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[Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Well, they're Yrjo's words so he will have to tell you, but I can tell you how I've construed them. Not until you asked, did I see that there is ambiguity in the phrase. I had always taken it that the purpose and motive is "in the nature" of the Arbeitsgegenstand. I think Yrjo gives an example somewhere of a person who is ill - it is obvious that the illness needs to be cured. So I read "in itself" literally. "in it" would be the same. But there is an alternative Hegelian reading, that in the Arbeitsgegenstand, the is an OBJECT which is only "in itself," that is, not yet realised, and that makes good sense. It slides over the point that Larry raised, that the OBJECT is not in the Arbeitsgegenstand alone but in the relation of the Arbeitsgegenstand to the Subject, but that is consistent with how Hegel uses the phrase "in itself."

*Andy Blunden*
On 23/07/2015 1:24 AM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
That was a very helpful entry, Andy. Thanks!
I see that our treatment of object in the paper is very much in line with the notion of Arbeitsgegenstand as you describe it.

I have many questions, most of which I should find in the literature rather than bother here. But I would like to ask one here. It concerns the quote that the object "carries in itself the purpose and motive of the activity." What does "in itself" mean here?
Thanks again for a very informative post,
From: xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: 22 July 2015 08:31
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

If I could try to do my thing and draw attention to some
distinctions in this field ... we have at least three
different versions of Activity Theory involved here plus
Leigh Star's theory and in addition the theories that have
spun off from Leigh Star's initial idea. Each is using the
word "object" in a different way, all of them legitimate
uses of the English word, but all indexing different
concepts. So for the sake of this discussion I will invent
some different terms.

The German word Arbeitsgegenstand means the object of
labour, the material which is to be worked upon, the
blacksmith's iron. It is objective, in that if may be a nail
to a man with a hammer and waste material for a man with a
broom, but it is all the same Arbeitsgegenstand. Engestrom
use the word "Object" in the middle of the left side of the
triangle to mean Arbeitsgegenstand, and when it has been
worked upon it becomes "Outcome." The hammer that the
blacksmith uses is called "Instruments" or now
"instrumentality," and the Rules, whether implicit or
explicit, these are respectively the base and apex of the

Engestrom says " The object carries in itself the purpose
and motive of the activity." So this "purpose or motive" is
not shown on the triangle, but I will call it the OBJECT.
This is what Leontyev meant by "object" when he talks about
"object-oriented activity." The OBJECT is a complex notion,
because it is only *implicit* in the actions of the
subject(s); it is not a material thing or process as such.
Behaviourists would exclude it altogether. But this is what
is motivating all the members of the design team when they
sit down to collaborate with one another. Bone one of the
team thinks the OBJECT is to drive the nail into the wood
and another thinks the OBJECT is to sweep the
Arbeitsgegenstand into the wastebin. These OBJECTs change in
the course of collaboration and in the End an OBJECT Is
*realised* which is the "truth" of the collaboration, to use
Hegel's apt terminology here.

Surely it is important to recognise that while everyone
shares the same Arbeitsgegenstand, and ends up with Outcome
as the same OBJECT, along the road they construe the object
differently. This is what Vygotsky showed so clearly in
Thinking and Speech. It is not the Arbeitsgegenstand or some
problem carried within it alone which motivates action, but
*the concept the subject makes of the Arbeitsgegenstand*!

Then Leigh Star comes along and applies (as Lubomir astutely
notices) postmodern ideology critique to the collaboration
within an ostensibly neutral infrastructure - that is, in
Engestrom's terms Rules and Instruments, which are naively
supposed to be there just to aid collaboration. And Leigh
Star shows that this is an illusion; the Rules and
Instruments are in fact residues of past collaborations
which carry within them the Outcomes, i.e., realised OBJECTs
of past collaborations. It is these one-time OBJECTs,
now-Instruments+Rules which are the Boundary Objects.

But it seems that other have grasped the postmodern critique
elements of this idea, that apparently ideologically neutral
obJects (in the expanded sense of socially constructed
entities, usually far more than OBJects - as things, or
artefacts, including institutions - fossilised "systems of
activity") and recognised the shared OBJECT as a Boundary
Object, reflecting the fact not everyone has the same
concept of the OBJECT, as Vygotsky proved.

But what Engestrom has done, by placing the Boundary Object
in the place of Object on his triangle, joining two "systems
of activity," for the purpose of looking not at cooperation
but rather the conflict within the broader collaboration.
The reconstrual of the Arbeitsgegenstand is deliberate and
aimed to change the relation between Subject and obJECT
(here referring to the Hegelian "Object" usually rendered as
"the Other.") thereby introducing yet a different strand of
postmodern critique into the equation, namely Foucault's
Poststructuralism, to mind mind, with great effect.

OK, so we have Arbeitsgegenstand. OBJECT, Boundary Object,
OBject, obJECT and obJect. And I might say, the situation is
almost as bad in Russian and German,


*Andy Blunden*
On 22/07/2015 5:46 AM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
Thanks a lot for your appreciation, Lubomir.

