RE: real and virtual worlds

From: Eugene Matusov (
Date: Thu Jan 08 2004 - 16:04:17 PST

Dear Ricardo and Andy-


Thanks for the reference to Vygotsky's example. Now, after reading it, I
remember it :-(.


Ricardo, I think "virtual" and "real" realities are separated by practice
(its desired or undesired consequences). Following Vygotsky's example,
although fear of the person mistaken an overcoat for a burglar in dark is
very real, as Vygotsky correctly pointed out; the consequences of the
person's actions (about which Vygotsky was silent) disambiguated the
"virtual" versus "real" realities.


Thus, does not mean that "virtual" reality may not have a material
consequence. Following Vygotsky's example, the person might have had a heart
attack or even die before or even after he or she realized his/her mistake.
What would kill the person? The overcoat? The mistake? The fear of burglar?
The person's fantasy? Or the imaginary burglar?


This is why I pushed Ricardo's point of putting the word "real" in quotation
marks further and I put the word "virtual" in quotation marks as well.
Although there is no a clear-cut boundary between "virtual" and "real"
realities, the fuzzy boundary does exist and it is rooted in practice and
its consequences for the people.


I think that Vygotsky knew about fluidity of "virtual" and "real" realities.
His idea about how much the "as if" strategy wired in all humans contributes
to the human development by creating the zone of proximal development is
right on target, I think (except that Vygotsky might be wrong about some
details like his account of the development of the index gesture). The
phenomenon of self-fulfilling prophecy is about transforming the "virtual"
reality into "real" reality. Although self-fulfilling prophecy is rooted in
the "as if" strategy, the latter is much broader than self-fulfilling
prophecy phenomenon. For example, acting out of a "virtual" belief that
"money makes money" does not make it true - labor makes money - but this
"virtual" belief still facilitates the action itself (e.g., shameless
exploitation of others via a stock option pension plan).


The illusory nature of the "virtual" belief that "money makes money" is
evident in the fact that without exploitation the scheme would collapse -
a(n) (un)desired consequence. The true nature of the "virtual" belief that
"money makes money" is that it facilitates the exploitation by masking it -
another (un)desired consequence. Thus, I'd argue that the "real" reality is
supported by the network of contemporary practices in its totality, while
"virtual" reality is always only partially supported by this network. That
is why the statement that "labor makes money" is (so far) true while "money
makes money" is only a virtual statement.


What do you think?



PS Ricardo, thanks a lot for your systematic emphasis on gender neutrality
of Vygotsky's quotes. Unfortunately many translations of Vygotsky's work in
English did not comment on the important differences between Russian and
English with regard of gender of used pronouns. In Russian, all nouns have
one out of three possible genders (masculine, feminine, and neutral that
usually defined by the flexia of the noun). Often (but not always) pronouns
refer to the gender of the noun rather than to the gender of the referred
person. For example, Vygotsky often used the word "rebyonok" ("child") that
is masculine noun in Russian. Further in text, Vygotsky might write "he" to
refer to this noun. In Russian this "he" means "rebyonok" who can be a boy
or a girl. Recently in one of articles I read, I saw a quote from Vygotsky
where the author put emphasis on "he" (the author wrote "sic!" next to "he"
in Vygotsky's quote) probably implying that Vygotsky's writing was a sexist.




From: Ricardo Japiassu []
Sent: Monday, January 05, 2004 6:19 AM
Subject: Re: real and virtual worlds


Vygotsky's example:


A (wo)man is sleeping in his room and suddenly wakes up and open her-his
eyes. She-he takes her-his trench coat, laying over a coat stand, as an
intruder in her-his room. She-he does feel afraid of the intruder-trench
coat. The feelling she-he feels in that time is REAL although it had been
genereated by a distorted perception (imagination) of "what was going on".


