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[Xmca-l] Re: Unit of Analysis

Dear David

What is the term Vygotsky uses for these three "activities"? I might expect Vygotsky to say (following Spinoza) that the neo-nate is not active at all, but passive, and that therefore neo-nate behaviour is not activity.

Best wishes


festina lente

> On 8 Sep 2017, at 03:45, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
> Andy:
> We're currently translating Chapter Three of pedology of the adolescent
> into Korean. You know that Vygotsky likes to begin at the beginning. So
> Vygotsky is discussing the way in which the first year of life both is and
> is not the same as intra-uterine development. He points out that there are
> three "activities" (and that is the term that he uses) that are similar.
> a) Feeding. Although the child now uses animal functions perfectly well
> (that is, the child responds to hunger and even actively seeks milk) the
> nature of the child's food does not depend on these animal functions: it is
> still, as it was during gestation, a product of the mother's body.
> b) Sleep. Although the child has periods of wakefulness and activity, the
> main (as opposed to the leading) "activity" is inactive sleep, and the
> child does not keep a twenty-four hour cycle any more than she or he did in
> the womb. Even the use of the twenty-four hour cycle is an adaptation to
> the circadian rhythm of the mother as much as the establishment of the
> child's own circadian rhythm.
> c) Locomotion. Although the child now has space to move arms and legs, the
> human child doesn't use them for locomotion for many months after birth and
> instead depends on mother, just as a marsupial that has a morphological
> adaptation for this purpose would.
> Vygotsky's point is that these activities are not yet mediated; if they
> were, then the child's discovery of her or his own ability to act upon
> objects ("tools") and the child's discovery of her or his ability to mean
> ("signs") would not have the significance that they do. Ergo, historically,
> genetically, developmentally there must necessarily exist activity which is
> not made up of mediated actions.
> David Kellogg
>> On Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 10:51 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>> "Andy added the notion that experts need basically to be able to agree
>> reliably on examples of the unit" ?
>> Researchers need to be clear about the unit of analysis each of them are
>> using and of course, collaboration is much easier if you are all using the
>> same unit of analysis. Exemplars are a way of substantiating a concept
>> while a concept remains unclear or diverse, just like lists of attributes
>> and definitions - all of which still fall short of a concept. To grasp the
>> concept of something, like "unit of analysis," you have to know the
>> narrative in which the concept is situated. Narrative knowledge and
>> conceptual knowledge are mutually interdependent. The first three chapters
>> of the story of "unit of analysis" as I see it are in my paper "Goethe,
>> Hegel & Marx" to be published in "Science & Society" next year:
>> http://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/pdfs/Goethe-Hegel-Marx_public.pdf
>> - Vygotsky is the 4th chapter.
>> "What makes water not an element, but a compound, are the relations
>> between the subunits" ?
>> The idea of a water molecule pre-dates he discovery of its composition as
>> H2O and all the chemical properties related to that. As David suggested, it
>> is the much more ancient knowledge of the "water cycle" - rain, snow, hail
>> and fog ... run-off, streams, rivers, lakes ... seas, oceans ... vapour,
>> steam ... - which is expressed in the idea of a "water molecule" - a tiny
>> particle which all these things are made of, but which combines in
>> different forms of movement to give us the various physical forms of what
>> is all water. It is an unfortunate choice for a archetypal example, because
>> it appears to contradict my claim that the concept of the unit must be
>> visceral. The water molecule is so small it can be held in the hand, tossed
>> around and stacked together only in the imagination. Nonetheless, like with
>> metaphors, it is our visceral knowledge of particles (stones, pieces of
>> bread, household objects, etc) which makes the concept of a "water
>> molecule" something real to us, whose manifold physical properties arising
>> from its V-shape, and its electrical stickiness, are meaningful. This
>> contrasts with the 18th/19th century idea of "forces" and "fields" which
>> are intangibles (though of course we find ways of grasping them viscerally
>> nonetheless).
>> Different phenomena are grasped by the way one and the same units
>> aggregate. The unit relates to the range of phenomena it unifies. Different
>> insights are provided by different units, *not necessarily in a hierarchy*.
>> But a hierarchy of units and in particular the micro/macro pair are a theme
>> which runs right through this narrative, the micro in some way "explaining"
>> the macro which in turn explains the main phenomena: cell/organism,
>> atom/molecule, commodity/capital, word meaning/utterance, artefact-mediated
>> action/activity, etc. I am interested in this micro/macro relation but
>> personally (despite my interest in Hegel) I am not a fan of trying to
>> systematise the world with a "complete set" of units. Just one unit gives
>> us an entire science. Let's not get too carried away. :)
>> I hold the view, with A N Leontyev, that *Activities are composed of
>> artefact-mediated actions and nothing else*. Any move away from this
>> destroys the ontological foundation and takes us into metaphysics. If it is
>> not an artefact-mediated action or aggregate of such actions, what the hell
>> is it???
>> Andy
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> Andy Blunden
>> http://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/index.htm
>> https://andyblunden.academia.edu/research
>>> On 8/09/2017 3:41 AM, David Dirlam wrote:
>>> The issues that have arisen in this discussion clarify the conception of