To clarify my question in the previous e-mail, I wish to add that I am a bit familiar with the distinction between object and tool in activity theory, though not enough yet. I can see, and we were aware through the process, that what we describe in the paper has to do with how the object of design emerged and developed for the team in and as they were dealing with, developing, and resorting to particular means or tools. But I guess we could say that in our analyses there is a lack of a historical account of the object that goes over and above the particular instances analyzed. Although we provide with some ethnographic contextualization of the team's developmental trajectories, all of our discussion is grounded on concrete events and their transactional unfolding. We did not resort to the distinction between object and means because it seemed to be the same thing in the there and then of the episodes analyzed, at least in what participants' orientations concerned. If they ori
   ented towards anything beyond what was there in the meetings, it was in and through the meetings' means. How would then the distinction between means and object have added to our understanding of the events? (And this is not to doubt of the contribution from such a distinction, I really mean to ask this question for the purpose of growing and expanding; and as said before, part of the answer may be found in Engestrom et al. contribution).

As to how we would position our contribution with regard to activity theory, I would reiterate what we said when introducing the paper for discussion: we begun with the purpose of working outside any particular framework and think, as we think Star did, broadly, drawing from several sources. These included cultural historical psychology, ethnomethodology, and discourse analysis. But also the ideas about Experience (in the Deweyan/Vygotskyan sense) that have been the topic in this discussion were in the background all the time, but we did not operationalize them in terms of any particular theory. This is not to say that we went for the "anything goes;" we tried our best to keep internal coherence between what we said about the data, and what the data was exhibiting for us. Perhaps Rolf would like to add to this.

I think the questions you are rising about activity theory are very much in the spirit of what I am after, and I am not the best to answer them; but this xmca list may be one of the best places to be asking those questions.

From: xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Lubomir Savov Popov <lspopov@bgsu.edu>
Sent: 21 July 2015 21:16
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Dear Alfredo and Rolf,

There are also a few other things that I would like to bring to this discussion.

First, you have a wonderful project and a great article. It is a great example of an interpretativist approach to everyday life phenomena. Really interesting and fascinating. It is all about our minds, culture, and activity.

However, how is your approach related to classic Activity Theory? Some people might find that it is a Symbolic Interactionist approach; others might say it one of the Deconstructivist approaches that emerge right now or have emerged in the last decades; still other people might look for connections to ethnomethodology, discourse analysis, etc. I am not trying here to impose a template or categorize your methodology -- just raising a question about its connection to Activity Theory. And again, I am not saying that this is a shortcoming -- I would like to clarify certain things for myself.

For example: What are the limits and boundaries of Activity Theory? How much we can fuse Activity Theory and Postmodernist approaches? What do we gain when we infuse new methodological, epistemological, and ontological realities into Activity Theory? What do we lose? What is the threshold when it is not Activity Theory anymore? (I mean here Activity Theory as research methodology.) Do we need to call something Activity Theory if it is not? If we create a new approach starting with Activity Theory, do we need to call it Activity Theory?

Activity Theory is a product of Modern thinking, Late Modernism. The discourse you use in your paper borrows strongly from Postmodern discourses and approaches. I am not sure that Modernist and Postmodernist discourses can be fused. We can borrow ideas across the range of discourses, but after we assimilate them for use in our project, they will "change hands" and will change their particular discourse affiliation and will become completely different components of a completely different discourse. Mostly because the epistemologies and ontologies are different; and the concepts are very different despite of the similarities in ideas and words used to name these ideas.

Just a few questions that I hope will help me understand better what is going on in the realm of CHAT.

Thank you very much for this exciting discussion,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Alfredo Jornet Gil
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2015 11:36 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Andy Blunden
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Andy, all,
   I just recently begun to read Engeström and cols. contribution to the special issue, which is very interesting. I have particular interest in the difference that they point out between boundary object on the one hand, and object and instrumentality as different aspects of activity theory on the other. Rolf and I came across this distinction while writing our own paper. We noticed that the museum space, through multiple forms of presentations (e.g., the room itself, a floor plan, performances of being in the room while not being there, etc), was a means, an instrument for achieving a final design product.

At the same time, the museum space begun to become the object of the designers' activity. Since this were interdisciplinary designs, and the partners had multiple, sometimes opposite interests, what seemed to be a common object for all them was the museum as place. Thus, most representations of it begun to be made in terms of narratives about being there. That was the orientation that seemed to stick them together.

Thus, the museum space was both object and instrument. We wondered whether we should do connections to notions of object of activity and tools, but we felt that that road would take us away from the focus on body and experience. We ended up drawing from Binder et al (2011), who differentiate between object of design, the design thing that work delivers, and the object's constituents (or means of presentation before the design thing is finished).

When bringing the notion of boundary object into the picture, we could discuss the history of development of these relations between the different forms of presentations of the museum means towards the object without necessarily articulating the differences between the two. One advantage was that boundary objects focus on the materiality, which, as already mentioned, is not about materials in themselves, but about consequences in action. From the point of view of the persons implicated in the process, the museum space as object of design was an issue in and through the working with some material, some form of presenting it or changing it. Both object and instrument seemed to be moments of a same experience. But I still want to learn what we may get out of making the distinction between object and tool, as Engeström and colleagues do (so I should perhaps read more carefully their study rather than be here thinking aloud).
Any thoughts?


