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[Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Let me try to illustrate.
Reading as mediated action: The cultural-historical context of reading mediates how one’s attention and response are channeled in socially constructed ways. So, in one setting, say at home or reading in the company of friends, a novel might bring a reader to tears, or invite readers to share personal stories that parallel those of the plot lines, or laugh out loud. But another setting, a formal school or university class, would have historical values and practices that mute emotional and personal responses, and promote a more sober, analytic way of reading and talking that fits with specific historical  critical conventions and genres, and discourages others.

Reading as mediating action: The act of reading can be transformational. In reading about an talking about a character’s actions, a reader might reconsider a value system, become more sympathetic to real people who resemble oppressed characters, etc. In other words, reading a text may serve a mediational process in which textual ideas and exemplars enable a reader to think differently.

From: Andy Blunden [mailto:ablunden@mira.net]
Sent: Saturday, January 7, 2017 6:28 AM
To: Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu>; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
Subject: Re: [Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Can you explain in a paragraph or two,. Peter, rather than asking us all to read 10,000 words to extract an answer?


Andy Blunden
On 7/01/2017 11:23 PM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:

Andy and others, I tried to work out the mediated/mediating question in the area of reading....see if this helps.

Smagorinsky, P., & O'Donnell-Allen, C. (1998). Reading as mediated and mediating action: Composing meaning for literature through multimedia interpretive texts. Reading Research Quarterly, 33, 198-226. Available at http://www.petersmagorinsky.net/About/PDF/RRQ/RRQ1998.pdf

-----Original Message-----

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu<mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden

Sent: Friday, January 6, 2017 7:12 PM

To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu<mailto:xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>

Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

I have never understood this supposed distinction, Alfredo, between "mediated activity" and "mediating activity" given that all activity is mediated and all activity mediates.

Also, could you spell out what you mean by the "tension"

between perezhivanie as meaning and perezhivanie as struggle.



Andy Blunden



On 5/01/2017 6:26 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:

Thanks Marc for your careful response.

I am familiar to Vygotsky's notion of cultural mediation and I am aware and acknowledge that it was elaborated as a means to overcome dualism, and that it is not analog to a computational approach.

When I brought the computing analogy, I did so with regard not to the concept of cultural mediation in general, but to the way it can be (and is) deployed analytically. I react to what it seems to me a dichotomy between a "meaning" as something that is static (thereby a form of "representation" or reflection of the relation with the environment instead of ​refraction)​​ and the experiencing-as-struggling, which is described as ​transformation or change. If so, mediation here would seem to be part of a methodological device that first dissects "a type of meaning" from "a type of activity" (or a given state from the process that changes that state), and then unites it by adding the term "mediation." And this may be my misreading, but in that (mis)reading (which perhaps is mostly due to the fact that in your empirical illustration only the initial and end product, i.e., perezhivanie, are described, but not the experiencing-as-struggle, that is, the moving between the two), mediation here seems to do as analytical concept precisely what you were afraid our monism was doing: explaining nothing. Only the end products but not the process of producing perezhivanie are revealed. This may be problematic if one attends to what Veresov argues in the paper I shared yesterday, where he defends the notion of mediation but also specifies that Vygotsky speaks of *mediating activity* (as opposed to *mediated* activity). That is, not mediation by signs as products, but mediating activity as the activity of producing signs (which again is an activity of producing social relations, perhaps what you refer as "holistic meanings"?). What do you think?

I did not think you were trying to deny the influence of Spinoza, and I do not think we ever said that Perezhivanie was primarily a move from Cartesian Dualism to Monism, as you suggest in your post. I copy and paste from my prior post:  "The fact is that Vygotsky was building a theory on the unity of the affect and the intellect that was to be grounded on Spinoza, and what we try to do is to explore how perezhivanie, as a concept being developed during the same period (but not finalised or totally settled!), could be seen from the perspective of the Spinozist Vygotsky."

I totally believe that bringing the distinction between perezhivanie as meaning, and perezhivanie as struggle, is totally relevant, and Beth Ferholt's vignettes of Where the Wild Things Are do indeed illustrate this. We really need to address this tension, which as Beth's examples and as our own everyday experience shows, is a tension that matters not just to books and to theories but to living persons (children, teachers), a tension that moreover is present and mentioned in all the articles of the symposium. The papers offer different proposals, and I think is so great we have the chance to discuss them! I too, as you, am very interesting in hearing others about the questions you had concerning sense and meaning.