>>> what sort of entity a "unit" is. Both and Andy and Martin stress the
>>> importance of the observer. Anyone with some experience should have some
>>> sense of it (Martin's point). But Andy added the notion that experts need
>>> basically to be able to agree reliably on examples of the unit (worded like
>>> the psychological researcher I am, but I'm sure Andy will correct me if I
>>> missed his meaning).
>>> We also need to address two other aspects of units--their classifiability
>>> and the types of relations between them. What makes water not an element,
>>> but a compound, are the relations between the subunits (the chemical bonds
>>> between the elements) as well as those with other molecules of water (how
>>> fast they travel relative to each other), which was David Kellogg's point.
>>> So the analogy to activity is that it is like the molecule, while actions
>>> are like the elements. What is new to this discussion is that the activity
>>> must contain not only actions, but also relationships between them. If we
>>> move up to the biological realm, we find a great increase in the complexity
>>> of the analogy. Bodies are made up of more than cells, and I'm not just
>>> referring to entities like extracellular fluid. The identifiability,
>>> classification, and interrelations between cells and their constituents all
>>> help to make the unit so interesting to science. Likewise, the constituents
>>> of activities are more than actions. Yrjo's triangles illustrate that.
>>> Also, we need to be able to identify an activity, classify activities, and
>>> discern the interrelations between them and their constituents.
>>> I think that is getting us close to David Kellogg's aim of characterizing
>>> the meaning of unit. But glad, like him, to read corrections.
>>> David
>>> On Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 10:08 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:
>>> ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>>    Yes, but I think, Martin, that the unit of analysis we
>>>    need to aspire to is *visceral* and sensuous. There
>>>    are "everyday" concepts which are utterly abstract and
>>>    saturated with ideology and received knowledge. For
>>>    example, Marx's concept of capital is
>>>    buying-in-order-to-sell, which is not the "everyday"
>>>    concept of capital at all, of course.
>>>    Andy
>>>    ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>    Andy Blunden
>>>    http://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/index.htm
>>>    <http://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/index.htm>
>>>    https://andyblunden.academia.edu/research
>>>    <https://andyblunden.academia.edu/research>
>>>    On 7/09/2017 8:48 AM, Martin John Packer wrote:
>>>        Isn’t a unit of analysis (a germ cell) a
>>>        preliminary concept, one might say an everyday
>>>        concept, that permits one to grasp the phenomenon
>>>        that is to be studied in such a way that it can be
>>>        elaborated, in the course of investigation, into
>>>        an articulated and explicit scientific concept?
>>>        just wondering
>>>        Martin
>>>            On Sep 6, 2017, at 5:15 PM, Greg Thompson
>>>            <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com
>>>            <mailto:greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>            Not sure if others might feel this is an
>>>            oversimplification of unit of
>>>            analysis, but I just came across this in
>>>            Wortham and Kim's Introduction to
>>>            the volume Discourse and Education and found
>>>            it useful. The short of it is
>>>            that the unit of analysis is the unit that
>>>            "preserves the
>>>            essential features of the whole".
>>>            Here is their longer explanation:
>>>            "Marx (1867/1986) and Vygotsky (1934/1987)
>>>            apply the concept "unit of
>>>            analysis" to social scientific problems. In
>>>            their account, an adequate
>>>            approach to any phenomenon must find the right
>>>            unit of analysis - one that
>>>            preserves the essential features of the whole.
>>>            In order to study water, a
>>>            scientist must not break the substance down
>>>            below the level of an
>>>            individual H20 molecule. Water is made up of
>>>            nothing but hydrogen and
>>>            oxygen, but studying hydrogen and oxygen
>>>            separately will not illuminate the
>>>            essential properties of water. Similarly,
>>>            meaningful language use requires
>>>            a unit of analysis that includes aspects
>>>            beyond phonology,
>>>            grammar, semantics, and mental
>>>            representations. All of these linguistic and
>>>            psychological factors play a role in
>>>            linguistic communication, but natural
>>>            language use also involves social action in a
>>>            context that includes other
>>>            actors and socially significant regularities."
>>>            (entire chapter can be found on Research Gate at:
>>>            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319322253_Introduct
>>> ion_to_Discourse_and_Education
>>>            <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319322253_Introduc
>>> tion_to_Discourse_and_Education>
>>>            )
>>>            I thought that the water/H20 metaphor was a
>>>            useful one for thinking about
>>>            unit of analysis.
>>>            -greg
>>>            --             Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>>>            Assistant Professor
>>>            Department of Anthropology
>>>            880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
>>>            Brigham Young University
>>>            Provo, UT 84602
>>>            WEBSITE: greg.a.thompson.byu.edu
>>>            <http://greg.a.thompson.byu.edu>
>>>            http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
>>>            <http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson>