Re: [xmca] a return to Kevin's paper

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Thu Jul 20 2006 - 16:57:24 PDT

I like your highlighting of "acting into a context" bb. I am still fumbling
around with the ideas in Kevin's paper, the use of context being one of
If we consider context to be a relational term that is never static, always
in-production, we are always helping to create the contexts we are "acting
to." In a parallel way, we are always creating the subject positionings
that position us. When I get to that thought I start to worry about the
issue of
symmetry. Sure, we make history, BUT not under conditions of our own
choosing. And, from the perspective of an individual as part of a social
group (in assymetrical relations such as your describe from your history) it
sure does not feel symmetrical.

As you say, lots of thoughts generated by Kevin's article.
On 7/20/06, bb <> wrote:
> 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.
> bb
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