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[Xmca-l] Re: The Ideological Footprint of Artifacts



A propos the problem of violence in social change, which is an expression
of man's persistent inability to organize, that is, re-organize her social
relations in an expedient and rational way.

 Last night we were discussing why people take so long to kill in
Shakespeare. It's not just Hamlet: in the Tempest we have one of those
palindromes (you know, sentences that can be read forwards and backwards,
like "Madam I'm Adam" or "Was it a car or a cat I saw?"). Or rather, we
have a set of nested plots, like the sort of thing that Chinese parents
tell children who nag for a story:

Once upon a time there was a mountain.
On the mountain was a temple.
In the temple was a monk.
The monk was telling a story:
"Once upon a time there was a mountain..."

So in the Tempest you have a voyage from Tunis interrupted by a plot
interrupted by another plot interrupted by a love story interrupted by the
last plot interrupted by the penultimate plot interrupted by the return
voyage to Naples, and the whole folds up like a butterfly's wings or an
hourglass (see also David Mitchell's novel, The Cloud Atlas, and the movie
of the same name).

When you read the Tempest, though, the interruptions seem perfectly
natural, because nobody ever just thinks of a murder and then goes and does
it; instead they spend a good hundred lines talking over whether or not it
will work, until, of course, it simply can't, because there's no time left.
The same thing is true in Chinese opera--an actor who contemplates suicide
must count on doing so for at least an hour, and sometimes for the better
part of two or three, at the very limit of his or her vocal range.

It seems to me that the explanation for the procrastination of murders in
Shakespeare is, once again, the ideological footprint of material
artifacts. It is one thing to pull a trigger or to flip a switch and have
your enemy disappear forever without a trace. It's very different when you
actually have to cut and slice human flesh with a knife which may not be of
the sharpest. In Shakespeare's time they had to take murder much more
seriously than we do; one of the things that may have contributed to the
fact that American cops kill, on the average, two people a day, is that
they carry weapons with hair triggers, designed to squeeze off multiple
rounds with little effort.

Virginia Woolf thought that World War One would have been quite impossible
had both sides simply had the imagination to see how much the enemy's life
must mean to him or her. Some artifacts (e.g. "Mrs. Dalloway" or "To the
Lighthouse") throw this vision into warm and brilliant light and make it
indelibly our own. But other artifacts, even more surely, obscure it with a
long dark shadow until it's too late.

David Kellogg





On Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 7:02 AM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:

