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[Xmca-l] Re: Fwd: Re: Article for Discussion

On Mar 20, 2016, at 3:48 PM, mike cole wrote:

Call this one, "on the ordering of things"


Apropos David's thoughts about text emerging from context, I had what I believe is a relevant experience last evening. Perhaps this is a relevant
context in which to relate the experience.

We have a bird feeder on the hill that rises from the back of the house. Bird seed is for most of the finches and other small birds that live in this semi desert (and the rabbit who feasts on the dropped seeds). Near the bird seed is a cup of grape jelly. It is a favored food of the orioles,
hooded orioles, among whom the male is bright orange-yellow.

It was late afternoon. The sun was setting to the west, and our hillside was alight with the slowly fading glow as it slipped behind the horizon. I stood for a moment to watch the finch-like birds eating and reflecting on the fact that a feeder that had remained full all day was rapidly being
depleted. Then... in what is said to be the blink of the eye. a bright
yellow flash appeared in the middle of my visual/attentional field. It was so striking a physical experience that it was a noticeable moment before I could name the phenomenon that I had experienced - the appearance of a male

I was focused in my thoughts last night on the distinction between
natural/phylogenetic and culturally mediated perception ala LSV. As a
result of Ross and David's exchange,

I need to rethink the experience in terms of which comes first, the text or
the context. David has this relations as first the natural, then the
conscious. I am not so sure of a first-second ordering. To me it seems that
the second overlaid the first with a very brief, seemingly unconsious
experience of "re-cognition."

Gotta love con-text as a topic for chatting!


On Sun, Mar 20, 2016 at 6:12 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:


As usual, you "select" exactly what I was trying share. By focusing on the
selection of certain things (objects and the feelings/thoughts they
evoke, exemplars of concepts) from the material setting we return, with a resounding creak and a crash, to the door of choice, of volition, of will, that gate of human freedom upon which all meaning (meaning, intention!) must perforce hinge. And that door opens on text, without which we cannot
speak of context.

I think that all text must be seen as more or less metaphorical, which is really a way of saying that any way of saying can be more or less mediated. Any wording is a "phonological" metaphor: that is, an attempt to make an act of sounding stand for an act of thinking. Some wordings are even more metaphorical; that is, more mediated, because there is metaphor on top of metaphor, or mediation on top of mediation. If I say (or better yet, sing) that Violetta is both a cross and a delicacy to the heart, then I am making a complex act of sounding ("croce e delizia al cor") stand for an act of thinking of three objects (a wooden cross, a Parisian patisserie, and a
pump for blood) which makes me think of three other things (torture,
delight, and a love which causes the whole universe to palpitate from one
to the other).

Ilyenkov's big problem was this: the orthodox, Pavlovian, interpretation of Vygotsky's legacy was that meaning was "objective" because it was a "second signal system"--that is, a stimulus that made some kind of sensory response in the nerves that made some kind of higher response in the brain. I think Ilyenkov could see perfectly well that this was just another Cartesian dualism: physical sensation in the nerves was a stimulus and cogitation in
the brain was the response. So he turned us all inside out. Oh, yes:
meaning is objective alright, but not because it leads us to some kind of spark in the brain neurons; it's objective because it leads us to human
activity in the environment.

MY problem is that this is only a reasonable description of how meaning might occur in infants. But most meaning is not like this: most meaning is conventional, not so much in the sense that it is "arbitrary" (that's exactly what it isn't, as soon as we put it in context) but in the sense
that it leads us along links that, unlike those of activity, are
non-causal. It may make perfect sense to say that the word "clap"
leads, along a causal link, to the activity of clapping. But it makes
no sense to say that the word "croce" causes one to be nailed on a cross, or the word "delizia" fills one's stomach with French pastry, or even that my thoughts and feelings are what cause me to sing in the shower. Coincide they do, but that coincidence is conventional and not causal. That's why it is one thing to say (as Helen Keller did) that everything must have a name, but it is very different to say that anything can be a name (the first is
manifestly false, while the second is almost true).

