Re: [xmca] From epistemic hospitability to material intelligence

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Fri Oct 26 2007 - 15:13:28 PDT

Hi Kai--

Lots of interesting ideas in your note.
The preface kind of bothered me. I can understand how email to xmca can go
astray -- ucsd
has been in a very difficult location vis a vis local fires and has been
closed for the week... and for
a while there were electricity cutbacks. Things go astray even in better

But what mechanism exists for censoring email sent by members of xmca to the
Non-members cannot send, so far as I know, but I know of no mechanism for
someone from subscribing and none for intercepting messages once sent. Do
If so, lets get rid of it!!

Where in his writings does LSV talk about epistemic artifacts, or is this
your way of
talking about, for example, his discussion of written language?

I fully agree about problems with the notion of IQ and the methods of
intelligence. There is a pretty extensive literature on this topic including
a short
discussion in Cultural Psychology and the following paper, originally
written in
1981, which has appeared in a couple of places.

I look forward to following the link you provided.
PS-- are you going to the ISCAR conf next may on development at work?

On 10/26/07, Kai Hakkarainen <> wrote:
> Dear friends,
> I am submitting this message for the third time to the XMCA list hoping
> that
> the two earlier versions sent couple days ago were lost in cyperspace
> rather
> than unfairly censored. I am sorry that these waiting processes have
> resulted this message gradually becoming longer and longer... I will try
> to
> create shorter ones in future.
> Best regards,
> Kai
> Dear Jay,
> Thank you for your insightful comments. I made a comment considering
> epistemic hospitability because the discussion concerning the Watson
> affair
> did not appear to go anywhere. I think that it would be more profitable,
> in
> epistemic terms, to problematize our basic notions of intelligence than to
> get stuck with the Watson's case. The conservative notions of intelligence
> as a fixed individual characteristic have become social representations
> constraining and restricting in many ways people's life in terms of making
> them falsely believe that they cannot overcome this or that learning
> challenge or acquire corresponding expertise.
> While thinking about your comments I was reading David Baird's Thing
> knowledge that is about the "forgotten" instrument-driven material history
> of science. It also tells the materialist story of Watson's and Crick
> discovery of the double helix in terms of examining concretely in the
> materially embodied modelling space (with sticks and balls) "which atoms
> like to sit next to each other".
> Baird's materialist epistemology aims at revealing the
> thus-far-largely-ignored working knowledge embedded in construction of
> instruments and associated manipulative skills and "fingertip knowledge".
> Due to the textually biased science studies (overemphasizing ideas on
> paper), this material aspect of the greatest intellectual achievements of
> humanity has been disregarded.
> It came to my mind that there might be a corresponding bias in the history
> of investigating human intelligence. As Mike Rose pointed out in his Mind
> at
> Work, investigators have systematically under-evaluated intelligence
> involved in manual work in general and female occupations in particular.
> One
> of his examples is his own mother who was a first-generation immigrant and
> functioned as a waitress across all her life. Mike's analysis reveals, in
> an
> illuminated way, the parallelly distributed processes required by waitress
> work carried under both time-related and emotional pressures.
> Corresponding
> excellence in intelligence, would be extremely hard to simulate with any
> AI
> program, is needed for pursuing head-dressing or pluming. One of human
> species-specific strengths appears to be our material cognition, i.e.,
> capability of merging and fusing various instruments with our cognitive
> architecture and collectively developing, cultivating, and refining
> sophisticated material cultures. Perhaps, a larger degree of epistemic
> hospitability would assist in acknowledging the intelligibility embedded
> in
> materiality.
> If disregarding intelligent materiality is the first flaw of the received
> view of intelligence, it appears that ignoring material intelligence
> involved in creative work is the second one. It appears that the
> traditional
> approach that reduces intelligence to mental processing of pure ideas tend
> disregard the fact that pursuit of creating epistemic artefacts is through
> and through material in nature in terms of taking place in space and time
> and being embedded in a heterogeneous network of digital or physical
> artefacts. At least I prefer work with printed texts (physical artifacts)
> when evaluating theses by requests of the university. All investigators I
> know have surrounded themselves with books, articles and other entities of
> materialized intelligence.
> I am aware of Wolff-Michael's work concerning scientific cognition as
> something that is disciplined both to minds and bodies as well as his
> efforts of re-defining scientific literature, and appreciate it. What
> appears to be missing from some sociocultural accounts of scientific
> cognition is the acknowledgement of importance of epistemic mediation, i.e
> .,
> mediation related to creating epistemic artifacts. In Vygotskian terms,
> creation of epistemic artefacts provide a kind of double stimulation
> regarding object-oriented inquiry. Novel ideas emerge at the
> surface-boundary artefacts, in the sustained processes of elaborating and
> extending them, rather than merely within the mind. This kind of mediation
> has a central role in a large European Knowledge-Practices Laboratory
> project ( that I am involved in. The project relies on an
> assumption that intelligence of academic learning and research is embedded
> in collectively cultivated knowledge practices, i.e., social practices
> related to working knowledge. In this regard, I share your observation