He claims that PERCEPTION, IMAGINATION and FEELING are indissociated related
in human relations to [any - real or virtual worlds] "reality"; and the link
between them (perception-imagination-feeling) would be the "tip" to
investigate art psychology (psychology inbedded in any work of art reception


Virtual and "real" words are both mediated by culture. A one can interact
presentially or not presentially both in virtual and in "real" worlds. These
interaction can be synchronic or non-synchronic. Virtual and "real" worlds
are-were both criated by (wo)men. What distinguish them? The kind of
relation (wo)men have with them - according to Vygotsky's "law" of reality
of feeling.


The "aesthetic reaction", the catarsis to him, would be a specific kind of
"animic" feeling (intense and real but, at the same time, couscious of its
conventionated or "superior" nature).


Maybe catarsis could be a usefull category to approach human criation - of
course, beyond what is strictlly named "art". All human production have an
artistic nature, that's what he says in Art and imagination in childhood.
Human beeing has an artistic nature, and that very typical human "behaviour"
- or better, activity - arises from the emergence of a "new" psychological
cultural function: criative imagination.




Ricardo Ottoni Vaz Japiassu
Universidade do Estado da Bahia/Uneb

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

From: Eugene Matusov <>


Sent: Monday, January 05, 2004 1:18 AM

Subject: RE: real and virtual worlds


Dear Ricardo-


Can you describe Vygotsky's example you are referring to below, please?
Sounds very interesting but it does not ring a bell, so to speak.







From: Ricardo Japiassu []
Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 7:11 AM
Subject: Re: real and virtual worlds


On topic 1:


Maybe Vygotsky's "law" of reality of feeling (Psychology of Art and Art and
Imagination in Childhood ) can drop more light on the issue - his classic
example of real feeling started by distorted perception of a (wo)man that
take, at night, her-his trench coat by a theaf inside the room.



Ricardo Ottoni Vaz Japiassu
Universidade do Estado da Bahia/Uneb

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

From: Oudeyis <>


Sent: Wednesday, December 31, 2003 10:21 PM

Subject: Re: real and virtual worlds


Andy and Gene and Ricardo,

It appears to me that we are discussing two or three issues simultaneously:

1. The relationship between virtual reality and false consciousness

2. The emergence and non-emergence of class-consciousness among social

3. Class consciousness and false consciousness.

 Concerning the first issue, I would just like to clarify one point:

Virtual reality, as the term is used today, is a constructed replication of
objective conditions - a product designed through the model-building process
of rational thinking to imitate objective conditions - and not to be
confused with lkyenkov's ideational character of perception. Perception
emerges out of a life-time of exposure to objective conditions, and while it
is certainly the product of social relations, hence ideational, it is not
designed nor is it -as perception - a model of anything but itself. As
such, perception is neither virtual or false but simply situated; in space,
in time, and most of all in historical-social conditions.


The second question is more ethnological and historical than theoretical.
In Europe, and especially in Great Britain, class consciousness is much more
widespread than it is, say, on the North American continent -save Mexico and
Central America. In Great Britain, for example, the various classes have a
degree of cultural and political self-consciousness that would be unthought
of in the USof A . This class-consciousness can be accredited to a very
strong awareness and even pride of most Europeans of their not so ancient
Medieval past (remember our discussion on the English Flag?). In the US
something like class-consciousness may be found in the traditional culture
of the old Confederacy, though here as in much of S. America this
class-consciousness is - or was- connected to race and is ultimately related
to the history of conquest and slavery of the North American South and of
Hispanic America. Gene is correct, the most class-conscious social class in
Anglo-North America is that of the old rich. There are a number of theories
concerning this phenomenon - none based on strictly economic issues. During
the course of my college and University experience I've had an opportunity
to mix with scions of old, wealthy families (a lot of them used to study
Anthropology) and my general impression is that most of their class image is
cultural - even aesthetic - rather than economic.


