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[Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

If I could try to do my thing and draw attention to some distinctions in this field ... we have at least three different versions of Activity Theory involved here plus Leigh Star's theory and in addition the theories that have spun off from Leigh Star's initial idea. Each is using the word "object" in a different way, all of them legitimate uses of the English word, but all indexing different concepts. So for the sake of this discussion I will invent some different terms.

The German word Arbeitsgegenstand means the object of labour, the material which is to be worked upon, the blacksmith's iron. It is objective, in that if may be a nail to a man with a hammer and waste material for a man with a broom, but it is all the same Arbeitsgegenstand. Engestrom use the word "Object" in the middle of the left side of the triangle to mean Arbeitsgegenstand, and when it has been worked upon it becomes "Outcome." The hammer that the blacksmith uses is called "Instruments" or now "instrumentality," and the Rules, whether implicit or explicit, these are respectively the base and apex of the triangle.

Engestrom says " The object carries in itself the purpose and motive of the activity." So this "purpose or motive" is not shown on the triangle, but I will call it the OBJECT. This is what Leontyev meant by "object" when he talks about "object-oriented activity." The OBJECT is a complex notion, because it is only *implicit* in the actions of the subject(s); it is not a material thing or process as such. Behaviourists would exclude it altogether. But this is what is motivating all the members of the design team when they sit down to collaborate with one another. Bone one of the team thinks the OBJECT is to drive the nail into the wood and another thinks the OBJECT is to sweep the Arbeitsgegenstand into the wastebin. These OBJECTs change in the course of collaboration and in the End an OBJECT Is *realised* which is the "truth" of the collaboration, to use Hegel's apt terminology here.

Surely it is important to recognise that while everyone shares the same Arbeitsgegenstand, and ends up with Outcome as the same OBJECT, along the road they construe the object differently. This is what Vygotsky showed so clearly in Thinking and Speech. It is not the Arbeitsgegenstand or some problem carried within it alone which motivates action, but *the concept the subject makes of the Arbeitsgegenstand*!

Then Leigh Star comes along and applies (as Lubomir astutely notices) postmodern ideology critique to the collaboration within an ostensibly neutral infrastructure - that is, in Engestrom's terms Rules and Instruments, which are naively supposed to be there just to aid collaboration. And Leigh Star shows that this is an illusion; the Rules and Instruments are in fact residues of past collaborations which carry within them the Outcomes, i.e., realised OBJECTs of past collaborations. It is these one-time OBJECTs, now-Instruments+Rules which are the Boundary Objects.

But it seems that other have grasped the postmodern critique elements of this idea, that apparently ideologically neutral obJects (in the expanded sense of socially constructed entities, usually far more than OBJects - as things, or artefacts, including institutions - fossilised "systems of activity") and recognised the shared OBJECT as a Boundary Object, reflecting the fact not everyone has the same concept of the OBJECT, as Vygotsky proved.

But what Engestrom has done, by placing the Boundary Object in the place of Object on his triangle, joining two "systems of activity," for the purpose of looking not at cooperation but rather the conflict within the broader collaboration. The reconstrual of the Arbeitsgegenstand is deliberate and aimed to change the relation between Subject and obJECT (here referring to the Hegelian "Object" usually rendered as "the Other.") thereby introducing yet a different strand of postmodern critique into the equation, namely Foucault's Poststructuralism, to mind mind, with great effect.

OK, so we have Arbeitsgegenstand. OBJECT, Boundary Object, OBject, obJECT and obJect. And I might say, the situation is almost as bad in Russian and German,


*Andy Blunden*
On 22/07/2015 5:46 AM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
Thanks a lot for your appreciation, Lubomir.

To clarify my question in the previous e-mail, I wish to add that I am a bit familiar with the distinction between object and tool in activity theory, though not enough yet. I can see, and we were aware through the process, that what we describe in the paper has to do with how the object of design emerged and developed for the team in and as they were dealing with, developing, and resorting to particular means or tools. But I guess we could say that in our analyses there is a lack of a historical account of the object that goes over and above the particular instances analyzed. Although we provide with some ethnographic contextualization of the team's developmental trajectories, all of our discussion is grounded on concrete events and their transactional unfolding. We did not resort to the distinction between object and means because it seemed to be the same thing in the there and then of the episodes analyzed, at least in what participants' orientations concerned. If they ori
  ented towards anything beyond what was there in the meetings, it was in and through the meetings' means. How would then the distinction between means and object have added to our understanding of the events? (And this is not to doubt of the contribution from such a distinction, I really mean to ask this question for the purpose of growing and expanding; and as said before, part of the answer may be found in Engestrom et al. contribution).