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu<mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>

<xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu><mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Marc Clarà


Sent: 04 January 2017 22:31

To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity

Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Thank you very much, Alfredo, for sharing this excellent paper by

Veresov, and thanks also for your responses, which really helped me to

better understand your points. My main doubt about your proposal

was/is caused by the statement that the idea of cultural

mediation/mediator implies a cartesian dualism. This shocks me

because, to me, the idea of cultural mediation is absolutely crucial

(in fact, the keystone) for the construction of a monist (and

scientific) psychology that does not forget mind –that is, a cultural

psychology. From your response, however, I realized that we may be

approaching the idea of mediation in different ways. I talk of

mediation and mediators in a quite restricted way. The starting point

of my understanding of mediation is a dialectical relationship

(organic, transactional) between the subject and the world (Vygotsky departs from the scheme stimulus-response, from reflexology).

This relationship, that Vygotsky calls primitive psychological

functions, would be basically biological. However, in human beings

this relationship is mediated by cultural means: signs and tools; or

primary, secondary and terciary artifacts. These cultural means

reorganize the primitive functions (dialectic S-O relationship), which

become then higher psychological functions (S-M-O) (see for example,

The problem of the cultural development of the child, in The Vygotsky

Reader). Now, the subject, the cultural mediators, and the object form

an inseparable dialectical unit, so that the subject acts on

(transforms) the object through the prism of the cultural mediators,

the object acts on (transforms) the subject also through the prism of

the cultural mediators, and the cultural means are themselves also

transformed as a consequence of their mediation in this continuous

dynamic dialectical tension. Here, for me, it is important the idea

that the cultural means are as material (if we assume a materialist

monism) as all the rest of the world; in fact, are parts of the

material world which become signs or tools (and can be therefore

socially distributed). This permits the introduction of the scientific

study of mind-consciousness (as mediating systems of signs), because

mind is not anymore something immaterial and unobservable, but it is

as material and observable as the rest of the natural world. It is

from this view that, for me, the idea of cultural mediation is the

keystone of a monist psychology that includes mind. Thus, when I speak

of mediators, I refer to the cultural means which mediate in the S-O

dialectics; I am especially interested in signs/secondary artifacts.

Here, it is perhaps necessary to insist that when I talk of studying

mediators (and their semantic structure), this doesn't mean that they

are taken out from the activity (the flux of live) in which they

mediate (since out of activity they are not signs anymore); here, I

think Vygotsky tries again to overcome another old dichotomy, the

functionalism-structuralism one. I hope that all this makes also clear the difference between this view and that of computational psychologies (which in general are profoundly and explicitly dualist and not dialectic).

Back to perezhivanie, I'm not obviously trying to deny the influence

of Spinoza on Vygotsky's thinking (this is explicit in Vygotsky's

writings, especially in “The teaching about emotions”, in the Vol.6 of

the Collected Works). But I have doubts that Vygotsky's introduction

of the concept of perezhivanie is to be regarded primarily as a

movement towards monism (from a previous cartesian dualism), and that

this movement questions the concept of cultural mediation. Instead,

and I think that this is in line with some of González-Rey

observations in his paper, my impression is that the introduction of

the concept of perezhivanie responds more to a movement (a further

step) towards holism (something that, in my understanding, can also be

found in Spinoza). Thus, I think that the word meaning is still the

unit of analysis in the last Vygotsky -and therefore, the idea of

cultural mediation is still crucial (in fact, in The problem of the

environment, he connects the concept of perezhivanie, which has just

introduced, to the development of word meaning [p.345-346, also cited

in my paper]). However, in my view, in the last Vygotsky the focus is

not anymore primarily on the word-meaning as formed for things (or

collections of things, as in the ontogenetic research with Sakharov), but the focus is now in the formation of meaning for holistic situations.

