Re: Relative permanences was Re: [xmca] artefact 3

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Thu Jan 10 2008 - 16:50:50 PST

No, I certainly do not mean "relative permanence" by "artefact". It would
be a step towards grasping my meaning to let go of "relative permanence

But there is a difference between forms of movement between human beings,
and the things and ideas they use to organise that activity. Some words are
permanent (sign above door: "Coloureds Only") and some words a ephemeral
(spoken: "Piss off whitey") but the sign over the door and the air
pressure waves are all tokens of the kind "word" for me, signs which are
tools for refusing or gaining access to culture.

At 12:32 AM 11/01/2008 +0000, you wrote:
>First of all, apologies for not having posted comments on your paper
>earlier as I said I would - I started a long post, got ill and am only now
>getting back to it.
>One of the things I did write before getting ill was that I did think
>there were reductionist elements in your paper, though I don't see them in
>the same place as Paul but rather
>in the arguments against structural explanations of any social phenomena
>and their reduction in some places to individual action. [ I will add to
>what I wrote then and post it separately.]
>I don't have a problem with lumping signs and tools together or leaving
>out Wartofsky's three forms. If I understand you correctly, the
>culture/society distinction is essentially one of durability, the
>congealing of activity in the form of artifacts - what David Harvey using
>Whitehead calls ' relative permanences':
> "...flows often crystallise into 'things', 'elements', and isolable
> 'domains' or 'systems' that assume a relative permanence (and
> sometimes even acquire limited causal powers) within the social
> process. Reifications of free-flowing processes are always occurring
> to create actual "permanences" in the social and material world
> around us. Examples might be material landscapes (such as cities),
> social institutions that seem almost impossible to transform by
> virtue of the solid way in which they have been constructed,
> divisions of labor that are so routinized and organised through an
> infrastructure of factory and machinery that they seem impossible
> not to replicate, socially constructed discourses that tightly
> constrain and regulate behaviors and even discourses which become so
> widely accepted and reified that they themselves become part of a
> landscape of knowledge seemingly impermeable to change."
>If this is how you understand culture, Andy, I think there is a tension
>with some of the other things you write about institutions not having a
>real existence independent of their instantiation in the psychology of
>individuals engaging in social practice. For me (and Harvey), the
>'relative permanences' have causal powers of their own, emergent
>properties which cannot be reduced to the sum of the activities or social
>practices they contain or of the activity which created them and they
>represent in congealed form. I don't mean that they have agency in the
>sense that Latour attributes agency to artifacts such as door closers but
>that insofar as humans pursue their own ends they encounter them as a
>material force (in the broad sense you use the word material in referring
>to material culture) with distinct properties. In places you do seem to
>acknowledge this e.g. when you talk about 'the hard force of dead matter
>but in others you seem to argue against it. Have I misunderstood?
>Must go now. Past midnight here and I have to get up early (well, by my
>standards) tomorrow.
>Bruce R
>Andy Blunden wrote:
>>Briefly Paul, yes I think there is a hint of "flattening" in what I have
>>proposed. I said at the outset that the paper only aims to clarify
>>fundamentals of CHAT. It is not reductionist. I am not denying the
>>validity of Wartofsky's categorisations, I have just never found the
>>occasion to use them. I think the only way you are going to get through
>>the vagueness of concept of culture and cultural difference is to have an
>>absolutely clear meaning for the word "culture". That in no way reduces,
>>bypasses or overlooks the infinite complexity of questions cultural
>>difference, which involves far more than a mass of artefacts.
>>You say that you 'share Mike's concern about the utility of that
>>"cultural/social" distinction.' I find that an unhelpful term and I don't
>>know where it comes from. Are you saying that it is not helpful to
>>distinguish between the material things (artefacts of various sorts),
>>which are used to implement some social practice or institution and the
>>actual actions and operations that constitute that social practice or
>>institution? That the difference between what people do and what they
>>say, between what happened in history and what was written about it,
