[xmca] Listen, Foreigner/ Development as semiotic-material ordering

From: Michalis Kontopodis <michalis.kontopodis who-is-at staff.hu-berlin.de>
Date: Wed Apr 16 2008 - 03:24:40 PDT

Dear all,

it has been a nice surprise for me when Mike considered my paper as
the best present for his birthday last Sunday and I will be glad to
receive more feedback from the XMCA community in regard to the ideas
of 'development towards the unknown' and 'development as semiotic-
material orderING'.

The context of these ideas (and here begins my response to David) is
not constructivism or post-modernism--this would be an unfair
simplification--but rather process philosophy and pragmatism. In this
sense, I would agree with David that reality is not semantic or
syntactic but pragmatic. But...,

Now I would turn to his first comment about 'order'. Monotheist
religions and ancient greek philosophies (like this of Plato) but also
power regimes (such as the Roman Empire) had privileged the idea of
'order' more than the idea of 'orderING'--and this far before modernity.

However first in modernity this idea has gained a temporal dimension
that of linear time or of the arrow of time that leads towards more
and more balance: “Modernist sciences tended to share a few general
patterns: they developed theories that conceptualised their objects in
terms of closed system dynamics, often with equilibrium principles
”. This “modernist style in science was consistent with the modernist
culture of the surrounding societies” (Hess, 1997, pp. 131-2). Hess,
David J. 1997. Science Studies: An Advanced Introduction. New York:
New York University Press.

Some of these elements are also found in Historical Materialism. There
are however scholars like Foucault or -yes!- Vygotsky who have been
influenced by Histor. Materialism, and do not however fully accept
this modern idea of order (think of the concept of drama or of crisis
by Vygotsky).

On the second extract from my text (see bellow, Email of David):

I think that this is because of me, but my position here is quite
misunderstood: I would not claim that there are multiple realities
that are possible and unconnected, but exactly the opposite, that when
different realities become connected or opposed or even taken apart
(and this is a PROCESS in the sense of process philosophy, or in the
sense of 'crisis' by Vygotsky), then new realities or 'orderings' are
generated, i.e. new mediated relations between subjectivities and
objectivities. Mediation (and here is the difference to postmodernism)
creates realities, does not only represent them.

David, I am thankful for your questions and would like to stop here--
in order to enable some dialogue. Please tell me if more clarification
is needed.

One more remark in regard to my article:
Referring only to Cole et. al's textbook at the beginning is indeed
misleading, and non-representative of the whole work of Mike. There
has already been a discussion about this, so I would like to mention
here the following methodological articles of Mike with Engeström,
that develop a very different argumentation as this presented in the
textbook: (1993) 'A cultural-historical approach to distributed
cognition' in G. Salomon (Ed.) 'Distributed Cognitions' or 'Auf der
Suche nach einer Methodologie: eine kultur-historische Annäherung an
Individualität (also with Engeström, Dialektik, 1991). Or: Cole: Can
Cultural Psychology Help Us Think About Diversity? Mind, Culture, and
Activity, Volume 5, Issue 4, 1998, Pages 291 – 304.

Michalis Kontopodis

research associate
humboldt university berlin
tel.: +49 (0) 30 2093 3716
fax.: +49 (0) 30 2093 3739

On Apr 16, 2008, at 7:18 AM, David Kellogg wrote:
> I just read Michalis' article, and I have TWO rather sophomoric
> questions:
> a) "The practice of viewing the world as a single order which
> exists prior to and independently of science is deeply (?) rooted in
> modernity, where also (sic) developmental psychology
> originated." (p. 2) Michalis then goes on to talk about how this
> idea of a universal order is really a cover for the white European
> adult male or a god made in his image. Doesn't this really suggest
> that the idea of order existing prior to and independently of human
> knowing is indeed deeply rooted, but in history rather than
> modernity (and of course in historical materialism as well)?
> b) "In relational terms, one could claim that multiple realities
> are possible: different semiotic material practices would not only
> concern the child's or student's development but would even create
> new or different relations between subjectivities and
> objectivities." (p. 17) Doesn't this suggest a spurious "equality"
> and also unconnectedness between different discursive constructions
> of reality? (In the study Michalis does, it is quite clear that he
> considers the interview data to be more realistic than the "graph"
> data.)
> And now two practical problems, both of which I think suggest that
> one reality rules, and that is actually more than enough for most
> people.
> a) On Thursday we had a lecturer from Leeds University, Melinda
> Whong, on one of Jackendoff's latest attempts to provide parallel
> architecture for phonology, syntax and semantics. He concluded that
> WORD MEANING was relational, and that it in fact was the
> relationship between these three architectures; it has no
> independent existence.
> During the discussion, I asked how Jackendoff's very non-functional
> (i.e. structuralist) account could explain what happens to the
> article ("a"/"the") in the following three sentences, from an
> elementary school teacher presenting a dialogue about a Korean girl
> and a foreign tourist.
> i) T (holding up a picture): This is a foreigner.
> ii) T (dividing the class into halves): Now, over here, you are the
> foreigner.
> iii) T (teaching the lines of the dialogue): Listen, Foreigner!
> "Excuse me!" Repeat, Foreigner!
> Professor Whong tried bravely, discussing how definiteness
> (semantics) interfaced with determiner phrase structure (syntax) and
> cliticization (phonology). But she couldn't account for the
> disappearance of the article in example iii).
> Thinking it over, it seems to me that the missing element is really
> TIME. Example i) simply says that the foreigner is a NEW foreigner.
> Example ii) says that it is that same OLD foreigner (which is why
> "the" is connected to words like "this" and "that" and "there" and
> "then" and "these" and "those") and not some new one (which would be
> "another" foreigner). It's like tense or aspect rather than like
> definiteness or determinacy, only it's attached to NOUNS instead of
> So what happens in example iii)? Easy! It's an imperative, and it's
> addressed directly to the imaginary persona. When you address
> someone, you use a NAME, not a noun. That explains why it's
> capitalized, and why "Mr. Foreigner" would work just as well (or
> better, because "Listen, Foreigner" is socioculturally RUDE) and why
> the article disappears. The underlying reality is not "phonological"
> OR "syntactic" OR even semantic, but pragmatic; language is the self-
> consciousness of culture rather than oracle of structure.
> b) There's a new book out edited by Sinfroni Makoni and Alistair
> Pennycook that argues that language death is really an illusion,
> because there really isn't any such thing as a language, there are
> only dialects and idiolects, and "language" is merely an abstraction
> from these deeply rooted in modernity and in much need of
> "disinvention". A language is simply a dialect with a nation, a
> bourgeois government, and a standing army. Ways of speaking are
> metastable; they change and remain by changing, and therefore are
> neither created nor destroyed.
> The problem with this book is that most language death does not
> happen because people voluntary give up a language and pick up
> another. Most language death, historically, takes place through
> genocide. To really deny language death it is not enough to deny the
> homogeneity of national languages and affirm the polyglossia of
> ordinary people. To really deny language death, you have to
> "disinvent" holocausts.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> Makoni, S and Pennycook A (2007) Disinventing Language. Clevedon:
> Multilingual Matters.
> ---------------------------------
> Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile.
> Try it now.
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca

xmca mailing list
Received on Wed Apr 16 03:27 PDT 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu May 01 2008 - 17:14:13 PDT