Re: [xmca] ISCAR - Sevilla 2005 -- 1. Marx and dialectics/ discourse/identity and 2. ractice/activity

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Fri Oct 07 2005 - 05:45:28 PDT

Early morning in California when my body says I should be going to sleep in
madrid creates
an odd kind of reflective time, before my social group demands that I pay
for my sin of absence.

I noted examples of each of Julian's two kinds of tension lines during ISCAR
and perhaps they line up in some ways with the proclivities of those who
entered through the two prior organizations. Whatever, this kind of
discussion, grounded in examples, ought to help us to straighten matters out
for ourselves.

Some points we can probably agree upon. The adherence to "the oriiginal" for
he sake of loyalty, "come what may" seems unfortunate, but so does throwing
away the original because it ceases to be modish. There was, from my
perspective, as much mindless attribution of minlessness to uses of Yrjo's
expanded triangle as there were mindless uses. The model is not the process,
the map is not the territory, time is difficult to represent with a
triangles and a spiral of triangles only helps
a little. This much has been known by yrjo and those who work with him for
many years. The original motivation for the extended triangle can be found
on the helsinki website (or through
lchc as an associated site) and is well worth reading.

I think it would be helpful for me to have a better idea of what the "twain"
are in "never the twain will meet" bb. Identify versus activity? Using
dialectial concepts with knowledge of their origins versus,
vesus what? Social learning theory? Thinking that practice is an essential
part of the methodology of scholarly practice? My guess is that if we were
to make up a list of twains, people might actually show distributions across
pairs of terms.

One issue has been of particuar concern to me in reading manuscripts
submitted to XMCA and
other venues where people use what might be called the "ISCAR Family of
FUzzy Concepts":
Is the analysis in any sense historical? Does it describe/analyse a
behavior over time and does it relate transformations to the dynamics
brought about by the
temporarl dynamics of different parts of the factors identified in the
analytic analysis? If does not,
I find the resulting conclusions problematic.

Related to this is whether the analyst makes, or tries to make, a systematic
distinction between
action and activity? My impression that many do not and that their analyses
become difficult to
interpret as a result.

Both of these concern could be applied to analyses of building an airplane
wing or an activity to
promote children's development through play. methinks.

I wonder if others have had difficulty, as I had following the meeting while
travelling in spain
explaining the purpose of the meeting. What does ISCAR study that one can
explain to a stranger
sitting on the neigboring seat waiting for a train?

On 10/7/05, Steve Gabosch <> wrote:
> Interestingly, my inclination about what tools to use to analyze the
> two domains Bill points to - a 3 year old's play behavior in a
> nursery school, and the historical development of nursery schools -
> seems to be the inverse of Bill's choices. For the former, I would
> tend toward using tools developed by cultural-historical psychology
> such as activity theory to try to understand the child's play - for
> example, to analyze how a particular child's use of language mediates
> their play behavior. For the latter, I would tend toward tools
> developed by historical materialist sociology such as social class
> analysis to try to understand the historical development of nursery
> schools, day care centers, etc.
> As for which is easier, breaking bolts loose, machining precision
> airplane parts, cutting diamonds, or caring for, guiding and teaching
> small children, I sympathize with Ana's reasons for choosing the
> latter over airplane manufacturing work. In my opinion, more
> challenging than any of these kinds of skilled work, however, is the
> work it takes to choose the right tools to analyze and *change* the
> nature of nursery schools - and by implication, other kinds of social
> institutions - and perhaps, even entire social systems.
> For those kinds of tools and their wielders, I look to democratic and
> working class movements for social change, and to the revolutionary
> theories Marx and his followers formulated - not research work guided
> by cultural-historical psychology, activity theory, Activity Systems
> Theory (AST), or any of the other offshoots of the Vygotsky
> school. Going back to our tool metaphors, the work of transforming
> social institutions and perhaps replacing them outright is the job of
> large democratic-minded masses and socially-minded working classes
> wielding the tools necessary to break the back of social reaction and
> repression and force deep-going social change. Breaker bars and
> large pipes are likely just the beginning of the tools that will be
> required. But the work of understanding the intricate developmental
> processes in a single human being or group of people requires just
> the opposite kind of tools - it requires the kinds of delicate
> research methods and nuanced theoretical tools that activity
> theorists and cultural-historical psychologists excel in. Here, I
> like Bill's use of diamond cutting and jeweler's tools as a metaphor
> a lot. I question whether we can transform large social institutions
> with such small and subtle tools - even if we capitalize and
> acronymize their names :-)) - but with them we can discover and
> create gems that can help point the way toward understanding what it
> means to be human, what human development really consists of. And
> that is no small contribution.
> - Steve
> From Bill:
> <snip>
> >But what if one is interested in the day to day development of 3
> >year old children in nursery schools? There, one sees children in
> >solitary play -- no division of labor to speak of among the
> >children, no understanding by the children of their roles, if they
> >had any, no conscious engaging in a collective object by the
> >chlidren. Activity Systems Theory does not purchase much here,
> >microgenetically. Ahh... but if one is interested in the
> >development of nursery schools, and how that historical development
> >shapes the context of the children's play -- what rules the adults
> >obey and enforce, what toys exist, what the caregivers must do to be
> >licensed? Or if one is interested in changing the nature of nursery
> >schools? Then AST methods described in LBE could yield large gains.
> >
> >It's more like cutting diamonds (
> ):
> >
> >The rule (following cleavage planes)
> >The tool (the cutting steel wedge)
> >The jewel (the outcome)
> >
> >bb
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