[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] Friesen Article

Mike, I think you have very well, but this is a tough problem. There are some people on this list who are marvellously transdisciplinary (no names lest I omit someone) but it is hard to see how to get something really going in this direction, beyond heroic islands and a few brilliant scholars.

Something which has increasingly been grabbing my attention is the idea of an *emancipatory science*, the possibility of getting a discussion going amongst people in absolutely any discipline about how to break from the dominant positivist approaches around this principle. There has been a longstanding desire to do this, but efforts have been limited I think to certain currents of social theory, or more or less commitment to ethical code.

1. The 80 years discussion in the CHAT tradition around "unit of analysis," seems to be recognised in no other current of science. I think this idea needs to be better understood and used in criticism.

2. The interest in Idiographic as opposted to Nomothetic science which you, Mike, have introduced as something which Luria was committed to.

3. Related to (2) the kind of knowledge accumulated by self-help groups as opposed to "specialists" and "generalists."

4. "Emancipatory science" as a banner to organise a "crusade" against Behaviorism, Structuralism, and other currents of science which deny agency.

5. Habermas's idea of "emancipatory interest"?

Perhaps a kind of social movement within science could open the way for transdisciplinary approaches? What do you think?


Mike Cole wrote:
My experience with "interdisciplinary" has been so different than yours,
David, it might even be enough of the opposite to motivate my search for
some other formulation, like transdisciplinary without evoking fears of a
coercive Foulcaudian master discipline. Seems like any route we search end
leads to oxen and their
droppings. :-(

I started out an experimental psychologist for whom rats and sophomores were
simply different kinds of the same sorts of "subjects" who one studied for
convenience sake, depending upon particulars of how to get at the common
underlying "psychological processes."  Istumled into and out of Moscow
barely understanding what I was doing. Was sent to Liberia with about the
same depth of understanding. Spent decades trying to sort it out and piece
it together and ended up helping start a "communication department" (no s at
the end).
Communication HAD to claim to be discipline to become a department with a
grad program or had to disappear and that would have stranded me back in a
psychology who thought that culture was only the "glove that goes on the
hand." (Lovely metaphor from Gessell). But i could no longer swallow that
and had come to believe that cultural mediation is central to human
behavior.  I was FORCED to create a DISCIPLINARY
department of Communication or flee into somewhere else and it would be no
better.  And Communication, I fully believed was not a discipline and was
not about to become one I could sign on to. It had to be created.

So what happens? We get hailed as this neat interdisciplinary department.
And what does that mean? Incommensurate data, no way to say that someone
said something actually wrong, not just some other
discipline's way of looking at things. What things? Ohn, most any would do,
so long as it could be related,
post hoc mostly, to communication.

When people do anthro and psych as interdisciplinry we get a new way to do
positivist cause effect science for subjects and objects who have the
misfortune of contributing to their own histories, thus screwing the
interdisciplinary logic of their combination.

Or we get a department of communication which aclaims its
interdisciplinarity. Cites Bakhtin, Foucault,
Bourdieu, inter alia, and the oxen of anyone with a yearning to gore or be

Tis a puzzle.

My students are struggling with these issues in one class, and trying to
come to grips with their lives as
middle class college students who spend two afternoons a week with kids who
havnt enough to eat, parents only partly there or in prison or on welfare to
work, or......  All those paradoxes to and moral conundrums to
work out.

And hoping that its true there is nothing so practical as a good theory, so
they actually start searching for and evaluating candidates for such

And all we have jointly is this thin and tangled medium.

So it goes.


Ps-- If you could help me out with the technology quesion I would appreciate

On Mon, May 11, 2009 at 4:05 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:

  Since CHAT is an open house, I'm going to offer an extended cautionary
tale for discursive psychology from my own bailliwick, applied linguistics.
H.G. Widdowson, who practically founded our field, pointed out that there is
a basic contradiction in the claim that applied linguistics (or cognitive
science or chat) is "interdisciplinary".

The contradiction is this: on the one hand, we claim to be a discipilne in
our own right, with our own mediating relations between theory on the one
hand and praxis on the other. On the other hand, we claim to exist
"interdisciplinarily", in the interstices between disciplines, by virtue of
THEIR mediating relations between theory on the one hand and a praxis which
is actually alien to our own.

I think matters are not helped when we replace the word "interdisciplinary"
with "transdisciplinary". That involves a claim to some kind of
metadiscipline; terribly good for our sense of self-importance, but
disastrous for our relationship with our own praxis. In applied linguistics,
this inflation of the discipline from a technological bull frog to an
interdisciplinary ox meant that we ended up replacing applied linguistics
(that is, the solution of real problems in the real world where language, if
not linguistics, is a real and central concern) with something that looked a
little more like linguistics applied (that is, now that we've got this keen
body of theory let's figure out what it's good for).

At conferences it became very easy to tell the dwindling groups bullfrogs
from the exploding groups of oxen. Bullfrogs were always reading, and oxen
were always writing. Bullfrogs tended to hang out with teachers and even
students, while oxen travelled in herds, mooing to each other in various
incomprehensible postmodern dialects.

