RE: No Dialectical Pumpkins yet please.

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Tue Apr 27 2004 - 01:08:46 PDT

At 06:16 PM 4/26/2004 -0500, you wrote:
>Steve, are there only two possibilities ( i.e., "all inside the head" or
>"in dialogue")? Is dialogue between people and culture really possible?
>Does the metaphor of "zone" open up our thinking in useful ways? Does it
>constrain our thinking at all?
>Don Cunningham
>Indiana University

Good thought-provoking questions, Don. I have Kris's recent post about
space in mind, so I will focus some on space and spatial metaphors. Just
the question I posed of the "location" of cognition presupposes a spatial
metaphor as an answer, but as you imply, there are more places that
cognition can be than just "inside the head" or just "in dialogue," and
going farther (a space metaphor) there is certainly more to human cognition
than just where it is and where it isn't. The essential point I think Bill
was making and I was endorsing is that human cognition is very definitely
more than just something that happens inside the head. I think the concept
of distributed cognition may be very important here.

My writing that you refer to was a little sloppy - it did sort of imply the
idea of a dialogue between people and culture by the way I wrote a phrase,
but what I was thinking of (inside my head?) was the dialectic (the
problematic of development) - between people and culture - and the
dialogues between people. These arenas (another spatial metaphor) - people
and their cultures, and people and their dialogues - could be considered
the general field (still another space metaphor) of events and artifacts
that distributed cognition - in general, cultural activities - are created

As Kris points out, "zone" is a spatial metaphor, which is what got me to
notice all of mine in this post. The term "zone" certainly does open up
our imaginations to think of human consciousness in spatial terms - as in,
for example, the zone of proximal development, a very powerful concept -
but like any metaphor, it is limited by the features of its image and
mechanism. Time does not figure directly into the "zone" metaphor, for
example. Seeing this vacuum, (geez, another space metaphor!) Bakhtin
created the technical term chronotope, which was also discussed in the AERA
session about space and CHAT that Kris spoke of. The term chronotope
covers (I can't believe all the space metaphors I use) both time and space
- roughly, a particular slice (another one) of human time and space in an
historical context - but it has the limitation of not only not being a
metaphor, but only being an unusual technical term unknown in everyday

All of these words and metaphors are useful in helping us understand human
consciousness - in space, in time, in development, in history, in an
individual, in a dialogue, in culture, in learning, etc. etc. At the same
time all have some limitations, and can certainly constrain our thinking if
we use them with insufficient care. I think the trick is to have a tool
box (finally, something other than a space metaphor) of metaphors and
concepts at hand to help us describe and analyze in a balanced and
effective way. The concept of "zone" would certainly be one of the
handiest of such metaphors.

Thanks for these interesting questions, Don. What are some of your
thoughts about them?

~ Steve

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