[xmca] Fwd on behalf of Beth Ferholt: Play to Art: Experience to Insight

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane <ana who-is-at zmajcenter.org>
Date: Fri Aug 01 2008 - 20:15:06 PDT

Dear all,
Beth had trouble posting these comments and asked me to send them in
her name.
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Beth Ferholt <bferholt@gmail.com>
> Date: Wed, Jul 23, 2008 at 6:39 PM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Play to Art: Experience to Insight
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> I am also struck by how many ideas that are of great great interest
> to me
> are in this one paper!!The following are just two of the areas where
> this
> paper has jumpstarted my thinking.
> The new concept of "play chronotope" seems fantastically useful.
> Play is
> often experienced as having its own time: you step into play and
> when you
> emerge you are surprised to see how much, or how little, time in the
> 'real'
> world has past. If we say that we simply loose touch with time in the
> 'real' world, when we are in play, we are describing this very
> important
> quality of play only in respect to how it differs from the 'real' --
> we are
> only describing a lack. (The contrast between play and non-play is,
> surely,
> where we should be focusing, in your words it is this bifurcation that
> allows for the play activity to become a mediating tool, but I am
> trying to
> pause to understand play as fully as possible before moving on to this
> contrast ... does this seem misguided?) However, if we move into
> Bakhtin's
> study of of the novel, we are all of a sudden required to focus a
> great part
> of our energies on trying to understand this quality of play. And
> what do
> we find? We are not here in time and space only, but also in
> "social and
> individual values and relationships." Play is incomprehensible
> without this
> third axis.
> Ana and Ljubica, can you please say more about this third axis of
> play? It
> seems it can not be used for play as it is used for a novel, because
> play
> can be so short... Are we talking about emotion, in any way, when
> you use
> the words 'values' and 'relationships'? What do you mean by values?
> (We
> have discussed this before but I need to discuss it more!)
> Also, I want to ask you about your choice of illustrations. You
> write that
> these are the "condensed moments." Is it something you need to be
> inside to
> see? Obviously not, as you chose them for MCA. I like to think of
> these
> moments by following Vivian Paley in using Virginia Woolf (in To the
> Lighthouse) to think about play: moments when one says "Life stand
> still
> here." And it seems to me that we need to be able to understand these
> moments to understand play more fully. What was your thinking in
> choosing
> these illustrations? (This is related to Anna's point about time
> lapse, in
> her recent post, too, I think.)
> Finally, this is not a question but: I love your description of the
> processes you discuss as "packed in" to words, and of 'reality being
> (only?)
> illuminated by visions'.
> Thanks, and thank you again for writing this paper!!
> Beth
> On Sun, Jul 20, 2008 at 2:37 AM, Haydi Zulfei
> <haydizulfei@yahoo.com> wrote:
>> Dear Steve Gabosch,
>> As for others , I don't know but as for myself , there are so many
>> ideas in
>> this weighty article of Ana and Ljubica's that one remains
>> standstill as to
>> where to begin and how . But concerning these two paragraphs of
>> yours :
>> [The proposal of the "propositional act" as a basic unit of meaning-
>> making especially gets my attention. Using a CHAT framework for
>> their
>> theorizing, Ana and Ljubica speak of two kinds of general
>> relationships, subject-object and subject-subject.
>> Subject-object relationships, as suggested by Vygotsky and later
>> developed in CHAT theory, are mediated by artifacts - tools and/or
>> signs. This mediated relationship is often used as a unit of
>> analysis
>> in activity analysis, expressed by the familiar activity triangle,
>> which proposes that not only tools and/or signs mediate the subject
>> and object, but so also does the social environment, in the form of
>> mediating factors such as rules, communities, divisions of labor,
>> etc.]
>> First , two kinds of general relationships : What you're mentioning
>> refers
>> to Engstrom's version of the Acticity Theory , not Leontiev's . And
>> there's
>> no dispute over this . However , please think about these ideas :
>> a. Did
> not
>> Leontiev know there are so many thousands and millions of individuals
>> engaged in different activities of their lives ? Then why did he
>> choose
> just
>> one agent/subject ? I mean not sunject-subject relationship ? The
>> answer is
>> not so difficult . For him one subject was an ensemble of social
> relations ;
>> hence on his view when one subject engages himself with an object
>> in the
>> outside world , he , in fact , is sort of a representative of all
>> other
>> subjects . As individual individuals , they would have exploded the
> social /
>> society into billions of bits irresponsible or inimical towards one
>> another
>> never to think a tiny bit of mutual interaction . b. It seems it's
>> not
>> correct that the formula subject===> sign ===> object belongs to an
>> activity theory analysis as you are referring . Activity theory ,
>> as I
>> recall from Leontiev , has this design to work with : subject ====>
> activity
>> itself ( the whole ) ====> object and this is what comprises the
>> whole
>> dispute . c. Is not the *object* of Engstrom's , the ultimate
>> *motive* of
>> Leontiev's according to the six nodes of Engstrom's known figure ?