From: xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: 21 July 2015 14:38
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Henry, anything. But the point is objects which play some
role in mediating the relation between subjects, probably a
symbolic role, but possibly an instrumental role, too, and
one subject challenges that role and turns the object into
its opposite, and changes the terms of collaboration.
A number of examples spring to mind.

    * Loaded, especially pejorative words, such as Queer, are
      embraced by a despised group who take control of the
      word and assertively embrace it;
    * The post-WW2 women's peace movement who deployed their
      stereotype as housewives and mothers to magnificant effect;
    * ISIS's hatred and fear of women turned into a weapon
      against them by Kurdish women fighters (ISIS flee before
      them rather than in shame);
    * The Chartists who turned the British govt's stamp which
      put newspapers out of reach of workers against them by
      printing the Northern Star as a stamped newspaper and
      obliging workers to club together in groups to buy and
      read it, thus making the paper into a glorious
      organising tool;
    * the naming of Palestine and the Occupied Territory /
      Israel is the struggle over the meaning of a shared
      object (the land);
    * Gandhi's use of the landloom as both a weapon and tool
      for Indian independence and self-sufficiency, raising it
      from the status of obsolete and inferior technology to a
      symbol of India.

In think this is not what Susan Leigh Star had in mind when
she introduced the term, but core point is that  the
ideological construction placed upon an object is subject to
contestation, and if successful, the re-marking of an
artefact is a tremendously powerful spur to subjectivity.

Yrjo raises the question: is the"boundary object" a
mediating artefact or the object of work
(/Arbeitsgegenstand/)? I think the answer is that in these
cases it is a mediating artefact, tool or symbols according
to context. In principle it is not the Object in the
Engestromian sense, though it might happen to be.


*Andy Blunden*
On 21/07/2015 12:27 PM, HENRY SHONERD wrote:
Rolf, Alfredo, Andy,
I got to thinking about the photographs as boundary objects. What about video?

On Jul 20, 2015, at 6:07 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

Yes, thinking about this overnight, I came to see that it was the photographs that Thomas was endeavouring to turn to use to recover his humanity. This is consonant with how Yrjo was using the idea in relation to the subsistence farmers' movement in Mexico and their corn.
Thanks Rolf!
*Andy Blunden*
On 21/07/2015 3:04 AM, Rolf Steier wrote:
This makes sense to me, Andy. I could also interpret the photographs as boundary objects as they support the coordination of therapy activities between Thomas and the nurse. I think it depends on the aspect of activity one is attempting to explore as opposed to the definite identification of what may or may not be a boundary object. This is only my opinion though!

On Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 3:49 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

      Or alternatively, the boundary object in question is
      Thomas's aged body, which is subject to an
      interpretation which Thomas contests by showing
      photographs of far away places and explaining how
      well-travelled he is, seeking an interpretation of
      himself as a well-travelled and experiences
      Does that make better sense?
      *Andy Blunden*
      On 20/07/2015 11:27 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

          Yes, I agree. My own interest is in social theory
          and I'd never heard of "boundary objects." It
          seems to me that what BOs do is introduce some
          social theory into domains of activity (scientific
          and work collaborations for example) where the
          participants naively think they are collaborating
          on neutral ground. So it is not just granularity,
          but also the ideological context.

          In Yjro Engestrom's article, the home care workers
          collaborate with the old couple according to rules
          and regulations, communications resources,
          technology, finance and so on, which in the
          unnamed country, the old couple are apparently
          cast as "patients". Isn't it the case that here it
          is those rules and regulations, etc., which are
          the "boundary objects"?

          *Andy Blunden*
          On 20/07/2015 11:13 PM, Rolf Steier wrote:

              I think that a particular institution or
              government system could potentially be a
              boundary object depending on how the concept
              is applied. Star describes three criteria: 1)
              interpretive flexibility 2) material/
              organizational structure and 3) scale/
              granularity in which the concept is useful.

              She argues that boundary objects are typically
              most useful at the organizational level - so I
              would say that one would have to justify the
              utility of applying the concept to a
              particular institution, as opposed to, say, an
              object within an institution.

              On Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 2:46 PM, Andy Blunden
              <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>
              <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>> wrote:

                  So would it be correct to describe the
                  institutions and political system are
              "boundary objects"?
                  *Andy Blunden*
                  On 20/07/2015 9:42 PM, Rolf Steier wrote:

                      Hi Andy -
                      Good catch! I believe that is a typo
              and should
                      read "despite a LACK of consensus".
              Thank you for
                      pointing that out.

