RE: [xmca] From epistemic hospitability to material intelligence

From: Worthen, Helena Harlow <hworthen who-is-at>
Date: Sat Oct 27 2007 - 07:00:06 PDT

Good morning from central Illinois:

>From what I can tell on the news, the fires in California are settling down. I hope this is true.

I am very interested in, and would like to hear more about, Kai's recent message. I'm attaching it below in case someone else wants to refer to it, although I know we are not supposed to send long cumulative messages. But there are several concepts to which he refers that I would like to hear more about and discuss on this list.

Specifically: material cognition, the "capability of merging and fusing various instruments with our cognitive architecture and collectively developing, cultivating and refining sophisticated material culture," intelligent materiality and material intelligence, digital/physical artefacts, social practices related to working knowledge, epistemic diversity, and the notion that tools (he gives books and papers as an example, I believe) as materialized intelligence.

All of these hover around my central interest, which is the often unspoken (sometimes called "tacit") knowledge that people working develop and share about how to get the work done. For example: a class which we have been asked to teach in November will take place at a plant where the workers are represented by the grainmillers' union. This is an old plant. Under the original management, the workers essentially ran the plant -- they had the knowledge and the means to run the plant efficiently and safely. Then the plant was sold and new management came in. This new management took an adversarial position against the union and attempted to take over control of the work without fully understanding how it was done (without exploring the social practices related to the working knowledge of the plant?). A bitter, non-productive culture developed. Now another new management has taken over, and this new management has gone to the union and together they have approached us to teach a class to the supervisors that is essentially about getting them to respect the working material knowledge that the workers have developed. "Leave us alone and we'll run the plant better than you can ever do it," the union is saying.

I would appreciate a continuation of this discussion of this topic.

Thanks -- Helena Worthen

From: [] On Behalf Of Kai Hakkarainen []
Sent: Saturday, October 27, 2007 2:55 AM
To:; 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: RE: [xmca] From epistemic hospitability to material intelligence

My intention was not to claim that there would a actual censorship and I
understand that there has been
great deal of difficulties in CA in general and SD in particular. I was just
wondering if there was a length limit or
something like that in action - but apparently not -- because mail sent in
different days did not go through, but discussion

Was otherwise going on. I am very much looking forward to take part in ISCAR
2008 conference. Thank you for the
article copy!

Sincerely yours,


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: <>



From: Mike Cole []
Sent: Saturday, October 27, 2007 1:13 AM
To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] From epistemic hospitability to material intelligence

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,


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

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,


From: Jay Lemke [mailto: <>]
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

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

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

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

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.)


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.

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
 <> ). 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 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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