>>between the academic activity that goes on in a university and the books
>>and buildings that make up a university? That the common difference
>>indicated here - between things and the activities in which things are
>>"activated" - is not useful?
>>At 01:52 AM 10/01/2008 -0800, you wrote:
>>>I haven't participated much in this discussion although I have read
>>>every post. In a way that has been part of the problem since I've
>>>followed out the threads and references. I often begin responses to
>>>threads that I don't finish in one sitting and save in the drafts
>>>folder. So it seems coincidental (synchronistic?) that I was preparing
>>>an post entitled "artefact" that got stored in the drafts folder just
>>>about the same time Andy must have been preparing his "artefacts"
>>>post. Now it seems relevant to at least share and expand.
>>> This was stored 4 or 5 days ago:
>>> Mike's "ugh", in a message responding to my post questioning the
>>> word "culture" , impelled me to read the chapter of Cullt Psych that
>>> he attached I read Cult Psych 5 or 6 years ago but really had
>>> forgotten the specifics of the model of culture presented in the book,
>>> the key elements of which I understand to be : the ideal/material
>>> duality implicit in all artefacts; Wartofsky's 3 types of artefacts,;
>>> the notions of schema and script, in which (at least) type-2 artefacts
>>> are linked contextually to activity/practice; where context also has
>>> has a dual existence as "that which surrounds" and "that which weaves
>>> together." The term culture reconnected to its etymological origins
>>> in cultivating, a garden being an appropriate metaphor for the domain
>>> of artifact mediated activity or practice whose manifestation in
>>> "cultures", coherent and consistent groups of activities/practices, in w .
>>> Although I can see some of the relations between Hegel and CHAT that
>>> Andy proposes; e.g., the relationship of meaning to scripts or
>>> schemas (CHAT) and that between the universal and the particular (Hegel),
>>> And that's as far as I got before storing it the drafts folder.
>>> Moving on: if Andy is using mike's model of "culture" I don't
>>> believe he adequately deals with the differences implicit Wartofsky's
>>> artefact-type differentiation. In fact, it seems as though all the
>>> artefacts in Andy's presentation are Type-1, which on another plane is
>>> analogous the analytic philosophers' mania to reduce all logic to
>>> first-order propositional logic, a comparison Andy might well be able
>>> to relate to (beneath Godel's beaming grin). The idea that artefacts
>>> can be usefully categorized as "cultural" and "social" seems a step
>>> backward from Wartofsky's approach, especially as enhanced by mike's
>>> refinement of the type-2 artefacts into schemas and scripts (pure and
>>> practical reason?) while reserving the aesthetic dimension for type-3
>>> artefacts (play, imagination, fantasy, art, etc. w/ no grounding in
>>> "necessity"). So I share mike's concern about the utiltiy of that
>>> "cultural/social" distinction.
>>> At the same time, I am not persuaded that mike's appeal to Geertz can
>>> provide a "coherence" keystone that could hold together all the
>>> different elements that one might want to call "a BongoBongo culture"
>>> as opposed to a "BingoBango culture" . It is well known that Geertz's
>>> "thick description" really provides no guidelines allowing someone
>>> other than Geertz to go out and find the same thing, produce the same
>>> description. So I remain skeptical about the utility of "culture" as
>>> anything more than a catch-all term. But insofar as one uses that
>>> term, Andy's definition "all artefacts" seems inadequate.
>>> On the other hand, the Sawchuk message that Andy forwarded,
>>> emphasizes the important contribution I think Andy is trying to get
>>> at. Schemas and scripts are universals the specific meanings they
>>> assume in real-time activity the particulars. The universal-particular
>>> yes providing an important insight into the relation between the
>>> cultural-historical processes and structures and the individuals
>>> participation. Sawchuk moves in a very useful direction from my
>>> perspective . . . especially his emphasis on the
>>> use-value/.exchange-value dichotomy .
>>> Well, this one doesn't get stored, incomplete as it may be.
>>>Perhaps Andy could elaborate a bit on the flattening of artefacts into
>>>type-1 that I perceive in his analysis .
>>> Paul
>>>Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your homepage.
>>>xmca mailing list
>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>> mobile 0409 358 651
>>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
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Received on Thu Jan 10 16:51 PST 2008

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