                      I also wanted to follow up on a
              suggestion that
                      Greg made in the other thread
              suggesting we look
                      at David McNeill's work. I had only
              been familiar
                      with his earlier work on gesture, but
              after doing
                      a bit of reading over the weekend, I
              found his
                      concept of  'unexpected metaphors'
                      useful in dealing with some of my

                      Here is a relevant quote describing
                      metaphors as a form of gesture:

                          /The logic is that unexpected
              metaphors arise
                      from the
                          need to create images when the
              culture does
                      not have
                          them readily at hand. These images
              join linguistic
                          content as growth points and
              differentiate what
                          Vygotsky (1987) called psychological
                      predicates, or
                          points of contrast in the
              immediate ongoing
                      context of
                          speaking. Unexpected metaphors,
                      because they
                          are outside the conventions of
              language and
                          can capture abstractions in novel
              ways and
                      provide the
                          fluidity of thought and language
              that is the
                          of ongoing discourse./

                      On Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 1:00 PM, Andy
              <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>>> wrote:

                          Rolf, what did you mean by "the
              achievement of
                          cooperation despite consensus"?
                          p. 131,

                          *Andy Blunden*
                          On 17/07/2015 8:45 AM, Rolf Steier

                              Are we allowed to ask
              questions about our
                      paper as
                              well? I hope so!

                              For a little context -in our
              paper, we
                              particular kinds of
                              episodes in which participants
              from different
                              disciplines seek coherence
                              and continuity of shared
                              bodily action. These
                              actions include gesture,
              movement and physical
                              performance linking the
                              present material artifacts to
              objects of
                              Most of these episodes
                              seem to involve some form of
                              resourcefulness or creativity,
                              and I'm not fully sure how to
                              aspects of the
                              interactions. In most cases, the
                      participants seem
                              to be searching for the
                              best words or material
              representation to
                      convey a
                              particular intention -
                              when this becomes problematic
              or limiting
                      - they
                              almost fall back on what
                              is available - these
              improvised bodily
                              performances - as a way of
                              maintaining continuity, and of
                              co-participants into a shared and
                              imagined space. These bodily
              actions don't
                      seem to
                              begin the proposals, but
                              are in a sense *discovered* by the

                              I think there is something
              really fascinating
                              about this kind of creativity
                              and resourcefulness in
              interaction that
                      could be
                              explored more deeply - and
                              that I'm having trouble
                      Maybe some
                              of you have some thoughts
                              on this? Alfredo - I know
              we've talked
                      about this
                              a bit before so maybe you
                              can add a little clarity to my

                              On Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 9:37
              PM, HENRY SHONERD

                                  Thank you very much for
              the sketch of your
                                  roots. I taught English in
                                  Puigcerda and Barcelona
              for 5 years
                      back in
                                  the early 70s, just before
                                  Franco died. (He died the
              day I
                      boarded the
                                  plane back to the U.S.) Place
                                  and language are interesting,
                      especially where
                                  language varieties meet.
                                  Boundaries. I know mostly
              from my
                                  with the music of Catalunya
                                  and Mallorca that the speech
                      communities in
                                  each of those places treasure
                                  their unique languages
              (Catalan and
                                  Mallorquin), yet see a
                                  vis-a-vis their
              separateness from
                                  Spanish, the national language
                                  of Spain from 1492 on. I
              see a parallel
                                  between your work on boundary
                                  objects, where individual
                                  to create spaces, AND
                                  boundary objects
              "negotiated" by groups of
                                  people who live in real
                                  I am thinking, among other
              things, of
                                  indigeneity, a big topic
              here in New
                                  Mexico, with so many
              Native Americans.
                                  Assymetries of power.
                                  Testing and curriculum become
                      instruments of
                                  war by other means. I hope my
                                  tone does not distract
              from, nor
                      diminish, the
                                  optimism created by this
                                  thread. Yet I think that
              optimism is so
                                  precious because of the
              ground (the
                                  world) of the dialog.

                                      On Jul 16, 2015, at
              12:13 PM, Alfredo
                                      Jornet Gil
              <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no <mailto:a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>


                                      Well, you could say
              that I am partly
                                      Catalan. I grew up in
              the province

                                  of Valencia, where Catalan
              language is
                                  official language together
                                  Castilian Spanish.
              Although Valencia (the
                                  county) and Catalonia are
                                  different regional
              counties, Catalan
                      is spoken
                                  in Catalonia, Valencia, and
                                  the Balear Islands. Some
              call the three
                                  together as the Catalan
                                  I don't like borders, but
              I respect
                      and enjoy
                                  cultural diversity.

                                      Standardized testing,
              and the whole
                                      assumptions behind it,
              are an issue

                                  also in Spain and in
              Catalonia; but
                                  has been so battered during
                                  the last years of right-wing
                      government that I
                                  the debate have been more
                                  about means and access
              than about
                      contents and
                                  aims. Which in some sense
                                  may be good because it
              moves the
                      debates away
                                  from performance. But I have
                                  been living outside of
              Spain for eight
                                  now, so I am not the best to
                                  update you on this either.

