Re: [xmca] A Game of Yut

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Sun Oct 07 2007 - 08:41:52 PDT

I like the relational way of thinking in your note, David. But it does mean
that we have to
"rise to the concrete" in every use of these abstraction and be very clear
about the concrete,
which means dealing with all sorts of boring details.

And I figure there is no way to go directly from operation to activity as in
Andy's note below since
operations can be parts of many diffrent actions which can be constituents
of many different activities.

But I am guessing that Alex is giving ANL a bum rap if he claims as you cite
him, that
"As Kozulin points out, for Leonti'ev activities are NOTHING but actions and
actions are NOTHING but operations."
Let me cc Alex and Volodya Zinchenko who may have more to add to the topic.

On 10/6/07, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
> A concern of mine David, is this - and think it's the same concern as Erik
> Axel talked about in that great collection of "Seminal Papers" from the
> LCHC - what constitutes an activity? Why is this operation part of "work"
> rather than "nation building" or "play" or "exploration" or "my business"
> rather than "your business"? The way Hegel develops the idea provides an
> approach, but I couldn't see how Leontyev's approach left the designation
> of a collection of actions as this rather than that activity as anything
> other than arbitrary. I can only presume that a category like "work" in
> order to enter activity theory, has to be drawn from another discipline or
> accepted as pre-existing. (Take account please that I live in Melbourne
> where ANL's books are unavailable, so I might be missing something).
> Andy
> At 09:09 PM 6/10/2007 -0700, you wrote:
> >Mike:
> >
> > Last night over smoked duck and wine and kimchi we were talking about
> > how to explain written English to children. The phonics people over here
> > are very anxious to teach hard "rules" for sound-symbol mappings, and we
> > woolly whole language types prefer to talk about relationships, close,
> > looser, casual, gay and straight.
> >
> > I'm a woolly mammoth: I don't really believe in phonemes at all. The
> > Korean writing system is based on SYLLABLES. Most of the words we want
> to
> > teach are monosyllabic, so I thought we should present the kids with the
> > idea of words as sandwiches, with consonantal bread, and a bit of vowel
> > filling in the middle, and another consonant.
> >
> > We can make open-faced sandwiches (like "at" and "al") and even
> > breadless ones ("I" and "a") and if you drop your bread and butter it
> > will ALWAYS land butter-side-down ("pie" and "da"). Of course, it's all
> > an heuristic or, as Picasso would put it, "a lie that helps us get at
> the
> > truth". But so are phonemes, and so are the rules of phonics, and kids
> > always prefer to make their own sandwiches.
> >
> > I'm afraid my heuristic for activity, action, and operation is also a
> > lie that helps me get at something, though I'm not really sure it's the
> > truth. I imagine the relationship between activity, action, and
> operation
> > to be something like the relationship between trunk, branch, and twig.
> >
> > First of all, they are not really separate "levels" of reality (the
> way
> > that, say, sounds are one thing, and meanings are another, and sentences
> > are somewhere in between). They touch and overlap and grow out of each
> > other, a trunk can grow into a branch and a branch can even, under the
> > right conditions, grow into a new trunk.
> >
> > Secondly, they are largely defined (in my mind) by their relationship
> > to each other. That's why Gordon starts out with the "trunk" of the
> > practice of education, and then only gets as far up the tree as the
> > sequence (in his 1996 article). He's looking at the big picture.
> >
> > But the biggest unit I deal with is an individual lesson. That's why
> > Andy gets bored with the level of detail (as a painter, I can
> sympathize,
> > painters who paint individual twigs when they are doing a whole tree
> bore
> > themselves and everybody else too).
> >
> > I deal with this level of detail because my job involves teaching
> > Korean teachers what to say--individual utterances. You don't have to do
> > this when you are educating teachers whose native language is English.
> So
> > for me, the trunk is the lesson, the branches are Gordon's sequences,
> and
> > the twigs are individual utterances.
> >
> > I guess the point of my analysis is that a twig can put forward new
