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RE: [xmca] different worlds

Hi Eric,
What is poverty?  You go to different places it means different things.  I always dislike that comparison of the "poor" child in the United States vs. the "poor" child in Mogadishu (unless of course you are talking about the child soldiers).  I think I prefer Amartya Sen's view - children whose society deprives them of the basic functions to meet their capabilities within the society.  Sen, who comes from India writes about the basic functions in a very baseline way - clean drinking water, some type of housing, a steady nutrition - provide these things and the child have the capability to achieve in society.  Martha Nussbaum, who bases her ideas on the morality behind Sen's social choice theory, is from the United States and has developed a very different list of social functions, concerntrating more on issues related to senses and emotions.  I think these differences are very much the result of what you see in the society that surrounds you.  But in both cases poverty is not simply poverty of material goods (as we have been trained to see it, so we can make arguments that the poor in our society are relatively well off), but poverty is poverty in the capability to achieve a life of satisfaction and well being within the society in which you are living.  I have come to see the poverty in the United States as being very brutal in that fashion.  While we might provide the chance for a McDonald's hamburger or to see cartoons on a color television set what do these really add to capability.  We throw - what - 20% of our children in to total chaos, living with littloe chances of being capable to achieve in our society because we put them in these brutal environments, give them learning situations that are senseless and without imagination, offer them few avenues to express their emotions.  One could make the argument that a poor child in rural India, because of basic levels of social and cultural capital, have a greater chance of being capable of achieving well being in their society than children impoverished in basic functioning in our society.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org
Sent: Tue 5/12/2009 9:47 AM
To: mcole@weber.ucsd.edu; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [xmca] different worlds

Hey Mike:

Your comment at the end about middle class values meeting the reality of
the "poor" (I hate that word, don't know another one to describe the
population you are mentioning and I am thinking of because indeed they do
have a great deal more then a teenager living in Mogadishu) made me think
of a lesson plan I did yesterday.  Students are given a list of 35
personality traits to assess themselves.  I use it as a tool to talk about
how these traits can be seen as being a good thing if it is done with
confidence, a bad thing if it is done aggressively or arrogantly, etc. The
point is one of the the students wanted me to talk about the item listed
as "a good friend".  He wanted to know if I viewed myself as a good
friend. I said something like, "I have a pickup and seeing as not
everybody has a pickup sometimes my friends will ask me to haul things and
that if I am available I will do so."  He responded with, "That isn't
being a good friend, that's being friendly (another item on the list)."  I
thought for a second and asked the student's to tell me what they viewed a
good friend to be.  "Being there no matter what,"  Is what I heard from
them.  Even to the point of not going to a job if a friend called and
needed help.  They did not want to think that the other person was not
being a good friend for asking them to miss work but rather held loyalty
to their friends as the value to hold.  Having worked in St. Paul for
numerous years I have of course come across this before but it really hit
home again what being "poor" provides as a culture for valuing

Or, is it more a reflection of the age and level of development the 16 and
17 year olds are at?

Of course this doesn't really have anything to do with interdisciplinary
or transdisciplinary but I believe it is an example of praxis being the
grand domain of insight.


Mike Cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Sent by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
05/11/2009 11:09 PM
Please respond to mcole; Please respond to "eXtended Mind, Culture,

        To:     David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
        cc:     Culture ActivityeXtended Mind <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
        Subject:        Re: [xmca] Friesen Article

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
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
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
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
havnt enough to eat, parents only partly there or in prison or on welfare
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,
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