>> d. To
>> what extent are acts ( whether communicative , propositionsl or
>> speech )
>> applicable to the clear-cut goal-directed actions of the Activity
>> Theory ?
>> e. Taking into consideration the concepts of *universal* ,
>> *necessary* ,
>> don't you think the idea expressed thus : * ...which proposes that
>> not only
>> tools and/or signs mediate the subject
>> and object, but so also does the social environment, in the form of
>> mediating factors such as rules, communities, divisions of labor,
>> etc.* ,
>> could be considered *redundant* ? Which of these concepts you've
>> taken and
>> recounted from Engstrom's (rules ...) , is really necessary to
>> convery the
>> concept of *man/human* save *tool* ? You well recall *man is a tool-
>> making
>> animal* scientific definition ! And if you conclude from this that :
> *then ,
>> the formula : subject ====> tool ====> object* , I would remind
>> you , you
>> who so many times have taught us about the *labour activity* , of the
>> relation which exists between the *labour activity* and the *tool* .
>> Second , ...
>> I should faithfully add your ever comments and interpretations have
>> helped
>> me get clear with ambiguities !
>> Thanks
>> Best
>> Haydi
>> haydizulfei@yahoo.com
>> ----- Original Message ----
>> From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@mac.com>
>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>> Sent: Friday, July 18, 2008 10:12:15 AM
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Play to Art: Experience to Insight
>> Below is an attempt at a summary of the theoretical ideas of the
>> article, preceded by some commentary.
>> BTW, the article is still currently available for free at the
>> publisher's site,
>> http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=g792708404~db=all
>> Sometimes, when I am trying to parse the theoretical ideas in an
>> article, I will use a word processor and spread sheet to arrange the
>> material into themes to get a clearer idea of what is being said. I
>> did that for this article, listed below. In this message I am only
>> sending the themes I wrote up. I left out the original text for
>> space
>> reasons (about a fifth of the original article, last I looked).
>> I liked a number of things about this paper. And I have lots of
>> questions inspired by the paper's ideas.
>> One thing I really liked is the way it elevates play and playlike
>> activity to a central role in human activity in the use of symbols,
>> in language, imagination, cognition, communication and development.
>> "Work" and "nonwork" are not uncommonly the implied framework for
>> theorizing about such things, but this article explicitly shifts the
>> framework to "play" and "nonplay." I find that perspective eye-
>> opening and inspiring.
>> Another is the suggestion of the "propositional act," featuring the
>> concept of the "TOPIC" (a joint focus), as a basic unit of meaning-
>> making, which can be observed at early ages, such as communication
>> through pointing. This strikes me as a bold addition to CHAT theory,
>> and deserves a serious look.
>> Vygotsky suggested - I may not be putting this quite right - that the
>> word or word-meaning is the most basic unit of meaning (would that be
>> true in the case of pointing a very young child toward a joint
>> focus?), but this proposal from Ana and Ljubica regards something
>> different: not just meaning, but meaning-**making**. Ana explains
>> this in a recent post, and argues that Vygotsky was speaking about
>> the
>> word (didn't Vygotsky also speak of word-meaning?) as an basic
>> analytical unit in conceptual development. The idea that two people,
>> when they are relating, always have a common focus, probably isn't a
>> new discovery, but seeing "joint focus" as the basic unit of meaning-
>> making between two people, that is, seeing it as the simplest, most
>> basic, indivisible, always-present form of human meaning-making, upon
>> which all the rest builds, does seem to be a new and refreshing idea,
>> at least to me. Is it? Another question I have is how essential is
>> the COMMENT or the mediating or connecting act following the creation
>> of a joint focus to the content of this meaning-making - is this
>> connecting act merely a validation that the focus is joint, or does
>> it
>> contain additional, essential content that should place it at the
>> center of the generic propositional act? I have been thinking the
>> joint focus is the core, but I might be missing something important.
