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[Xmca-l] Re: The Social and the Semiotic

Many thanks Andy, you've elaborated for me - that's really helpful. I'm
always interested in the genealogy or ontogenesis of theoretical concepts
and ideas (especially those relating to my field).

Regarding Vygotsky-inspired theorising (Mike mentioned), it is clear that
neo-Vygotskyan theorists create their own terms rather than use Vygotsky's
directly (they tend to appropriate Vygotsky's for their own purposes).

By the way, in England, the research centre associated with Harry Daniels
has always been "sociocultural", now located at Oxford, named OSAT (Oxford
Centre for Sociocultural and Activity Theory Research). I guess
"sociocultural" here is a more inclusive usage.



*James Ma*  *https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa

On 28 June 2017 at 03:24, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> I'm not sure I completely understand your response, James. My point about
> the difference between the CHAT and S-C labels is not a personal view, it
> is thoroughly embedded in the respective research communities. My point
> about "progress" is also not really my own either, but my particular take
> on the problem I owe directly to Sylvia Scribner. *Totalities* cannot be
> ordered, hierarchically, chronologically or otherwise. But any feature
> abstracted from a totality which can be quantified self-evidently *can* be
> ordered. For example, I may not think that US society is *better* than
> Puerto Rican society (totalities) but I may well think that the US is a
> better place for me to earn a living, or vice versa. I might not think that
> Australia is altogether a better country than it was in my parents' day,
> but I can say that it is more tolerant and more diverse and has a larger
> population. We practically compare, and therefore order, in this way every
> moment of our lives. The problem with "progress" is that it compares
> totalities, which are always mutlifaceted and problematic.
> Do those clarifications help, James?
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden
> http://home.mira.net/~andy
> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
> On 28/06/2017 3:28 AM, James Ma wrote:
>> Thanks Andy, your personal take on is very interesting - perhaps you
>> could enlighten me on your point?
>> Larry, such strangeness has much to do with the vagueness of
>> "sociocultural" reflected in sociocultural theory itself. Although my
>> current work focuses on Peirce and Vygotsky, the Hallidayan imagery is
>> always saliently present in my mind.  Halliday is explicitly
>> sociocultural.  Vygotsky used this term to refer to the higher
>> psychological functions as "sociocultural" in origin (e.g. p. 46 in Mind in
>> Society), but he defined his own paradigm using the term
>> "cultural-historical". To me, "sociocultural" is somehow still in wholesale
>> fashion - maybe it should move out and become something which would
>> epitomise "cultural-historical"?
>> For years I've been taking"sociocultural" and "cultural-historical" to be
>> customary terms.  However, this doesn't stop me being "ruminant" (here I
>> borrow David's word portraying the SFL mindset) about the essence of these
>> terms, albeit seldom reaching anything with satisfaction.  At times I find
>> myself concluding that three entities - social, cultural and historical -
>> form an indispensable core of human existence.  I know this is no more than
>> stating the obvious!
>> More to the point, the way I see it is that "social" is enmeshed with
>> "cultural" and "sociocultural" as a whole is entangled with itself in
>> itself - this entanglement is perhaps the essence of the term.  But the
>> problem is that these two entities intertwine in a complex whole that
>> appears to be simultaneously "social" and "cultural" in an ambiguous way.
>> Anyway, on a positive note, this is perhaps ambiguity par excellence, as
>> Emmanuel Levinas would say! Or perhaps Umberto Eco's "unlimited semiosis"!
>> James
>> /_____________________________________/
>> */James Ma/*///https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa/
>> On 26 June 2017 at 16:53, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:
>> ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>     The inclusion of "historical" is quite loaded, James,
>>     marking the Soviet heritage of CHAT, and rejected by
>>     those who regard the inclusion of "historical" as a
>>     modern arrogance based on notions of social progress.
>>     Personally, I like "historical" while I reject the
>>     notion of cultural totalities which can be ordered
>>     unproblematically, whether chronologically or otherwise.
>>     Andy
>>     ------------------------------------------------------------
>>     Andy Blunden
>>     http://home.mira.net/~andy <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>
>>     http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>     <http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-
>> decision-making>
>>     On 26/06/2017 6:19 PM, James Ma wrote:
>>         Hello David, I have an applied linguistics
>>         background too. My first
>>         acquaintance with the term "sociocultural" was in
>>         the work of H Stern who
>>         described sociocultural factors in language
>>         learning and teaching. I do
>>         feel a bit strange that "sociocultural" appears to
>>         be interchangeable
>>         with "cultural-historical" when people talk about
>>         Vygotsky and his
>>         followers.
>>         James
>>         *_________________________________________________________*
>>         *James Ma*  *https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa
>>         <https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa>
>>         <https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa
>>         <https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa>>*
>>         On 25 June 2017 at 23:09, David Kellogg
>>         <dkellogg60@gmail.com
>>         <mailto:dkellogg60@gmail.com>> wrote:
>>             A few years ago there was a minor theoretical
>>             kerfuffle at the
>>             International Congress of Systemic Functional
>>             Linguistics in Vancouver.
>>             Systemic Functional Linguists tend to be
>>             gentle, ruminant creatures, who
>>             frown on intellectual prize fighting (building
>>             "vertical" intellectual
