[xmca] Exchange from the past, part two.

From: bb (xmca-whoever@comcast.net)
Date: Fri Dec 16 2005 - 10:22:29 PST

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

Subject: Jon Tudge's comments
Date: Tuesday 24 November 1987 1:59 am
From: wp208
To: xlchc
Cc: cole, wp208

Dear Jon, thanks for interesting comments. Here are my reactions:

1) Why should the inner points in the triangles be called subprocesses?
I suspect that your question arises partly out of the difficulty to read
my diagrammatic model in the screen. If you are interested, I'll send you
a copy of my book 'Learning by Expanding' (1987) where you can see both the
model and its grounding and applications. The inner points are actually
smaller subtriangles within a complex triangle. My assertion is that any
activity system necessarily contains the aspects or subprocesses of
production, distribution, exchange and consumption (I'm here talking of
human activity systems). I don't quite understand why they should be called
products instead of processes. For me, the important thing is to study
the dynamic transitions within activity systems. Take a simplified example.
If we study the work activity within a factory, the immediately visible
process is a worker using a machine to mold some raw material: the
 subtriangle of 'production' in the limited sense. Soon we realize that this
 individual worker is a part of a complex workforce - the work community in
 the factory. What tasks he has to fulfill and what rewards he gets out of
 his performance are continuously negotiated and reconstructed: the
 subtriangle of
distribution. Furthermore, we realize that the worker continuously
communicates with other members of the community, exchanges experiences
and establishes cultural patterns and norms, while being also subject to
rules and regulations such as time schedules etc.: the subtriangle of
exchange. Finally, in the consummation of each work action, the worker
also lets his own workforce be consumed by the object, as does the whole
work community: the subtriangle of consumption. So, I would reserve the
concept 'product' to describe whatever changes the activity accomplishes in
its objects. In other words, the object of the activity has two faces, that
of actuality or 'givenness' and that of potentiality or projected future
form. It is important to notice that an activity system always has those
subprocesses or subtriangles as its integral parts. In historical
 development, new activity systems grow out of the subprocesses (e.g., the
 separation of private consumptive activity from work), but this does not
 eliminate the subprocesses.

2) I am not sure that I agree with your idea of consumption being just a
product of lower mental processes. Marx pointed out that even when an
animal and a human being are eating the same food, there is a tremendous
difference between them - man eats his food with a spoon or fork, for one
thing. When you go to a fine restaurant to consume your dinner, I think
you feel like a pretty complex mental being, being able to perform the
notorious 'restaurant script' with dignity. Marx wrote for good reason about
'productive consumption' and 'consumptive production'. I think that
consumption is certainly subordinated to the other three subprocesses in
man's societal activity - but it is in no way a 'lower' process.

3) I find it very difficult to analyze developmental changes in time with
the help of pyramids. Perhaps you could expand on that - I would gladly
see your idea presented graphically in a normal mail letter. For me, an
activity system always exists in an network of activity systems. The central
activity we are studying (e.g., the factory work) has a number of vital
neighbour activities: its products become instruments or objects for the
activity system(s) they are produced for; it receives instruments for
activity system(s) that produce instruments, etc. These are essentially
horizontal connections between activity systems. However, there is also a
vertical dimension. There are practically always culturally and
technologically more advanced forms of the same activity system somewhere
around; they exist as external realities and as projected ideas or models,
blueprints, plans, visions. And there are also 'yesterday' forms of the
same activity: these too exist as real functioning systems and as mental
models, habits, embedded structures within formally modernized activities.
This idea is familiar from El'konin and Leont'ev in the analysis of
ontogenesis (the sequence of leading or dominant activities of the
individual). But today it is becoming increasingly important to realize that
even such leading activities as play and school learning are not just steps
of individual movement through time - they move and develop themselves.
When we turn to work activities, we see that perhaps more clearly (maybe
that is why so few developmental psychologists have taken a serious look
at work activities - some challenges are too evident to avoid graciously
there). - All this elaboration of the triangles is, however, insufficient
for depicting developmental processes effectively. For that purpose, we
need an additional model. You'll find an attempt in my book. Here I only
want to point out that such a model of developmental transitions must
fulfill at least two requirements: (1) it has to account for the emergence
of qualitative crisis and changes, which means that traditional linear
conceptions of development as gradual quantitative accumulation, periodically
interrupted by mysterious upheavals, are useless; (2) it has to account for
the creation of objectively, societally novel artifacts and social
structures as the essence of development, i.e., conceptions which depict
development solely or predominantly in terms of internalization and
acquisition of given culture are insufficient.

Best regards,
Yrjo Engestrom


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