RE: [xmca] Wells article

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Mon Oct 01 2007 - 19:28:20 PDT

Paul, I've put quite a little thought into how CHAT relates to discourse
ethics. I'm reading Seyla Benhabib at this very moment. I may be up the
wrong creek, but I think Habermas and co.'s problem is this.
The project which is the subject of the discourse, has a central role in
Gordon's presentation (under the name of 'activity'), as it should, But for
Discourse Ethics, the relevant shared activity or project is regarded as
more or less irrelevant. Of course, what is being discussed in a "practical
discourse" is who can talk, how you can talk, order of speaking etc., and
rules for the regulation of conduct. But there is no consideration that
these issues, which are the whole point after all, are more than a passive
object of discussion. Likewise, material culture is regarded as a
"resource" or "background" only, not the material means of mediating the
discourse. Neither the relevant cooperative or conflictual project nor the
shared material culture in which the participants may be involved are
considered relevant at a fundamental level.

At 05:37 PM 1/10/2007 -0700, you wrote:
> It just ocurred to me that listserv threads are something akin to
> Andean quipu, threads with knots used to record every kind of
> information. But . . .
> Maybe Gordon could explain how what he's proposing relates to Habermas'
> theory of communicative action, a fourth level to the Weberian continuum,
> beyond strategic action, communicative action, with its own ideal state,
> oriented to reaching understanding. As far as I can tell, this wheel
> might already have been employed in building various kinds of
> vehicles. So maybe some clarification would be useful.
> Paul. Dillon
>"Worthen, Helena Harlow" <> wrote:
> Andy --
>Are you saying you don't see a useful difference between language being
>used to coordinate actions directed toward a shared goal, and language
>being used to create something that is not the shared goal of the
>participants, but something different? I think this is a useful
>distinction, because the latter would give us a name for the process we
>would expect to see if we could zoom in on and observe in slow motion
>(maybe in a transcript) the way words get turned, replaced, defined and
>re-defined in the process of negotiating an agree-upon text.
>Helena Worthen, Clinical Associate Professor
>Labor Education Program, Institute of Labor & Industrial Relations
>University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
>504 E. Armory, Room 227
>Champaign, IL 61821
>Phone: 217-244-4095
>-----Original Message-----
>From: []
>On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
>Sent: Monday, October 01, 2007 6:15 PM
>To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>Subject: RE: [xmca] Wells article
>I took it that Gordon ended up saying that Halliday's distinction cannot
>Here is what he says:
>"From this work it has becomes apparent that the initial distinction
>by Halliday (1978)
>between ancillary and constitutive discoursing, although useful
>conceptually, is an oversimplification
>of actual practice. The first and most obvious complication is that many
>involve more than one genre, as when a shopper discusses the weather or
>current events in
>the course of a purchasing action.
>A second issue is that the distinction between ancillary and
>discoursing is
>not as clear-cut as Halliday suggested. Taking the football example from
>earlier, at various
>points before and during the game, the coach discusses strategy with the
>entire team and perhaps
>also with one or more individuals; he will probably also shout from the
>sidelines. Although the
>latter might fit Halliday's argument that "any instructions or other
>interaction among
>the players are part of this social action" (p. 144), it is not so clear
>that the strategy talk before
>the team leaves the dressing room is entirely part of the "social
>of the game itself.
>However, the most difficult issue is that of determining what goals are
>involved in any
>action in which discoursing plays a part. The problem is that
>rarely announce their
>goals, expecting others to be able to deduce them from the situation and
>from the genre form
>they adopt."
>So I didn't follow this issue any further because I wouldn't support
>particular dichotomy at any but a superficial level. I think discourse
>always, along with other elements of material culture, part of
>the project. I see conflict as essentially indistinguishable from
>collaboration and the material/ideal distinction between project also
>untenable. Anyway, Gordon gave three reasons for not making this
>distinction and that was good enough for me.
>At 02:41 PM 1/10/2007 -0500, you wrote:
> >Hello, xmca:
> >
> >I'll take a shot at the Wells article, as usual, from the point of view
> >of a labor educator.
> >
> >As I read it, he's distinguishing between the use of language as
> >"ancillary" to an activity and the use of language that actually
> >constitutes what participants are doing. When people use language to
> >coordinate activity, that's "ancillary." When the thing that has to
> >done" is itself made out of language (he gives the example of a meeting
> >with an agenda and agreed-upon decisions to be made - p. 167) then
> >that's "constitutive discoursing," the co-construction of "possible
> >worlds" (he references Bruner). However, he's saying, this distinction
> >has already been made (by Halliday). Wells then says that the
> >distinction between the two is not always clear, because people may be
> >co-constructing with different goals in mind. He lists some examples of
> >different goals in the middle of page 173.
> >
> >At this point, I am thinking that Wells is right but I'd like him to
> >give an example where people are co-constructing something but have
> >strikingly different goals in mind -- goals more different than the
> >goals of a trio of researchers observing their own discoursing or even
> >than the goals of a teacher and three students in a busy classroom.
> >
> >Of course I was reading this article keeping in mind the
> >constitutive discoursing that takes place when workers and employers
> >bargain a contract. The contract is an example of a "possible world."
> >is built up bit by bit over the years, written down and enforced
> >yards and yards, miles and miles of talk. In fact, both the contract
> >the process by which it is negotiated are negotiated. But most helpful
> >of all to me, as I try to understand what is actually happening when
> >people negotiate their conditions of work, was Wells' point that(p 174)
> >the "the participants are not interchangeable." Constitutive
> >discoursing (the co-creation of something through language) is
> >characterized by participants in an itneraction who are not
> >interchangeable. It is the different perspectives of the parties to the
> >negotiation that make the co-construction of something possible.
> >
> >I'm not convinced that the word "discoursing" is going to get into
> >popular use. It may be that Wells doesn't expect it to go much further
> >himself; in fact, he could be putting forth this term ironically, since
> >by the end of the article he appears to have pulled the plug on the
> >notion that discoursing is an activity in its own right.
> >
> >Is there a significant stream of argument that says that the use of
> >language for no other purpose (no co-construction, no constitution) is
> >in itself an activity? Wouldn't that be like carrying a tape recorder
> >down a busy street or drifting from channel to channel on the TV? But
> >then we'd be in the realms of art.
> >
> >I saw Chris Marker's movie, Les Chats Perches (?) last night. Now
> >there's a record of co-construction of an emergent text and possible
> >world.
> >
> >
> >Helena Worthen
> >Helena Worthen, Clinical Associate Professor
> >Labor Education Program, Institute of Labor & Industrial Relations
> >University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
> >504 E. Armory, Room 227
> >Champaign, IL 61821
> >Phone: 217-244-4095
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
>Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list
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Received on Mon Oct 1 19:31 PDT 2007

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