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RE: [xmca] The Coconut Eyes of Consciousness

Hi David,
Perhaps I want to suggest three points regarding your email below.
	First, I think an analyst needs to clarify the unit of analysis that
he/she refers to when he/she talk about the development of consciousness,
teaching, and communication (i.e., holistic approach). This is one of the
most important clarifications that distinguish Vygotskian
cultural-historical activity theory from others. I think this has been
already pointed out many times in previous discussion threads in xmca.
	Second, once I take this holistic approach I find that it provides a
different way of understanding "collectivity." Collectivity can be a terrain
in which an individual action emerges, marks sense, and changes the terrain
rather than a problem of whether people agree or disagree one another. There
may be an individual action that increases/decreases action possibilities
available for the participants, which therefore is said to be good or bad.
This already presupposes a collective terrain that an individual action is
being affected by and affects--for me this explains the generative aspect of
participating in a collective human activity. I think an experienced
teacher/researcher may experientially know that a teacher's action is
performed on the presupposition of the audience (students) and is translated
by a next action. A good teacher's questioning in a science classroom turns
out to be not working very well when the conversation unfolds in such a way
to decrease room to maneuver for the conversation participants.
	Third, for me this framework suggests that an increase of action
possibilities in a collective terrain, which also increases possibilities
for different learning trajectories, constitutes a good explanation for
"development." I think many previous studies have shown that this is how
learning actually happens rather than by someone else (teacher) designing
individuals' learning trajectories.
	I hope this helps.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
> On Behalf Of Wolff-Michael Roth
> Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2009 9:07 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Cc: mcole@weber.ucsd.edu
> Subject: Re: [xmca] The Coconut Eyes of Consciousness
> David,
> some of your emails are annoying because you apparently attempt to
> misread what I have written and what it is about. I am not
> UNDEVELOPMENTAL in my views or writing, precisely the opposite. And I
> am totally labor movement---I come from the poorest of the poorest and
> condemn the ruling relations that lead to the reproduction of
> inequity. I practice what I preach (If I preach at all), too, about
> anything I say, whether with respect to environment, sustainability,
> etc. I really have no clue why you make those suggestions which are
> precisely the opposite of what I am standing for. Perhaps Mike can
> intervene here and ask David for a little bit more of netiquette.
> Thanks,
> Michael
> On 15-Apr-09, at 4:15 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
> >
> > Last night I read two very different pieces of work on culture and
> > cognition, and this morning it seems to me that the differences
> > between them are very instructive in the light of:
> >
> > a) recent exchanges here on the list on ethnomethodology in general
> > and conversational analysis in particular, and
> >
> > b) articles by Wolff-Michael Roth and Sungwon Hwang in the recent
> > MCA which seem to me to take a nondevelopmental view of solidarity
> > by reducing it to a question of ontology and by eliminating the
> > "prise de conscience" necessary for the recognition of similarities
> > beyond differences.
> >
> > c) work we are doing in our Vygotsky seminar on Chapter Six of
> > Thinking and Speech, where the "prise de conscience" of Claparede
> > and Piaget is rather too placidly translated as "conscious awareness".
> >
> > The first thing I read was Edward Hutchins' contribution to the 1987
> > Holland and Quinn volume 'Cultural Models in Language and
> > Thought' (CUP). It's called 'Myth and Experience in the Trobriand
> > Islands' and it offers two readings of a common Trobriand myth which
> > is offered to explain the fact that we do not see the spirits of the
> > dead and yet they see us.
> >
> > One reading is what the Trobrianders themselves offer: A woman dies.
> > Her daughter gives birth. She leaves the land of spirits to grow
> > taro for her daughter and grandchild, but while doing this work, the
> > daughter flings a soup bowl out the window and strikes her. In
> > anger, the dead woman divides a coconut and gives her daughter the
> > portion without eyes. From that day on the dead have eyes to see us,
> > but we have no eyes to see them.
> >
> > The contradictions in the myth (e.g. the fact that the dead can
> > carry heavy weights, and are both living and dead, at home and in
> > exile on an island which is both real and mythical) are so many
> > signs that it there is an esoteric as well as an exoteric
> > interpretation. But the very existence of this explanation is known
> > only to a privileged few.
> >
> > The second reading is based on Freud's famous interpretation of a
> > man's toothache: according to Freud, the lives of old people weigh
> > heavily on the young, and we all wish the early demise of our elders
> > and despise ourselves for wishing it. We suppress the wish, but
> > still feel guilty for having wished it, and thus punish ourselves
> > through dreams and myths. The fact that we deny that this is what
> > our myths mean is taken not as disproof of the hypothesis but rather
> > as so much proof of the hypothesis of repression. The analyst always
> > thinks we doth protest overmuch.
> >
> > Both interpretations admit the possibility of consciousness of the
> > true meaning of the myth, but both of them close off this
> > possibility to most  interactants and seize the coconut eyes of
> > consciousness for a priveleged few. The difference is that the
> > Trobriand interpretation denies this consciousness to outsiders and
> > confers it only to privileged insiders. But the Freudian
> > interpretation denies this consciousness to the interactants and
> > confers it only upon privileged outsiders.
> >
> > The second thing I read was Ron Eglash's book on African Fractals,
> > justly recommended elsewhere on this list. This begins with an
> > extremely clear explanation of what fractal geometry really is and
> > how it depends on the strictly mathematical idea that infinity can
> > be discovered within a finite space.
> >
> > Then it shows how the creators of fractal architectures in Africa
> > proceed to this consciousness by varied degrees of 'prise de
> > conscience': some create fractals exoterically, because they 'look
> > pretty', some because it is the hallowed esoteric tradition, and
> > some because they are fully conscious of what they are doing.
