Re: script and space, neighboring categories and their assumptions

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 13:26:16 PST

As Adam points to, there are a lot of items in the Gutierrez/Rymes/Larson
paper to work with that are of great relevance to sociocultural
theory. Nancy draws out several key themes. I especially really like the
way she evoked the concept of multiple levels of human activity:

Nancy said:
I think that both the promise and the difficulty (both of
which are noted in the ongoing discussions on xmca) in looking at goals,
motives, and agency from a sociocultural/CHAT framework is the complexity
that is acknowledged, Rogoff's planes of analysis of sociocultural activity,
Lemke's time scales, and Gutierrez et al.'s official, unofficial, and third
spaces all speak to the tenet that people and groups exist within temporal,
relational, and structural realms. It's almost as if, once we acknowledge
the multidimensional nature of human activity, we can't go back to more
simplistic explanations/explorations.

The diagram in the paper in Figure 1 describes the very interesting
possibility of creating a "third space." It shows how classroom official
space (the teacher script), the unofficial space (the student
counterscript) and the third space (certain unscripted, shared meanings
that can occurs outside the usual scripts) all actually contribute to an
overriding "transcendent script." However, and this is a central point of
the paper, "third space" dialogue, if pursued, can cut across the usual
transcendent script and drive toward a new kind of collaboration, a new
kind of social space.

This paper reminds me a lot of a paper by Eugene Matusov, Heather Pleasants
and Mark Philip Smith, "Dialogic framework for cultural psychology:
Culture-in-action and culturally sensitive guidance" (May 2003) that is
available at

Both of these papers draw on ideas from Bakhtin, and speak in terms of
dialogue. Eugene et al employ terms such as "dialogic objectivizing" and
"comprehensive objectivizing" to describe what Kris et al call, for
example, the "monologic script" of the teacher in official space. Eugene's
employment of the term "subjectivation (i.e., a genuine dialogue between
the teacher and student)" corresponds in important ways with Kris's use of
the term "third space."

Terminology development takes on a life of its own - and there are good
reasons why different research groups, even employing similar
methodologies, need to develop and to some extent experiment with different
kinds of terminology in their papers and discussions. This can take the
form of creating new, unusual terms and word combinations, or re-using very
familiar terms such as "script." This is a necessary creative
process. Eventually, a language community selects certain terms, and
bypasses others. (I've watched this happen again and again in my factory,
which is constantly introducing new versions of familiar artifacts -
sometimes there is uncertainty about what to call something, but eventually
a term is arrived at, often creating new meaning for a well-used
word.) The term "third space" has a great ring to it - it just might be a
keeper. It seems to be catching on.

In both papers, the meanings the authors attribute to their terminology are
very clear in the text. The term "script" that Kris et al use is an
especially interesting one because it is both a well understood metaphor in
everyday language, and has also been used in many different ways as a
technical term in psychological and cognitive research, such as the way
Mike Cole uses it in Cultural Psychology. I see no problem with this -
word forms remain fairly stable but the meanings we attribute to them
necessarily keep changing. This is a natural characteristic of human
language and is one of the reasons all languages keep "morphing,"
eventually becoming a totally new language system. As we keep updating our
language to catch up with a constantly changing reality, we gradually leave
the old language behind. Kris may have come up with better terms than
"script" and "counterscript" since that 1995 paper, but in it I thought
they were used very effectively and legitimately.

I started with Nancy's important insight about multidimensional levels of
human activity because I think that is the key to understanding what Kris,
Betsy and Larson, and what Eugene, Heather and Mark are doing - they are
working very hard, and using very effective sociocultural tools, to see
deeply inside the objective and subjective, the official and unofficial,
the scripted and counterscripted, the compliant and disruptive - the very
core of everyday human interactions.

- Steve

At 01:06 PM 3/29/2004 +0100, you wrote:
>Dear Kris and everyone,
>This is one of my favorite articles and I'm really enthusiastic about its
>selection for discussion in xmca.
>I would like to further explore the concept of script and how it relates to
>other analytical categories used in the analysis of classroom interaction
>(among other activities). There certainly are a lot of terms to choose
>from: script and space feature prominently in the article; Kris adds
>discourse patterns in her note; we could also add to that habit(us),
>routine, frame, activity type or system, conventions and rules, and games to
>name a few. It seems to me that underlying all these various categories are
>some basic ideas that have received broad acceptance in CHAT, interactional
>sociolinguistics, ethnography of communication, ethnomethodology and related
>fields (I'm sure I'm making a salad out of all these -- I'd love it if
>someone could set me straight.):
>1. Human interactions reflect regularities and patterns.
>2. These patterns become routine for participants, and form frames for
>understanding how to act and what to expect with regard to other
>participants' action.
>3. Participants' actions become habitualized, and come to reflect and
>constitute their identities.
>4. Patterns of participation are institutionalized, i.e. certain roles are
>sanctioned for certain identities and certain forms of participation are
>legitimated or illegitimated.
>Again, would be very happy for someone to set me straight with regard to
>this outline of my understanding of the dominant consensus (and/or point me
>to a good discussion of this issue). Now, my question is how do (or do not)
>"script" and "pedagogical space" relate to these assumptions? How do they
>differ from other categories?
>One reservation I have about the use of "script" is that it seems to
>downplay the centrality of interaction in classroom activity. Talk of the
>"teacher script" suggests that this pattern belongs to or is controlled by
>the teacher. Hence, student interjections about James Brown and James Dean
>are allegedly not part of the teacher script. This seems problematic to me;
>I would argue that the teacher and students together have arrived at a
>settlement in which the teacher tolerates student interjections and the
>students tolerate the teacher's recitation. Other settlements from other
>classrooms suggest that this is not a necessary (or even common, at least in
>my experience) situation.
>Adam Lefstein
>Kings College London

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