> concerning smart communities making smart people by capitalizing (among
> other things) on epistemic diversity.
> One example of material intelligence (that comes to my mind, so to speak)
> is
> creation of a scientific publication culture. Cultivation such a culture
> may
> require one decade of deliberate efforts. After being created, however,
> the
> mere access to collective knowledge practices in question tends to enable
> newcomers to start cultivating corresponding epistemic competencies. The
> mere belief in well-known slogan "Publish or perish" may not help one to
> make even one article. An engagement is appropriate academic knowledge
> practices, in contrast, helps, often even without any deliberate
> instructional efforts. Presumably, participation in social practices
> brings
> such transformation of habitus about that publication becomes gradually a
> second nature of the participant. Tremendous efforts required from any
> agent
> to learn to publish may be considerably compressed when corresponding
> collective epistemic practices are available. Beforehand the
> transformation
> is considered insurmountable but afterward it feels trivial; the
> participants are likely to start wondering why they were not able to
> pursue
> publications all along. This is just one example close to all academic
> investigators' life concerning intelligence embedded in epistemic
> practices.
> I feel that methodological reasons have made material intelligence
> difficult
> to be acknowledged. The predominating "still-picture" psychology has
> focused
> on analyzing human intelligence (as an individual and mental
> characteristic)
> in single testing situations. Whenever only one situation is addressed,
> individual differences are likely to be the main source of variance. In
> order to appreciate material intelligence, investigators have to take the
> developmental approach seriously and address evolvement of intelligent
> activity across situations and within cultural context. The developmental
> stance is likely to reveal novel aspects of intelligence as well as enable
> investigators to observe transformation of intellectual processes from
> psychic to materially embodied form (and back?).
> Every normal human being appears to have a "super plastic brain" (Merlin
> Donald) that adapts to cognitive challenges encountered across sustained
> efforts. As a psychologist I am interested in personal transformations
> that
> sustained participation in advanced epistemic practices brings about. The
> participants' cognitions coevolve with collective knowledge practices.
> Constant engagement in demanding knowledge practices forces the
> participants
> to stretch his or her capabilities, this elicits further cognitive growth,
> and these achievements open up gates of even more demanding environments
> of
> intellectual socialization. It appears to me that Nobel prize winners are
> likely to be ones who get an early epistemic socialization to such expert
> cultures and take active part in mind-shaping transactive processes
> involved
> in developing and cultivating innovative knowledge practices across
> decades.
> Epistemic hospitability is a metaphor that I find illuminating, but I do
> not
> consider it to be a central explanatory concept concerning my pursuit of
> understanding material cognition.
> Sincerely yours,
> Kai
> From: Jay Lemke []
> Sent: 22. lokakuuta 2007 3:46
> To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Epistemic hospitability
> I thought that Kai's connecting here to Pierre Levy makes a very
> interesting
> contribution.
> I've also read some of Levy's work, which is quite akin, though from
> different sources, to notions of "distributed cognition" or perhaps to
> ideas
> like those Wolf-Michael has expressed about "scientific literacy" being a
> collective characteristic of a community, rather than something we should
> attribute to or aim to teach to individuals.
> As a critique of the notion of "intelligence" itself, it adds to an older
> viewpoint, namely that intelligence is not "a trait" but rather a response
> to a situation, and not invariable, even for individuals, across all
> possible situations. I am very smart at some things, and no doubt much
> less
> so about others. What is added here is that one reason I am more
> successful
> some of the time is because of the ways in which I connect with others
> (Latour might add that those 'others' need not be humans, but any sort of
> semiotic mediational means). I am smart in large part because I operate in
> "smart" communities (again, no community is smart about everything), and
> especially insofar as I and others in these communities know how to
> synergize and leverage our collective intellectual (and other) resources.
> So from this point of view, a smarter community probably also needs to be
> a
> more diverse one ... diverse in ideas and perspectives. Not because of the
> joys of moral tolerance, or because tolerance for others helps insure
> tolerance for me, but because in the long run I benefit from having all
> sorts of ideas, even detestable and crackpot ones, available in the public
> space.
> What kinds of principles for operating as an intellectual community make a
> community more collectively intelligent across the widest possible range
> of
> problems, issues, and situations?
> Epistemic hospitability might well be one. But it seems to me that it
> means
> not just that we "welcome" in some sense the views we think are foolish or
> even immoral, but that we also denounce them, or endorse them, or withhold
> judgment, or engage with them ... each of us, according to our viewpoints,
> so as to make the community richer by way of the presence in it of ANY
> viewpoint.
> I've also found, over the years, that it's a good intellectual exercise to
> try to figure out why someone would HOLD or espouse views that I consider
> to
> be crazy, stupid, uninformed, or recklessly amoral. I think most of us do
> this with respect to views held in the past, or in other cultures. I think
> it is MORE rather than less appropriate to do the same for today's range
> of
> views, AND to refrain from the easy dismissals from which we learn nothing