As to how we would position our contribution with regard to activity theory, I would reiterate what we said when introducing the paper for discussion: we begun with the purpose of working outside any particular framework and think, as we think Star did, broadly, drawing from several sources. These included cultural historical psychology, ethnomethodology, and discourse analysis. But also the ideas about Experience (in the Deweyan/Vygotskyan sense) that have been the topic in this discussion were in the background all the time, but we did not operationalize them in terms of any particular theory. This is not to say that we went for the "anything goes;" we tried our best to keep internal coherence between what we said about the data, and what the data was exhibiting for us. Perhaps Rolf would like to add to this.

I think the questions you are rising about activity theory are very much in the spirit of what I am after, and I am not the best to answer them; but this xmca list may be one of the best places to be asking those questions.

From: xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Lubomir Savov Popov <lspopov@bgsu.edu>
Sent: 21 July 2015 21:16
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Dear Alfredo and Rolf,

There are also a few other things that I would like to bring to this discussion.

First, you have a wonderful project and a great article. It is a great example of an interpretativist approach to everyday life phenomena. Really interesting and fascinating. It is all about our minds, culture, and activity.

However, how is your approach related to classic Activity Theory? Some people might find that it is a Symbolic Interactionist approach; others might say it one of the Deconstructivist approaches that emerge right now or have emerged in the last decades; still other people might look for connections to ethnomethodology, discourse analysis, etc. I am not trying here to impose a template or categorize your methodology -- just raising a question about its connection to Activity Theory. And again, I am not saying that this is a shortcoming -- I would like to clarify certain things for myself.

For example: What are the limits and boundaries of Activity Theory? How much we can fuse Activity Theory and Postmodernist approaches? What do we gain when we infuse new methodological, epistemological, and ontological realities into Activity Theory? What do we lose? What is the threshold when it is not Activity Theory anymore? (I mean here Activity Theory as research methodology.) Do we need to call something Activity Theory if it is not? If we create a new approach starting with Activity Theory, do we need to call it Activity Theory?

Activity Theory is a product of Modern thinking, Late Modernism. The discourse you use in your paper borrows strongly from Postmodern discourses and approaches. I am not sure that Modernist and Postmodernist discourses can be fused. We can borrow ideas across the range of discourses, but after we assimilate them for use in our project, they will "change hands" and will change their particular discourse affiliation and will become completely different components of a completely different discourse. Mostly because the epistemologies and ontologies are different; and the concepts are very different despite of the similarities in ideas and words used to name these ideas.

Just a few questions that I hope will help me understand better what is going on in the realm of CHAT.

Thank you very much for this exciting discussion,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Alfredo Jornet Gil
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2015 11:36 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Andy Blunden
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Andy, all,
  I just recently begun to read Engeström and cols. contribution to the special issue, which is very interesting. I have particular interest in the difference that they point out between boundary object on the one hand, and object and instrumentality as different aspects of activity theory on the other. Rolf and I came across this distinction while writing our own paper. We noticed that the museum space, through multiple forms of presentations (e.g., the room itself, a floor plan, performances of being in the room while not being there, etc), was a means, an instrument for achieving a final design product.

At the same time, the museum space begun to become the object of the designers' activity. Since this were interdisciplinary designs, and the partners had multiple, sometimes opposite interests, what seemed to be a common object for all them was the museum as place. Thus, most representations of it begun to be made in terms of narratives about being there. That was the orientation that seemed to stick them together.

Thus, the museum space was both object and instrument. We wondered whether we should do connections to notions of object of activity and tools, but we felt that that road would take us away from the focus on body and experience. We ended up drawing from Binder et al (2011), who differentiate between object of design, the design thing that work delivers, and the object's constituents (or means of presentation before the design thing is finished).

When bringing the notion of boundary object into the picture, we could discuss the history of development of these relations between the different forms of presentations of the museum means towards the object without necessarily articulating the differences between the two. One advantage was that boundary objects focus on the materiality, which, as already mentioned, is not about materials in themselves, but about consequences in action. From the point of view of the persons implicated in the process, the museum space as object of design was an issue in and through the working with some material, some form of presenting it or changing it. Both object and instrument seemed to be moments of a same experience. But I still want to learn what we may get out of making the distinction between object and tool, as Engeström and colleagues do (so I should perhaps read more carefully their study rather than be here thinking aloud).
Any thoughts?


From: xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: 21 July 2015 14:38
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Henry, anything. But the point is objects which play some
role in mediating the relation between subjects, probably a
symbolic role, but possibly an instrumental role, too, and
one subject challenges that role and turns the object into
its opposite, and changes the terms of collaboration.
A number of examples spring to mind.

   * Loaded, especially pejorative words, such as Queer, are
     embraced by a despised group who take control of the
     word and assertively embrace it;
   * The post-WW2 women's peace movement who deployed their
     stereotype as housewives and mothers to magnificant effect;
   * ISIS's hatred and fear of women turned into a weapon
     against them by Kurdish women fighters (ISIS flee before
     them rather than in shame);
   * The Chartists who turned the British govt's stamp which
     put newspapers out of reach of workers against them by
     printing the Northern Star as a stamped newspaper and
     obliging workers to club together in groups to buy and
     read it, thus making the paper into a glorious
     organising tool;
   * the naming of Palestine and the Occupied Territory /
     Israel is the struggle over the meaning of a shared
     object (the land);
   * Gandhi's use of the landloom as both a weapon and tool
     for Indian independence and self-sufficiency, raising it
     from the status of obsolete and inferior technology to a
     symbol of India.

