Re: Scaffolding

From: Peter Smagorinsky (
Date: Mon Jan 24 2005 - 02:55:00 PST

If you haven't got time to read or reread War and Peace, you might try the
HBO series The Wire, which similarly is a drama in which each actor is
constrained by his institutional milieu (for the most part, the police
force or the drug dealing culture, which are parallel institutions in this
case). Although David Simon (the program's architect, whose experiences as
a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun provide the grist for the
storylines, and who co-wrote the overall story and some of the shows with
Ed Burns, a former Baltimore cop) probably hasn't read what we read on this
list, I'd say that he's produced one of the few chat-oriented programs ever
to appear in the US media.

If you go this route, I'd recommend watching it in sequence (unlike any
other program except 24, the story is stretched over the length of both the
season and the whole 3-season sequence, and individual episodes do not have
stand-alone stories) and starting by watching the first episode with David
Simon's commentary, in which he talks about the genesis and vision of the
program. Other episodes on the first disk also include directors'
commentaries which are also very interesting.

Perhaps not Tolstoy, but about as close as you can get in US television.
See A lot
of violence and profanity, and some nudity if you're faint of heart. But it
illustrates a lot of the principles central to a chat approach in a
riveting story.

At 05:26 PM 1/23/2005 -0800, you wrote:
>Vygotsky's treatment is clear. It can be found pp. 41ff of Vol. 4 of
>the collected works where he discusses the cultural evolution of
>mediational means. It is in this section that he gives the example
>from War and Peace, where Pierre cannot decide whether or not to go to
>war and castes dice as a means of deciding (and then rejects the
>answer if he doesn't like it-- all of war and peace can be seen as a
>meditation up on the nature of will and historical processes at the
>individual and social levels).
>PS- Nice to be done grading!
>On Sun, 23 Jan 2005 19:13:53 -0600,
>willthereallsvpleasespeakup who-is-at
><willthereallsvpleasespeakup who-is-at> wrote:
> > Ana
> >
> > This reminds me of Buridan's Ass,
> >
> >
> >
> > I do remember Vygotsky mentioning it, but Valsiner's diagrams really
> > bring out the significance of the reference for mediation.
> >
> > Nate
> >
> > Ana Marjanovic-Shane wrote:
> >
> > > It would be fascinating to compare concepts like Skinner's "shaping"
> > > to "scaffolding" to ZPD.
> > > >From the little quote by Skinner about how they taught a pigeon to
> > > bowl, and from the descriptions of the mother-child interactions
> > > (further down), there seems to emerge at least one big difference in
> > > the two types of learning:
> > > Pigeons learn within almost closed feedback loop between their
> > > behavior and the "reward" -- it is learning in a given situation and
> > > by "blind" trial and error.
> > > Children (people) have the "third" component, which mediates between
> > > the behavior and its "outcome" -- symbolic behavior -- language and
> > > other symbolic devices.
> > > I think that the process of mediation, or in other words, symbolic
> > > tools are that what is being constructed in ZPD. The learning is not
> > > direct -- ZPD is a "place" where you focus on construction of tools
> > > for a particular knowledge domain -- tools that can be used to
> > > actually get a grip on a particular domain of the reality. That is why
> > > it so often seems that children and adults already can do/understand
> > > something in play while it is still impossible in "reality".
> > > The question is -- can we observe learning through construction of
> > > symbolic tools in animals?? Or some animals? Ability to construct and
> > > use symbolic tools becomes an interesting evolutionary difference
> > > between humans and other species. The question is, is there an
> > > intermediary step between learning by a direct feedback loop and
> > > learning through a mediated ZPD? How does this new way of leaning and
> > > understanding come into existence in the evolution?
> > >
> > > Ana
> > >
> > >
> >
> > --
> > Website:
> > Blog:
> > Email: willthereallsvpleasespeakup who-is-at
> >
> > "The zone of proximal development defines those functions that have not
> yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will
> mature tomorrow but are currently in an embryonic state. These functions
> could be termed the buds or flowers of development rather than
> > the "fruits" of development. The actual developmental level
> characterizes mental development retrospectively, while the zone of
> proximal development characterizes mental development prospectively."
> > - L.S.V.
> >
> >

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