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[Xmca-l] Why Doesn't Vygotsky Use "Microgenesis"?



When I read materials on Vygotsky, particularly in applied linguistics or
TESOL, I always get the "four timescales" (phylogenetic, sociogenetic,
ontogenetic, and microgenetic) from Mescharyakov's wonderful article on
Vygotsky's terminology. At first, in the vain hope that it would help us to
distinguish better between ontogenetic development and microgenetic
learning, I used this myself (see Song and Kellogg 2011).

Now I think that was a mistake. The term "microgenesis" was around when
Vygotsky was alive and he certainly knew about it: it's a constant feature
of Gestaltist studies of perception. It's also strongly associated with the
Nazi psychology of Leipzig. Vygotsky knows about the term and doesn't use
it, and I think he's got good reasons.

Even where LSV agrees with the Gestaltists (Kohler, Koffka, Lewin,
Wertheimer, Selz--they weren't all Nazis!) he doesn't seem to use the term
microgenesis. And actually, he's quite interested in Nazi psychology and
not afraid to quote it, although he bitterly, scathingly, denounces
Jaensch, Krueger, Ach, Kroh and others in "Fascism in Psychoneurology". I
think he doesn't use "microgenesis" because it conflates external
perception with perceiving meaning.

Halliday, who also uses "phylogenetic" and "ontogenetic", calls his "micro"
scale logogenesis: the creation of semantics (as opposed to biological,
social, or psychological semiosis). Take Zaza's article. At a particular
point, the participants become uninterested in perceptual high fidelity and
much more interested in meaning--what will Gogo think if she sees that her
daughter-in-law is using mechanical means for nursing?

Of course, semantic meaning is always linked to perceptual meaning. But
"linked" never means equal or mutual or fully reciprocal: the specific
weight is first on one side and then on the other. Microgenesis is what you
get in eye tests, and logogenesis is what you get when you are reading
Zaza's article (and when you are reading this post).

David Kellogg
Macquarie University