                                      Best wishes,

              <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                  behalf of
                                  HENRY SHONERD
              <hshonerd@gmail.com <mailto:hshonerd@gmail.com>

                                      Sent: 16 July 2015 19:54
                                      To: eXtended Mind,
              Culture, Activity
                                      Subject: [Xmca-l] Re:
              The Emergence of
                                      Boundary Objects

                                      Yes, you have answered
              my question
                                      nicely! I especially

                                  that you were willing to
              wrestle with my
                                  question, despite your lack of
                                  familiarity with the
              issues here in
                      the U.S.
                                  Am I wrong, or are you
                                  Catalan? In which case
              your experience in
                                  Catalunya would take you to a
                                  different place in critiquing
                      schooling there,
                                  though not necessarily
                                  unconnected to yours and
              Rolf's work on
                                  boundary objects. I just
              met for
                                  the second day in a row
              with a friend
                      who is
                                  the liaison between our public
                                  school district and a
              children's science
                                  museum called Explora. I
              feel like
                                  I'm swimming in this
              thread, talk about a
                                  mixed metaphor!


                                          On Jul 16, 2015,
              at 12:18 AM,
                                          Jornet Gil


                                          I am sorry, Henry,
              but I am
                      not very
                                          familiar with

                                  standardized testing (as
              different to
                                  standardized testing in
              general) or
                                  with common core (which I
              quickly read
                      is an
                                  issue in US). But I would say
                                  that, if (school)
              curricula were to be
                                  consistent with the view of
                                  education as the practice
              of creating
                                  conditions for certain
              attitudes and
                                  dispositions to
              emerge--which is what
                      I was
                                  suggesting in the
              paragraph you
                                  copy--curricula would not
              be so much about
                                  standardized contents, but
                                  human sensitivities and
              relations. So,
                      I would
                                  say, no, standardized
                                  testing is not in
              principle in line
                      with what
                                  I was trying to say.

                                          I was trying to
              make a distinction
                                          between trying to
              design someone's

                                  particular experience, and
              trying to
                                  conditions for the development
                                  of attitudes and
              orientations. The
                      first is
                                  likely impossible. The second
                                  seems to make more sense.

                                          One may of course
                      whether those
                                          attitudes and
              orientations can

                                  be considered general, and
              then form
                      part of
                                  standardize measures instead
                                  of the traditional
              "contents and
                      skills". But
                                  measuring assumes some
                                  quantitative increment in
              a particular
                                  as the result of learning.
                                  Growth and development,
              however, are about
                                  qualitative change. So, as
                                  as you start measuring you
              would be
                                  growth and development. So,
                                  again, no. I would not say
                                  standardized testing is in
                                  with what I was trying to say.

                                          I hope I have
              answered your

              <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                  behalf of
                                  HENRY SHONERD
              <hshonerd@gmail.com <mailto:hshonerd@gmail.com>

                                          Sent: 16 July 2015
                                          To: eXtended Mind,
                                          Subject: [Xmca-l]
              Re: The
                      Emergence of
                                          Boundary Objects

                                          Alfredo, you say:

                                          "However, we
              cannot aim at
                                          any particular

                                  situation/experience. The
              same may be said
                                  about EDUCATION. We cannot
                                  intend to communicate the
                      and make
                                  it the content of the
                                  students' experience in
              the way we
                      intend. But
                                  we can try to create the
                                  conditions for certain
              attitudes and
                                  dispositions to emerge."

                                          Would you say that
              testing is in
                      line with

                                  your construal of
              curriculum design?
                      How about
                                  common core?


                                              On Jul 15,
              2015, at 5:29 PM,
                                              Alfredo Jornet Gil
                                                         <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no <mailto:a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>


                                              Thanks a lot
              for the
                                                         clarifications. I see now
                      why it
                                              may be said that

                                  designers can aim at
              designing for
                                  but not for affordances. I
                                  see that this way of
              talking is part of a
                                  designers' way to get things
                                  done, and that it may
              indeed be an
                                  way to design for
                                  place-making, as in the
              example that
                                  gives of MOMA. Indeed, much of
                                  what we report in our
              study is about
                                  talking about how spatial
                                  features might afford some
                      in the
                                  museum while constraining

                                              I must admit,
              however, that I
                                              still consider
              the distinction

                                  problematic from an
              analytical perspective
                                  whenever our object of
              study is
                                  experience, situated
              action, or design as
                                  situated practice. A more
                                  way to talk is that
              affordances and
                                  are the positive and
              sides/interpretations of a single
                                  unitary category. As an actual
                                  and concrete phenomenon,
              walking into
                      a musuem
                                  implies both affordances and
                                  constrains at the same
              time, whether
                                  or not. Which makes me wonder
                                  whether other terminology,
              such as
                                  notion of "correspondence,"
                                  might be more appropriated
              when we
                      talk about
                                  how materials and actions
                                  become entangled into

                                              In any case,
              and as Rolf
              what the
                      designers in
                                              our study

                                  indeed do is to IMAGINE
              ways of being
                      in the
                                  museum. Imagination versus
                                  prediction may be an
              interesting topic
                                  emerging here for further
                                  into design work.

              important (and
                                              issue that I
              think is
                      emerging here

                                  has to do with the level
              of generality at
                                  which design intentions can be
                                  expected to work (just as
                      argued with
                                  regard to prediction). At the
                                  level of generic social
              processes, and
                      given a
              background, we as
                                  designers may try to make some
                                  generic situations more
              likely to
                      occur than
                                  others (facilitating that more
                                  or less people end up
              together in a given
                                  place). However, we cannot
              aim at
                                  determining any particular
                                  situation/experience. The
              same may be
                      said about
                                  EDUCATION. We cannot intend to
                      communicate the
                                  curriculum and make it the
                                  content of the students'
              experience in
                      the way
                                  we intend. But we can try to
                                  create the conditions for
                                  and dispositions to emerge.


