Since CHAT is an open house, I'm going to offer an extended
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
our own right, with our own mediating relations between theory on
hand and praxis on the other. On the other hand, we claim to
"interdisciplinarily", in the interstices between disciplines, by
THEIR mediating relations between theory on the one hand and a
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,
disastrous for our relationship with our own praxis. In applied
this inflation of the discipline from a technological bull frog
interdisciplinary ox meant that we ended up replacing applied
(that is, the solution of real problems in the real world where
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
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,
were always writing. Bullfrogs tended to hang out with teachers
students, while oxen travelled in herds, mooing to each other in
incomprehensible postmodern dialects.
Concretely, it was even easier. The bullfrogs were STILL
language teaching, even though a lot of our student base was
something called TESOL and enrollments were plunging. The oxen
interested in a kind of literary critical discourse applied to
language of (notably prestigious) fields like medicine and law
advertising. After all, if texts are texts and discourses are
(and maybe texts are discourses too) then there is no reason we
the lit crit techniques of Kristeva and Barthes and why not
Bakhtin to the
discourses overheard in surgeries, courtrooms, and the texts in
It was sexy, but ultimately sterile as far as practical
discoveries of new
modes of problem solving went; a lot of the systemic functional
(and also the discursive psychological analyses) pretty much
we already knew was there (e.g. that South African newspapers
apartheid tended to cover events in the townships from the white
view rather than the black one) and it even ignored stuff that we
know was there (e.g. that the same newspapers had some clear
that white jounalists were getting fed up with the crap they were
There were also groups of oxen which went into computers and
linguistics. But here the "linguistics applied" problem was even
because computer corpora were full of native speakers and
linguistic products, and this tended to neglect exactly the
problems we should have been attending (the kinds of problems
Kozulin's article in the latest MCA tackles). Having cut their
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
sound; it belongs to a better time, when the future seemed
malleable, if only we had the right implements. I know that
sounds a lot more twenty-first century; it sounds more suited
things are scarce and precious and need to be valued without
it seems more important to remind ourselves of the "embodiment"
communication than its instrumentality, its sign and tool using
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
year, and then they will teach eight and nine year old children.
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
all, that's how we got this far.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On *Sun, 5/10/09, Mike Cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>* wrote:
From: Mike Cole <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Friesen Article
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
technology. One of the aspects of the study of communication as I
from a department so named is that technology is a term that
exclusively to electronically powered digital devices.... by my
who also treat "media" as a singular noun and a "cause" in the
sense of "the media are responsible for the degeneration of our
Put aside my parochial question about media and focus on
a technology? I trace my own, vague understandings to the idea
of technea in ancient Greece where teoria referred to the
dramatic performance. I am guessing you have thought about this a
Can you help me out here? I think it is relevant to the article
the everyday interpretation of "educational technology" .
I hope that someone knows how to reach Norm Friesen so that he
discussion. I think that discursive psychology is an important
enterprise and would like to understand its relationship to the
are used to discussing.
On Sun, May 10, 2009 at 4:37 PM, David Kellogg <email@example.com
Yes, xmca is a bit of a three ring circus: when there isn't a
on the other thread, then he's either backstage--or prowling the
I've got some non-rhetorical and non-display questions about the
a) My first question has to do with "interdisciplinarity", a
that snapped befoer it could get as far as "Discursive
Educational Technology". In applied linguistics we used to think
inter-trans-disciplinary: we thought we were language teaching
discipline you need to make language teaching more fun,
affordable, useful. Then we discovered that we were really
TECHNOLOGY. It's not the same thing. For one thing, being a
more fun, effective, affordable, and useful. For another, it's
prestigious, which means good riddance to an enormous amount of
baggage. Isn't "cognitive science" (and even CHAT) just in the
discovering the same thing?
b) My second question concerns p. 133, where Friesen has this to
"Discursive psychology does not understand (?) discourse or
terms of communication in its conventional technologized (??)
transmission of information; instead, it understands discourse
(as?) a kind of activity--a type of action or work through which
field of interaction itself is constituted". I can think of a
which you could transmit information without "action" or "work"
or even a
social field of interaction (involuntary signals). I can't think
way in which you could constitute a social field of interaction
transmitting information. So am I to conclude that discursive
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
woudl emerge from this type of analysis not so much as causes or
produce certain results but as rhetorical and interactional
for discursive, social action." To me this suggests that they
but only potential tools. Given that I am a proud technologist
pretensions to interdisciplinarity, why is that a step forward?
like a giant leap backwards from where I am standing.
d) Finally, I wonder about the whole exercise of analyzing a
interaction between a human and a chatbot for evidence that the
responding to the chatbot as we humans are supposed to, that is,
or less successful performance of a perverse kind of role
particular role play that chatbots are supposed to enact is NOT,
a machine pretending to be human, but rather a human pretending
machine as a human. Isn't the missing precondition for real (as
potential) social action the ASSUMPTION that the other person
intention to interact?
Seoul National University of Education
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