On Mon, May 11, 2009 at 4:05 PM, David Kellogg

>   Since CHAT is an open house, I'm going to offer an extended cautionary
> tale for discursive psychology from my own bailliwick, applied
> H.G. Widdowson, who practically founded our field, pointed out that
there is
> a basic contradiction in the claim that applied linguistics (or
> science or chat) is "interdisciplinary".
> The contradiction is this: on the one hand, we claim to be a discipilne
> our own right, with our own mediating relations between theory on the
> hand and praxis on the other. On the other hand, we claim to exist
> "interdisciplinarily", in the interstices between disciplines, by virtue
> THEIR mediating relations between theory on the one hand and a praxis
> is actually alien to our own.
> I think matters are not helped when we replace the word
> 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
> this inflation of the discipline from a technological bull frog to an
> interdisciplinary ox meant that we ended up replacing applied
> (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
> body of theory let's figure out what it's good for).
> At conferences it became very easy to tell the dwindling groups
> from the exploding groups of oxen. Bullfrogs were always reading, and
> 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
> something called TESOL and enrollments were plunging. The oxen became
> interested in a kind of literary critical discourse applied to the
> 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
> the lit crit techniques of Kristeva and Barthes and why not Bakhtin to
> discourses overheard in surgeries, courtrooms, and the texts in glossy
> magazines.
> It was sexy, but ultimately sterile as far as practical discoveries of
> modes of problem solving went; a lot of the systemic functional analyses
> (and also the discursive psychological analyses) pretty much discovered
> we already knew was there (e.g. that South African newspapers under
> apartheid tended to cover events in the townships from the white point
> 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
> 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
> what was easy to study, uninteresting, and irrelevant.
> That's why I worry a little about little words like "resource" as
> 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
> things are scarce and precious and need to be valued without being used,
> 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,
> 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
> right the first time; in the long run, the future must be malleable if
> we have the right tools and if only we stick to the right problems!
> 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
> David--
> 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
> experience
> from a department so named is that technology is a term that applies
> exclusively to electronically powered digital devices.... by my
> *colleagues*,
> 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
> order."
> Put aside my parochial question about media and focus on technology.
> is
> 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
> the everyday interpretation of "educational technology" .
> I hope that someone knows how to reach Norm Friesen so that he can join
> discussion. I think that discursive psychology is an important
> enterprise and would like to understand its relationship to the issues
> are used to discussing.
> mike
> On Sun, May 10, 2009 at 4:37 PM, David Kellogg
> >wrote:
> > Yes, xmca is a bit of a three ring circus: when there isn't a tiger
> > on the other thread, then he's either backstage--or prowling the
> audience.
> > I've got some non-rhetorical and non-display questions about the
> > article:
> >
> > a) My first question has to do with "interdisciplinarity", a recent
> thread
> > that snapped befoer it could get as far as "Discursive Psychology and
> > Educational Technology". In applied linguistics we used to think we
> > inter-trans-disciplinary: we thought we were language teaching plus
> > 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
> > more fun, effective, affordable, and useful. For another, it's not
> as
> > prestigious, which means good riddance to an enormous amount of
> > baggage. Isn't "cognitive science" (and even CHAT) just in the process
> > discovering the same thing?
> >
> > b) My second question concerns p. 133, where Friesen has this to say:
> > "Discursive psychology does not understand (?) discourse or
> in
> > terms of communication in its conventional technologized (??) meaning
> the
> > transmission of information; instead, it understands discourse above
> > (as?) a kind of activity--a type of action or work through which the
> social
> > field of interaction itself is constituted". I can think of a lot of
> in
> > which you could transmit information without "action" or "work" or
even a
> > social field of interaction (involuntary signals). I can't think of a
> single
> > way in which you could constitute a social field of interaction
> > transmitting information. So am I to conclude that discursive
> is
> > a narrower notion than the convental technologized one?
> >
> > c) My third question has to do with a sentence later in teh same
> paragraph
> > that goes like this: (...Mind, computer, and other terms and
> > woudl emerge from this type of analysis not so much as causes or tools
> > produce certain results but as rhetorical and interactional resources
> > for discursive, social action." To me this suggests that they are not
> tools
> > but only potential tools. Given that I am a proud technologist with no
> > pretensions to interdisciplinarity, why is that a step forward? It
> > 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
> > responding to the chatbot as we humans are supposed to, that is, as a
> more
> > or less successful performance of a perverse kind of role play. The
> > particular role play that chatbots are supposed to enact is NOT,
> > a machine pretending to be human, but rather a human pretending to
> a
> > machine as a human. Isn't the missing precondition for real (as
> to
> > potential) social action the ASSUMPTION that the other person has a
> genuine
> > intention to interact?
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Seoul National University of Education
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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