Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwinand Bohr

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Tue Jun 26 2007 - 14:02:44 PDT

Hi Lois,

The attention to tools, and tool-mediated activity, is obviously important,
and I wouldn't want to discard it. My concern is that other dimensions or
areas of life are neglected. Whether it's Habermas' triad of instrumental
action, communicative action, and emancipatory action... Or Foucault's
attention to three arenas: games of truth (knowledge), power relations
(politics), and care of the self (ethics)... there are aspects other than
the mode of production which was central to Marx. (That's not to say they
were of no interest to Marx, but they didn't take center stage.) Attention
to these would surely enrichen our view of thinking. The third
dimension/arena in particular draws attention to thinking as critique,
rather than thinking as construction of knowledge or as instrumental
planning, or as pragmatic tool use. Critique can surely still be
distributed, but it involves more than smoothly using a tool, or skillfully
playing a computer game. Do we want our kids to play games well, or to be
able to change the game, or to design new games, or to reflect on the
culture that celebrates these games...? Does the distinction you make
between tool for result and tool-and-result help me figure all this out?


On 6/26/07 3:05 PM, "Lois Holzman" <> wrote:

> I wonder if sharing what I thought of as I read this discussion might be
> useful. One question is, are you both talking about tools in their
> instrumental sense? What about the distinction between tool for result and
> tool-and-result (stemming from Vygotsky's search for method being
> simultaneously the tool and the result of study, which I and others have
> found important in understanding developmental and learning activity).
> Related to that is understanding people as not only tool users but tool
> makers. Add to that that we are creaters We create something other out of
> what exists, including entirely new kinds of tools.
> Is that consistent with what's being described here? If how I see it is even
> remotely like it is meant, then a diverse grouping (including many different
> levels of expertise‹but no experts and no novices) has lots of potential.
> Lois
>> From: Michael Glassman <>
>> Reply-To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
>> Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 14:36:38 -0400
>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
>> Conversation: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwin and Bohr
>> Subject: RE: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
>> Darwinand Bohr
>> Martin
>> Why this distinction between expert and novice? What does it really buy us?
>> And who gets to make the distinction? It seems to me in an expert/novice
>> scenario all power lies in the hands of those who get to make this
>> distinction
>> on whatever level, and get to define the two classes. Take a look at the
>> political class in the United States, we define experts as those who have the
>> right cultural capital, wear the right type of ties and suits, who speak in
>> somber, modulated voices with a weary sigh of resignation, suggesting "of
>> course you cannot see what I can see, but trust me."
>> This is not to say every generation starts from scratch. Every generation
>> starts with the tools that they have, but then they figure out how to use
>> those tools to solve what invariably must be new problems, or they develop
>> new
>> tools out of the old tools. Let's say we have a set of spears we use to hunt
>> food. There are great spear throwers who use those spears and teach others
>> to
>> use them as well. Their "expertise" in spear throwing gives them great power
>> within the community. But things change, and the spears that were once used
>> on larger animals are not as good for smaller animals. Are the spear
>> throwers
>> going to give up their place in the community as "experts?" Or are they
>> going
>> to say, well if we just wait, or if we use the spear in a different way, or
>> it
>> is the fault of our lazy children who do not train in spear throwing the way
>> previous generations did. Meanwhile the food supply dwindles for the
>> community. A young person examines the spear and says, hmmm, the arrow head
>> pierces the skin but it cannot reach the skin with these new animals that we
>> hunt. Perhaps I can create something else - a bow and arrow perhaps. But
>> she
>> is not an expert. Who, in a hierarchical system of knowledge development
>> would listen and adopt the work of this young innovator? This is always the
>> danger of a heirarchical system of knowledge development.
>> In a more lateral system of development information is everything. As a
>> species were are problem solvers, but our problem solving is based on the
>> easy
>> access and flow of information. I just read the most fascinating article by
>> the economist Amriyat (sp?) Sen. In it he talks about famine. He makes a
>> really good argument that famine is almost never about food. There is always
>> enough food even in some of the major famines of the twentieth century. It
>> is
>> about the lack of capability for getting to the food. At its core the lack
>> of
>> information as a tool in obtaining this basic human function. What else is
>> there other than information. When we define information as static and give
>> it value separate from the problems we are working on, isn't that when we
>> find
>> the most trouble, have the most difficulties in problems solving?
>> I watch my son play his World of Warcraft game. I wish I knew more about it.
>> But I see him adapting and recalibrating constantly, developing strategies
>> and
>> processes that see incredible to me. It is a virtual world in which there
>> are
>> no "experts." The world and my son and the other players co-exist.
>> I don't know if I've done such a good job trying to explore this. Perhaps a
>> problem that needs greater consideration.
>> Michael
>> ________________________________
>> From: on behalf of Martin Packer
>> Sent: Tue 6/26/2007 2:04 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwinand
>> Bohr
>> Michael, you would have each generation start on their own, from scratch? No
>> experts, just novices? That really is a post-apocalyptic vision!
>> My point was there is more to life (and education) than "functioning" and
>> "information." The danger with the tool metaphor, and the emphasis on
>> artifacts as tools, is that they reduce all of life to the production
>> process. That is not just a conceptual mistake, it is a political agenda. To
>> argue that thinking is not important, only tool use, is not to argue against
>> formalization, it is to promote a purely instrumental conception of human
>> action and interaction. It is to promote an extreme version of the division
>> of labor, in which only a tiny elite get to think about the nature of
>> thinking, and everyone else is simply using tools skillfully but
>> thoughtlessly.
>> On 6/26/07 12:40 PM, "Michael Glassman" <> wrote:
>>> But if this information is so important, and it exists as part of the
>>> problem
>>> solving tools of humanity, don't we trust humans to discover it through
>>> their
>>> own activities?
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