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Re: [xmca] Communication/social relations/obshenie

Yes, Mike, there is nothing to bring a fossil back to life like re- contextualizing its meanings with a new backstory, even one slightly different from what we have long been used to.

We can have both a kind of stability and respect for tradition, for what we have come to share as common touchstones of meaning and discourse that help us cohere as a community, AND joy at finding ever new ways of re-thinking and making unanticipated uses of and connections with the old warhorses.

Which is what keeps some of us horses going, eh?



Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Visiting Scholar
Laboratory for Comparative Human Communication
University of California -- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
USA 92093

On Nov 28, 2009, at 3:56 PM, mike cole wrote:

I think that what makes issues of definition simultaneously so difficult an"d so thought provoking in the cross-linguistic cases we have been talking about, Jay, is that we have both sympathy for the ideas-as-translated which has been a (somewhat) common source of our ideas AND that what you refer to as "theory" or Discourse is a whole world view with a long history.

At least I am knocked over repeatedly by the new perspectives on "fossilized" ideas I have by these encounters.

On Fri, Nov 27, 2009 at 8:02 PM, Jay Lemke <jaylemke@umich.edu> wrote:
I am backtracking through recent topics on the list as I play catch- up.

It might be worth noting in regard to a number of recent discussions about un-translatability and cross-language terminology, that (a) words don't really work according to our folk-theory that they can be individually "defined", or translated; (b) meanings get made with systems of interlinked words, which form somewhat more stable "sets" (what I've called thematic systems or thematic formations); and (c) to define the meanings and relationships among the terms in such a set, you generally need to explicate the whole "theory" or Discourse (ala Gee) in which they function. You then get the sense of each of the terms as part of this larger discourse whole. You can translate essays, and maybe even paragraphs, but certainly not words.


PS. Mathematics and science have been trying to force language to fit our folk-theory of how it should work, with for example, stable definitions of individual terms, but for the most part have failed (esp. in science when dealing with concepts), and only in some areas of pure, abstract mathematics may have partly succeeded, though I still have my doubts. I think one can learn, as a member of a specialist community, to read and interpret "as if" bottom-up from the individual terms and definitions, but only because of being immersed in a culture which enables one to background the inevitable "backstory" which meaning requires.

Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Visiting Scholar
Laboratory for Comparative Human Communication
University of California -- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
USA 92093

On Nov 22, 2009, at 4:22 PM, mike cole wrote:

obuchenie without obshchenie is a little difficult to imagine, helen.
communication devoid of affect seems to offer a similar set of problems.

Again, in every case of "definition" we have (a largely unexplicated,
because you can never say everything about anything) a large,
pre-supposed set of theoretical assumptions about the processes being

What makes discussion of these cases always (potentially) useful
is that different ways of defining/interpreting provide glimpses of the
theoretical field which provides the lens through which we and our
interlocutors are interpreting/delimiting the processes of (potentially!)
common interest.

(PS-- My spelling and typing are no better in transliterated Russian than in
English)  :-((

On Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 3:09 PM, Helen Grimmett <
helen.grimmett@education.monash.edu.au> wrote:

A group from my university attended the Vygotsky/Golden Key Summer
School earlier in the year and returned home all talking about the
importance of obshchenie (this is the spelling we have been using -
funny that it is a cross between Mike and Katrina's). While they said
that Elena Kravtsova translated it as 'social communication' she also
made it clear that this was not really an adequate translation for
capturing the true expansive meaning of the word.

In reference to my earlier message, pasted below, I'm wondering whether
it is actually 'obshchenie' that is the unique property of 'obuchenie'
(teaching/learning)? - i.e. it is all about the special social/ emotional
relationships between and among teachers and learners in the joint
activity of obuchenie that make the difference.

Perhaps some Russian speakers can help further?