> > twigs, in which case we call it a branch, not a twig. The node where
> that
> > happens is, as Gordon points out, the EVALUATE turn. Viewed from the
> > point of view of the other turns in the exchange, the EVALUATE turn is
> > just a turn, and so it's part of an operation (the exchange).
> >
> > But viewed from the point of view of the other exchanges, it's an
> > operation on operations, because it comments on how successful the
> > operation of identifying the divination sticks has been. So it's an
> > action (a means of organizing operations in the realization of a goal,
> > laying out the parts of the game).
> >
> > I've studied a LOT of teachers presenting games. All of them face this
> > fundamental contradiction: in order for the game to exist, we need to
> > state abstract rules. But abstract rules are hard to state, because they
> > are abstract. (More, as Vygotsky would say, they refer to concepts, and
> > the direct instruction of concepts is pedaogically fruitless.)
> >
> > Many teachers get around this contradiction by starting with concrete
> > objects and using them to demonstrate the game so that children can
> > represent the abstract rules in their own minds. In "Banana Mediated
> > Emotions", I pointed out that the PRIZE is a concrete object, and it has
> > the great virtue of providing a goal for the action.
> >
> > But the PARTS of a game are also concrete objects, and beginning with
> > the parts of the game works pretty well too.
> >
> > T: Look, children. (Holds up a fist). What's this?
> > Ss: Rock!
> > T: Right. In rock, paper, scissors, it's a rock. But here it's the
> sun.
> > What is it?
> > Ss: Sun.
> > T: It's the sun. But look! The cloud covers the sun (covers with
> > "paper" hand gesture), who wins?
> > Ss: Cloud wins!
> > T: Right! Why?
> > Ss: Cloud covers sun.
> > T: Yes, very good. The cloud covers the sun. So the cloud wins. Now,
> > here comes the wind....(waggles "scissors")....
> >
> > You can see that the teacher progresses from NOUNS ("What's this?") to
> > VERBS ("Who wins?") to CONCEPTS ("Why?") and at each level the answer
> > forms the branch for the next twig: the parts form the basis for the
> > moves, and the moves form the basis for the outcome, which is the
> > orienting goal of the action.
> >
> > Hojin is also going parts to whole in this data. EXCEPT at the very
> > beginning, where she does this:
> >
> > T: Children, look at this.[C] This is Yut. [S] OK? What's this?[Q]
> >S: Yut!
> >T: Yut.
> >
> > Yut is not a part; it's the name of the whole game. So this exchange
> is
> > an orienting, meta-exchange. It's a twig which grows into a branch,
> > because from this twig grow the parts of the game (the combinations of
> > the divination sticks and their values).
> >
> > I realize that I'm eventually going to catch hell for this from
> > somebody (if Tony is away on vacation) because I know perfectly well
> that
> > trunks, branches and twigs are NOT what Leonti'ev meant.
> >
> > As Kozulin points out, for Leonti'ev activities are NOTHING but
> actions
> > and actions are NOTHING but operations. It doesn't make much sense for
> me
> > to say that the trunk of a tree is nothing but the sum of its branches,
> > or the branches are made up of lots of little twigs.
> >
> > Or rather, it does make sense, but it only makes sense if we stop
> > viewing these things synoptically or historically and instead see them
> as
> > they develop in real time, microgenetically (Sorry Andy!). The branches
> > WERE twigs and the twigs WILL BE branches.
> >
> > And of course this isn't really what Leontiev does (it's not the case
> > that scaring the animals somehow "develops" into the activity of getting
> > meat; it's ONLY the case that the activity of getting meat develops into
> > the action of scaring the animals).
> >
> > So my heuristic is a lie. But it's a lie that helps me get at
> > something...maybe something like the truth. Or maybe it just helps me
> get
> > another morsel of smoked duck and kimchi.
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Seoul National University of Education
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >---------------------------------
> >Moody friends. Drama queens. Your life? Nope! - their life, your story.
> > Play Sims Stories at Yahoo! Games.
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
> mobile 0409 358 651
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Received on Sun Oct 7 08:43 PDT 2007

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