Re: [xmca] On Roth's "On Mediation"

From: Jay Lemke <jaylemke who-is-at>
Date: Thu Oct 25 2007 - 08:59:05 PDT

As another sort of example, think of the ways in which the
connotations and histories of words and phrases, their unconscious
semantics, or even their heteroglossic positioning (i.e. that they
are alternatives to other ways of talking about something) disappear
from consciousness and become 'second nature', automatized.

They are no less mediating just because they are outside consciousness.

But they are of course also less easily critiqued or changed, or
improved. It's very hard to re-learn something you don't realize
you've learned in the first place.

The question that might still be of interest here is whether when a
mediational practice becomes automatized, it ought to be considered
an "operation" in Leontiev's terms, or if it is still an action? is
consciousness the relevant criterion? should it be? I have always
thought of operations as "normally infra-semiotic" , i.e. under most
conditions they do not have or convey meaning in themselves.
(Anything can be made meaningful by some special framing, of course).

In the case of a manual activity such as the fish scoop example,
there seems to be a split in perspective between the actor and the
analyst (also a big issue for Bourdieu!), so that what is not
separately meaningful for the actor remains so for the analyst. And
when do the criteria of consciousness and meaningful-for-the-actor
coincide? should we consider something to be still meaningful because
it is meaningful for the community to which the actor and the analyst
belong? regardless of whether it is functionally so in consciousness
for any particular individual at any moment?


PS. we also have to consider the classic circumstance of what happens
when something goes wrong with the automated tool/process

At 08:58 PM 10/24/2007, you wrote:
>there is no how to use the scoop for the fish culturist. S/he just
>grabs it and throws the feed. There is not an instant that they think
>about it (consciously). When I drive my stick shift (I guess this is
>a rarity in the US), I NEVER think about how to shift, where to
>shift, which gear I am in. Over 40 years of driving, including
>trucks, I have come to the point where using the stick shift has
>totally disappeared from consciousness. (In the army, we had this
>game of shifting without using clutch---which has to be pushed twice
>in non-synchronized gears---just on feel. When you got it right, no
>sound is heard as in regular shifting. When you get it wrong---most
>people and newcomers generally, there is a lot of noise)
>When I think about these issues, I generally / latently have the
>double nature of AT: consciousness + material, which exists not only
>for object but for everything else. (This co-presence of the two
>dimensions also is central in modern philosophical work inspired both
>by dialectics and phenomenology, as in Jean-Luc Nancy, who is an
>superb Hegel exegete (he's got 2 books interpreting the dialectical
>On 24-Oct-07, at 3:28 PM, Gordon Wells wrote:
>I too had some difficulty with the non-mediating operation issue. I
>agree with your analysis of speaking and Mike Cole's explanation of
>Leontiev's example, but I still think that the operation (of gear-
>shifting or fish feeding with the scoop) act as mediational means in
>the action in focus. Using Mike's explanation, it would seem that
>having to attend to gear-shifting - or to how to use the scoop -
>means that those are actions - or probably sub-actions - rather than
>Taking this general discussion a little further, wouldn't it also be
>necessary to recognize that, just as there are sub-actions, so there
>are sub-operations that are even further from conscious awareness?
>>Hi Eric,
>>thanks for your note.
>>>How does the immediacy of operations develop into the mediated
>>>actions of a goal directed activity?
>>Operations do not "Develop" into mediated actions, they are
>>produced in response to current conditions, which include the
>>present state of the action. I am thinking about talking in
>>everyday situations as a paradigm. We don't go and search for
>>words, they seem to appear in our mouths. The type of words is a
>>function of the current state, including what we have produced thus
>>far, and we stop not BECAUSE of grammatical rules but because of a
>>stop order (remember, most people and especially children don't
>>know formal grammar and yet produce grammatical sentences), which
>>tells us that what we have produced is somehow complete. We can
>>make salient operations, which usually happens when something goes
>>wrong, and the reverse happens as we become familiar with actions
>>that they disappear from our consciousness. When this happens
>>precisely normally is not available to consciousness, because it
>>precisely involves the disappearance of being conscious of the
>>action. (I once studied it when I was teaching in Newfoundland,
>>taking also a course, and doing a study of tying shoe laces with a
>>child that had trisomy 21. What are operations to us had to be made
>>explicit, involving something like 18 steps in my case. With time,
>>2 actions combined, leading to the disappearance [becoming
>>operations] of its predecessors)
>>On 24-Oct-07, at 9:25 AM, wrote:
>>Firstoff: great read! I so enjoy an article that places a "real- world"
>>context for the reader to negotiate the scholarly "words". The
>>context being the fish hatchery. Also, for once I believe I have a
>>grasp on how Leontiev was negotiating the avenue of activities,
>>actions and
>>operations. Your examples clearly indicate the differences and I
>>am able
>>to better understand the history and development of Cultural- Historical
>>theory as a result of your article. Thank you. Here is my
>>Perhaps it is in the paper and I am not deciphering it correctly,
>>not. How does the immediacy of operations develop into the mediated
>>actions of a goal directed activity? Where is the explanation of the
>>process that allows actions to become operations? Vygotsky viewed the
>>transition of speaking aloud to problem solving to inner speech for
>>solving as the process. Valsiner similar but more intricate in his
>>explanations. The difference obviously being that Valsiner has
>>much more time in the research arena. Using your example of
>>learning how
>>to feed the fish could you possibly walk me through your thoughts
>>on how
>>you transitioned from using the scoop as a mediating device to the
>>where feeding the fish was an operation and you were able to move
>>into an
>>'everydayness' of feeding fish.
>>xmca mailing list
>>xmca mailing list
>Gordon Wells
>Department of Education
>University of California, Santa Cruz
>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
Received on Thu Oct 25 09:03 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Nov 20 2007 - 14:25:43 PST