              <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                  behalf of
                                  Glassman, Michael
              <glassman.13@osu.edu <mailto:glassman.13@osu.edu>

                                              Sent: 15 July
              2015 23:30
                                              To: eXtended Mind,
                      Culture, Activity
              [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                              Emergence of
              Boundary Objects

                                              Hi Alfredo,

                                              I think Rolf
              may have
                                              the question
              of the

                                  between affordances and
              constraints in his
                                  post. The way he described the
                                  designers as possibly
              setting up the
                                  with Pollock at MOMA.  It
              was a
                                  long time ago so I'm not
              sure if this
                      is the
                                  way it was or the way I
                                  remember it, but let's
              just believe
                      this is
                                  the way it was.  The painting,
                                  I think there were three
              were set up in a
                                  corner off a main
              corridor.  The
                                  lighting was dark, which
              if you have
                      ever been
                                  to MOMA is different, in
                                  many other parts of the
              museum there
                      is a good
                                  deal of natural light (there
                                  was this great fountain, I
              wonder if it is
                                  still there).  The paintings
                                  were on tripods rather
              than hung on
                      the walls
                                  and they were surrounded on
                                  three sides by walls.  All
              of these I
                                  would be considered restraints
                                  - pushing me in to the
              works rather than
                                  stepping back away.  It was
                                  impossible for more than
              two or three
                                  to view the paintings at one
                                  time and movement was
              limited, so
                      there were
                                  fewer chances for social
                                  interactions (you were not
              going to
                      pick up
                                  anybody looking at Jackson
                                  Pollock).  The atmosphere was
                      brooding, making
                                  it more likely that viewers
                                  would move towards internal
                      reflection.  All
                                  of these were constraints that
                                  canalized perspectives and
                                  the paintings.  You really had
                                  only two choices, you
              moved in to the
                                  paintings or you moved on,
              which I
                                  had done every previous
              time coming
                      upon them.

                                              The painting
              itself though
              affordances, an object
                      at the

                                  nexus of my journey
              through the
                      museum, where
                                  I was in my life, and my
                                  abilities to perceive the
              painitings.         This
                                  was something that could
              not be
                                  designed I think because
              nobody could
                                  that moment was going to
                                  happen.   So then what is
              a perceived
                                  affordance. Way back when
              there was
                                  also a Manet room.  It was
              a round
                      room with
                                  different variations of his
                                  water lilies in a circle.
              Almost the
                                  opposite in constraints it was
                                  large, airy, a lot of
              natural light. If you
                                  were looking to brood you went
                                  somewhere else.  In the
              middle of the
                      room was
                                  a wooden structure (not an
                                  obvious bench), but you
              realized as random
                                  colors dissolved into water
                                  lilies that you wanted to
              sit down.  You
                                  naturally moved to the
              center of
                                  the room and sat
              (wondering if a guard
                                  come and tell you it was
                                  actually an important
              piece of art and you
                                  should get off).  The designer
                                  anticipates a desire to
              soak in the
                      room, to
                                  almost get dizzy in the
                                  lights, and included in
              the design the
                                  of wood that will have the
                                  perceived affordance for
              sitting, changing
                                  your concept of time and



              <mailto:osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>] On Behalf
                                  Of Alfredo

                                  Jornet Gil

              Wednesday, July 15,
                      2015 3:01 PM
                                              To: eXtended Mind,
                      Culture, Activity
              [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                              Emergence of
              Boundary Objects

                                              Thanks Michael,

                                              I think we are
              saying the same
              indeed, or at
                      least more or

                                  less. I am quite certain
              that Bateson
                                  to energy, and that he used
                                  the mentioned examples (or
                      ones) to
                                  show how the energy that moves
                                  the pig is not a direct
              transfer of energy
                                  from the kick, whereas in the
                                  case of the billiard
              balls, the
                      movement of
                                  one ball is caused by the
                                  energy that the kicking
              ball brings. I
                                  be wrong in the context within
                                  which Bateson was
              discussing the
                      example, and
                                  I see that your account is in
                                  that regard is more
              accurate. But the
                      point is
                                  the same: you can not intend
                                  the outcomes of a system
              by addressing
                                  its parts as if they were
                                  connected directly, in a
              linear causal
                                  fashion; as if the whole
              was the sum
                                  of its parts. I do see a
              link with
                                  rejection of S-R and his
                                  inclusion of a third
              element that
                                  the whole system.

                                              But I totally
              agree with your
                                              comments on design
                      intentions as they

                                  relate to ecology, and I,
              as I know
                      also Rolf
                                  does, also like very much the
                                  notion of ecology to
              address these issues.

