Re: [xmca] LCA-- transparency

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sun Jul 03 2005 - 09:03:23 PDT

So, michael, to identify how the transparency issue fits into the larger
discussion of language and activity:
 In the shift of levels of activity between action and operation there is a
shift in the nature of mediation. Operations
are still mediated in the sense that there is an artifact (word, stick,
bike) incorporated, but the artifact is so well
coordinated with the overall motion of the subject that it ceases to exist
consciously and becomes, as it were,
transparent. It "reappears" in consciousness in the transition the other
way, from operation to action when there
is some discoordination. (This process is dicussed in detail for everyday
perception in the Cole and Levitin article
on my webpage noted in prior message)
 This is true both of language and all semiotic mediation.
 Is this a fair summary? I am unsure. How does it fit, for example, with R.
Engestrom's discussion of operation and genre?

 On 7/3/05, Wolff-Michael Roth <> wrote:
> Hi Mike and all,
> I am re-reading Leont'ev, and he says some interesting things about
> those examples we were tossing around--I had completely forgotten about
> all of this. He writes about the physician probing for a bullet in the
> body of the patient:
> p. 37:
> the end of the probe with which he
> touches the bullet appears to be "sensitive" - that is, his sensing
> seems to be
> paradoxically mixed in with the world of external things and not
> localized at
> the boundary "probe-hand" but at the boundary "probe-perceived object"
> (the bullet). The same thing happens in any other analogical situation,
> for
> instance, when we perceive the roughness of the paper with the tip of a
> sharp pen, find a road in the dark with the help of a cane, etc.
> So the sensing happens at the end of the probe, just as the blind
> person senses the street with the end of the cane (see also Bateson, my
> comments about sensing the road with the end of the wheel)--If it
> appears as if the boundary between myself and the object is at the end
> of the probe, cane, tire, then these stand in the same relationship to
> me as my finger that moves about to touch and sense the roughness of
> the paper, road, bullet, etc.
> The upshot is this: We call the hand a mediating tool; or, in expert
> use, some tools are extensions of ourselves that do not (in
> consciousness) mediate what we do. But this is a dualistic
> description--the hand both mediates and is part of the subject, just as
> psychic reality is part of the subject and mediating its activity
> (Leont'ev).
> Michael
> On 2-Jul-05, at 10:45 AM, Mike Cole wrote:
> > If the journal is online, I will read with interest and if it is not,
> > might you provide a pdf,
> > Michael?
> >
> > I was starting from the cane and hammer examples, for which the
> > glasses metaphor does
> > not work well, at least for me.
> >
> > When the blind man picks up the cane, it is not transparent and the
> > mind, in Bateson's rendering of the
> > discussion, stops at the fingers and palm of the hand. But with
> > habitual use, the "mind" or the "mind's eye"
> > moves to the end of the stick, to the sidewalk at its tip, and then
> > even further outward when walking on a
> > habitual path.... I can find an electronic version of the example if
> > it is not familiar. I would need to go to
> > the library to get Heiddeger.
> >
> > What is it that makes the stick, as it were, become transparent, or
> > the handle of the hammer? Or, in the
> > case of the spike, that it is "seen through" to its source?
> > mike
> >
> > On 7/2/05, Wolff-Michael Roth <> wrote:
> >> I used the word "transparent" in analogy to glasses that I wear and
> >> that I do not notice. That is, in my practice, it is as if I was not
> >> wearing these glasses, I am looking right through, they are
> >> transparent. In the article where I develop this argument, I provide
> >> an
> >> example of a water technician who points to a spike on the graph and
> >> says, "This is a clogged pipe". Of course, what she is pointing to is
> >> not a clogged pipe, but an index pointing to the clogged pipe. In her
> >> practice, therefore, she looks right through the spike and sees the
> >> world, as if it was a pair of glasses allowing her to see the world.
> >>
> >> I compare this to the infamous painting "This is not a pipe" by Rene
> >> Magritte, and the analysis Foucault provided of it in "This is not a
> >> pipe". ([drawing of a pipe for smoking] captioned "Ceci n'est pas une
> >> pipe")
> >>
> >> I also describe how the signs become transparent, after being the
> >> object of inquiry initially, then become tools for analysis, and then
> >> disappear, seemingly. I use triangle notations to show the movement of
> >> the graphs (signs) in the process.
> >>
> >> Roth, W.-M. (2003). Competent workplace mathematics: How signs become
> >> transparent in use. International
> >>
> >> Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning, 8(3), 161189.
> >>
> >> By the way, I started out trying to make a case for Ricardo
> >> Nemirovsky's concept of fusion, but didn't get anywhere . . .
> >> Michael
> >>
> >> On 2-Jul-05, at 10:27 AM, Mike Cole wrote:
> >>
> >> > An extra long wait on the tarmac in New York heading home gave me
> >> > plenty of time to read the interesting articles
> >> >by Wells, Halliday, and Hasan in preparation for participating in
> >> the
> >> > discussion. But first I have started to read sequentially
> >> >through the messages and want to pick up on some earlier points.
> >> >
> >> >A comnment from wolf-michael in the signs and tools discussion
> >> > touches on an issue of great interest to me. Transparency.
> >> >Here is the statement that set me off.
> >> >
> >> >one more comment--if a tool such a cane or hammer is transparent in
> >> >use, then it is similar to my tongue or my arm or my leg, it is
> >> part
> >> > of
> >> >me and the world begins on the other end.
> >> >
> >> >Question: what are the conditions that produce transparency? Is
> >> there
> >> > a consensual answer to this question?
> >> >mike
> >> > _______________________________________________
> >> > xmca mailing list
> >> >
> >> >
> >>
> >>

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