Re: [xmca] belatedly on Wells' article

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Sun Oct 14 2007 - 17:13:04 PDT

At 07:05 PM 14/10/2007 -0400, you wrote:
>I agree with Mike that mediation, in some sense(s), occurs not just
>through tools, but also via more community level "culture". The problem, I
>think, is to not simply reify abstractions like rules, norms, division of
>labor, etc.,

... or on the other hand, to see how rules, norms, division of labor, etc.,
*are* reified (or objectified), and why people act in line with them as if
they were written down like road signs?


>but, again as Mike recommends, to see how they play out in concrete cases.
> From such cases we can try to build a repertoire of different ways in
>which these community-level mediations occur.
>In the genre/SFL/register approach that Gordon recommends, and that
>Ruqaiya Hasan also commented on, one way to see such mediations is through
>the ways in which different "social voices" (ala Bakhtin) or textual
>genres, which have their manifestations in talk and texts at the apex of
>the top triangle, themselves translate divisions of labor and opinion, or
>social norms, in the community (or communities) into concrete practices
>... such as in Bakhtin's notion of heteroglossia, which has both a
>sociology of social divisions aspect and also an "axiological" one, which
>manifests social norms, attitudes, values, etc. According to SFL discourse
>theory, we ought then to expect to see these lower-triangle mediations
>show up in genre and register differences, right down to the level of
>linguistic choices and frequency distributions.
>If there is, among the waiting queue of papers-seeking-comment on xmca,
>any which offer us concrete cases where we might pursue these
>possibilities, I'd be very interested to see them. Especially if they
>contain any specific data on language-using or other sign-using practices
>in concrete joint-action activities where the norms and practices of one
>or more communities are being brought together (uneasily? or too easily?).
>Heracleitus wrote that 'the road up and the road down are the same road',
>and maybe in triangle-land the way across runs through such up-and-down
>roads. I sure know that my own research does!
>At 12:36 PM 10/14/2007, you wrote:
>>In a discussion with Gordon that was mostly about other matters I raised the
>>issue of the extent to which it is appropriate to think of the mediations in
>>Yrjo's expanded triangle as only occuring through the apex, and where
>>subject-subject mediated interaction (including discourse) was not also
>>represented there. Don't social rules mediate the activity and person-person
>>interactions. Are there not pathways of mediations from subject to community
>>AND to mediators at the top?
>>I have been thinking how important it is when using these highly abstract
>>representations to rise to concrete examples and, having done so, to compare
>>the ways in which different representation highlight different features of
>>the overall system in a way that is more complentary than contradictory.
>>Are people about done with a focus on Gordon's article? There are a couple
>>of people who might benefit from having their work read and discussed on
>>XMCA and want advice.
>>I am happy to stay with Gordon's piece which has been a rich source of
>>discussion, but if people want to put it into the store of
>>to-be-returned-to-when-needed contributions, we might put up something new
>>where junior folks are seeking critique and advice.
>>On 10/13/07, Jay Lemke <> wrote:
>> >
>> >
>> > After a way-too-busy last several weeks, I've finally caught up with
>> > reading a lot of xmca posts, and especially those about Gordon Wells'
>> > article on discoursing as an operational mediation of activities.
>> >
>> > I generally agree with Gordon's point of view, but with some
>> > exceptions and a few shifts in conceptual framework. As this was
>> > obviously a very complex topic, I'm just going to make a few points
>> > here and attach the notes I wrote to myself to articulate my own
>> > position in more detail.
>> >
>> > We surely do need better ways to talk about both the similarities and
>> > the differences in how activity is mediated by talk vs. artifactual
>> > tools. Both are indeed material, and both are, I believe, also
>> > potentially (though tools not always so in practice) semiotic. The
>> > ways in which they are mediational for an activity may be more
>> > constitutive (the activity unthinkable apart from them) or more
>> > optionally instrumental (the activity may be clumsy or fail without
>> > them, but can be imagined without them). Signs are one kind of tool.
>> > Or better said, I think, material objects or material processes (like
>> > phonation) can be used-as-tools-in-activity, and are not
>> > tools-as-such except when used-as-tools-in-activity, and likewise for
>> > tools that are (or are also) used-as-signs-in-activity. The special
>> > character of sign-use distinguishing it from non-semiotic tool-use
>> > has to do with the difference between the material
>> > affordances-for-use of tool-qualities as such and the possible social
>> > meanings of those qualities and ways-of-using. This is key and
>> > complex, and it's the main subject of the attached notes.
>> >
>> > I am not so clear about Gordon's proposal to take talk-in-activity as
>> > operation-level in Leontiev's sense. I've always thought that there
>> > have to be more than just three levels in the analysis of an
>> > activity, even if the relations between operations and actions, vs.
>> > the different kinds of relations between actions and activities, are
>> > key to understanding the possible types of relations among the many
>> > levels. Within talk, there are already many levels, articulating
>> > among themselves in both the sound-to-word way and in the
>> > sentence-to-paragraph way (cf. 'double articulation' in classic
>> > linguistic theory). And between talk and larger activities in which
>> > it is embedded and for which it is constitutive or instrumental to
>> > some degree, there are also multiple levels of (or links in a chain
>> > of) interpretance, ala Peirce. More on this in the notes.
>> >
>> > I've always appreciated Gordon's dialogical version of Engestrom's
>> > triangles, based on his reading of Bakhtin (with which I mainly
>> > agree). But I wonder if in this formulation we don't somewhat
>> > background a key element of the top triangle -- that the use of
>> > mediational means is a digression, or displacement, from direct
>> > subject-on-object or here subject-on-subject action? It's a different
>> > activity with the mediation of tool or sign than without it, even if
>> > the same goal is reached. In the subject-on-subject version, while we
>> > can and should pay attention to the emergence of joint goals and
>> > outcomes, or on the conflict of goals, etc., I think the core issue
>> > is linguistic manipulation and control as a displacement from direct
>> > physical manipulation and control (though clearly we often do both,
>> > and this may be especially important in early development, as it is
>> > in learning/teaching bike riding, etc.). But we also need to think
>> > about how language, or sign-use in general, serves to directly
>> > influence the Other, and how it differs from, say, pushing them
>> > bodily or hitting them with a stick (tool). Differs both for the
>> > better, and for the worse, in terms of power and control, or
>> > resistance. My sense is that there is a lot in this more
>> > uncomfortable aspect of linguistic mediation to help us understand
>> > how and why signs are used in joint activity. Historically, not all
>> > joint activity has been voluntary.
>> >
>> > I apologize for the occasional opacity of the attached notes where
>> > they reflect my inner-speech.
>> >
>> > JAY.
>> >
>> >
>> > Jay Lemke
>> > Professor
>> > University of Michigan
>> > School of Education
>> > 610 East University
>> > Ann Arbor, MI 48109
>> >
>> > Tel. 734-763-9276
>> > Email.
>> > Website. <>
>> >
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > xmca mailing list
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>>xmca mailing list
>Jay Lemke
>University of Michigan
>School of Education
>610 East University
>Ann Arbor, MI 48109
>Tel. 734-763-9276
>Website. <>
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
mobile 0409 358 651

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Received on Sun Oct 14 17:14 PDT 2007

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