Best regards,


2017-01-03 19:16 GMT+01:00 Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no><mailto:a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>:

Hi Marc, all,

thanks for joining and for your interesting work, which I follow

since I became aware of it. I appreciate the way in your paper you

show careful and honest attention to the texts of the authors

involved, but perhaps most of all I appreciate that the paper makes

the transformational dimension related to struggle and change

salient, a dimension all papers deemed central to perezhivanie. And I

have learned more about Vasilyuk by reading your paper. But I also

see that we have approached the question of perezhivanie differently

and I think that addressing the questions that you raise concerning

our article may be a good way to both respond and discuss your paper.

I am aware that our use of the term monism may be problematic to

some, and N. Veresov, who has recently written about this (see

attached article), warns against the dangers of simply moving from

dualism into an undifferentiating monism that relativizes everything,

making development un-studiable. This seems to be the way in which

you have understood our argument, and of course this is not what we are or want to be doing.

Probably many will think that *dialectical materialism* rather than

monism is the proper term, and I could agree with them; we do in fact

use dialectical materialism there and elsewhere. Yet, we wanted to

emphasise the Spinozist influence (an influence that also runs

through Marx) and so we found it appropriate to use the term monism,

a term that Vygotsky uses before arguing that Spinoza "develops an essentially materialistic view"

(Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 124). For us, the aim is working out

ways to empirically examine and formulate problems in ways that do

not reify a mind-body dualism.

Although overcoming dualism is foundational to the CHAT paradigm, I

would however not say that Vygotsky did get to solve all of the

problems that Cartesian dualism had created for psychology, even

though he recognised those problems brilliantly as early as in the

"Crisis". It should suffice to cite Vygotsky's own remarks, which we quote in the paper (and which A.N.

Leont'ev mentions in the introduction to the collected works), where

Vygotsky explicitly critiques some of his own prior ideas for failing

to overcome dualism. We agree with those who, like F. G. Rey, see

Vygotsky's project as a developing rather than as a finalised one.

The fact is that Vygotsky was building a theory on the unity of the

affect and the intellect that was to be grounded on Spinoza, and what

we try to do is to explore how perezhivanie, as a concept being

developed during the same period (but not finalised or totally

settled!), could be seen from the perspective of the Spinozist Vygotsky.

As you note, in our article we argue that, if one takes the Spinozist

one-substance approach, classical concepts used in non-classical

psychology, at least in the way they are commonly used in the current

literature, should be revised. One such concept is mediation. And I

personally do not have much of a problem when mediation is used to

denote the fundamental fact that every thing exists always through

*another*, never in and of itself. But I do think that it is

problematic to identify MEDIATORS, such as "a meaning", as a means to

account for or explain developmental processes and learning events,

precisely because it is there, at least in my view, that dualism creeps in.

For example, I find it paradoxical that you are concerned that our

monist approach risks turning perezhivanie into a useless category

because it may be used to explain everything and nothing, and yet you

do not seem to have a problem using the term mediation to account for

the transformation of perezhivanie without clearly elaborating on how

mediation does change anything or what it looks like as a real

process. How is it different saying that a perezhivanie mediates the

experiencing-as-struggle from simply saying that it "affects" or

"determines" it? Indeed, if perezhivanie mediates

experiencing-as-struggle, does not experiencing-as-struglgle too

mediate perezhivanie? And do not both may be said to mediate development, or development mediate them? Is not this explaining everything and nothing?

I do believe you can argue that there is a difference between

mediation and classical psychology's cause-effect relations, but to

show this you need to dig into the dialectical underpinnings of the

theory. In your paper, you offer a nice analysis of a lovely case of

a teacher who, in dealing with a challenge with one of her students,

changes her perezhivanie. I think you can rightly argue that there is

a semiotic transformation, and I fully support your statement that by

studying discourse we can empirically approach questions of

psychological development. The contradictions you show as being

involved and resolved resonate really well with what I experience as

a parent or as a teacher in the classroom. Yet, without unpacking

what this "mediation" taking place between one perezhivanie and the

next one means as a concrete and real, the same analysis could be done taking an information processing approach:

there is an situation that is processed (represented?) in one way,

which then leads to a (cognitive) dissonance, and then there is a

cognitive resolution by means of which the situation is presented

differently in consciousness (indeed, when seen in this way, the term

perezhivanie and the term "representation" become almost

indistinguishable). How is mediation, as an analytical concept,

helping here? And most importantly to the question of perezhivanie,

how is this analysis going to show the internal connection between

intellect and affect that Vygotsky formulates as constitutive of the notion of perezhivanie?