Earlier message: Helen wrote....
I am currently attempting to use obuchenie as a central
concept in my PhD research, arguing that perhaps using a 'new' word with
teachers makes it easier for them to think about teaching and learning
in a new way (as a conjoint practice that both teachers and learners
engage in together).

I have argued that it is difficult to assign new conceptualisations to
existing terms we have traditionally conceptualised in different ways
and that perhaps using teaching/learning still provides an image of
simply bringing together the two contradictory practices of teaching and
learning (as understood in their old way) rather than helping teachers
think about it in a new way as a dialectical unity which has its own
unique properties (more than the sum of its parts).

I then go on in my proposal for confirmation of candidature paper to
spend nearly 6000 words trying to explain what the unique properties of
obuchenie are. In a nutshell I talk about the ZPD (although taking a
holistic approach to development recognising the importance of the
affective dimension alongside the more typical cognitive approach);
intersubjectivity and perezhivanie; authentic meaning and motives for
participating in the activity; and recognising that all of this occurs
within a particular cultural-historical context that both determines and
is determined by the interactions of the participants.

I would be interested to hear what others think are the unique qualities
of obuchenie and why/whether translations as even teaching/learning or
teaching-learning may be inadequate for generating new understandings
amongst teachers.

----- Original Message -----
From: Katarina Rodina <katja@student.uv.uio.no>
Date: Monday, November 23, 2009 4:30 am
Subject: Re: [xmca] Communication/social relations/obshenie
To: lchcmike@gmail.com, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"

The problem with terminology is a tricky one. The understanding of
terminology in Russian Psychology as "communication", "social
interaction"and "Obchenie" is far from being straightforward.

I've tried to investigate the problem of  communication (obchenie) in
Vygotsky's, Leontiev's and so-called neo-Vygotskian research (see
belowRodina (2006)) .

The problem of communication as a social relation (rus. obchenie,
German"Verkehr") is highlighted in the works of A.N. Leontiev,
Zaporozhets and
M. Lisina, i.e. the concept of early ontogeny of communication
(obchenie)as a communicative activity (not speech activity as an
object of study as
in psycholinguistics). Lisina's theory of early emotional
communication/obchenia as a Leading Acitivity has much in common with
Trevarthen's concept of early inter-subjective communication and
socio-emotional development in early ontogeny. Bodrova & Leong
(1996: 51)
could also be mentioned as a contemporary variant of Elkonin's and
Lisina's psychological concept of early emotional
communication/obcheniawith Tronick`s (1989) "interactional synchrony".

Lisina's understanding of communication/obchenia as a psychological
category was based on Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory of
developmentof HMF and Leontiev's activity theory (see for example
Lisina, M. (1985)
Child-Adults-Peers: Patterns of Communication. Progress Publishers;
Karpov,Y.(2005). The Neo-Vygotskian Approach to Child Development.
Cambridge University Press; Bodrova, E. & Leong, B.(1996). Tools of
theMind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education.
Inc., pp. 50-55; Rodina, K. (2006).The Neo-Vygotskian Approach to
EarlyCommunication: A Cultural-Historical and Activity based
Concept of
Ontogeny. Nordic Psychology,Vol.58, No.4, 331-354).


On Sat, November 21, 2009 17:22, mike cole wrote:
" Since communication is the precise measure of the possibility of
organization, of good understanding among men (sic), relations
that are
beyond its range are not truly social..
GH Cooley, 1894.

for Cooley, like Pierce, "mind is made concrete in culture."

Cooley's first book: The theory of transportation. No accident that.


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Katarina A. Rodina
Research Fellow (PhD)/Logoped,MNLL
Department of Special Needs Education,
University of Oslo, P.O.Box 1140 Blindern,
NO-0318 Oslo, Norway
Phone: +47 41 108 408/Fax:  +47 22 85 80 21
E-mail: katarina.rodina@isp.uio.no

Head of Russo-Norwegian Academic Relations,
The Vygotsky Institute of Psychology/RSUH

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