>> I ask some more questions about the propositional act as a unit of
>> analysis in a moment.
>> A theme that the article returns to several times that I also like is
>> the dynamic of switching back and forth from play frames to reality
>> frames. This simple concept seems to offer real explanatory power,
>> such as easily describing what a metaphor is - using the elements in
>> an imaginary frame or chronotope to comment on a real situation. I
>> was impressed by the simplicity of this explanation. It also seems
>> to
>> have analytical potential in situations where this switching process
>> plays a significant role. Has anyone invented a term for this
>> switching process? It seems like it deserves one. That could be a
>> very useful word.
>> The article is also fun for me because I was in the play workshop at
>> Seville that Ana and Ljubica describe. It is interesting to think of
>> the different activities we engaged in as demonstrating four kinds of
>> stages or moments in the development of a play TOPIC - the
>> "bifurcation point" when a play situation emerges out of the reality
>> situation, creating rules on the spot for the emerging play
>> situation,
>> negotiating switches between play frames and reality frames, and
>> making new connections between these play experiences and our lives.
>> I remember having a lot of fun in that workshop.
>> Somehow, after all the other things we did, Ana and Ljubica got us to
>> divide up in teams to invent and put on 4 different enactments of
>> some
>> lines from Hamlet, which was quite enriching, including making new
>> friends out of the collaborative "inner group" experience that
>> exercise offered. Will we be seeing more such workshops?
>> The article inspires an interesting idea for me, a reversal of
>> conventional thinking. It suggests to me the idea that play/
>> imagination activity is the actual "norm" in human interaction, and
>> nonplay/reality-based activity is really just a special, derivative
>> form of playing. Play (using imagination), in this sense, would be
>> more complex and higher on the "evolutionary" scale than nonplay. In
>> this way of looking at all this, children learn to do the really hard
>> thing, socializing their imagination, before they get down to work
>> (externalizing what they are told), and adults have to keep re-
>> learning how to play and be imaginative throughout life. I like this
>> way of placing play and imagination in the center of human activity.
>> I find it helpful and playful - to think about these things this
>> way. This perspective certainly cuts across some traditional notions
>> of work and play. But does it really make sense to view work as a
>> "derivative" of imaginary play?
>> The proposal of the "propositional act" as a basic unit of meaning-
>> making especially gets my attention. Using a CHAT framework for
>> their
>> theorizing, Ana and Ljubica speak of two kinds of general
>> relationships, subject-object and subject-subject.
>> Subject-object relationships, as suggested by Vygotsky and later
>> developed in CHAT theory, are mediated by artifacts - tools and/or
>> signs. This mediated relationship is often used as a unit of
>> analysis
>> in activity analysis, expressed by the familiar activity triangle,
>> which proposes that not only tools and/or signs mediate the subject
>> and object, but so also does the social environment, in the form of
>> mediating factors such as rules, communities, divisions of labor,
>> etc.
>> Subject-subject relations, as I understand Ana and Ljubica, are
>> mediated at minimum (that is, at least) by the joint focus of the
>> subjects. A joint focus, a "TOPIC," can be anything - a tool, an
>> interpersonal act, a symbol. The subjects are defined as an active
>> subject "ME" and a relational subject "YOU". A "propositional act"
>> or
>> "COMMENT" occurs when two subjects (ME and YOU) with a common focus
>> (a
>> TOPIC) engage in a "mediating" (or perhaps connecting?) act or
>> gesture
>> (a COMMENT).
>> "What we described here" Ana and Ljubica explain, "is the basic unit
>> of making meaning through a COMMENT, that is, a communicational
>> gesture of establishing (or embellishing on) the TOPIC about which
>> the
>> ME and the YOU create and re-create their relationship."
>> Examples of propositional acts include a young child pointing at
>> something and an adult responding to the child's focus and gesture
>> with a connecting act, or a child proposing to another that they
>> pretend they are mommy and daddy having dinner, and the other
>> agreeing. Do I have this about right? Perhaps Ana and Ljubica would
>> be so kind as to correct me if I have something wrong here. It is a
>> new idea for me, especially as a general unit of human meaning-
>> making.
>> The authors emphasize that in human communication, the two kinds of
>> relationships, subject-object and subject-subject, are intricately
>> connected. "Symbolic mediation should be seen," they explain, "as
>> coordination and dynamic interplay between, on one hand, the subject-
>> object relationship and, on the other, the subject-subject
>> relationship."
