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

*Andy Blunden*
On 5/06/2015 1:51 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
Henry, Mike:

The word "ideology" casts a very long shadow! I think that Saussure's
notion of "l'arbitraire" is better understood in English as the
"conventional". In Korean, by the way, it has the idea of "volitional",
that is, something under human control. So the patterns of meaning that we
find (e.g. the relationship between "ideal" and "ideology") are
conventional; they are under human control by means of conventions and
institutions, but they are not random in any sense (as Vygotsky says, you
can't call a pigeon a "blackbird" without doing serious violence to the
meaning of the word "black").

So, to uptake Mike's dictionary definition, the meaning of "ideology" has
come to mean socio-political assumptions or world view of a disagreeable
nature. This ideological shadow is certainly conventional, and it is
certainly not arbitrary--it has been carefully engineered by generations of
cold warriors and has now been taken over by a party which conventionally
calls itself "democratic", to hurl at a party which calls itself, quite
randomly, "republican". But to me the word "ideology" only means what it
meant to Volosinov: it is the study of ideas, and the study of the ideal in
material life, i.e. of signs and their effects on social and psychological

When we teach Korean children "science", we begin with a field of study
called "wise life". This then becomes differentiated into "natural science"
on the one hand "social studies" on the other. Only in middle school will
the children differentiate natural science into chemistry, physics, and
biology (and social studies will be differentiated into social studies
proper and ethics). These distinctions are, of course, as thoroughly
conventional as the distinction between sociology and psychology, or the
distinction between vocabulary and grammar.

Imagine, instead of "wise life" or "natural science" or even science, we
had evolved something called "matter-ology", a field which studies matter
in all of its forms: physical, biological, socio-cultural, and semiotic.
Within "matterology", we might distinguish a science of matter that in some
way indicates, suggests, represents or "stands for" other matter (other
phenomena), or other matters (megaphenomena) or other matters of fact
(metaphenomena). That's semiology, or as Volosinov would say, "ideology".

David Kellogg

On Fri, Jun 5, 2015 at 9:46 AM, HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com> wrote:

This is late in the game, so forgive me, but:

Appropos David re: Saussure, my understanding is that sometime towards the
end of the 19th Century linguistics shifted its focus from the diachronic
(historical, longitudinal) to the synchronic (in a single point of time)
study of language. Apparently actual violence during meettings of linguists
over such things as an original language resulted in making historical
linguistics a taboo subject. Hence, Saussure’s sin, as David describes it:

"Saussure, who did more than anyone to make the insights of the
into a coherent world view, said that thought and language, both
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
was the very process in which he'd made his own career--historical

He threw the baby out with the bath water. Chomsky topped that by making a
single language a sufficient basis for getting at what makes language tick
and keep on ticking. (He could have included Hebrew in his writing, which
he knew a lot about through his father.) Leaving out BOTH forms of
variation, diachronic and synchronic, leaves out a lot, if you’re trying to
understand development of language, either ontogentically or

Regarding what a symbol is, Saussure seems to have pushed l’arbitraire du
signe to its limit, that is the assumed arbitrary relationship between the
phonological (sound) and semantic (meaning) “poles” of symbols. (I take it
that any symbol is the unit formed by the pairing of a phonological and
sematic element. If I read Vygotsky right, he used “WORD” to capture this
pairing. Let me be clear that by the phonological, I mean strings of
language sounds from the shortest to longest: phoneme, morpheme, clause,
poem, etc.) Langacker is one of many who use the umbrella term “iconicity”
to capture the ways in which the material form of a language, its
"structure in sound" so to speak, is anything BUT arbitrary.

 From Wikipedia:
"In functional-cognitive linguistics, as well as in semiotics, iconicity
is the conceived similarity or analogy between the form of a sign
(linguistic or otherwise) and its meaning, as opposed to arbitrariness.”

 From this definition, iconicity is anything about the form of language
that is not arbitrary. This would include onomatopeia, but would also
include a looser sound symbolism, deixis or pointing, and what the
prototypical sign (sound) where there is no obvious connection between
sound and meaning, but where the choices made by a language community in
how they express themselves are influenced by factors internal to the
language and culture (e.g., the great vowel shift in the history of
English) AND language/culture contact (witness the massive borrowing into
English from other languages and the influence of English on other


On Jun 2, 2015, at 4:02 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:

David- I do not have Jan's book, so cannot judge your comments overall,
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.


PS- Perhaps Jan can find a moment to comment.

On Tue, Jun 2, 2015 at 2:20 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
Dear Larry:

So Zinchenko says that if I go on a journey through the desert and
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
taking a tool instead of a symbol with taking the WRONG tool instead of
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
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
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
It's quite literally a "human' nature; a society is nature humanized
by consciousness. Beyond the ficus dying on my window sill lies Seoul,
second largest city on earth. When I go out and do my grocery shopping,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
into a coherent world view, said that thought and language, both
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
was the very process in which he'd made his own career--historical

David Kellogg

On Tue, Jun 2, 2015 at 10:21 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
A fascinating way to explore the long shadow that concepts entail back
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

"The psychological theory of activity was concerned with the problem of
real [i.e. concrete] tools and objects that humans, also in accordance
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
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
is unfinalizable and may depend on the "reciprocal" interpenetration of
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"
Zinchenko's quote is on page 14.


On Mon, Jun 1, 2015 at 5:38 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>

The other day I was listening to Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette". It's
wedding night, and they got to bed. Because they have no alarm clock,
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.
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
roles and sing the song himself, that he will go along with Juliette's
and go back to sleep. So then Juliette hears the sound and realizes
you must leave, helas! And Romeo sings, "Non, ce n'est pas le
All of which reminded me of the crucial fact that in the sixteenth
they did not yet have alarm clocks. But when you hear the woodwinds
precisely at 1:47:35, what you hear, if you are a modern listener, is
electric alarm clock.

Now of course, in Gounod's time they no more had electric alarm clocks
in Shakespeare's. But such is the ideological footprint of artifacts;
heard the sound of the woodwinds as that of a nightengale, and we hear
as battery powered alarm clock.  Or is it the other way around, and
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
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
the soundings and the imagery. In most languages this seems arbitrary
so vocabulary seems a piecemeal affair.

It isn't. As Vygotsky points out, when you go back in time, you find
there are (at least) three kinds of associative links which must help
young vocabulary learner. We had the following list of Canadian
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
a moose, and hooting the second like a goose. With "badger" and
the link is wording--badgers badger grubs and bother birds, while
are always beavering around with dams and nests. Eagle somehow
with "eye" and "spy", and "porcupine" suggests a piney, spiney,

Of course, none of these are concepts. All are forms of complex. But
them are the ideological footprint, the long shadow, cast by an
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
before Juliet awakes. But in Gounod's version, he drinks the poison,
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

"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
Rolando Villazon has to wipe the sweat off the end of his nose before
kisses Nina Machaidze). But it's also somewhat terrifying, as a raw
demonstrating of the ideological footprint of artworks. A single sound
the power to be a bird in one century, a piccolo in another, and a
alarm clock in our own. Artifacts cast a long shadow, even at night.


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*