Re: [xmca] The End of Hunting and Gathering

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sat Nov 29 2008 - 21:16:04 PST

Well, I need a linguistic example, as usual. Here's a teacher trying to present, as concretely as possible, the semantic meaning of the modal auxiliary "can". She has a set of six pictures, a child skiing, a child skating, a child swimming, a child and a kangaroo jumping, a child flying, a child singing, two children dancing.
The artefacts are poorly suited to the activity because children naturally construe pictures in a fairly direct way rather than as indicative of a possiblity (i.e. as "he is skiing' rather than as "I can ski"). But this is a very common problem in elementary education; we often need to reconstrue concrete examples as abstract concepts (e.g. an example as a rule in a game).
T: Look! He is...skiing.
Ss (look and say nothing).
T: What's he doing?
Ss: Ski...skiing. Sseu--ki. He is skiing (etc.)
T: Right. He is skiing. So...he can ski? Can he ski?
Ss: Yes.
T: Right. He can ski. Now, I'm NOT skiing (T crosses her arms in front of herself to indicate the negative). I'm teaching. But...(T pauses dramatically)...but I CAN ski. I'm a good skiier. Can I ski?
Ss: Yes.
T: Yes. Now, let's ask Jeong-eun. Everybody...?
Ss: Can you ski?
S1: No.
Notice the use of "so" and "but" in this data. "He is skiing, so he can ski" and "I'm NOT skiing. I'm teaching. But I CAN ski." What the teacher's really doing here is reconstruing DISCOURSE as grammar. Compare:
T: What is he doing?
S: Skiing.
T: Can he ski?
S: Yes.
T: How do you know?
S: He is skiing.
(invented data, of course)
T: What am I doing?
S: Teaching.
T: Am I skiing?
S: No.
T: Can I ski?
S: Yes.
In other words, what used to be inter-mental has become intra-mental (assuming the kids understand "He is skiing so he can ski" and "I am teaching not skiing, but I can ski"). This reconstrual of discourse as grammar (which we see a LOT of in classrooms) is just a small instance of Vygotsky's Second Genetic Law, that social, inter-mental knowledge is reconstrued as psychological, intra-mental knowledge.
Things can be DE-construed too, of course. Here's a teacher trying to teach children to arrange an imaginary trip to the shopping mall. The children try to tell her that the shopping mall has just gone bankrupt because of the financial crisis:
T: So...I will go shopping today.
sb: Wow
T: (filling the boxes of the schedule on the board) I will go shopping.
sb: Yagu hajamaja paro gayadwinnei....
T: Yes. After baseball. I will go shopping.
Ss: Wow
T: (writing "Wow Mall" in the "Where?" section on the board) Wow. Wow shopping mall!
Ss: Wa--ow! Ha ha ha
sb: Teacher!
T: What time?
sb: Four!
sb: Wow shopping mall is .....
sb: Manghesseo! (bankrupt)!
sb: Ajik an mangesseo! (Not yet bankrupt!)
sb: Manghesseo! (bankrupt!)
sb: Die!
T: Closed?
sb: Die!
T: Oh, we can not go shopping to Wow Shopping Mall?
sb: Wow Shopping Mall is beggar!
sb: hahahaha~
T: Beggar?
sb: Geoji (beggar)!
T: Why?
sb: No money!

You can see here that the kids have deconstrued the teacher's long grammar into a very tall, thin mostly lexical discourse about banruptcy. They've also reconstrued the imaginary activity into a real discussion, and even a kind of contest, in which the factual claims of one student are disputed by another, and English actually provides a resource for enforcing those claims in the teacher's eyes.
I think I want to distinguish between parallel and competing construals, on the one hand, and serial and developmental reconstrual on the other. Of course, the two things are related; there are historical moments when a society as a whole can choose to reconstrue one activity system as another, and when this happens they usually choose from two competing construals of the same activity.
That's essentially the historical process that Lee and Roth are describing. Seeding the streams with salmon is initially seen as a way of enhancing food production. It's then discovered that there are better, more efficient ways to do this which have the added benefit (not initially seen as contradictory) of preserving or enhancing the environment. Eventually, these actually replace the goal of food production (which I would contend is better served by salmon farming, although Mike would probably disagree). I would qualify this as progressive, and an example of reconstrual rather than deconstrual. 
But deconstrual is of course always possible. For example, in China during the 1980s, both providing a living for the laborer and increasing production were parallel activities. If anything, China chose to construe the production of commodities as the provision of a living for the laborer. Today the Chinese government tends to construe the provision of a living for the labourer in terms of producing commodities. I guess I would call that a deconstrual; a choice which results in a qualitatively less developed form of society.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Sat, 11/29/08, Andy Blunden <> wrote:

From: Andy Blunden <>
Subject: Re: [xmca] The End of Hunting and Gathering
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
Date: Saturday, November 29, 2008, 4:23 AM

Could you elaborate on "construal" of an "activity system".
I notice that this comes up in Helena's paper (the same activity construed
differently by workers and employers) and in Mary van Riet's paper (sexual
intercourse or transmission of a virus). What is the objectivity of construal?


David Kellogg wrote:
> ... "Making|Saving Salmon" as case study in the gradual
reconstrual of one activity system as another (viz. the reconstrual of the
hatchery based industrial production of salmon as a conservation movement).

> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

-- ------------------------------------------------------------------------
Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 Skype andy.blunden
Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list
Received on Sat Nov 29 21:17:53 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Dec 01 2008 - 12:52:40 PST