In think this is not what Susan Leigh Star had in mind when
she introduced the term, but core point is that  the
ideological construction placed upon an object is subject to
contestation, and if successful, the re-marking of an
artefact is a tremendously powerful spur to subjectivity.

Yrjo raises the question: is the"boundary object" a
mediating artefact or the object of work
(/Arbeitsgegenstand/)? I think the answer is that in these
cases it is a mediating artefact, tool or symbols according
to context. In principle it is not the Object in the
Engestromian sense, though it might happen to be.


*Andy Blunden*
On 21/07/2015 12:27 PM, HENRY SHONERD wrote:
Rolf, Alfredo, Andy,
I got to thinking about the photographs as boundary objects. What about video?

On Jul 20, 2015, at 6:07 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

Yes, thinking about this overnight, I came to see that it was the photographs that Thomas was endeavouring to turn to use to recover his humanity. This is consonant with how Yrjo was using the idea in relation to the subsistence farmers' movement in Mexico and their corn.
Thanks Rolf!
*Andy Blunden*
On 21/07/2015 3:04 AM, Rolf Steier wrote:
This makes sense to me, Andy. I could also interpret the photographs as boundary objects as they support the coordination of therapy activities between Thomas and the nurse. I think it depends on the aspect of activity one is attempting to explore as opposed to the definite identification of what may or may not be a boundary object. This is only my opinion though!

On Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 3:49 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

     Or alternatively, the boundary object in question is
     Thomas's aged body, which is subject to an
     interpretation which Thomas contests by showing
     photographs of far away places and explaining how
     well-travelled he is, seeking an interpretation of
     himself as a well-travelled and experiences
     Does that make better sense?
     *Andy Blunden*
     On 20/07/2015 11:27 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

         Yes, I agree. My own interest is in social theory
         and I'd never heard of "boundary objects." It
         seems to me that what BOs do is introduce some
         social theory into domains of activity (scientific
         and work collaborations for example) where the
         participants naively think they are collaborating
         on neutral ground. So it is not just granularity,
         but also the ideological context.

         In Yjro Engestrom's article, the home care workers
         collaborate with the old couple according to rules
         and regulations, communications resources,
         technology, finance and so on, which in the
         unnamed country, the old couple are apparently
         cast as "patients". Isn't it the case that here it
         is those rules and regulations, etc., which are
         the "boundary objects"?

         *Andy Blunden*
         On 20/07/2015 11:13 PM, Rolf Steier wrote:

             I think that a particular institution or
             government system could potentially be a
             boundary object depending on how the concept
             is applied. Star describes three criteria: 1)
             interpretive flexibility 2) material/
             organizational structure and 3) scale/
             granularity in which the concept is useful.

             She argues that boundary objects are typically
             most useful at the organizational level - so I
             would say that one would have to justify the
             utility of applying the concept to a
             particular institution, as opposed to, say, an
             object within an institution.

             On Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 2:46 PM, Andy Blunden
             <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>
             <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>> wrote:

                 So would it be correct to describe the
                 institutions and political system are
             "boundary objects"?
                 *Andy Blunden*
                 On 20/07/2015 9:42 PM, Rolf Steier wrote:

                     Hi Andy -
                     Good catch! I believe that is a typo
             and should
                     read "despite a LACK of consensus".
             Thank you for
                     pointing that out.

                     I also wanted to follow up on a
             suggestion that
                     Greg made in the other thread
             suggesting we look
                     at David McNeill's work. I had only
             been familiar
                     with his earlier work on gesture, but
             after doing
                     a bit of reading over the weekend, I
             found his
                     concept of  'unexpected metaphors'
                     useful in dealing with some of my

                     Here is a relevant quote describing
                     metaphors as a form of gesture:

                         /The logic is that unexpected
             metaphors arise
                     from the
                         need to create images when the
             culture does
                     not have
                         them readily at hand. These images
             join linguistic
                         content as growth points and
             differentiate what
                         Vygotsky (1987) called psychological
                     predicates, or
                         points of contrast in the
             immediate ongoing
                     context of
                         speaking. Unexpected metaphors,
                     because they
                         are outside the conventions of
             language and
                         can capture abstractions in novel
             ways and
                     provide the
                         fluidity of thought and language
             that is the
                         of ongoing discourse./

                     On Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 1:00 PM, Andy
             <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>>> wrote:

                         Rolf, what did you mean by "the
             achievement of
                         cooperation despite consensus"?
                         p. 131,

                         *Andy Blunden*
                         On 17/07/2015 8:45 AM, Rolf Steier

                             Are we allowed to ask
             questions about our
                     paper as
                             well? I hope so!