>> But how shall these two relationships and two units of analysis be
>> related conceptually? Since both subject-orientedness and object-
>> orientedness are intrinsic to all activity, perhaps finding a way to
>> combine both units of analysis into a unified model would help.
>> Ana, Ljubica, anyone, what are your thoughts on how this might be
>> done? Can the propositional act, as a basic unit of meaning-making
>> between two subjects, be combined with the activity triangle, which
>> depicts the basic unit of action-making by a subject on an object?
>> What would such a model look like? What practical implications might
>> it have?
>> Thank you for bearing with me in this long post. I get the feeling
>> everyone is gearing up for the ISCAR conference, (and even the AERA
>> conference next year), and I too am excited. But I hope that Ana and
>> Ljubica's article on play doesn't get too lost in the shuffle. It
>> has
>> a number of theoretical ideas I think are well worth discussing.
>> Below are my attempts at summaries of the theoretical themes of the
>> paper. Some of the language is in my own wording and I would
>> appreciate corrections if I have something wrong, or, more difficult
>> to detect, have missed something essential.
>> 1. Play can be key to learning how to make meaning.
>> 2. Play enables communicative acts to be transformed into cognitive
>> tools.
>> 3. Mediation is a central concept.
>> 4. Mediational factors can be any cultural or social entity (tools,
>> interpersonal acts, symbols, etc.).
>> 5. Direct relationships become mediated relationships.
>> 6. Symbolic mediation and the development of symbolic tools involves
>> coordinating both object-oriented and subject-oriented relationships.
>> 7. The propositional act is key.
>> 8. The propositional act is a basic unit of meaning. It consists of
>> an active subject (ME), a relational subject (YOU), a common focus
>> (TOPIC), and a mediating or connecting act or gesture (COMMENT).
>> 9.. Any form of communication can form a propositional act.
>> 10. The TOPIC is a joint focus or common communication object and the
>> COMMENT is the associated act of creating that focus or object.
>> 11. Play frames and reality frames are key. Switches between play
>> frames and reality frames, and ways that play frames are used to
>> influence real relationships, are very important.
>> 12. A key difference between play and nonplay is that in reality-
>> oriented activity, objects dictate meaning, but in play-oriented
>> activity, meaning dominates objects.
>> 13. A "bifurcation point" can be said to emerge when a play frame is
>> introduced within a nonplay reality.
>> 14. Metaphor can be explained in terms of this switching between play
>> or imaginary frames, and nonplay frames, where elements of the
>> imaginary frame are used to comment on elements of the reality frame.
>> 15. The term "play chronotope" refers to the values specifically
>> contained within a play frame, as well as the imagined time and
>> place.
>> 16. Symbolic mediational acts, the creation of new symbols and
>> symbolic tools, require the externalization into the reality frame of
>> TOPICs (imaginary objects of common focus) that are created within
>> play or imaginary frames.
>> 17. There are three key differences between play and nonplay
>> frames
>> in play frames, participants interact indirectly through a TOPIC;
>> play
>> frame TOPICs develop in many kinds of time frames, such as in the
>> play
>> itself, in the personal development of a person, in the culture; and
>> play frames can become tools for complex ideas to be expressed in a
>> real situation.
>> - Steve
>> On Jul 16, 2008, at 1:14 PM, Ana Marjanovic-Shane wrote:
>>> Dear Eric,
>>> Thank you for good words about our article!
>>> Below are some answers to the questions you asked - see my comments
>>> within your text:
>>> __________________________
>>> Dr. Ana Marjanovic-Shane
>>> ana@zmajcenter.org
>>> 267-334-2905
>>> On Jul 16, 2008, at 10:43 AM, ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org wrote:
>>>> Ana & Ljubica:
>>>> Such a well written and presented article, great quotes and
>>>> examples to
>>>> illustrate your thinking. It is always a joy to read something
>>>> that I
>>>> viewed over time in discussions that appeared on this forum!
>>>> Hopefully
>>>> others will join in the discussion of this great article.
>>>> Briefly, here are a couple of thoughts
>>>> 1)Having never read Bahktin ( iknow, i know. . .he is so often
>>>> referenced
>>>> that it is simply horrible on my part that I have not) I had never
>>>> come
>>>> across the concept of a chronotope. Now that I have been
>>>> introduced to the
>>>> concept I really like it! And I should add i am now motivated to
>>>> read
>>>> Bahktin. The use of it to describe a play frame is remarkably
>>>> similar to
>>>> Mikhail Basov's view on the importance of play in a child's
>>>> development.