                                              If I read you
              correctly, and
                                              citing Don
              Norman (whose
                      work I

                                  you suggest the
              possibility that the
                                  between design intentions
                                  and actual experience
              could be thought
                      of in
                                  terms of different levels?
                                  That one thing is to
              design for what is
                                  general, but that we
              cannot design
                                  for the particular. Is
              that right? If
                      so, I
                                  think that Bateson had a
                                  similar argument on
              prediction, does
                      not him?
                                  That we can predict on
                                  general levels (e.g.
              population), but
                      not at
                                  the level of the particular
                                  (e.g., individual). I
              haven't gone
                      that way,
                                  but seems a promising road to
                                  consider this jumps
              between levels of
                                  generality or scales.

                                              Finally, I am
              not sure if
                      I get
                                              what you mean
              when you say
                      that we can

                                  design for constrains but
              not for
                                  I still see that the one
                                  presupposes the other; you can
                      separate them
                                  in talk, but, to me, in actual
                                  experience, a constrain is an
                      affordance and
                                  vice-versa. I don't see how
                                  the road has any inherent
                      that could
                                  not be an affordance at the
                                  same time. Of course, if
              you take the
                                  normative stance that
              roads are for
                                  cars driving through them,
              you may be
                                  But if we think of roads as
                                  asphalt on the ground, as
              yet more
                      ground only
                                  of a different shape,
                                  texture, and color, how is
              that a
                                  but not an affordance? Or an
                                  affordance but not a
              constrain? Of course,
                                  culture constrains once
              you are
                                  within the road and you
              are driving.
                      But then,
                                  the constrain is not in the
                                  road, as you seem to
              suggest, but in the
                                  journey; in the journeyman
                                  carries some cultural way
              of orienting and
                                  affectively relating to its
                                  environment so that particular
                      constrains are
                                  taken for granted despite the
                                  possibility of being
              otherwise. But I
                                  not have thought it well/long
                                  enough and of course I
              might be wrong.
                      I would
                                  like to understand your
                                  position here better.



              <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                  behalf of
                                  Glassman, Michael
              <glassman.13@osu.edu <mailto:glassman.13@osu.edu>

                                              Sent: 15 July
              2015 20:32
                                              To: eXtended Mind,
                      Culture, Activity
              [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                              Emergence of
              Boundary Objects

                                              Hi Alfredo,

                                              I have been
              reading Bateson
                                              through a
              cybernetics lens

                                  along with Lewin and his
              wife Margaret
                                  were part of the original
                                  conferences)  and I'm not
              sure that's
                      right or
                                  I am victim to the "when you
                                  have a hammer, everything
              looks like a

                                              I think
              Bateson was
                      arguing with
                                              those looking
              to apply the

              origins of
                                  to human or really (pace the
                                  pig story) and system that
                      beyond simple
                                  physical feedback loops.  I
                                  think his larger point is that
                      everything has
                                  a response within the larger
                                  feedback system that
              exists but we
                      cannot go -
                                  what Bateson refers to as
                                  MIND.  Attempts to create
              and control
                                  loops, to try and design a
                                  system for specific types
              of feedback is a
                                  dangerous proposition.

                                              This I think
              is the reason
              really can't
                      be designed

                                  into an ecology, only a
              recognition of the
                                  context in which actions are
                                  taking place (and I say
              this having no
                                  what Gibson's relationship to
                                  cybernetics was).  Taking
                      example of
                                  the girl it is perhaps also
                                  likely that the girl could
              have taken the
                                  fixing of hair as a
              criticism, an
                                  attack, and it might have
              destroyed her
                                  confidence.  Both make
              sense in
                                  terms of feedback loops,
              but only ad
                      hoc.  So
                                  if a designer does in some
                                  way design that experience
              into the
                                  even without meaning they are
                                  taking a large chance,
              because they do not
                                  know the trajectory it will
                                  take.  We simply need
              objects that are
                      part of
                                  our journey, part of the
                                  larger context but not
              designed for
                                  for feedback.  There is no
                                  assumption about trajectory.

                                              I think Don
              Norman sort of
                                              the waters on
              this, but in an

                                  interesting way.  That we
              can assume
                                  are going to want to do
                                  things in a very general
              environment -
                      when          you enter a dark room
              you want
                                  light, so it is possible
              to design objects
                                  that meet that need that
              we are
                                  more likely to find in the
              moment that
                      we need
                                  them.  But I think that is
                                  very different from the
              idea of
                                  guiding feedback loops that
                                  even take generalized
              experience in a
                                  direction.  I am thinking
                                  about Dewey, and he makes
              a similar
                                  to Bateson with his concept of
                                  transactions.  Although he
              does seem
                      to think
                                  that it is possible to create
                                  a larger field of action
              so we can see at
                                  least local
                                  But his idea of experience
              is also
                      very much
                                  one of discovery based on
                                  needs at the immediate
              moment - social
                                  relations act as a vehicle
              for these
                                  discoveriesn(Dewey of
              course was writing
                                  before Gibson and for most
              of his
                                  life before cybernetics.             I also
                      wonder what
                                  he thought of cybernetics).