                             For a little context -in our
             paper, we
                             particular kinds of
                             episodes in which participants
             from different
                             disciplines seek coherence
                             and continuity of shared
                             bodily action. These
                             actions include gesture,
             movement and physical
                             performance linking the
                             present material artifacts to
             objects of
                             Most of these episodes
                             seem to involve some form of
                             resourcefulness or creativity,
                             and I'm not fully sure how to
                             aspects of the
                             interactions. In most cases, the
                     participants seem
                             to be searching for the
                             best words or material
             representation to
                     convey a
                             particular intention -
                             when this becomes problematic
             or limiting
                     - they
                             almost fall back on what
                             is available - these
             improvised bodily
                             performances - as a way of
                             maintaining continuity, and of
                             co-participants into a shared and
                             imagined space. These bodily
             actions don't
                     seem to
                             begin the proposals, but
                             are in a sense *discovered* by the

                             I think there is something
             really fascinating
                             about this kind of creativity
                             and resourcefulness in
             interaction that
                     could be
                             explored more deeply - and
                             that I'm having trouble
                     Maybe some
                             of you have some thoughts
                             on this? Alfredo - I know
             we've talked
                     about this
                             a bit before so maybe you
                             can add a little clarity to my

                             On Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 9:37
             PM, HENRY SHONERD

                                 Thank you very much for
             the sketch of your
                                 roots. I taught English in
                                 Puigcerda and Barcelona
             for 5 years
                     back in
                                 the early 70s, just before
                                 Franco died. (He died the
             day I
                     boarded the
                                 plane back to the U.S.) Place
                                 and language are interesting,
                     especially where
                                 language varieties meet.
                                 Boundaries. I know mostly
             from my
                                 with the music of Catalunya
                                 and Mallorca that the speech
                     communities in
                                 each of those places treasure
                                 their unique languages
             (Catalan and
                                 Mallorquin), yet see a
                                 vis-a-vis their
             separateness from
                                 Spanish, the national language
                                 of Spain from 1492 on. I
             see a parallel
                                 between your work on boundary
                                 objects, where individual
                                 to create spaces, AND
                                 boundary objects
             "negotiated" by groups of
                                 people who live in real
                                 I am thinking, among other
             things, of
                                 indigeneity, a big topic
             here in New
                                 Mexico, with so many
             Native Americans.
                                 Assymetries of power.
                                 Testing and curriculum become
                     instruments of
                                 war by other means. I hope my
                                 tone does not distract
             from, nor
                     diminish, the
                                 optimism created by this
                                 thread. Yet I think that
             optimism is so
                                 precious because of the
             ground (the
                                 world) of the dialog.

                                     On Jul 16, 2015, at
             12:13 PM, Alfredo
                                     Jornet Gil
             <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no <mailto:a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>


                                     Well, you could say
             that I am partly
                                     Catalan. I grew up in
             the province

                                 of Valencia, where Catalan
             language is
                                 official language together
                                 Castilian Spanish.
             Although Valencia (the
                                 county) and Catalonia are
                                 different regional
             counties, Catalan
                     is spoken
                                 in Catalonia, Valencia, and
                                 the Balear Islands. Some
             call the three
                                 together as the Catalan
                                 I don't like borders, but
             I respect
                     and enjoy
                                 cultural diversity.

                                     Standardized testing,
             and the whole
                                     assumptions behind it,
             are an issue

                                 also in Spain and in
             Catalonia; but
                                 has been so battered during
                                 the last years of right-wing
                     government that I
                                 the debate have been more
                                 about means and access
             than about
                     contents and
                                 aims. Which in some sense
                                 may be good because it
             moves the
                     debates away
                                 from performance. But I have
                                 been living outside of
             Spain for eight
                                 now, so I am not the best to
                                 update you on this either.

                                     Best wishes,

             <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                 behalf of
                                 HENRY SHONERD
             <hshonerd@gmail.com <mailto:hshonerd@gmail.com>

                                     Sent: 16 July 2015 19:54
                                     To: eXtended Mind,
             Culture, Activity
                                     Subject: [Xmca-l] Re:
             The Emergence of
                                     Boundary Objects

                                     Yes, you have answered
             my question
                                     nicely! I especially

                                 that you were willing to
             wrestle with my
                                 question, despite your lack of
                                 familiarity with the
             issues here in
                     the U.S.
                                 Am I wrong, or are you
                                 Catalan? In which case
             your experience in
                                 Catalunya would take you to a
                                 different place in critiquing
                     schooling there,
                                 though not necessarily
                                 unconnected to yours and
             Rolf's work on
                                 boundary objects. I just
             met for
                                 the second day in a row
             with a friend
                     who is
                                 the liaison between our public
                                 school district and a
             children's science
                                 museum called Explora. I
             feel like
                                 I'm swimming in this
             thread, talk about a
                                 mixed metaphor!


