RE: Arievitch discussion

From: Eugene Matusov (
Date: Mon Jun 28 2004 - 13:51:42 PDT

Dear Peter and everybody--

I wish I could study my grandma's cooking (she died 10 years ago... :-( But
I guess that her cooking practices were similar to Micronesian navigation in
open sea described by Edwin Huthins:

Hutchins, E. (1983). Understanding Micronesian navigation. In D. Gentner &
A. L. Stevens (Eds.), Mental models (pp. 191-225). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

The point that Hutchins made is that the physical world is filled with
perceived cultural symbolism and calculations. My grandma could "see" in the
quality of beet how to cook it for "gefelta fish": what intensity of flame
to use, how much water to put, what herbs to add, how to compensate its lack
of sweet with sugar, how big the pieces it has to be chopped, and so on. All
these adjustments were made while she was cooking (in combination with her
assessment of the quality of other products and fish)... That is why
"internal" and "external" planes are not useful abstractions for me.

Does it make sense? What do you think?


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Peter Moxhay []
> Sent: Monday, June 28, 2004 3:04 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Arievitch discussion
> Eugene,
> You wrote:
> > In my view, Gal'perin's framework about "internal plane of actions"
> > prioritizes "armchair scientists" over people who plan with objects at
> > hands. What is such fascination with "mental abacus"? My grandma did
> > very
> > complex and sophisticated cooking without using receipts, measures, and
> > calculations (being print "illiterate" -- I can't apply the term
> > "illiterate" to my highly orally literate grandma!). For me, it is more
> > interesting than "mental abacus" because her cooking dealt with
> > open-ended
> > and ill-defined problems in contrast to "mental abacus".
> Very nice, example -- I agree the most interesting point here is
> creativity in the
> face of an open-ended problem.
> But wasn't your grandma indeed working on an "ideal plane" -- with an
> image
> of the goal she wanted to achieve? Isn't that what makes a good cook?
> She didn't work by trial and error with real flour and salt but had an
> "internal model"
> she could transform so that the first physical result (the food) was
> the desired
> result? Isn't this part of what Gal'perin's getting at?
> Maybe the abacus example is not the best because it implies the
> reproduction of
> some standard result rather than solving an irreproducible problem.
> Is Gal'perin's approach indeed focused on some physical action getting
> folded up and standardized, to be reproduced by rote? Or is there room
> for
> creativity like your grandmother's in his picture?
> What do you think?
> Peter

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Nov 09 2004 - 11:42:57 PST