>>>> This can be referenced in: Basov, M.Ia. (1929) 'Structural
>>>> analysis in
>>>> psychology from the standpoint of behavior'. Journal of Genetic
>>>> Psychology, 36, 267-90. Basov speaks of the child moving from
>>>> loosely
>>>> organized temporal events to incorporating 'schemes' into goal-
>>>> directedness
>>>> and planning. Is this how chronotope is being used?
>>> ANA: I did not read Basov, but Bakhtin does not use the term
>>> "chronotope" to describe any particular developmental process. It
>>> refers to a unity of time and space and specific values
>>> (valorizations). It is a useful notion to complement shat has been
>>> know as a "frame" or more specifically a "play frame". While play
>>> frame refers more to the boundary and boundary construction -- we
>>> thought that we also needed to introduce a sense what the particular
>>> importance of the internal relationships within a specific frame --
>>> hence, "chronotope"
>>>> 2)Cognitive development in a child occurs as they experience a
>>>> methaphor in
>>>> a playframe and as a child becomes familiar with the use of this
>>>> metaphor
>>>> they see examples in their daily activities and when they enter
>>>> into
>>>> another playframe they have a 'ready-made' TOPIC that can easily be
>>>> played
>>>> with?
>>> ANA: One of the goals we have in our research is to look at
>>> development in a holistic manner: not separating cognitive aspects
>>> from emotional and volitional. Thus, we think that creating
>>> metaphors (and possibly meanings in general) is based on
>>> coordination of several relationships -- where relationships have
>>> not only cognitive aspects but also affective, ideological and
>>> volitional ones.
>>> Metaphors, as we see them, furthermore require a specific
>>> coordination between play frames and and reality frames. Therefore,
>>> creating a play frame is not enough for development of metaphor -- a
>>> new way of seeing and organizing reality happens when the play
>>> chronotope can be used as a comment "for real" - i.e. to reorganize
>>> the actual, real, serious, ways of seeing, feeling and relating to
>>> life events. This change is not merely cognitive, it is a full lived
>>> through experience (perezhivanye) -- involving emotions, hopes,
>>> decisions, relations to others etc...
>>>> 3) One last thought pertains to the examples of how a TOPIC is
>>>> presented
>>>> in the playframe. "Pretend there is a monster coming" ; "Let's
>>>> pretend you
>>>> are my father and I am your daughter." In both instances it is the
>>>> word
>>>> that comes first and not the behavior. Perhaps is this why
>>>> Vygotsky viewed
>>>> the word as the unit of analysis for the study of human
>>>> development?
>>> ANA: In our examples "Pretend" was a word to signal a change of
>>> frame (chronotope). But the same effect can be achieved through
>>> different means: a wink, an exaggerated imitation, involvement of
>>> "impossible" elements in a story, etc... What is important is that
>>> the participants all agree that what they are doing is within a
>>> play-
>>> frame. If such agreement does not exist, that can lead to different
>>> consequences (deliberate lies, misunderstandings, disorientation
>>> etc) -- which were out of the scope of this paper.
>>> We also did not discuss Vygotsky's notion of the word as a unit of
>>> analysis is this paper. However, our unit of analysis differs from
>>> Vygotsky's. We were looking for a unit of analysis at the level of
>>> the construction of meaning -- and not at a syntactic level to which
>>> "word" actually belongs as an analytic unit. This can be seen even
>>> on a purely cognitive plane: if one can place an equation sign
>>> between a word and its definition (given in a sentence or two), then
>>> it is clear that meaning cannot be reduced to purely linguistic
>>> level, but is something of a different quality.
>>> I also don't think that Vygotsky viewed the word as a unit of
>>> analysis for the study of human development, but for a much more
>>> specific aspect of development -- conceptual development.
>>> In our study we tried to look at the development of views and
>>> understandings of the world through different units and their
>>> combinations, however, we attempted to give the development a more
>>> dynamic character and to see it as part of the ongoing social
>>> processes and activities.
>>>> Again, such a great article and thanks for sharing it with XMCA!
>>>> What do others think?
>>>> eric
>>> ANA: I hope I answered your questions, at least in part.
>>> Ana
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