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Re: Arievitch discussion

I found the second part of the post by Bob very provocative, where he drew a
close parallel between Galperin and Newell.  I am working on why this
doesn't feel right.  Bob is drawing on some additional writing by Galperin,
so he may have some ammunition. The algebraic description for creating and
testing representation offered by Alan Newell (see Bob's quote below)
strikes me as applicable to designing certain aspects of a computer
simulation, but not to describing human activity. I question whether
Newell's and Galperin's models really map.  If I may play devil's advocate  ...

Newell's representation law seems to try to isolate many of the elements of
the human activity of representation, reducing these elements to things that
are only indirectly connected or not connected at all.  In particular,
Newell's model separates the external from the internal so that they do not
co-mediate or co-determine one another.

In Newell's model, isolated events occur in each domain but do not
interpenetrate - the two domains apparently could be separated by a large
distance and it would not matter (except perhaps to the encoder/decoder).
The situations and transformations in both the external and internal domains
(once encoded) apparently develop independently of the human programmer -
the programmer is only required to passively observe, encode, observe,
decode, and finally compare.  Even the outcomes of these events
themselves do not interact - they are just compared.  In general, the two
domains of the internal and external are severed from any direct contact or
commonality - except the ability of the programmer to observe, encode, and
decode in both domains.

This model seems to rely on a classic dualist paradigm.  Just as Descartes
conceptualized the separate domains of body and mind - which God could
oversee - Newell conceptualizes the separate domains of an external and
internal - which a programmer can observe and write code in.

Galperin's model, based on Leont'ev, Vygotsky, etc., seems to be just the
opposite. The external and internal are seen as interconnected and
interpenetrating. Galperin's concept sees the human(s) at the center of the
activity, sees the external and internal as referenced to the human, and
sees all aspects, especially the external and internal, as co-mediating and
co-determining themselves and each other.  The external and internal are not
independent domains, but are inescapably intertwined.  Both the internal and
the external domains are being mutually transformed in the process of this
activity, and in doing so, follow the same "objective laws."

The key is that in Galperin's concept, the external and internal are part of
the same activity process.  As Arievitch explains (page 286): "...Galperin's
study of attention empirically showed how some (material) forms of the
individual's external activity get gradually transformed into other (mental)
forms of that same *external* activity."  And, same page: "Understanding
human action in any of its guises, including "mental" or "internal," as
following objective rules of the outer world, and demonstration of how
mental actions emerge from external actions was Galperin's way to eliminate
the dualism of mental and material, external and internal processes."

These two models seem very different to me.  Thoughts?

- Steve

At 02:52 PM 6/29/2004 -0700, Bob Bracewell wrote:

And by way of adding support for Arievitch's call for an integrated view,
consider the following specification of how we represent things from Alan
Newell (you'll all agree about as hard-core a cognitive scientist as ever

 " The representation law:  decode[encode(T)(encode(X))] = T(X), where X is
the original external situation and T is the external transformation?. The
original external situation is encoded into and internal situation.  The
external transformation is also encoded into and internal transformation.
Then the internal transformation is applied to the internal situation to
obtain a new internal situation.  Finally the new internal situation is
decoded to an external situation.  Suppose that the resulting external
situation is the same as the situation produced by the external
transformation.  Then the internal system--the encoding process, the
internal situation, the internal transformation, and the decoding
process--has successfully been used as a representation of the external
situation." (Unified theories of cognition, 1990, p. 59).

This certainly sounds compatible with Galperin's approach, with the
encodings parallel to orienting/comprehension, application of the
transformation parallel to execution/associative passage, and the
decoding/comparison parallel to checking/awareness. In fact, at the level
of abstract description seen in the texts from both, I would argue that
they are the same model but different terminology.

--Bob Bracewell
McGill University