                                         On Jul 16, 2015,
             at 12:18 AM,
                                         Jornet Gil


                                         I am sorry, Henry,
             but I am
                     not very
                                         familiar with

                                 standardized testing (as
             different to
                                 standardized testing in
             general) or
                                 with common core (which I
             quickly read
                     is an
                                 issue in US). But I would say
                                 that, if (school)
             curricula were to be
                                 consistent with the view of
                                 education as the practice
             of creating
                                 conditions for certain
             attitudes and
                                 dispositions to
             emerge--which is what
                     I was
                                 suggesting in the
             paragraph you
                                 copy--curricula would not
             be so much about
                                 standardized contents, but
                                 human sensitivities and
             relations. So,
                     I would
                                 say, no, standardized
                                 testing is not in
             principle in line
                     with what
                                 I was trying to say.

                                         I was trying to
             make a distinction
                                         between trying to
             design someone's

                                 particular experience, and
             trying to
                                 conditions for the development
                                 of attitudes and
             orientations. The
                     first is
                                 likely impossible. The second
                                 seems to make more sense.

                                         One may of course
                     whether those
                                         attitudes and
             orientations can

                                 be considered general, and
             then form
                     part of
                                 standardize measures instead
                                 of the traditional
             "contents and
                     skills". But
                                 measuring assumes some
                                 quantitative increment in
             a particular
                                 as the result of learning.
                                 Growth and development,
             however, are about
                                 qualitative change. So, as
                                 as you start measuring you
             would be
                                 growth and development. So,
                                 again, no. I would not say
                                 standardized testing is in
                                 with what I was trying to say.

                                         I hope I have
             answered your

             <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                 behalf of
                                 HENRY SHONERD
             <hshonerd@gmail.com <mailto:hshonerd@gmail.com>

                                         Sent: 16 July 2015
                                         To: eXtended Mind,
                                         Subject: [Xmca-l]
             Re: The
                     Emergence of
                                         Boundary Objects

                                         Alfredo, you say:

                                         "However, we
             cannot aim at
                                         any particular

                                 situation/experience. The
             same may be said
                                 about EDUCATION. We cannot
                                 intend to communicate the
                     and make
                                 it the content of the
                                 students' experience in
             the way we
                     intend. But
                                 we can try to create the
                                 conditions for certain
             attitudes and
                                 dispositions to emerge."

                                         Would you say that
             testing is in
                     line with

                                 your construal of
             curriculum design?
                     How about
                                 common core?


                                             On Jul 15,
             2015, at 5:29 PM,
                                             Alfredo Jornet Gil
                                                        <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no <mailto:a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>


                                             Thanks a lot
             for the
                                                        clarifications. I see now
                     why it
                                             may be said that

                                 designers can aim at
             designing for
                                 but not for affordances. I
                                 see that this way of
             talking is part of a
                                 designers' way to get things
                                 done, and that it may
             indeed be an
                                 way to design for
                                 place-making, as in the
             example that
                                 gives of MOMA. Indeed, much of
                                 what we report in our
             study is about
                                 talking about how spatial
                                 features might afford some
                     in the
                                 museum while constraining

                                             I must admit,
             however, that I
                                             still consider
             the distinction

                                 problematic from an
             analytical perspective
                                 whenever our object of
             study is
                                 experience, situated
             action, or design as
                                 situated practice. A more
                                 way to talk is that
             affordances and
                                 are the positive and
             sides/interpretations of a single
                                 unitary category. As an actual
                                 and concrete phenomenon,
             walking into
                     a musuem
                                 implies both affordances and
                                 constrains at the same
             time, whether
                                 or not. Which makes me wonder
                                 whether other terminology,
             such as
                                 notion of "correspondence,"
                                 might be more appropriated
             when we
                     talk about
                                 how materials and actions
                                 become entangled into

                                             In any case,
             and as Rolf
             what the
                     designers in
                                             our study

                                 indeed do is to IMAGINE
             ways of being
                     in the
                                 museum. Imagination versus
                                 prediction may be an
             interesting topic
                                 emerging here for further
                                 into design work.

             important (and
                                             issue that I
             think is
                     emerging here

                                 has to do with the level
             of generality at
                                 which design intentions can be
                                 expected to work (just as
                     argued with
                                 regard to prediction). At the
                                 level of generic social
             processes, and
                     given a
             background, we as
                                 designers may try to make some
                                 generic situations more
             likely to
                     occur than
                                 others (facilitating that more
                                 or less people end up
             together in a given
                                 place). However, we cannot
             aim at
                                 determining any particular
                                 situation/experience. The
             same may be
                     said about
                                 EDUCATION. We cannot intend to
                     communicate the
                                 curriculum and make it the
                                 content of the students'
             experience in
                     the way
                                 we intend. But we can try to
                                 create the conditions for
                                 and dispositions to emerge.