I believe that the key lies in understanding what Vygotsky means when

he says that perezhivanie is a unit of analysis. I will not repeat

here what already is written in at least a couple of the articles in

the special issue (Blunden, ours), that is the difference between

analysis by elements and unit analysis (Vygotsky 1987). A unit

analysis approach is consistent with Spinoza, for whom cause-effect

explanations were not adequate, requiring instead an understanding of

self-development, perezhivanie as a kernel cell for the development

of personality. And I think you may be after this in your article in

suggesting a form of continuous movement from perezhivanie to

experiencing-as-struggle. But perhaps the major difficulty I find is that, in positing Vygotsky's perezhivanie as "a type of meaning"

and Vasilyuk's perezhivanie (or experiencing-as-struggle) as a "type

of activity," it is difficult not to see here a division between

product and process, a division that then is analytically bridged by

the addition of a third term, mediation, that should bring back the

real movement between the product and the process.

A different approach involves considering the concrete extension of

actual living and lived social relations, and look at them as

generative phenomena. What is there in the encounter between Carla

and the child that leads to change? For it is not inside the mind,

but in real life, in consciousness as the real relation between people, that Carla is changed.

How is the semantic structure that you nicely present and attribute

to Carla a product of the social relation between her and the child?

I think that to rightfully situate perezhivanie as a concept in a

Vygotskian framework, we ought to address its relation to the genetic

law of development.

There is much more to disentangle, but this is long enough. I hope I

have succeeded in making clear these ideas. Thanks so much for

engaging in the discussion!



From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu<mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>

<xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu><mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Marc Clarà


Sent: 02 January 2017 22:14

To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity

Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Hi, all, and thank you so much, Alfredo, for your kind invitation to

participate in this discussion. My paper in the MCA special issue

focuses on a distinction between a type of activity, which I argue

that is what Vasilyuk called *perezhivanie* (experiencing) and a type

of semiotic mediator, which I argue that is what Vygotsky, in The

Problem of the Environment, called *perezhivanie.* I argue, following

Vasilyuk, that in experiencing activities (Vasilyuk's perezhivanie),

this type of mediator is profoundly transformed – in fact, that

experiencing activities consist of the semiotic transformation of this type of mediator.

As Veresov and Fleer argue in their commentary, perezhivanie (as a

type of

mediator) is for me a psychological phenomenon, one which is of

course conceptualized from a specific theoretical framework. But the

phenomenon is also visible from other theoretical frameworks as well,

as I mention in the paper. This phenomenon is my main interest, and

it is from this interest that I arrived at the concept of perezhivanie (not the other way around).

Now, the phenomenon is that at least emotion, reasoning, and volition

(formation of conscious purposes) seem to be decisively mediated by

holistic situational meaning. My current research concern is trying

to find ways to study and understand how this mediation occurs and

how these semiotic mediators are transformed and distributed. From

this view, I think that experiencing activities (Vasilyuk's

perezhivanie) may provide a good terrain to study these issues

(especially regarding the mediation of emotion), as I tried to exemplify in the paper.

Studying semiotic mediation, however, is of course not easy.

Following Vygotsky, I assume that extended discourse is the

manifestation of thinking within certain psychological conditions

(Vygotsky's Thinking and Speech, chapter 7), and I also assume the

Vygotsky's law of the unity of the structure and function of thinking

(Vygotsky's Thinking and Speech, chapter 6). From these two

assumptions, I propose that meaning (and its functions in human

activity) can be scientifically studied by structurally analyzing the

narratives generated by subjects, considering that the discourse

produced in the narrative is the point of departure of this study,

but that considerable analytical work must be done to move from this

discourse to the full characterization of meaning. It is in that

point where I find useful the work developed by Greimas, the usefulness of which I only suggest in the paper.

>From this background, I found many interesting ideas and questions

in the

other papers of the special issue. In this first post I will propose

two of them for possible discussion. The first one was raised by

González-Rey, when he introduces, in connection with perezhivanie,

the concepts of personality, and especially, of sense. So, which is

the conceptual (and-or

phenomenal) relation between perezhivanie and sense? González-Rey

suggests that both concepts are somewhat similar (and overcome by the

concept of “subjective sense”); my opinion, partly expressed in my

commentary, is that perezhivanie is a type of meaning, which includes

different levels of depth, and that sense corresponds to the deepest

level of meaning (which can be characterized as a system of semic

oppositions). Therefore, sense wouldn't be in opposition to meaning

(as “a microcosm of human consciousness”, as Kozulin remembers in his

commentary), although it would be in opposition to manifested meaning (the surface level of meaning).