> as a community. We all know what those dismissals are: he's stupid, he's
> uninformed, he's immoral, he's pursuing self-interest, etc. (BTW, gender
> of
> pronouns chosen advisedly.)
> I suppose in many ways those are mostly the 'ad hominem' arguments, but
> they
> are unwise, not because they are untrue (often they are), nor because the
> source does not matter to an argument (in many ways it does, and we all
> recognize this in practice), but because we learn nothing from making such
> arguments.
> We say to our students that there are no dumb questions, even if we don't
> quite believe that, because we want to promote a dialogue in which
> learning
> can occur. There are pernicious beliefs, surely, (and even true beliefs
> can
> be pernicious, unfortunately) but there are, I think, no beliefs that are
> not also opportunities for the community to learn something from. IF
> others
> in the community find the right ways to respond.
> All that said, why is The Times still interviewing this guy, at 79, and
> more
> than a half-century after his important scientific work? especially given
> that most of his unorthodox views do him no credit? Are they being
> epistemically hospitable? or seeking to profit from a long period of
> capitalist investment in his "celebrity"? -- or is that another
> dismissal?
> (I hope not.)
> JAY.
> At 07:06 AM 10/21/2007, you wrote:
> Dear friends,
> I have just joined this list and do not know the earlier discussion.
> Nevertheless I wanted to share with you some quotations that I found from
> Peirre Levy's (1997) Collective Intelligence book, quotations that may get
> discussion toward a more positive trajectory than mere focusing on
> Watson's
> remarks appear to do. From Pierre Levy's perspective Watson's remark and
> all
> other corresponding remarks are violations of epistemic or cognitive
> hospitability. Just like any other kind of human activity, epistemic
> affairs
> require us to provide hospitability to our fellow human beings. When we
> fail
> to acknowledge someone's intelligence because he does not have our own
> cognitive socialization or our kind of "proper" education, it is violation
> of epistemic hospitability. Racism implies, of course, an extreme lack of
> such epistemic desirability.
> "My initial premise is based on the notion of a universally distributed
> intelligence. No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all
> knowledge resides in humanity. . The light of mind shines even where we
> attempt to persuade other that no intelligence exists: "educational
> failure", "rote execution", "underdevelopment". The overarching judgment
> of
> ignorance turns against the judges. If you are tempted to judge someone as
> ignorant, look for the context in which his knowledge can be turned into
> gold." (Levy, 1997, p. 14)
> "Regardless of my temporary social position, regardless of the judgment of
> an educational institution about my abilities, I can also become an
> opportunity for learning to someone else. Through my experience of life,
> my
> professional career, my social and cultural habits, I can - since
> knowledge
> is coextensive with life - provide knowledge resources for community. Even
> if I am unemployed, or without money or a diploma, condemned to life in
> ghetto, illiterate, I am not useless. I am not interchangeable. I have an
> image, a position, dignity, a personal and positive value within the
> knowledge space. All of us have the right to be acknowledged as a
> knowledge
> identity." (Levy, 1997, P. 13)
> As Levy argued, "in the age of knowledge, failure to recognize the other
> as
> an intelligent being is to deny his true social identity" (Levy, 1997, p.
> 15).
> I have used the epistemic-hospitability metaphor in many public talks in
> Finland; it appears to make people to question at least some of their
> presuppositions concerning intelligence. As psychologist, I consider
> talking
> about these issues to be very important. Together with my colleagues I
> have
> investigated conceptions of intelligence of students and teachers of my
> country that revealed a strong gender and age effect: Males (both students
> and teachers) appear to think that inherited and fixed abilities determine
> what you may intellectually achieve whereas females tend to think that
> your
> own epistemic efforts are crucial. Perhaps this is one of reason for the
> female students becoming a large majority in high schools and
> universities.
> Further, older generations of teachers represent the fixed-abilities view
> much more strongly than younger generations (the latter ones are likely to
> be used to surpass themselves). Watson is clearly a representative of his
> own gender & generation in terms of having a non-dynamic view of
> intelligence as a fixed and given entity.
> I am bringing these issues up because I feel that not only racism is at
> stake here but also assumptions concerning the very nature of human
> intelligence that make it hard to overcome racist tendencies. Together
> with
> my colleagues, I have developed a framework of networked intelligence so
> as
> to contribute to problematizing the received conceptions of intelligence
> (see
> ).
> It
> is just a preliminary sketch based on premises probably well known in this
> circle about relevant issues; I am interested in parallel and, perhaps,
> more
> mature cultural-psychological reconceptualizations concerning what
> intelligence is all about.
> Sincerely yours,
> Kai
> Kai Hakkarainen, Ph.D.
> Professor (Learning and Learning Environments)
> Savonlinna Department of Teacher Education
> University of Joensuu
> Kuninkaankartanonkatu 5, P.O. Box 55
> FIN-57101 Savonlinna, Finland
> GSM +358 50 4129572
> Tel +358-15-5117686
> Fax +358 15 53 1060
> Email:
> Director, Centre for Research on Networked Learning and Knowledge
> Building,
> Department of Psychology
> Address: P.O. Box 9 (Siltavuorenpenger 20D),
> FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
> GSM: +358-50-4129572
> Fax: +358-9-19129443
> e-mail:
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Received on Fri Oct 26 15:19 PDT 2007

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