             <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                 behalf of
                                 Glassman, Michael
             <glassman.13@osu.edu <mailto:glassman.13@osu.edu>

                                             Sent: 15 July
             2015 23:30
                                             To: eXtended Mind,
                     Culture, Activity
             [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                             Emergence of
             Boundary Objects

                                             Hi Alfredo,

                                             I think Rolf
             may have
                                             the question
             of the

                                 between affordances and
             constraints in his
                                 post. The way he described the
                                 designers as possibly
             setting up the
                                 with Pollock at MOMA.  It
             was a
                                 long time ago so I'm not
             sure if this
                     is the
                                 way it was or the way I
                                 remember it, but let's
             just believe
                     this is
                                 the way it was.  The painting,
                                 I think there were three
             were set up in a
                                 corner off a main
             corridor.  The
                                 lighting was dark, which
             if you have
                     ever been
                                 to MOMA is different, in
                                 many other parts of the
             museum there
                     is a good
                                 deal of natural light (there
                                 was this great fountain, I
             wonder if it is
                                 still there).  The paintings
                                 were on tripods rather
             than hung on
                     the walls
                                 and they were surrounded on
                                 three sides by walls.  All
             of these I
                                 would be considered restraints
                                 - pushing me in to the
             works rather than
                                 stepping back away.  It was
                                 impossible for more than
             two or three
                                 to view the paintings at one
                                 time and movement was
             limited, so
                     there were
                                 fewer chances for social
                                 interactions (you were not
             going to
                     pick up
                                 anybody looking at Jackson
                                 Pollock).  The atmosphere was
                     brooding, making
                                 it more likely that viewers
                                 would move towards internal
                     reflection.  All
                                 of these were constraints that
                                 canalized perspectives and
                                 the paintings.  You really had
                                 only two choices, you
             moved in to the
                                 paintings or you moved on,
             which I
                                 had done every previous
             time coming
                     upon them.

                                             The painting
             itself though
             affordances, an object
                     at the

                                 nexus of my journey
             through the
                     museum, where
                                 I was in my life, and my
                                 abilities to perceive the
             painitings.         This
                                 was something that could
             not be
                                 designed I think because
             nobody could
                                 that moment was going to
                                 happen.   So then what is
             a perceived
                                 affordance. Way back when
             there was
                                 also a Manet room.  It was
             a round
                     room with
                                 different variations of his
                                 water lilies in a circle.
             Almost the
                                 opposite in constraints it was
                                 large, airy, a lot of
             natural light. If you
                                 were looking to brood you went
                                 somewhere else.  In the
             middle of the
                     room was
                                 a wooden structure (not an
                                 obvious bench), but you
             realized as random
                                 colors dissolved into water
                                 lilies that you wanted to
             sit down.  You
                                 naturally moved to the
             center of
                                 the room and sat
             (wondering if a guard
                                 come and tell you it was
                                 actually an important
             piece of art and you
                                 should get off).  The designer
                                 anticipates a desire to
             soak in the
                     room, to
                                 almost get dizzy in the
                                 lights, and included in
             the design the
                                 of wood that will have the
                                 perceived affordance for
             sitting, changing
                                 your concept of time and



             <mailto:osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>] On Behalf
                                 Of Alfredo

                                 Jornet Gil

             Wednesday, July 15,
                     2015 3:01 PM
                                             To: eXtended Mind,
                     Culture, Activity
             [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                             Emergence of
             Boundary Objects

                                             Thanks Michael,

                                             I think we are
             saying the same
             indeed, or at
                     least more or

                                 less. I am quite certain
             that Bateson
                                 to energy, and that he used
                                 the mentioned examples (or
                     ones) to
                                 show how the energy that moves
                                 the pig is not a direct
             transfer of energy
                                 from the kick, whereas in the
                                 case of the billiard
             balls, the
                     movement of
                                 one ball is caused by the
                                 energy that the kicking
             ball brings. I
                                 be wrong in the context within
                                 which Bateson was
             discussing the
                     example, and
                                 I see that your account is in
                                 that regard is more
             accurate. But the
                     point is
                                 the same: you can not intend
                                 the outcomes of a system
             by addressing
                                 its parts as if they were
                                 connected directly, in a
             linear causal
                                 fashion; as if the whole
             was the sum
                                 of its parts. I do see a
             link with
                                 rejection of S-R and his
                                 inclusion of a third
             element that
                                 the whole system.

                                             But I totally
             agree with your
                                             comments on design
                     intentions as they

                                 relate to ecology, and I,
             as I know
                     also Rolf
                                 does, also like very much the
                                 notion of ecology to
             address these issues.

