if it had, deep
> > in
> > > its guts, a Western alphabet trying to get out.
> > > >
> > > > Even in English, it seems to me that vowels and consonants have to be
> > > differentiated side by side, out of some prior sound that is neither.
> And
> > > that prior sound? Well, actually, it's the most common sound in the
> > Chinese
> > > repertoire--the naseopharyngealized semi-vowel that babies make when
> they
> > > are born, which rhymes with "ing".
> > > >
> > > > David Kellogg
> > > > Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> > > >
> > > > On 15 March 2015 at 17:16, Haydi Zulfei <haydizulfei@rocketmail.com>
> > > wrote:
> > > >
> > > >> Thanks , David ! I'm following the case using what you wrote as
> clues
> > > >> to clarification .
> > > >>      From: David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> > > >> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
> > > >> Sent: Sunday, 15 March 2015, 1:12:48
> > > >> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Why Computers Make So Little Difference
> > > >>
> > > >> Well, of course, from the child's point of view, "Baby Bites" is
> > > >> probably not even monosemous, merely alliterative.
> > > >>
> > > >> As Haydi says--how does the child avoid Buridanism before speech? I
> > > >> take it that what he means is that in order to master the system,
> what
> > > >> is required is not simply the mindless internalization of some
> purely
> > > >> external resource but rather (as in the crises we find in other
> forms
> > > of development, e.g.
> > > >> sociogenesis and even phylogenesis) the constraining of some
> > > >> super-productive neoformation that emerges at the interface between
> > > >> the child and the environment--that is, the narrowing of the
> available
> > > >> choices we find in ('autonomous') child language to fit the
> > > >> phonological system of the mother tongue (as Halliday points out,
> > > >> learning a mother tongue is really learning a second language!).
> > > >>
> > > >> I think the answer is that the child initially treats speech as
> > > >> something that is not even monosemous but merely alliterative--sound
> > > without meaning.
> > > >> So how does the child master the sounds? According to the genetic
> law,
> > > >> sounds would be initially constrained by imitation and then
> elaborated
> > > >> by
> > > >> self-imitation: that is, repetition. But how?
> > > >>
> > > >> Alliteration appears to be clearly differentiated before rhyme in
> > > >> English poetry (c.f. "Gawain and the Green Knight"). Ontogenesis
> too?
> > > >> That would mean that the child is aware of a choice of different
> > > >> consonants before the child is aware of a choice of different
> vowels,
> > > >> and that does seem to be the case.
> > > >>
> > > >> David Kellogg
> > > >> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> > > >>
> > > >>
> > > >>
> > > >> On 15 March 2015 at 01:40, Martin John Packer
> > > >> <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>
> > > >> wrote:
> > > >>
> > > >>> Nonsense, David, she's reading the list of ingredients printed on
> > > >>> the bottom!
> > > >>>
> > > >>> And isn't "Baby Bites" wonderfully polysemous?
> > > >>>
> > > >>> Martin
> > > >>>
> > > >>> On Mar 13, 2015, at 4:17 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> > > wrote:
> > > >>>
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>>
> http://www.greatnewplaces.com/images/Kids/img7189_30122012121700.j
> > > >>>> peg
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> 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.
> > > >>>
> > > >>>
> > > >>>
> > > >>
> > > >>
> > > >>
> > > >>
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