                                              I think I
              disagree with you,
              are not about the
                                              journey but

                                  about the road.  If you
              build a road
                      on the
                                  side of the river you are
                                  constrained because no
              matter what,
                      you cannot
                                  turn right.  Your direction
                                  has already been partially
                      by the
                                  designer of the road.  But the
                                  mistake we make is in
              thinking that also
                                  controls the trajectory of the
                                  individual's journey.  The
              effect of
                                  on trajectories of action is
                                  important, but limited.

                                              The primary
              place that
                                              have influence on
                      affordances it

                                  seems to me is by being
              able to create a
                                  unique context for an
                                  and a group's that limit
                                  on an individual's journey.
                                  But we should never
              mistake those
                                  for affordances.  I think
                                  Bateson might argue it is
              hubris to do so.
                                  Perhaps this is what you are
                                  saying Alfredo.



              <mailto:ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>] On
                                  Behalf Of Alfredo Jornet Gil

              Wednesday, July 15, 2015
                                              12:38 PM
                                              To: Rolf
              Steier; eXtended
                                              Culture, Activity
              [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                              Emergence of
              Boundary Objects

                                              I'd like to
              follow up on
                                              post by asking
              a question:
                      Are not

                                  affordances presupposed by
                      and are
                                  not constraints presupposed
                                  by affordances? If so, I
              would wonder
                                  it makes sense to ask whether
                                  museums should be designed for
                      affordances and

                                              What I think
              is clear from the
                                              anecdote that
              you bring
                      about the

                                  Jackson Pollock corner is
              that whatever
                                  EXPERIENCE emerges from being
                                  somewhere (i.e. being
              someone at some
                      time in
                                  some place) cannot be
                                  INTENDED. And I think this
              applies both to
                                  designers and users, to those
                                  who set things up for you to
                      experience and to
                                  you, who could not foresee
                                  what your experience was
              going to turn you
                                  into before you go through it.

                                              I think that
              the big issue
                                              you bring on
              the table (to

                                  with Larry's metaphor) has
              to do with a
                                  difference between physical
                                  relations and social
              relations, and
                      the idea
                                  of MEDIATION. Gregory Bateson
                                  noticed that the relations
              that are the
                                  subject matter in physics
              are not
                                  the same as those that are
              the subject
                                  in communication. He noticed
                                  that physical relations
                      that are
                                  the object of study of
                                  transfer energy in direct
              manners: a
                                  ball hits another ball and we
                                  can anticipate the exact
              speed and
                                  that the second ball will take
                                  based on the energy that
              is in the
                      system ball
                                  + ball + someone hitting. In
                                  living beings, the things
              are different.
                                  Bateson explained, if we
              kick a
                                  pig's ass (I think he used
              this somehow
                                  bizarre example) the
              reaction of
                                  the pig is not accounted
              for by the energy
                                  that is contained in the kick,
                                  at least not in a direct
              manner. The
                                  that moves the pig is from a
                                  different source. Before
              Bateson, it was
                                  Vygotsky and his notion of
                                  mediation who would most
              clearly state
                                  social relations are not
                                  direct, but mediated.

                                              So, how can
              design go
                      about this?
                                              If we, along
              with Dewey and

                                  Vygotsky, consider
              experience to be a
                      unity of
                                  person and environment, and
                                  we assume as well that
              this is a
                      social (not
                                  just individual) category, and
                                  that how a situation is
              experienced is
                                  refracted through the social
                                  relations within which we
              engage, the most
                                  designers can do is to foster
                                  social relations go on, giving
                      afordances to
                                  prcesses of signification,
                                  without intending to embed
              meanings. It is
                                  about affordances/constraints,
                                  but not about how to interpret
                      something, but
                                  about going about
                                  interpreting. I think.

                                              Best wishes,

              <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>>>> on
                                  behalf of
                                  Glassman, Michael
              <glassman.13@osu.edu <mailto:glassman.13@osu.edu>

                                              Sent: 15 July
              2015 18:04
                                              To: Rolf
              Steier; eXtended
                                              Culture,  Activity
              [Xmca-l] Re: The
                                              Emergence of
              Boundary Objects

                                              So after
              reading the
                      article and
                                              the e-mail
              discussion I'm

                                  to think there is a really
              big issue
                      here that
                                  I am trying to grapple with,
                                  especially in terms of
                      objects (which
                                  I admittedly do not
                                  understand very well).             And it relates
                      to the
                                  metaphor of the table (both
                                  as discussed by Larry and
              Ingold as
                                  interpreted by Rolf).  It
              is this, in
                                  the museum should the
              place be set up as
                                  affordances, perceived
                                  affordances, or
              constraints?  It seems the
                                  museum in the study has
                                  potential affordances for
              the users.  The
                                  cultural historical moment
                                  (unable to think of any
              other word) of the
                                  museum sets the context,
                                  those walking through the
              museum are
                      going to
                                  be restricted by the
                                  historical and cultural
                      leading up
                                  to the art work, along with
                                  the expectations and needs
              of the
                                  moving through the museum,
                                  but they will come across
                                  that they think meets the