imitation vodka and Whole Process learning

From: Jay Lemke (
Date: Sun Jan 18 2004 - 18:53:03 PST

I've never tried straight potato juice ... but something tells me that
whether it has more flavour or less, I prefer vodka! (And for flavor, I
like Tanqueray Sterling, which mainly brands gin, but now also vodka ...
but then there must be many Russian vodkas I have not yet had the pleasure
to meet ...)

I also liked a number of the comments about imitation and learning in the
zpd ...

I think we have to remember that what usually happens is that someone TRIES
to imitate, but never can exactly reproduce any performance (it's in
principle impossible). What counts as "the same" depends on which features
of the performance saliently distinguish it in some community from other
possible performances, and this, after all, is what the learner really
needs to know, along with some performance skills. So there is always a
learner performance that differs in some ways (some that matter to us, some
that don't, some more, some less) from the "original".

Some of the differences are going to be unique features of the learner
(vocal quality, or motor "style"). Some are going to reflect the different
positioning of the learner in the dyad ... we often neglect the influences
of role, or power asymmetry, on performance. Some are going to reflect the
different interpretation by the learner of what the goal is, or what the
contextualizing activity is. Some may reflect the fact that the learner has
his/her own goals or larger activities in process, and is actually trying
to _appropriate_ the original performance rather than reproduce it.

All these are different senses of "re-envoicing" the original (in more
Bakhtinian terms). All represent "imitation" in a more realistic fashion
than mechanical replication, and one that contributes more to learning. It
contributes more because it helps create a situation in which the learner
can find out about what the salient criteria of "sameness" are, what the
relation of the performance is to role and power, what it's relation is to
larger activity context, and eventually, what the space of possibilities is
within which the imitated act lies, culturally and socially.

Learning in the zpd is not individual discrete events. It is a dynamic, a
developmental process, over several timescales, including the longer ones
on which we can compare current and past efforts at imitation or
appropriation, other people's reactions to them, etc.

So I especially liked the comment (Phil's? Eugene's?) that in the zpd, we
don't learn discrete, isolated content or skills as such. We learn about
the learning-and-teaching process, about the activity context of the zpd
itself, about the social relations and norms within it, and so about
various more general aspects of the society and culture that frames it. We
learn about ourselves, about the other/teacher, about our changing
relationship. The unit of learning is something really rather big, even if
we learn only gradually to see more and more of it, we are still learning
in and about all of it at all times. We are learning something like the
Whole Process, including the focal content or skill, but also including so
much more.



Jay Lemke
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Tel. 734-763-9276

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Feb 01 2004 - 01:00:10 PST