RE: quipus

From: Carol Macdonald (
Date: Wed Jun 16 2004 - 07:11:06 PDT

David Kellogg--
Re your delightful example about the ababacus, one thing i might add that
might be helpful (and Valsiner says this better than I); microgenesis occurs
at a very specific moment of ontogenesis, and therefore is not subject to
the same laws governing ontogenesis, although it might be an occasion for
learning, and then for LSV, for development. We could think of microgenesis
as a time slice through ontogenesis, with the construction of new strategies
that are not typically at a qualitative level greater than the task before,
although potentially so. The examples I can think of are so obvious, that i
am sure you have better ones.

Now--back to marking mid-year exams.

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 5:53 PM
Subject: Fwd: quipus

Dear David,

Thanks for your kind answer! I am forwarding your message to the list.
I really don't know what would be an adequate answer to your questions
on ontogenesis/microgenesis but maybe others do. I do find the issue
quite important, particularly for its implications for learning and

----- Forwarded message from Kellogg <> -----
    Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 10:51:13 +0900
    From: Kellogg <>
Reply-To: Kellogg <>
 Subject: quipus

Dear David (Preiss):

Sorry about posting off line--I don't seem to be able to post on XMCA,
although I lurk most diligently and profitably.

Page 50 of Volume Four of Vygotsky's Collected Works (1997, New York:
Plenum Press) has a ref to the quipus, in the context of Vygotsky's
exquisite discussion of the rise of "artificial stimuli", from Pierre
Bezukhov's "patience" in War and Peace (p. 46) to child mastery of

A few nights ago I was watching my six-year old neice (who is Chinese)
trying to do her arithmetic homework. When she had a difficult
problem, she would move her finger in the air. I found this odd,
because she had pencil and paper right in front of her, so I asked her
what she was doing. She told me she was using an abacus!

When I see things like this, I am entranced with the idea that
children don't just learn, but in some way reinvent mediational means.
On the other hand, Vygotsky clearly rejects the modish (in his day)
notions about ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny and insists that the
output of the latter is the input of the former process, and is
thus "represented but not replicated".

What he DOESN'T discuss, and what really bothers me, is what this
means for the relationship between ontogenesis (that is, development
over a process of years) and microgenesis (that is, learning over a
matter of hours and minutes). Is it similarly a matter of "analogs but
not parallels" and "represented but not replicated"? What would these
look like? Like Yang-yang's imaginary abacus?

David (Kellogg)
Seoul National University of Education

----- End forwarded message -----

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