Re: [xmca] Uptake and Takeaway

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Mon Jun 30 2008 - 11:44:46 PDT

I'll try hard to do as you say, because I think that the issue of affect and intellect (emotion and rational thought) is an almost perfect issue for a guest editorial.
But I don't think I am a perfect candidate for the guest. First of all, as you can see from the last line of my contribution below, I'm still confused about the difference between microgenesis on the one hand and learning on the other.
Like many sloppy thinkers, I tend to proceed by bold analogy and then fiddle with the results until they fit well enough for whatever practical purpose I have at hand.
In this case, I tend to think of the distinction as similar to the distinction we find between Darwinian phylogenetic evolution on the one hand and Marxian socio-historical change on the other, or between Marxian socio-historical change on the one hand and Vygotskyan ontogenetic development on the other.
For me time scale is what makes each of these distinctions both distinguishable and indissolubly linked: in each case, the distinction is something like that between climate change and weather change, and the similarity is similarly similar.
Phylogenetic evolution is on the scale of hundreds of thousands of years, while Marxian socio-historical change occurs within centuries. Yet FUNCTIONALLY they appear remarkably congruent: the production of coats, so well elaborated in the first volume of Capital, is a logical attempt to accelerate the production of fur to match the colder climes encountered outside Africa, and the production of houses is a socio-cultural response to the dearth of caves.
Similarly, Vygotskyan ontogenesis takes place on the scale of years, but functionally it appears as both a reverse-engineering and an extension of the socio-cultural development of clothes, housing, and of course language.
In each case the slower process provides the environment for the speedier one, but the speedier process lays down a foundation for the next phase of the slower one. In each case, the speedier process is a functionally similar extension of the slower one by radically more rapid means (cultural vs. natural, semiotic vs. tool-based) 
I'm afraid I'm still thinking about the distinction between microgenesis and ontogenesis in an analogous way. Ontogenetic development provides the preconditions in which microgenesis unfolds, and in return microgenesis enables the next phase of ontogenetic development. And in that sense microgenesis plays precisely the role that LSV assigns to learning: it leads ontogenesis by socially awakening processes that give rise to psychological development.
I understand perfectly what you said about microgenesis being simply a moment of ontogenesis, about it being part of a revolutionary transformation rather than the kind of incremental and easily forgotten experience that we see in learning. But all this suggests to me at this point is some kind of selection akin to evolutionary selection (my sloppy analogy ridden thinking again!).
Some transformations live and reorganize the child's mind, in which case we call them microgenetic, but these are a subset of a much broader set of transformations, most of which simply persist without any radically reorganizing effects or even wither and die on the vine. This larger set of transformations are what we call learning. I'm afraid that's the limit of my understanding at this point.
The second reason I'm not sure about being the guest editor on affect and intellect is that I think we're going to have a special issue on Gunilla Lindqvist and playworlds soon. The current issue of MCA contains two really smashing articles on this very topic; perhaps one of the authors could contribute a guest editorial developing the affect/intellect issue, so obviously implicated in playworlds, for that issue.
I think that would work much better to achieve Wolff-Michael's real goal, which is establishing a kind of inter-issue coherence, so that every issue of MCA appears as an installment of some larger project without end. (Not to be confused with a process without a product!) 
When is the play issue coming out? Anybody know?
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Sun, 6/29/08, Mike Cole <> wrote:

From: Mike Cole <>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Uptake and Takeaway
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
Date: Sunday, June 29, 2008, 5:34 PM

David et al---

I come very late to this note and for the moment wish only to emphasize my
appreciation for David
taking notice of the invitation for readers of MCA to write editorials. The
idea is indeed to take up
some issue or issues that have appeared in the past and comment on them with
respect to the present.
This is a different function than summarizing what is to come.

So far as I know, except for David's Xmca note below, there has been no
uptake of this takeupable idea.
Why not?

The door is open. Why not walk in?
For openers, David, perhaps you could work your comments below into a guest
editorial of your own.
After all, there are lots of readers of MCA who are not members of XMCA (and
versa vice, alas).