>>             structures, like building chemistry on physics
>>             and biology on chemistry, is
>>             the goal rather than building "horizontal"
>>             knowledge structures like
>>             competing fields of sociology, psychology,
>>             cognitive science). But they
>>             also prize delicacy and like to make fine
>>             distinctions that account
>>             exhaustively for data (e.g. vocabulary is
>>             treated as nothing but most
>>             delicate grammar, and grammar as most general
>>             forms of vocabulary, hence
>>             the use of "words" for the latter and
>>             "wording" for the former).
>>             Accounting exhaustively for language as a
>>             social-semiotic phenomenon
>>             usually involves a delicate distinction
>>             between the social and the
>>             semiotic, something like the distinction
>>             between physics and chemistry on
>>             the one hand and biology on the other. But Jim
>>             Martin argued that semiotic
>>             activity does not occur independent of social
>>             activity and vice versa, so,
>>             by Occam's razor, the terms are redundant and
>>             the hyphen superfluous.
>>             Surely the distinction between social behavior
>>             and meaningful behavior is
>>             nothing like the distinction between animate
>>             and inanimate, sentient and
>>             non-sentient, carbon-based self-replicating
>>             matter and inorganic compounds.
>>             Yesterday, we went whale watching out of
>>             Sydney Harbour. The Southwest
>>             Pacitic humpback community, which numbers
>>             between thirty and forty
>>             thousand, spends the summer (that is, your
>>             winter) months in Antarctica
>>             feeding on krill and small fish; they have an
>>             ingenious method of feeding
>>             called bubble-netting which takes about 27
>>             years for a whale to learn. It's
>>             a lot like Leontiev's description of a
>>             primitive hunt: twelve whales work
>>             together to emit a circle of small bubbles
>>             encircling the prey, and
>>             gradually shaping it into a tall cylinder
>>             about thirty metres in diameter.
>>             When the krill kill is shaped in this way, the
>>             dinner table is set. The
>>             whales just sluice up and down through the
>>             cylinder with their baleen
>>             plates agape, raking in thousands of fish
>>             and/or tiny crustaceans with each
>>             pass.
>>             But then they embark on the road trip which
>>             brings them past Sydney Harbour
>>             and to points further north. The migration
>>             lasts many months, during which
>>             the whales do not eat at all. Even mothers,
>>             who have to produce about 40
>>             litres of whale milk daily, fast the whole six
>>             months. I noticed that the
>>             whales we saw were always in groups of two or
>>             three and I wondered to the
>>             marine biologist on board if whales worked in
>>             small communities in
>>             Antarctica but then went on holidays in
>>             nuclear families. She pointed out
>>             that these dyads and triads were all the same
>>             size and gender. "They're
>>             just mates," she said.
>>             She also said that the study of whale songs is
>>             being "de-anthropmorphized":
>>             it was previously believed that since they
>>             vary much like languages, with
>>             regional dialects and some "multilingualism",
>>             they must have an economic
>>             function in feeding, a sexual function in
>>             mating, or a political function
>>             in establishing male dominance (no easy feat,
>>             because females are
>>             polyandrous and rather larger than males).
>>             None of this is the case: whales
>>             sing when they aren't feeding, when they
>>             aren't mating, and when they
>>             aren't fighting: they just like to sing. And
>>             in fact the four-tone songs
>>             vary more like pop-tunes than like regional
>>             dialects or functional
>>             registers.
>>             Now, when the kerfuffle broke out between
>>             Halliday and Martin in Vancouver,
>>             Halliday pointed to ants as a species who were
>>             social but not semiotic
>>             (there is no reason to believe that "meaning"
>>             as distinct from molecular
>>             biology is at stake). You might think the
>>             Southwest Pacific humpback
>>             community is a good counter example, since
>>             they clearly have both social
>>             and semiotic activity. But it seems to me
>>             exactly the opposite: they are a
>>             clear example that social activity is goal
>>             oriented in one way, and
>>             semiotic activity is goal oriented in quite a
>>             different way. I have never
>>             liked using the term socio-cultural to
>>             describe Vygotsky's theory (it is
>>             the term generally used in my own field of
>>             applied linguistics) because I
>>             thought it was redundant; now I am not so sure.
>>             --
>>             David Kellogg
>>             Macquarie University
>>             "The Great Globe and All Who It Inherit:
>>             Narrative and Dialogue in Story-telling with
>>             Vygotsky, Halliday, and Shakespeare"
>>             Free Chapters Downloadable at:
>>             https://www.sensepublishers.com/media/2096-the-great-
>>             <https://www.sensepublishers.com/media/2096-the-great->
>>             globe-and-all-who-it-inherit.pdf
>>             Recent Article: Thinking of feeling: Hasan,
>>             Vygotsky, and Some Ruminations
>>             on the Development of Narrative in Korean Children
>>             Free E-print Downloadable at:
>>             http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/8Vaq4HpJMi55DzsAyFCf/full
>>             <http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/8Vaq4HpJMi55DzsAyFCf/full>