The second issue was raised by Roth and Jornet, and I think it goes

beyond the issue of perezhivanie itself. If I understand them well,

they argue that Vygotsky's core proposal of cultural mediation is

influenced by the Cartesian dualism (mind-matter), and that a

promising approach to Cultural Psychology would be a Spinozist

monism. I am actually very interested on the issue of which

epistemological position can best substantiate the construction of a

cultural psychology, and that's why I feel inclined to take the

opportunity to ask for your opinions about that. About the proposal

of Roth and Jornet, I have some doubts. First, I don't see why

Vygotsky's proposals can be seen as dualist (in the Cartesian sense)

-I suspect that it is because of the analytical distinctions?.

Anyway, in my understanding, Vygotsky explicitly assumes a

materialist monism (for example in The Crisis), and in fact he constructs his proposal on mediation upon reflexology, which also explicitly assumed a materialist monism (e.g.

Sechenov). Would a Spinozist monism be a better point of departure? I

don't know, in my understanding it is a more idealist monism, and I

don't clearly see what could be gained. In my opinion, a scientific

psychology which includes the study of mind is only possible if any

type of monism is assumed. However, in my view, for a scientific

psychology, the ontological nature of the world is perhaps less

important (it is an issue for metaphysics?), and I am inclined to assume a neutral monism (e.g. Russell).

So from this view, a materialist monism and a Spinozist monism

wouldn't be so different, so from both views it could be assumed that

all is of the same nature and all is similarly knowable (including

mind) [which is the ontological nature of the world and to what

degree it is knowable are issues that can be left to philosophy].

However, in my opinion, this does not mean that, while assuming a

monism, analytical distinctions cannot be done when studying the

world. In that sense, I had the impression that Roth and Jornet

tended to dilute analytical distinctions in the name of monism; I

repeat that I don't know if I understood them well, but if this was

the case, in my opinion, analysis would be impossible within the new

psychology suggested by Roth and Jornet, and, regarding perezhivanie,

there would be the danger, noted by Vygotsky in The Crisis and

cautioned by Kozulin in his commentary, that by meaning everything, perezhivanie ends by meaning nothing.

Best regards and happy new year,


2017-01-02 9:12 GMT+01:00 Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no><mailto:a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>:

Dear all,

I would like to join David, Luisa, Ana, Henry and the others to wish

you all a Happy New Year! May it be full of joy, peace, and opportunity.

I also would like to begin the year announcing our first ?MCA

article discussion, ?although in fact corresponds to the last issue

of the year


just passed, Issue 4 on Perezhivanie. This is a very special

*special* issue, not only because its topic has raised lots of

interest lately in


CHAT community but also because, greatly coordinated by Andy Blunden

and the rest of the editorial team, the issue takes the form of a

symposium where authors get the chance to present and respond to

each others' ideas on the subject. In my view, this allows having a

rich and


approach to a subject as important as perezhivanie.

Following with the dialogical spirit in which the special issue was

assembled, we will focus on one lead article, but hoping to also

engage ideas and insights present in or relevant to other

contributions in the issue. ?Marc Clarà's "Vygotsky and Vasilyuk on

Perezhivanie: Two Notions and One Word" will be our focus. The

article very nicely engages the lead work of Vygotsky, but also the

less known ??(?in educational literature) but totally relevant works

of psychologist ?F. Vasilyuk and semiotician


J. Greimas, mobilising a number of key concepts including those of


mediation and transformation.

?In addition to Marc, who will soon join us, I have encouraged some



other authors in the special issue to also join as "relevant

others," if time and circumstances allow them. Let's hope that this

will help keeping the symposium spirit up.

Marc's article is attached to this e-mail and will be made open

access at the T&F pages as soon as people is back from the holidays.

The T&F link




The link to the MCA Forum pages, where we announce our discussions

and other xmca things, is here: http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/

I wish us all a very productive and interesting discussion.