On Wed, Apr 23, 2008 at 5:35 PM, David Kellogg <>

> I just got the latest MCA and read Wolff-Michael Roth's guest
> (!). It's really a brilliant idea, to have readers pen the editorials.
> first I thought it wouldn't work, because readers won't have
advance access
> to the issue copy and can't do a "round up" the way
Wolff-Michael used to
> do.
> But of course that's NOT what Wolff-Michael's got in mind at all.
What he
> has in mind is not a round-up but an up-take, something like this
> conversation which he uses as data between a schoolchild and the head of
> about a science project involving the measurement of water temperature:
> D: It's like nineteen.
> N: Whoo, it's it's GONE UP a degree since this
> Nineteen what.
> D: Nineteen degrees fahrenheit
> N: Nope.
> D: in...Nah. I just fogot it.
> N: Nineteen degrees what?
> D: Uh, nineteen degrees I forgot.
> N: It's not...
> D: I keep forgetting everything.
> N: OK, alright. That's right. There's no such thing as being
> Notice how the words "nineteen" and then "forgot" run
like song refrains
> through this little two-part aria. First D says it, and then N uptakes it
> and then D uptakes THAT, and so on.
> So now we readers get a chance to UPTAKE an issue from a previous issue
> (Nystrand, Slimani) rather than try to foresee the theme of the present
> issue. In this case it's Wolff-Michael's own problem of linking
emotion and
> intonation. So even the non-editorial writing reder can get something much
> more important than a "round-up" for readers who are too lazy to
go and read
> the articles or even the abstracts. We get continuity and coherence!
> That's my (hugely appreciative) uptake of Wolff-Michael's
innovation! Now
> here's a comment on the uptaken issue, the link of emotion and
> There are really three points in the article where I disagree a little,
> I think they all point to a slightly larger disagreement:
> p. 3: Wolff-Michael argues that N's "nineteen degrees what"
> normally RISE rather than fall: "...(W)hereas in usual
> utterances-intended-as questions the pitch level would rise toward the
> the pitch level was falling in her utterance as if she were making a
> statement." This rise is indeed characteristic of
> "utterances-intended-as-questions" when they refer to already
> AVAILABLE, OLD information, like this:
> D: It's nineteen degrees Fahrenheit!
> N: It's nineteen degrees....? (UP)
> N: It's nineteen degrees FAHRENHEIT? (UP)
> N: It's nineteen degrees WHAT? (UP)
> But it is NOT characteristic of
"utterances-intended-as-questions" when
> they refer UNSTATED, NOT YET AVAILABLE, NEW information, like this:
> A: I'm going to be LATE.
> B: Late for WHAT? (DOWN)
> A: Late for work!
> B: Late for WORK? (Incredulously, up-DOWN) It's SUNday! (DOWN)
> You can see that here the intonation is very consistently DOWN, and the
> (up-DOWN) movement simply serves to give the speaker more room in which to
> fall. I think that this is because the default intonation in English (and
> many other languages as well) is DOWN, and it is this intonation which is
> used to impart new information. The marked intonation is UP, and this is
> used to cast doubt or critical distance on old information.
> This is why, by the way, rhetorical wh-questions tend to be UPly intoned,
> even when they are written. If I were shamelessly touting my own wares, I
> might mention at this point that Jungran Yi and I wrote about this at
> tangentially in an article in Language Awareness:
> p. 5: Wolff-Michael says "In the speaking/hearing complement,
> knowing and consciousness is expressed. This can be assumed to be the case
> as long as no evidence to the contrary is provided as part of a situation,
> for example, if one of the speakers were to have said, 'What did you
> or "What do you mean?' In such a situation, the sound--and maybe
even some
> words has been heard but the marked sense is not evident to the
> These are two VERY different cases as you can easily tell by reading them
> aloud and noticing that the former has UP intonation while the latter is
> normally intoned DOWN. In the former, the sound has indeed not been
> heard, and therefore the UP intonation is used to "scroll back"
> discourse. But in the latter what is being asked for is new and more
> specific information.
> p. 5: Wolff-Michael says that in modern art this kind of "what do
> mean?" is not possible, because "art is for its own sake, not
signifying or
> denoting something else." A great deal of modern art has TRIED to
> the Quixotic feat of not meaning anything. But it is in principle
> impossible, a fantasy of the aesthetes in the late nineteenth century;
> Jackson Pollock admitted that his paintings were INDEXICAL--they meant the
> actions that were used to produce them, and not simple ICONS. It's not
> possible to create art without meaning anything; it's like
> supposedly meaningless "Colorless green ideas" (which next to
"This sentence
> has never before been written and will never be written again" is
> the most widely quoted and thoroughly understood piece of Chomsky ever
> written).
> It seems to me a larger disagreement looms in Wolff-Michael's
analysis of
> the data. He argues that N's response "There is no such thing as
being dumb"
> is a consolatory move intended to allay the negative affect of D's
> forgetfulness, and I am sure that is how N sees it. But the object of
> interest here is affect, and that means that what really matters is how D
> feels about this "consolation".
> It seems to me unlikely that this consolation will genuinely lead to a
> zone of proximal development. On the contrary, by explicitly
"uptaking" the
> issue of dumbness which was only implicit heretofore, it seem quite likely
> to have the OPPOSITE effect.
> This brings me to the larger disagreement. Wolff-Michael and I are both
> interested in affect and how thinking emerges from feeling, linked yet
> distinct. But Wolff-Michael is very much focussing on micro-genesis, and I
> think that LSV's main concern (as well as my own) was the role of
affect in
> ontogenesis, the way in which rational and objective thought emerges
> linked but distinct) from non-rational and affective feeling.
> Microgenesis is important, and I have no doubt that we can indeed study
> the way Wolff-Michael has pioneered, through intonation. The problem is
> as we can see, there are cultural patterns that affect intonation that are
> quite independent of individual affect: they are concerned with the
> or giveness or availability of the topicalized information rather than
> the speaker's affective attitude towards it, and as with any language
> the speaker's affect must take these cultural conventions (UP for Old
> Information and DOWN for New) into account when the speaker expreses
> feelings. So to a certain extent we've got a primacy of thinking over
> feeling already, because of the cultural patrimony that the speaker must
> speak through.
> On the other hand, it seems to me to be the case that while children like
> D have a procedural understanding of these cultural conventions, their
> affective experience is still overwhelming; the logical argument that
> is not a measure of intelligence is simply not convincing (and rightly so
> given the salience of memory in education and in working life). So the
> take-away is not going to be the same as the uptake, and this cold comfort
> (how consolation pries!) is unlikely to create a zone of ontogenetic
> affective development.
> Can a zone of microgenetic development be said to be a zone of
> development? Isn't it merely a zone of proximal learning?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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Received on Mon Jun 30 11:46 PDT 2008

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