                                             If I read you
             correctly, and
                                             citing Don
             Norman (whose
                     work I

                                 you suggest the
             possibility that the
                                 between design intentions
                                 and actual experience
             could be thought
                     of in
                                 terms of different levels?
                                 That one thing is to
             design for what is
                                 general, but that we
             cannot design
                                 for the particular. Is
             that right? If
                     so, I
                                 think that Bateson had a
                                 similar argument on
             prediction, does
                     not him?
                                 That we can predict on
                                 general levels (e.g.
             population), but
                     not at
                                 the level of the particular
                                 (e.g., individual). I
             haven't gone
                     that way,
                                 but seems a promising road to
                                 consider this jumps
             between levels of
                                 generality or scales.

                                             Finally, I am
             not sure if
                     I get
                                             what you mean
             when you say
                     that we can

                                 design for constrains but
             not for
                                 I still see that the one
                                 presupposes the other; you can
                     separate them
                                 in talk, but, to me, in actual
                                 experience, a constrain is an
                     affordance and
                                 vice-versa. I don't see how
                                 the road has any inherent
                     that could
                                 not be an affordance at the
                                 same time. Of course, if
             you take the
                                 normative stance that
             roads are for
                                 cars driving through them,
             you may be
                                 But if we think of roads as
                                 asphalt on the ground, as
             yet more
                     ground only
                                 of a different shape,
                                 texture, and color, how is
             that a
                                 but not an affordance? Or an
                                 affordance but not a
             constrain? Of course,
                                 culture constrains once
             you are
                                 within the road and you
             are driving.
                     But then,
                                 the constrain is not in the
                                 road, as you seem to
             suggest, but in the
                                 journey; in the journeyman
                                 carries some cultural way
             of orienting and
                                 affectively relating to its
                                 environment so that particular
                     constrains are
                                 taken for granted despite the
                                 possibility of being
             otherwise. But I
                                 not have thought it well/long
                                 enough and of course I
             might be wrong.
                     I would
                                 like to understand your
                                 position here better.



             <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                 behalf of
                                 Glassman, Michael
             <glassman.13@osu.edu <mailto:glassman.13@osu.edu>

                                             Sent: 15 July
             2015 20:32
                                             To: eXtended Mind,
                     Culture, Activity
             [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                             Emergence of
             Boundary Objects

                                             Hi Alfredo,

                                             I have been
             reading Bateson
                                             through a
             cybernetics lens

                                 along with Lewin and his
             wife Margaret
                                 were part of the original
                                 conferences)  and I'm not
             sure that's
                     right or
                                 I am victim to the "when you
                                 have a hammer, everything
             looks like a

                                             I think
             Bateson was
                     arguing with
                                             those looking
             to apply the

             origins of
                                 to human or really (pace the
                                 pig story) and system that
                     beyond simple
                                 physical feedback loops.  I
                                 think his larger point is that
                     everything has
                                 a response within the larger
                                 feedback system that
             exists but we
                     cannot go -
                                 what Bateson refers to as
                                 MIND.  Attempts to create
             and control
                                 loops, to try and design a
                                 system for specific types
             of feedback is a
                                 dangerous proposition.

                                             This I think
             is the reason
             really can't
                     be designed

                                 into an ecology, only a
             recognition of the
                                 context in which actions are
                                 taking place (and I say
             this having no
                                 what Gibson's relationship to
                                 cybernetics was).  Taking
                     example of
                                 the girl it is perhaps also
                                 likely that the girl could
             have taken the
                                 fixing of hair as a
             criticism, an
                                 attack, and it might have
             destroyed her
                                 confidence.  Both make
             sense in
                                 terms of feedback loops,
             but only ad
                     hoc.  So
                                 if a designer does in some
                                 way design that experience
             into the
                                 even without meaning they are
                                 taking a large chance,
             because they do not
                                 know the trajectory it will
                                 take.  We simply need
             objects that are
                     part of
                                 our journey, part of the
                                 larger context but not
             designed for
                                 for feedback.  There is no
                                 assumption about trajectory.

                                             I think Don
             Norman sort of
                                             the waters on
             this, but in an

                                 interesting way.  That we
             can assume
                                 are going to want to do
                                 things in a very general
             environment -
                     when          you enter a dark room
             you want
                                 light, so it is possible
             to design objects
                                 that meet that need that
             we are
                                 more likely to find in the
             moment that
                     we need
                                 them.  But I think that is
                                 very different from the
             idea of
                                 guiding feedback loops that
                                 even take generalized
             experience in a
                                 direction.  I am thinking
                                 about Dewey, and he makes
             a similar
                                 to Bateson with his concept of
                                 transactions.  Although he
             does seem
                     to think
                                 that it is possible to create
                                 a larger field of action
             so we can see at
                                 least local
                                 But his idea of experience
             is also
                     very much
                                 one of discovery based on
                                 needs at the immediate
             moment - social
                                 relations act as a vehicle
             for these
                                 discoveriesn(Dewey of
             course was writing
                                 before Gibson and for most
             of his
                                 life before cybernetics.             I also
                     wonder what
                                 he thought of cybernetics).