> David- I do not have Jan's book, so cannot judge your comments overall, but
> Zinchenko was almost certainly referring to Leontiev, not Vygotsky, in
> referring to the theory of activity and repeating the oft-repeated charge
> of "sign-o-centricism" versus "behaviorism" leveled against him, large by
> the followers of Rubenshtein.
>
> mike
>
> PS- Perhaps Jan can find a moment to comment.
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On Tue, Jun 2, 2015 at 2:20 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> > Dear Larry:
> >
> > So Zinchenko says that if I go on a journey through the desert and choose
> > to take a map instead of  an ice-axe I am being an idealist!
> >
> > Of course, I know that by choosing an ice-axe, I am confusing the error
> of
> > taking a tool instead of a symbol with taking the WRONG tool instead of
> the
> > RIGHT symbol. But I also think that by choosing an ice-axe I am drawing
> > some attention to the underlying dishonesty--the demagogy--of a lot of
> the
> > criticisms made of Vygotsky--how they are reducible to name-calling
> > ("Idealist!" "Subjectivist!" "Word-Fetishist!")
> >
> > I suppose the real problem with Zinchenko is the one that Andy's already
> > pointed to. What makes humans human is that they don't live in an
> > "environment" that is oblivious to them to which they must adapt or die.
> > They have the ability to make the environment adapt to them and sometimes
> > even die--as I am reminded by the potted plant withering on my window
> > sill. Our nature is really not the same as the nature that animals live
> in.
> >
> > It's quite literally a "human' nature; a society is nature humanized
> > by consciousness. Beyond the ficus dying on my window sill lies Seoul,
> the
> > second largest city on earth. When I go out and do my grocery shopping, I
> > don't take a tool or even a map; I take a mind full of symbols, and the
> > same thing is true when I go out to "earn" my daily bread. So, as Andy
> > says, the "environment" has to include an element of human consciousness,
> > of my consciousness and the consciousness I must share with seventy-five
> > million other Koreans every time I use a Korean word. If this be
> idealism,
> > make the most of it!
> >
> > There was a good review of my book in the journal "System" recently
> > (attached). When I got over the warm feeling brought about by
> > the (apparently heartfelt) praise, I felt slightly irked by the attempt
> to
> > link Vygotsky's reading of Hamlet with that of Florensky, who really WAS
> an
> > idealist. Florensky's "Hamlet" came out when Vygotsky was nine years old!
> > But of course the author is right--Florensky, later a priest, a Russian
> > Orthodox theologian, and ultimately a victim of Stalin's goons, was one
> of
> > the founders of the Symbolist movement, and Vygotsky could not help but
> > have felt his long cool shadow as he wrestled with the question of
> whether
> > Hamlet is a psycho-drama (and all the characters but Hamlet are only
> > symbols) or a socio-drama (and all the characters--with the exception of
> > the players--are flesh and blood).
> >
> > Saussure, who did more than anyone to make the insights of the Symbolists
> > into a coherent world view, said that thought and language, both chaotic,
> > organize each other through decomposing each other, and of course that's
> > correct. Saussure's big mistake was to turn his back on the process by
> > which this happens. And the strangest thing about this mistake is that it
> > was the very process in which he'd made his own career--historical
> > linguistics!
> >
> > David Kellogg
> >
> > On Tue, Jun 2, 2015 at 10:21 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> >
> > > David,
> > > A fascinating way to explore the long shadow that concepts entail back
> to
> > > the sensory "ground" of concepts.
> > >
> > > I would like to ask how you situate a third term "symbol" in its
> > > relationship to the "sensory sound" and the "conceptual"
> > >
> > > Zinchenko offers one approach to symbols [to prime the pumps of this
> > > question]
> > >
> > > "The psychological theory of activity was concerned with the problem of
> > > real [i.e. concrete] tools and objects that humans, also in accordance
> > with
> > > Marxism, place between themselves and nature.  In other words, what
> > makes a
> > > human human? Symbol or thing? The crucifix or the hammer and sickle? If
> > it
> > > is the symbol then this is idealism. If it is the thing then this is
> > > materialism or perhaps dialectical materialism"
> > >
> > > "Reading" this question  through your response above I wonder if the
> > answer
> > > is unfinalizable and may depend on the "reciprocal" interpenetration of
> > the
> > > symbolic and sensory.  I am assuming the symbolic as "figurative" and
> > > "con/figurative" phenomena that expresses co-existence.
> > >
> > > I am Reading Jan Derry's 2013 book "Vygotsky: Philosophy and Education"
> > and
> > > Zinchenko's quote is on page 14.
> > >
> > > Larry
> > >
> > > On Mon, Jun 1, 2015 at 5:38 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> > > wrote:
> > >
