Re: [xmca] Context for internalisation/appropriation discussion

From: Tamara Ball (
Date: Thu Sep 07 2006 - 21:39:08 PDT


I've just finished reading the discussion text included as stimulus for
further discussion around the theme of appropriation and indeed found
it very stimulating. My head is still sort of thumping but anyway...
I think I am generally less concerned about distinguishing
internalization from appropriation (or not! "so long as one does not
adhere to a copy theory of interiorization") than I am about
distinguishing appropriation from mediation - or rather better
understanding the relations between the two. I hope I can explain why.

For starters, the archived discussion (kindly included as the
attachment from Dr. Kiyioshi) reminds me of parts of the discussion on
the listserve earlier this year (late January to be exact) comparing
Gibsonian constraintsandaffordances and semiotic potentials. It seemed
one related point that really never crystalized in that discussion is
one that Wertsch (1998) makes in his book Mind as Action. The book
emphasizes the "irreducible tension between agent and mediational
means" and that mediated action is organized around "multiple, often
conflicting, goals" due in part to the fact that the goals of the
agent do not always "map neatly onto the goals with which the the
mediational means are typically associated" (p.34)Not to mention that
typically the performance of any one mediated action is often in
tension with the multiple others being performed by other agents with
goals in institutional settings. The example of the development and
continuation of the QWERTY keyboard (despite the fact that computer
processors are now fast enough to accommodate a less weird layout)
makes this point.

Even If affordances are "action potentials" (bb: 1/21/06) related to
physical-world-oriented tools and semiotic/meaning potentials are
"resources for behavior" related to social-world-oriented meanings I
think it still holds that both classes of resources are prey to the
kind of irreducible tension Wertsch writes about. By "irreducible" I
think he means something like "undergoing constant change". He
emphasizes that the development of mediated action is not the
development of just the agent's proficiency or the tool - but rather
the *system* between the two.

But here is where I get confused. It seems to me that the development
of mediated action - IS in a sense, appropriation. (or is it?) Are we
not always appropriating a mediational means to some degree at least
when acting in concert with it?

I think I understand that the phylogenetic origin of semiotic mediation
necessarily implicate what Tomasello calls "joint attentional scenes"
and G.H. Meade calls the "social act" and what Vygotsky calls "the
socialization of attention". ( basically the earliest attempts to
negotiate a joint, or intersubjective, focus of attention towards some
shared object fostered gestures which later became significant
I've been reading G.H. Meade's Mind, Self and Society ( [1934]1972)
today and he is quite interesting on this topic. Breifly, His idea is
that somewhere along the evolutionary escalator organisms began not
only to respond to the inanimate stimuli of the environment but to the
movements/expressions/"gestures" of other animals so that responses
become stimuli for further responses.
• “The primitive situation… involves, therefore, the adjustment of the
conduct of these different forms [organisms] to each other in carrying
out the social process. Within that process one can find what we term
gestures, those phases of the act which bring about the adjustment of
the response within the other form[organism].” (p.45)

Meade's definiton of "gesture" as opposed to "significant symbol"
depends on the attitude motivating the expressed response So a gesture
is when...“anger expresses itself as an attack, fear expresses itself
in in flight".

Meade's "Gestures" becomes "significant" or "symbolic" precisely when
same "attitude" is aroused in the respondent assumes as the attitude
expressed by the gesture So... when the respondent sees an angry fist
shaking and not only feels fear but understands anger the fist
becomes a significant. And then "meaning as such i.e. the object of
thought, arises in experience through the individual stimulating
himself to take the attitude of the other in his reaction toward the
object. Meaning is that which can be indicated to others while it is by
the same process indicated to the indicating individual" (p. 89) I
think Meade''s suggestion regarding this taking-on-the-attitude
"behind" the stimulus may be important for understanding the evolution
of the supposed primate-unique capacity for something like
joint-attention (see Tomasello, 1999 and Tomasello et al. 2005 for more
on joint attention, shared intentionality and joint attentional scenes)
which is in turn so important for the genesis of Vygotskian semiotic

what does all this have to do with appropriation?

maybe someone else can explain it to me... but I think it also has
something to do with Leontiev's discussion around the the difference
between mere "adaptation" and appropriation of social objects which
embody past intentional/intention perceiving actions.

perhaps it means that mediated action/ appropriation ( still not sure
about the difference between the two) is predicated on the
development of a capacity to "assume the attitude" of the other which
involves a capacity for joint attention... or shared intentionality.

not sure really, thanks for tolerating my rambling.


By the way does anyone know? Is there somewhere online that I can
read the chapter from "A Propos the Historical Approach to the Study
the Human Psyche" in Problems of the Development of the Mind (Progress
Publishers, 1981) ? or does anyone have a version that can be easily

On Sep 7, 2006, at 9:22 AM, Mike Cole wrote:

> Thank you very much Amano-san. Be sure to send copy of your book!!!
> mike
> On 9/7/06, Kiyoshi AMANO2 <> wrote:
>> Dear Mike and Phil Chappell !
>> I am very sorry to be too late to response to your mail. I have
>> been so busy with the work of proofreading
>> Of the English draft of my monograph for this August.
>> At last I found out the file which saved the discussion on the
>> concept of internalisation/appropriation
>> Performed in Xact in 1990-1991. It started by the mail of Mike dated
>> 23 Dec. 1990.
>> I send the file of the discussion as an attachment file named
>> XACT.txt. Please look at it. Even now the discussion
>> Keeps something fresh. Maybe it comes from that we were young.
>> I will be happy if this file will help you and others.
>> With my best regards,
>> I made a new address especially for MCA.
>> Of course you can send mail by old one
>> Dr Kiyoshi AMANO, Tokyo
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Kiyoshi AMANO []
>> Sent: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:40 PM
>> To:
>> Subject: Fw: [xmca] Context for internalisation/appropriation
>> discussion
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: Mike <> Cole
>> To: eXtended Mind, <> Culture, Activity
>> Cc: Kiyoshi <> AMANO
>> Sent: Sunday, August 20, 2006 12:12 AM
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Context for internalisation/appropriation
>> discussion
>> Hi Phil-- This comment was written by Kiyoshi Amano in Japan as a part
>> of a discussion on xact,
>> a subconference of xlchc, the predecessor of xmca. I believe that the
>> entire xact archive exists. It has
>> many interesting discussion on it. The trick is to find it! Clearly it
>> is in the archives. Presumably in the Paper file, subfile leontev....
>> wherever that is.
>> I will try to cc Amano-san to see if he can help.
>> mike
>> On 8/18/06, Phil Chappell < > wrote:
>> Hi All,
>> I'd like to quote parts of the following but need a bit of context as
>> to its origin. Can anyone delve back into their memory?
>> Thanks,
>> Phil
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
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>> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
Tamara Ball
doctoral studies
Education Department UCSC
home phone: (831) 420-1080
xmca mailing list

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