Concretely, it was even easier. The bullfrogs were STILL interested in
language teaching, even though a lot of our student base was taken over by
something called TESOL and enrollments were plunging. The oxen became
interested in a kind of literary critical discourse applied to the ordinary
language of (notably prestigious) fields like medicine and law and
advertising. After all, if texts are texts and discourses are discourses
(and maybe texts are discourses too) then there is no reason we can't apply
the lit crit techniques of Kristeva and Barthes and why not Bakhtin to the
discourses overheard in surgeries, courtrooms, and the texts in glossy

It was sexy, but ultimately sterile as far as practical discoveries of new
modes of problem solving went; a lot of the systemic functional analyses
(and also the discursive psychological analyses) pretty much discovered what
we already knew was there (e.g. that South African newspapers under
apartheid tended to cover events in the townships from the white point of
view rather than the black one) and it even ignored stuff that we didn't
know was there (e.g. that the same newspapers had some clear indications
that white jounalists were getting fed up with the crap they were writing).

There were also groups of oxen which went into computers and corpus
linguistics. But here the "linguistics applied" problem was even worse,
because computer corpora were full of native speakers and finished
linguistic products, and this tended to neglect exactly the kinds of
problems we should have been attending (the kinds of problems that Alex
Kozulin's article in the latest MCA tackles). Having cut their ties with
praxis by becoming "interdisciplinary" the oxen invariably tended towards
what was easy to study, uninteresting, and irrelevant.

That's why I worry a little about little words like "resource" as opposed
to "tool". I know that "tool" has a distinctly early twentieth century
sound; it belongs to a better time, when the future seemed somehow
malleable, if only we had the right implements. I know that "resource"
sounds a lot more twenty-first century; it sounds more suited to a time when
things are scarce and precious and need to be valued without being used, and
it seems more important to remind ourselves of the "embodiment" of
communication than its instrumentality, its sign and tool using quality.
These are evil times, and it is hard to trust in the artifacts of
sociocultural progress; at times like these, as Volosinov says, academics
shake their heads and repeat that man is only an animal.

But the students I will teach in about half an hour will graduate next
year, and then they will teach eight and nine year old children. Some of
them, perhaps most of them, will live to see the twenty-second century. So I
still think, rather stubbornly and sometimes even stupidly, that we had it
right the first time; in the long run, the future must be malleable if only
we have the right tools and if only we stick to the right problems! After
all, that's how we got this far.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On *Sun, 5/10/09, Mike Cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>* wrote:

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Friesen Article
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Cc: "David Middleton" <D.J.Middleton@lboro.ac.uk>
Date: Sunday, May 10, 2009, 6:27 PM


Thanks for getting us directly connected with this article.
I have a question, the answer to which is presupposed in your term,
technology. One of the aspects of the study of communication as I
from a department so named is that technology is a term that applies almost
exclusively to electronically powered digital devices.... by my
who also treat "media" as a singular noun and a "cause" in the positive
sense of "the media are responsible for the degeneration of our moral

Put aside my parochial question about media and focus on technology. What
a technology? I trace my own, vague understandings to the idea
of technea in ancient Greece where teoria referred to the audience at a
dramatic performance. I am guessing you have thought about this a lot.
Can you help me out here? I think it is relevant to the article because of
the everyday interpretation of "educational technology" .

I hope that someone knows how to reach Norm Friesen so that he can join the
discussion. I think that discursive psychology is an important intellectual
enterprise and would like to understand its relationship to the issues we
are used to discussing.

On Sun, May 10, 2009 at 4:37 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com<http://us.mc01g.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
Yes, xmca is a bit of a three ring circus: when there isn't a tiger loose
on the other thread, then he's either backstage--or prowling the
I've got some non-rhetorical and non-display questions about the Friesen

a) My first question has to do with "interdisciplinarity", a recent
that snapped befoer it could get as far as "Discursive Psychology and
Educational Technology". In applied linguistics we used to think we were
inter-trans-disciplinary: we thought we were language teaching plus any
discipline you need to make language teaching more fun, effective,
affordable, useful. Then we discovered that we were really just a
TECHNOLOGY. It's not the same thing. For one thing, being a technology is
more fun, effective, affordable, and useful. For another, it's not nearly
prestigious, which means good riddance to an enormous amount of careerist
baggage. Isn't "cognitive science" (and even CHAT) just in the process of
discovering the same thing?

b) My second question concerns p. 133, where Friesen has this to say:
"Discursive psychology does not understand (?) discourse or conversation
terms of communication in its conventional technologized (??) meaning as
transmission of information; instead, it understands discourse above all
(as?) a kind of activity--a type of action or work through which the
field of interaction itself is constituted". I can think of a lot of ways
which you could transmit information without "action" or "work" or even a
social field of interaction (involuntary signals). I can't think of a
way in which you could constitute a social field of interaction without
transmitting information. So am I to conclude that discursive psychology
a narrower notion than the convental technologized one?

c) My third question has to do with a sentence later in teh same
that goes like this: (...Mind, computer, and other terms and categories
woudl emerge from this type of analysis not so much as causes or tools to
produce certain results but as rhetorical and interactional resources
for discursive, social action." To me this suggests that they are not
but only potential tools. Given that I am a proud technologist with no
pretensions to interdisciplinarity, why is that a step forward? It looks
like a giant leap backwards from where I am standing.

d) Finally, I wonder about the whole exercise of analyzing a tidbit of
interaction between a human and a chatbot for evidence that the human is
responding to the chatbot as we humans are supposed to, that is, as a
or less successful performance of a perverse kind of role play. The
particular role play that chatbots are supposed to enact is NOT, however,
a machine pretending to be human, but rather a human pretending to treat
machine as a human. Isn't the missing precondition for real (as opposed
potential) social action the ASSUMPTION that the other person has a
intention to interact?

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:
From Erythrós Press and Media <http://www.erythrospress.com/>.

xmca mailing list