> >
> > Eglash's book is what it demonstrates; it presents what is, after
> > all, fairly esoteric knowledge in an exoteric way, a way that allows
> > you to read it for pretty pictures, or for arcane knowledge, and
> > even for a full mathematical 'prise de conscience'. The very act of
> > reading it and understanding it convinces you that all three of
> > these things are different moments of the same realization of
> > consciousness. If they can think of infinity, so can you. If you can
> > think it, so can they.
> >
> > But both acts require some work; there is no sense in which the
> > concept of infinity within a finite space is presupposed or assumed.
> > Consciousnss is "necessary" in the sense that it is mathematically
> > determined and not arbitrary. But it's not built in from the get-go;
> > after all, termites build beautiful fractal architecture as well,
> > but they are, presumably, quite oblivious to both the aesthetic and
> > the mathematical properties of what they are doing. Ultimately, the
> > concrete form of that the necessary consciousness of infinity in a
> > coconut shell takes is a "prise de conscience". That "prise de
> > conscience" is a volitional and not a predetermined act.
> >
> > In Wolff-Michael's editorial 'Solidarity and Responsibility', posted
> > on his website, he is arguing for a sense of difference that is
> > 'ontological' and 'categorical', that is, 'original' in the sense of
> > Adam and Eve. He directly opposes this to a necessary consciousness
> > of sameness that is developed through the consciousness of
> > difference. I think (I hope) that it is this, and not any strongly
> > felt anti-labor sentiment, that leads him to denounce strikes as
> > ultimately pointless and self-destructive.
> >
> > In Sungwon Hwang's commentary on my own piece, this 'ontological' as
> > opposed to developmental sense of me-in-the-other is taken still
> > further: 'The first articulation that crosses boundaries of cultures
> > and languages presupposes the heterogeneous Self and culture/
> > language in which boundaries are already problematized.' (p. 191),
> > and 'The development (sic) does not denote the homogenization of
> > differences but the non-self-identical movement of an irreducibly
> > heterogenous unit.' Difference, then, is only the 'intensification'
> > of some kind of pre-existing hybridization.
> >
> > At this point I have to admit that we are wading into esoteric water
> > that is well over my exoteric head. Fortunately, Sungwon Hwang gives
> > an example from my own work with teacher talk about student talk,
> > and native language talk about foreign language talk. He says:
> > '(M)eta-talk is a constitutive part of talk' (192), 'there is no
> > clear distinction between talk and meta-talk once we consider them
> > within the whole act of communication'.
> >
> > I think what I actually said was that 'talk about talk is not just
> > talk, but it is not not talk either'. But I think I'm now willing to
> > go a little further: in Sungwon Hwang's sense, the distinction is
> > indeed clear and even embodied, because in my data meta-talk is by
> > and large the province of the teacher and the teacher alone. It's
> > only when we recognize this division of labor that we can form the
> > firm intention to break it down. In this sense the transgression of
> > the boundaries we see in linguistic hybridization is not at all
> > ontological but rather a largely unforeseen and even unpredictable
> > development.
> >
> > In the second part of Chapter Six of Thinking and Speech Vygotsky
> > takes Claparede and Piaget (once again!) to the woodshed for their
> > explanation of why the various partial functions of consciousness
> > (e.g. attention, memory, perception) become conscious in school
> > children but consciousness as a whole does not.
> >
> > Claparede and Piaget offer the 'loi de prise de conscience', which
> > simply states that we become conscious of differences before we
> > become conscious of simliarities, and the quasi-Freudian 'loi de
> > deplacement' according to which this consciousness of maladaptation
> > is transferred from the plane of action to the plane of
> > consciousness through a process very like Freudian displacement and
> > only after a period of time. (Minick version, p. 189)
> >
> > Vygotsky retorts that these laws merely restate the problem and do
> > not by any means resolve it: we still do not know HOW we become
> > conscious of similarities or HOW this consciousness gets transferred
> > from the plane of practical intelligence to the plane of verbal
> > intelligence.
> >
> > If anything, Claparede and Piaget have made it LESS clear how
> > children overcome the 'maladaptation' that shows them difference but
> > not similarity and LESS clear how knowledge can be 'displaced' from
> > the world of direct action the realm of indirect representations.
> >
> > By the end of the chapter, Vygotsky offers a solution, and it's
> > really the same exoteric ethnomethodological solution as Eglash,
> > just as the non-solutions offered by Piaget and Claparede seem to
> > partake of the same primevalist exoterica offered by the
> > Trobrianders and by Freud.
> >
> > The child becomes conscious of similarity AFTER the child becomes
> > conscious of difference for the simple reason that difference is can
> > be perceptual, while similarity often requires the formation of a
> > higher concept. The child 'seizes consciousness' of these concepts
> > by noticing first the DIFFERENCE between everyday concepts and
> > science concepts and only then their similarity.
> >
> > So it is that similarity emerges from difference, and the coco-nut
> > eyes of consciousness are opened by the sundering of the coconut.
> > And so Yeats writes:
> >
> > 'A woman can be proud and stiff
> > When on love intent;
> > But Love has pitched his mansion in
> > The place of excrement;
> > For nothing can be sole or whole
> > That has not been rent.'
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Seoul National University of Education
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> >
> Wolff-Michael Roth,
> Lansdowne Professor, Applied Cognitive Science
> MacLaurin Building A548
> University of Victoria
> Email: mroth@uvic.ca
> Internet: http://www.educ.uvic.ca/faculty/mroth
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