> > > > The other day I was listening to Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette". It's
> the
> > > > wedding night, and they got to bed. Because they have no alarm clock,
> > > they
> > > > must listen carefully for the sound of the lark, else Romeo will be
> > > > captured by the guards of Verona and hanged.
> > > >
> > > > Romeo is sleeping with one ear open, and he is the first to awake.
> > Romeo
> > > > hears a bird and tells Juliette, and Juliette replies:
> > > >
> > > > Non, ce n'est pas le jour.
> > > > Ce n'est pas l'allouette.
> > > > Dont le chant a frappe
> > > > Ton orielle inquiete
> > > >
> > > > (No, it is not the day
> > > > That is not the lark
> > > > Whose song has struck
> > > > Your sleepless ear)
> > > >
> > > > But of course the song persists. Juliette reassures him:
> > > >
> > > > C'est le doux rossignol
> > > > Confidant d'amour!
> > > >
> > > > (It's the sweet nightengale
> > > > The confidant of love!)
> > > >
> > > > And Romeo decides, for probably just for the sake of being able to
> > > reverse
> > > > roles and sing the song himself, that he will go along with
> Juliette's
> > > idea
> > > > and go back to sleep. So then Juliette hears the sound and realizes
> > that
> > > > you must leave, helas! And Romeo sings, "Non, ce n'est pas le
> jour...."
> > > >
> > > > All of which reminded me of the crucial fact that in the sixteenth
> > > century
> > > > they did not yet have alarm clocks. But when you hear the woodwinds
> > come
> > > in
> > > > precisely at 1:47:35, what you hear, if you are a modern listener, is
> > an
> > > > electric alarm clock.
> > > >
> > > > Now of course, in Gounod's time they no more had electric alarm
> clocks
> > > than
> > > > in Shakespeare's. But such is the ideological footprint of artifacts;
> > > they
> > > > heard the sound of the woodwinds as that of a nightengale, and we
> hear
> > it
> > > > as battery powered alarm clock.  Or is it the other way around, and
> the
> > > > alarm is designed  to mimick a lark?
> > > >
> > > > Last night we were working on ways of teaching vocabulary which are
> > > > GENERALIZABLE. It is of course the case, as Vygotsky points out, that
> > > > MEANINGS can be related easily to each other, in one way
> > (hierarchically)
> > > > when we teach scientific concepts and in another (sensually,
> > > > experientially) when we are not. It's also true that the WORDINGS are
> > > > related easily toe ach other, as nouns and verbs, as participants and
> > > > processes, and as circumstances. But what kids want are to be able to
> > > match
> > > > the soundings and the imagery. In most languages this seems arbitrary
> > and
> > > > so vocabulary seems a piecemeal affair.
> > > >
> > > > It isn't. As Vygotsky points out, when you go back in time, you find
> > that
> > > > there are (at least) three kinds of associative links which must help
> > the
> > > > young vocabulary learner. We had the following list of Canadian
> animals
> > > to
> > > > teach brought in by a hakweon teacher from Canada:
> > > >
> > > > moose, goose, badger, beaver, eagle, porcupine
> > > >
> > > > With "moose" and "goose' the link is sounding--try bellowing the
> first
> > > like
> > > > a moose, and hooting the second like a goose. With "badger" and
> > "beaver"
> > > > the link is wording--badgers badger grubs and bother birds, while
> > beavers
> > > > are always beavering around with dams and nests. Eagle somehow
> > > alliterates
> > > > with "eye" and "spy", and "porcupine" suggests a piney, spiney,
> > > > pineapple-pig.
> > > >
> > > > Of course, none of these are concepts. All are forms of complex. But
> > all
> > > of
> > > > them are the ideological footprint, the long shadow, cast by an
> > artefact
> > > > down through history.
> > > >
> > > > If you want to hear the lark, you will have to wait to the end of the
> > > > opera, where it takes on another meaning. As everybody knows, Romeo
> > dies
> > > > before Juliet awakes. But in Gounod's version, he drinks the poison,
> > she
> > > > awakes, and they are once again joyful in each other's arms, until he
> > > > remembers the poison (a minor detail!) and dies singing...you guessed
> > > > it...2:31:00.
> > > >
> > > > "No, it is not the day
> > > > That is not the lark...
> > > > It's the sweet nightengale
> > > > The confidant of love!"
> > > >
> > > > Of course it's absurd (although not quite as absurd as the moment
> that
> > > poor
> > > > Rolando Villazon has to wipe the sweat off the end of his nose before
> > he
> > > > kisses Nina Machaidze). But it's also somewhat terrifying, as a raw
> > > > demonstrating of the ideological footprint of artworks. A single
> sound
> > > has
> > > > the power to be a bird in one century, a piccolo in another, and a
> > > digital
> > > > alarm clock in our own. Artifacts cast a long shadow, even at night.
> > > >
> > > > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmNULK87lK0
> > > >
> > > > David Kellogg
> > > >
> > >
> >
>
>
>
> --
>
> All there is to thinking is seeing something noticeable which makes
> you see something you weren't noticing which makes you see something
> that isn't even visible. N. McLean, *A River Runs Through it*
>