Re: [xmca] Questions

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Sun Oct 16 2005 - 17:19:41 PDT

Mabel, I agree that it's really important to attend to communicative
activity as well as instrumental activity. Sometimes we do use others simply
as means to an end, unfortunately, but perhaps even then we need to
understand them first. It seems to me that psychology has often got all tied
up in viewing communication as a mysterious connection between two
individual subjectivities. But equally misleading would be thinking that
people can act together smoothly without misunderstanding. I think we really
lack any understanding of how language can move and change people. That
would provide the basis for a pragmatic approach to language - speech as an
activity - that is not entirely instrumental.

It sounds as though in your research you have a good ethnographer's
understanding of what's going on. The difficulty, perhaps, is choosing an
analytical approach to enable you to articulate this understanding? Perhaps
others can give some suggestions. I've tried focusing on the kinds of
recognition different teachers offer their students, but this may not be
quite what you need. What questions are you trying to answer in your thesis?


On 10/10/05 6:28 AM, "Mabel Encinas" <> wrote:

> Hi, Mike and all.
> You asked a long time ago (three months):
> What would the tool be for if not for implementation of object oriented
> action? How could the object be acted upon in the absence of a mediating tool?
> I dare to ask then:
> Has the activity system only one object? Can we humans have kind of
> communicative objects simultaneously or as a priority? I think for example: I
> have made cakes for the sake of baking with my sister (or with others: clean a
> storeroom, or draw, or do exercise, or write a paper, or organise a workshop
> or a reading seminar... maybe this is a personal deviation :) ). Yes, we do
> eat the cakes afterwards (my sister, and I, and others), but it is the
> relationship an important "object" for my sister and me when we bake cakes. At
> the same time, while in an argument or angry, I have folded sheets with my
> partner, and one of us sometimes pulls too much or we cannot agree what is the
> next step at folding at a certain stage. I wonder then if apart from the
> explicit "object", we do not have other "objects", not explicit. And I
> honestly do not want to be esoteric.
> In my PhD research (I am writing my thesis at the moment), a teacher, Sofia,
> who gets along very well with adolescents uses computers in a way in which her
> relationship with them is even better. Students then write and discuss about
> what they write, for example. When she gives notes in the Spanish classroom,
> they construct the texts together and even her "monologues" are feed by
> students interventions. A different situation happens with Ricardo. Sometimes
> he fights with the students a lot and other times he is very permissive. In
> the Spanish classroom, he dictates notes and students do not feel like
> collaborating. When he speaks, students interventions "disrupt" his fluency.
> In the computer classroom he asks the students to read long texts on the
> screen, to copy in their notebooks or to do grammar exercises with drill and
> practice software. When they write text, only in the Spanish classroom, his
> main worry is to register the work of each student (yes, the institution is
> there all the time and I do not take it for granted). I have inferred then
> that computers are tools not only for teaching, but for relating with the
> students. Apparently Sofia integrates computers for increasing her bonds with
> them; Ricardo integrates them in his attempts to control them. Though when
> they speak with me, Ricardo's conceptions of teaching Spanish are very well
> informed. He talks with clarity for example about the need of working
> communicatively in his classes. I could say than he speaks even with better
> clarity than Sophia. He is a very skilful computer user as well. Many have
> studied the relationships between believes and practices in teaching.
> I wonder if all these things I have been finding/wondering about could be
> labelled as "operations" (kind of "unconscious" or "implicit" actions) in the
> teachers' relationships with the students? Or...?
> Other point is that in the classroom, the students "object" is quite a
> different one. Is it then that classroom is not an activity system? Is the
> school the activity system? If so, what is the classroom? Can we study the
> classroom in AT?
> Yesterday, Mike, you said something that is very meaningful for me:
> I am uncertain whether or not human beings are capable of creating the
> conditions for a just society. But the commitment to believing it is possible,
> illusion or not, and acting on that commitment, appears to be a precondition
> for living humanely, and perhaps for achieving that illusional, delusional,
> state..
> I have been wondering if, when in the activity system we look at others as
> tools, could this view of others help us thinking/acting towards a more just
> society?? Or the relationship between the subjects involved in an activity
> system, would be better be considered in other status? I think that it is
> important not to consider people as tools, but as active others that negotiate
> with the subjects we study. Do I narrow too much the meaning of tools? But
> aren't we narrowing too much the meaning of other people when we think about
> them in an instrumental way?
> Does any of you have similar questions and possibly some answers, advices or
> readings to suggest? It sounds that some of the articles for which we are
> voting can give some light to the questions I have.
> Daring to ask so much questions in every direction, from thelurkers'space,
> Mabel
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