[xmca] a return to Kevin's paper

From: bb (xmca-whoever@comcast.net)
Date: Thu Jul 20 2006 - 08:30:41 PDT

I've finally had a chance to read Kevin's paper and fully appreciate his bringing together cultural production and language. It's a big challenge to bridge theoretical frameworks and I think it takes a great deal of care to weave them together. It's clear that I need to read more of Silverstein to understand that approach to contextualization and language. Kevin's observations and analysis are densely written. I agree that cognitive apprenticeships, which place emphasis on the 'official view', fail to capture the abundance of what happens in complex situations. But then I also think that Kevin shows that 'community of practice' is too much of a gloss with the micro-truck project, which itself involves several institutions as sites of identity construction and a larger scale of organization which is the micro-truck project itself. Kevin's analysis pulls me toward wanting to parse these organizational structures more fully and integrate them more completely into the ana!
 lysis o
f language and identity.

When I was a grad student at UMass I took a course at an institute in Cambridge ma, and felt the differences in identity-related-to-institution constantly, and although in the end I did as well as any of the others, there was still something in the air that I, being from UMass, the state school, was just not at the same level. This was especially apparent to me, having temporarily made the ecological transition to the institute, and I only wish now that I had transcripts of what was said to bring to bear an analysis like Kevin's and find out whether there was any basis to my impressions. Quelle dommage. Nevertheless, I would prefer to use Engestrom's multiple activity systems model rather than put it into relation to a CoP framework. Third gen chat would facilitate the differentiation of institutions, and bring to bear the mediational nature of technology, as well as traditional institutional roles (div of labor).

Kevin writes "A central point here is that when we do not privilege official under-standings of context, it becomes possible to examine how participants not only act into an official context, but also orient to it from the perspective of other, unofficial and sometimes competing contexts." which raises the issue of how participants privilege some 'perspectives' over others, but in indexing the language of privilege to context, it seems that context must be much better defined than in the CoP approach to cultural production. Putting "an inclusive focus on all participants equally, as each contributes to the making of differences of power, salience, influence, and value of themselves and other" might not produce the most comprehensive analysis as each participant does not contribute equally in making the differences of power -- once a power differential is established, such as what foreshadows the interactions between one enrolled in a prestigious institute and one who is!
  not, t
here are serious inequalities that persist with the cultural production of (1) institutions over long time scales and (2) people over ontogenetic timescales. I've felt this personally, as I presume we all have through institutions of higher education.

I really enjoyed this paper and the thoughts it has stimulated about these issues.

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