                                             I think I
             disagree with you,
             are not about the
                                             journey but

                                 about the road.  If you
             build a road
                     on the
                                 side of the river you are
                                 constrained because no
             matter what,
                     you cannot
                                 turn right.  Your direction
                                 has already been partially
                     by the
                                 designer of the road.  But the
                                 mistake we make is in
             thinking that also
                                 controls the trajectory of the
                                 individual's journey.  The
             effect of
                                 on trajectories of action is
                                 important, but limited.

                                             The primary
             place that
                                             have influence on
                     affordances it

                                 seems to me is by being
             able to create a
                                 unique context for an
                                 and a group's that limit
                                 on an individual's journey.
                                 But we should never
             mistake those
                                 for affordances.  I think
                                 Bateson might argue it is
             hubris to do so.
                                 Perhaps this is what you are
                                 saying Alfredo.



             <mailto:ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>] On
                                 Behalf Of Alfredo Jornet Gil

             Wednesday, July 15, 2015
                                             12:38 PM
                                             To: Rolf
             Steier; eXtended
                                             Culture, Activity
             [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                             Emergence of
             Boundary Objects

                                             I'd like to
             follow up on
                                             post by asking
             a question:
                     Are not

                                 affordances presupposed by
                     and are
                                 not constraints presupposed
                                 by affordances? If so, I
             would wonder
                                 it makes sense to ask whether
                                 museums should be designed for
                     affordances and

                                             What I think
             is clear from the
                                             anecdote that
             you bring
                     about the

                                 Jackson Pollock corner is
             that whatever
                                 EXPERIENCE emerges from being
                                 somewhere (i.e. being
             someone at some
                     time in
                                 some place) cannot be
                                 INTENDED. And I think this
             applies both to
                                 designers and users, to those
                                 who set things up for you to
                     experience and to
                                 you, who could not foresee
                                 what your experience was
             going to turn you
                                 into before you go through it.

                                             I think that
             the big issue
                                             you bring on
             the table (to

                                 with Larry's metaphor) has
             to do with a
                                 difference between physical
                                 relations and social
             relations, and
                     the idea
                                 of MEDIATION. Gregory Bateson
                                 noticed that the relations
             that are the
                                 subject matter in physics
             are not
                                 the same as those that are
             the subject
                                 in communication. He noticed
                                 that physical relations
                     that are
                                 the object of study of
                                 transfer energy in direct
             manners: a
                                 ball hits another ball and we
                                 can anticipate the exact
             speed and
                                 that the second ball will take
                                 based on the energy that
             is in the
                     system ball
                                 + ball + someone hitting. In
                                 living beings, the things
             are different.
                                 Bateson explained, if we
             kick a
                                 pig's ass (I think he used
             this somehow
                                 bizarre example) the
             reaction of
                                 the pig is not accounted
             for by the energy
                                 that is contained in the kick,
                                 at least not in a direct
             manner. The
                                 that moves the pig is from a
                                 different source. Before
             Bateson, it was
                                 Vygotsky and his notion of
                                 mediation who would most
             clearly state
                                 social relations are not
                                 direct, but mediated.

                                             So, how can
             design go
                     about this?
                                             If we, along
             with Dewey and

                                 Vygotsky, consider
             experience to be a
                     unity of
                                 person and environment, and
                                 we assume as well that
             this is a
                     social (not
                                 just individual) category, and
                                 that how a situation is
             experienced is
                                 refracted through the social
                                 relations within which we
             engage, the most
                                 designers can do is to foster
                                 social relations go on, giving
                     afordances to
                                 prcesses of signification,
                                 without intending to embed
             meanings. It is
                                 about affordances/constraints,
                                 but not about how to interpret
                     something, but
                                 about going about
                                 interpreting. I think.

                                             Best wishes,

             <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                 behalf of
                                 Glassman, Michael
             <glassman.13@osu.edu <mailto:glassman.13@osu.edu>

                                             Sent: 15 July
             2015 18:04
                                             To: Rolf
             Steier; eXtended
                                             Culture,  Activity
             [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                             Emergence of
             Boundary Objects

                                             So after
             reading the
                     article and
                                             the e-mail
             discussion I'm

                                 to think there is a really
             big issue
                     here that
                                 I am trying to grapple with,
                                 especially in terms of
                     objects (which
                                 I admittedly do not
                                 understand very well).             And it relates
                     to the
                                 metaphor of the table (both
                                 as discussed by Larry and
             Ingold as
                                 interpreted by Rolf).  It
             is this, in
                                 the museum should the
             place be set up as
                                 affordances, perceived
                                 affordances, or
             constraints?  It seems the
                                 museum in the study has
                                 potential affordances for
             the users.  The
                                 cultural historical moment
                                 (unable to think of any
             other word) of the
                                 museum sets the context,
                                 those walking through the
             museum are
                     going to
                                 be restricted by the
                                 historical and cultural
                     leading up
                                 to the art work, along with
                                 the expectations and needs
             of the
                                 moving through the museum,
                                 but they will come across
                                 that they think meets the