Anything can be a name, and we need a name for this non-causal relationship between soundings, wordings, meanings, contexts, and material settings.
Halliday likes the word "realization", and my supervisor, David Butt,
dislikes it for exactly the same reason. In English, the word "realization" has TWO apparently opposed meanings. When we say that a word is a meaning is "realized" as a wording, or a wording is "realized" as a sounding, we
are saying that there is a step away from ideality towards tangible,
physical, sensuous reality. But when we say that a sounding "realizes" a
wording, or a wording "realizes" a meaning, or a meaning "realizes" a
context, or that a context "realizes" a material setting, we are saying precisely the opposite. We're not just looking at active and passive forms
of the same process: it's a different process. We are saying that the
wording makes us realize what is meant, and the meaning makes us aware of the context, and the context makes us aware of some element in the material setting. Even in the last case, "realization" is a step in the direction of awareness, that is, ideality, and not reality. Halliday sees these two different processes as linked (and so they are), and David thinks they are
more distinct (that too).

David Kellogg
Macquarie University

PS: For those who are curious about the references to wooden crosses and French pastries, or who just want to hear a thumping good tune realized by
two exquisite singers:




On Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 8:34 AM, <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:


I am slowly beginning to make some sense of where you are leading us in
the way you are qualifying  the meaning of con/text to that which
particular phenomena that occurs as a particular kind of **activity** or
*behavior**. It is NOT a general endorsement of activity or behavior.

The particular quality forming this **text/context** is this process of *
*selection** that occurs within metaphorical ways of proceeding.

You do NOT see how activity which is NOT semiotic activity [metaphorical selecting activity] and you do NOT see how behavior that is NOT semiotic
behavior  [metaphorical selecting behavior] can possibly create

You are inviting [or calling] us to limit our understanding [or
interstanding] of text/context to a particular subset of
that **transforms** [through metaphorical selecting processes] the
material settings.

We can speak or call something text/context only AFTER this metaphorical selecting kind of activity/behavior **constitutes** THESE texts/ contexts.

Another interesting observation is that this kind of semiotic mediation forming texts/contexts **realizes** concepts and **realizes** feelings
and **realizes** perceptions . The underlying metaphorical selecting
process of something becoming text/context AS semiotic mechanism remains
pretty much the same.

As you call to our attention, there is ONLY the forming of text/ context when **something** has been metaphorically selected **as** a selecting process [which includes gestural metaphor, phonological metaphor, and
lexicogrammatical metaphor].

This selection process occurs FOR creating both text and context which
moves us towards **sense** and **shared meanings**.

And this returns us to Cultural Community psychology where culture is
defined AS shared meaning.

In conclusion **activity settings** and **behavioural settings** are too
general and do NOT highlight or illuminate the particular KINDS of
settings and behavioural settings that generate **sense** and **shared

David, I hope I have done justice to your exploration of text/ context??

If not I will continue to remain open to your calling me back to this
topic and topos.


Sent from Mail <https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=550986> for
Windows 10

*From: *David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
*Sent: *Sunday, March 20, 2016 1:33 PM
*To: *eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
*Subject: *[Xmca-l] Re: Article for Discussion


Actually, that's just the kind of text I'm working with right now. Here's

the plan. Every week, we give a nine month old baby a book. We ask four

questions in two languages (because the baby has one Korean speaking

and one English speaking one):

a) English: What's this?

b) English: Is it a ...?

c) Yigot mueo ya? (What's this?)

d) ... yi ya?   (Is it a ...?)

Sometimes we mix up the order. This goes on every week for the next three

years, as the child first figures out that a book is not edible. That it

contains pictures. That that the pictures are not just colors but meant

be signs. That beneath the pictures there are letters. That the letters

not just drawings but are meant to be symbols. That the symbols encode

settings, characters, and problems. That the problems can only be solved

means of dialogue, etc.

Now, the first time I tried this, the child simply could not concentrate

the object for any length of time. But the SECOND time I did it, the

literally could not look away from it! You could see that although the

child had no idea what was being said, the child was might just be

to think some proto-language equivalent of "What's this?" "Is it a...?"

got mu eo ya?" "Chaek yi ya?" And after a minute or so, the child looked

up, as if to see whether the large person making so much noise might be

thinking something along those lines too.