Andy's point that Class consciousness and solidarity are attitudes which
have to be learnt through definite kinds of experience is well taken here -
especially as regards Anglo-North Americans. The US and Canada have
witnessed local and sometimes even Nationwide movements that have been
self-consciously working class in goals and practices, but these have
generally been sporadic and related to extended periods of economic crises
such as the great depression and the midwestern farm crises of the 70's and
80's. Interestingly enough, these have never actually produced a permanent
working-class consciousness, except among American Blacks where the economic
issues were usually totally hidden by ideologies of race. Most of the other
longish-lived working class movements - mostly expressed in energetic Trade
Union organization - usually emerged from large working class groups sharing
a recent past outside the US (immigrants). The Irish Unions of the mid to
late 19th century and the Jewish and Italian Unions of the first half of the
20th century maintained their strength for a generation or two, but declined
in size and vigour as the sons and grandsons of their founders "became real
Americans." In fact, American society has at least till now been a very
mobile one with enough people moving up and down the class ladder even in a
single generation to compromise the development of strong class


Class-consciousness and false consciousness is, as I've written earlier, a
non-issue that sells Newspapers and makes spurious reputations for moral
crusaders of both left and right.




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

From: Andy Blunden <>


Sent: Wednesday, December 31, 2003 5:50 AM

Subject: RE: real and virtual worlds


Well, yet again I need to be more precise, don't I.

I suppose what I mean it that, on one end, no two people see the world just
the same way, and at the other we all share the "illusion" that money has
value. I suppose this means that we all start with a number things we pick
up from living in the same capitalist world: the Zeitgeist, the world
market, the dominant social forces and realities, which are the basis of
"ideology". Although we all look at the world from different viewpoints, we
all look at the same world, with its characteristic mirages and illusions.
It could be said that someone looking at it from a "privileged" position is
more able to free themselves from what is illusory, in a better position to
be critical at least in thought if not in action.


At 08:26 PM 30/12/2003 -0500, you wrote:

Dear Andy


It will be interesting to check/test your (and Victors?) hypothesis about
*all* member of bourgeois society& sharing& the same illusions. I personally
doubt that members of upper class (old moneys) would agree with I believe if
you put an effort into anything, you can get ahead&(Strauss, 1992, p. 202)
But it will be nice to check that. I wish somebody made a study like Claudia
Strauss did with members of working, middle, and upper class people.


What do you think?





From: Andy Blunden []
Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2003 7:39 PM
Subject: RE: real and virtual worlds


Here we come back to what someone (Victor?) said about *all* members of
bourgeois society, whatever class, sharing in the first place, the same
illusions. Class consciousness and solidarity are attitudes I think which
have to be learnt through definite kinds of experience; such experiences are
not to be had in the home, generally are not conveyed in TV; perhaps the
first experiences are in gang-like interactions at school?


At 07:23 PM 30/12/2003 -0500, you wrote:

Dear Andy, I think you are right on the target talking about, what Jim Gee
calls, projective identity. The question that I have is how and why working
class people participate in middle-class cultural model(or way of talking).


It is not the case that working class people accept any middle class
cultural modelthat available via TV or other popular media. Although I do
not have much data about that but I doubt that many working class people
would buy middle class cultural model of child fostering based on constantly
giving kids choices. So the question is why some working class people
project themselves in self-actualizationmiddle-class cultural model but not
in child-rearing through choice-makingmiddle-class cultural model. I do not
think the preference of working class people in adapting middle-class models
can be explained simply by watching TV. Any ideas?


What do you think?





From: Andy Blunden []
Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2003 6:38 PM
Subject: RE: real and virtual worlds


We could put this together with Jim Gee's observations about play. People
are growing up acting out characters that they see on TV. They believe that
they can make their own character. But this turns out to be a frustrated
experience; they only get to play Doug Heffernan. ... Andy

Claudias study shows that also working class men widely hold this
self-actualizationcultural model they do and cannot enact it (but rather
they act out of necessity-based being a breadwinnercultural model). Victor
or anybody else, can you explain what makes proliferation of cultural
modelsthat people deeply hold but cant enact, please?

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