So maybe THAT's text! And as you can see it doesn't matter at all whether

the text realizes concepts or feelings or just perceptions, the

semiotic mechanism is pretty much the same. But it seems that there's

text when something has been selected from the material setting by some

human consciousness or consciousnesses for semiotic transformation;

only text when there some kind of "metaphor" (gestural, phonological,

lexicogrammatical) for context. It seems that it's precisely THIS act of

selection which transforms a material setting into a context, and it's

premature to speak of context before that happens. So for example I

wouldn't use the term context for the first week of work, only for the


I think it's legitimate to talk about "social context" and "cultural

context", because I believe that context, like text, exists on a cline of

instantiation. At one end, we have the relationship between a context of

situation (Malinowski) and a text (Halliday). That's the end I'm at right

now. At the other, we have the relationship between a context of culture

(again, Malinowski) and...and a whole language system (again, Halliday).

gather that's the end at which the KEEP and the Community Development

projects in Micronesia and the Delinquency Research plans are working.

I don't see how "activity" or "behaviour" can ever realize context,

it is semiotic activity and semiotic behaviour, in which case we might as

well start looking around for text. That's where the garlic and ginger

(Rod--I'm new at this stuff: watching infants crack the whole problem of

anthropogenesis single-handed, I mean. That's how exciting it is,

and that's about how baffling it is too. I know you are an old hand. Can

you give me any tips on what to read and advice about what to do next?)

David Kellogg

Macquarie University

On Sun, Mar 20, 2016 at 10:14 PM, Rod Parker-Rees <

R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk> wrote:

I was driven to respond to David's earlier comments about context since

own understanding of this term is in the context of trying to

how preverbal children make sense (meanings framed by social and

contexts more than by systems of concepts). Here it is difficult to

separate a text out of the context, an 'individual' thought process

from the interactions in which it can occur.

It strikes me that Andy's point about the contexts in which concepts

their meanings is particularly relevant here. The intersubjectivity

available to a caregiver-child dyad or within a family is of a

order to that available between otherwise unconnected speakers of the

'same' language. Where one is rooted in a history of shared experiences

common contexts  the other is rooted in a history of more or less

abstracted ideas (concepts) which refer to experiences but 'from above'

rather than 'from within'. Knowing what someone else means is never

completely achievable and I think the positive consequence of this is

intersubjectivity has to be understood as a process, a conversation

than an answer. 'Feeling' with other people is not an achieved end but

means towards sharing understanding (I like the idea that the word

understanding is misunderstood - 'under' deriving from the same root as

'inter' and meaning 'among' rather than 'below' - to understand

is to stand IN it).

We can know ABOUT other cultures through reading about them or watching

films but how we know cultures in which we have stood is importantly

different - I think. Meeting other people, or meeting with them, can

our personal understanding by exposing us to different ways of thinking

I think we have to recognise that thinking ABOUT ways of interacting

be understood as a multi-layered thing, ranging from the thickest

of our lived and co-lived experiences to the ethereal abstractions of

philosophical thought-play.

So sharing concepts out of context is doable but not achievable.

All the best,


-----Original Message-----

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:

xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden

Sent: 20 March 2016 10:34

To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu

Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Article for Discussion

I don't know if the issue is having common interests, Cliff.

I think it's very productive, even necessary, that each little bunch of

has different concerns and shines light on different aspects of human

But what we really need is shared concepts, through which we can

each other and collaborate. So it is good news that CC has appropriated

zone of proximal development, activity setting, shared activity and the

of genetic development.

I think we need to be very conscious of the dangers inherent in

appropriating expressions like these though. You pointed out that in

early days of CC, "'cultural psychology' was generally practiced as

'cross-cultural', largely as comparison studies", but everything I read

your paper tends to suggest "culture" is still understood and used in

this sense. Consequently it is very easy to miss the meaning attached

"culture" in CHAT, which, after all, originated in pretty much a

mono-cultural situation. One word can index different concepts.

interdisciplinarity is only achieved by means of shared concepts. But

the other hand, since the content of a concept is ultimately the larger

system of practices to which it is indigenous, it seems almost as if a

concept can only be shared when the broader context of its use is


Along these lines, it was a little while before I realised that you

using the word "intersubjectivity" with quite a different meaning than

would. It seems to denote empathy. "Intersubjectivity involves

feeling the same emotions and values in the same situations," and I

even know it means to "feel values."

Connected with this the description of joint action, turned out to be

sharp contrast to my conception of it. As I see it, collaboration (my

preferred term, rather than "joint

action") necessarily entails both moments of conflict as well as

cooperation. Harmony and bliss are great things, but I think they are

rather cheaply purchased simply by everyone marching in step.

I suspect that these two examples of shared words indicating different

concepts are connected to the hope of mutual appropriation by means of

having a "center of commonality."



*Andy Blunden*


On 20/03/2016 12:28 PM, Cliff O'Donnell wrote:

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Alfredo. Roland and I thought

that although CC and CHAT have many common interests, most folks in

each appeared to be unaware of the other (judging by the infrequency

of common citations). As described in our article, we and several of

our colleagues have been influenced by CHAT and have used CHAT

concepts in our research and intervention programs.

As for influence in the opposite direction, perhaps the KEEP project,

Seymour Sarason's work, and some of Maynard's work with Greenfield.

Also Kurt Lewin is a source common to both CC and CHAT. I too would

interested to hear of additional influence in the opposite direction.

You are correct that Delta Theory builds on psychosocial systems with

Vygotsky as an important source. Delta Theory boldly attempts to be a

universal theory of how change occurs using Delta as the symbol for


I'm pleased that you found the discussion of cognitive science,

psycho-neurology, and a potential center of commonality in psychology

of interest! That is the goal of the article, i.e., to show how the

commonality of CC and CHAT have the potential to form that

with developmental, educational, cognitive, and neuro-psychology.

Hopefully this discussion format will facilitate interest in the



On Mar 19, 2016, at 6:17 AM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:

Thanks Cliff and Mike for sharing this interesting article. I was

familiar to cultural community psychology and this and the other

papers in the symposium do a great job introducing and concisely

describing the field, and how it evolved from community to cultural

community psychology.

As I was reading, I wondered how much the influence of CHAT

literature had influenced the development of community psychology

itself from the start. As I progressed in my reading, I then found

clear references to these influences, which even meant the delay of

the publishing of Roland's work, I assume, due to the important

that Vygotsky's publications meant for the project. But then I

wondered on what had been other sources. What were other

influences to the field? I'd be interested to know about them in

because, while the paper discusses many examples in which CHAT gives

input to CC, I would like to know more about the (possible) inputs

the other direction.

Also, I found interesting the mention of a new center of commonality

in psychology in general. I was glad to see, however brief, mentions

to research in cognitive science and psycho-neurology. In your

Delta theory is mentioned as a move forward towards integration. In

the case of CHAT, this was pursued by means of developing a

scientific discipline based on dialectical materialism and the

sociogenetic method. Delta theory (I just had a very brief first

contact) seems to build upon the notion of psychosocial systems.

sounds very much in line with Vygotsky, who surely is a central

source. Again, here I would love to hear what other insights/ sources

are involved that may provide new insights to those more familiar to

CHAT but not so much with CC and Delta theory.




From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu

<xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of mike cole


Sent: 18 March 2016 02:39

To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity

Subject: [Xmca-l]  Article for Discussion

Dear XCMA-er-o-philes-

We thought it appropriate to put up for discussion the paper by

Roland Tharp and Cliff O'Donnell from the most recent issue of MCA.

Roland wanted to stimulate discussion among what he and Cliff saw as

people with a strong family resemblance. He passed away before this

part of the discussion could take place.

Roland and Cliff argue for the mutual relevance of Cultural

Psychology and Vygotskian inspired research in the approach referred

to often in these pages as CHAT, not only because it is an acronym

for cultural-historical activity theory, but because we have a

tradition of chatting here about the ideas in papers that sample our

different interests.

In this case, Cliff is intending to send this message and an

invitation to people from Community Psychology to join in. May it be

celebratory of Roland's long life seeking to promote growth


get your copy at


Enjoy, and of course, send along to others you think might be


Its legal, free, above board, and, hopefully, interesting!



It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an

object that creates history. Ernst Boesch

Clifford R. O'Donnell, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

Past-President, Society for Community Research and Action (APA

Division 27)

University of Hawai'i

Department of Psychology

2530 Dole Street

Honolulu, HI 96822




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It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an object
that creates history. Ernst Boesch

Clifford R. O'Donnell, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Past-President, Society for Community Research and Action (APA Division 27)

University of Hawai‘i
Department of Psychology
2530 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822