Re: [xmca] interweaving and intersubjectivity

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane (
Date: Sun Oct 22 2006 - 17:34:44 PDT

Hi Jay,
yes, it is so nice to "hear" your voice again.
I am intrigued by what you say in the following:
"If we manage to keep our jointly constructed rope going, then _from the
outside_ people can say that we are sharing its principles of
continuity, that we are participating in and reproducing the categories
of our "shared" culture."
It seems that you are implicitly creating frames: "inside/outside"
although you say that you doubt the people share a "frame". I am trying
to imagine how to understand intersubjectivity as being able to "make
sense of what the others are doing/saying in a way that makes their
contributions "weavable" into a bigger rope along with our own".
Usually we live under an impression that we can make such sense, but
what is the basis of that impression? I am quite OK with the statement
that that we do not share everything -- and that total sharing is
practically almost impossible (maybe only scientific definitions are
carefully calibrated for the maximum shareability of the totality of
their intended meaning??). However, there also must be some "basis" for
making sense of each other's words and longer "chunks" of dialogue. If
not "basis", then some coordination of acts (which you do mention) --
but then my question is what are the moves in such coordination of acts
-- i.e. what do we actually do??
A bit later on you also said "'shared' culture" -- using the term
SHARED within quotation marks --which I take means you are not quite
sure that we "share" culture or that culture is shareable?? Can we take
"culture" to mean something like "common denominator" -- (even though it
is not a given but a historical construct of a group of people). Looking
from outside, as you say, we can distinguish different groups of people
by different languages they use - not in Derrida's sense, but much
cruder: English, French, Russian, Spanish etc. Maybe we can say that the
thickest and longest ropes shape these "common denominators", or at
least delimit the possibilities of variation??

There are so many other questions which I will leave for some other time.

Jay Lemke wrote:
> At Mike request, and after too long an absence, here are some thoughts
> on a recent thread:
> [xmca] Interweaving and intersubjectivity
> Went back to have a look at the interweaving themes. Of course the
> discourse of xmca is also just such a rope, each strand lasts a while,
> but others pick up bits of its thread and continue them in slightly
> different directions, while the whole bundle, seen over longer
> timescales, continues, and is stronger for being built of many voices,
> many threads, many principles of continuity.
> Discourse theory has long used such principles to understand the
> cohesion and coherence of texts over scales much longer than a single
> clause or sentence (which is held together mostly by grammatical
> relations, like actor-action-affected). Texts, too, develop for a
> while some semantic relationships among themes, then shift to others,
> then resume earlier ones in new contexts with new connections. I once
> wrote a paper about this in which I pointed out how rarely ALL the
> threads come together in the same sentence or even paragraph (or
> extended utterance by a teacher), and the importance of those moments
> of synthesis ... but also how normal speaking and reading get by
> without them, reconstructing the full pattern of connections from the
> bits and pieces, the strands and their transient but recurrent
> connections, that are found all through the text or discourse.
> The connection to intersubjectivity I think comes, as others have
> noted, from the nature of dialogue. On the short scale, yes, we have
> exchange pairs or cross-turn speech acts, where meaning is made by the
> whole set (e.g. question-answer-evaluation). But these units in turn
> are the strands or threads out of which something bigger is being
> woven. Many somethings, some much bigger. An episode of thematically
> coherent talk, but also a longer conversation, several personal
> identities, multiple continuing agendas and projects of the
> parties-to-talk, and some portion of their lives, their
> biographies-over-time. And with this, some portion of the history of
> their community and its culture.
> Bigger ropes are woven of shorter strands of littler ropes, which are
> woven of still shorter strands of still smaller threads, etc. It's the
> ropey view of what I call integration across timescales (in my MCA
> article of 2000).
> Now let's see this in terms of the constitution of intersubjectivity.
> It happens I just reviewed a manuscript for a journal (not MCA)
> dealing with intersubjectivity, and I wrote that the author/s really
> should pay more attention to Rommetveit. Then here comes Mike,
> clairvoyant as ever, telling me I'd been mentioned Tamara in just this
> connection.
> We agree, I think, that intersubjectivity can't mean just agreement,
> or even a process, an activity of coming to agreement. It has to mean
> that we find ourselves able to inter-coordinate our actions and
> discourse because, whether we agree or not, we can inter-calibrate the
> actional and semantic relationships between what we do/say. Maybe that
> means we share a 'frame', though I doubt it. I don't think it implies
> that we share anything, i.e. that anything is exactly the same for
> both, or all, of us. It implies that we can each make sense of what
> the others are doing/saying in a way that makes their contributions
> "weavable" into a bigger rope along with our own. We may each weave
> that rope differently, but we find that as we continue to act, we can
> continue also to keep the rope going. And maybe it even gets easier.
> Ropes are much easier to keep going because they depend for their
> continuity only on having SOME POSSIBLE bases for linking strands, for
> retrospectively construing a piece-wise continuity of meaningfulness.
> ('Piecewise' is a nice mathematician's way of talking about this.)
> Of course with all this open-endedness, my rope and your rope may
> diverge and we find ourselves less and less able to continue to
> co-ordinate our actions and meanings in ways we find satisfactory.
> 'Communication' or cooperation "breaks down". As in fact it often
> does. Sometimes we "repair" it, and sometimes not. IF we manage to
> keep our jointly constructed rope going, then from the outside people
> can say that we are sharing its principles of continuity, that we are
> participating in and reproducing the categories of our "shared" culture.
> And of course we are all always already part of many larger, longer
> ropes, into which we embed this local rope of now-time intersubjective
> coordination, and insofar as we are sustaining the continuities of
> these bigger ropes (ongoing 'contexts'), we are NOT allowing ourselves
> ALL the possible principles of connection and continuity, and so we
> are less likely to diverge, better able to repair. Unless of course we
> are long-term weavers of very different ropes, our lives and choices
> conditioned by very different 'cultural' assumptions, categories,
> principles of meaning and value. Then it's harder. Then it takes more
> time. It's a matter of degree.
> How many of us have ever actually unraveled a rope, and been amazed to
> find that it's made of so many, much shorter strands? The ropes of our
> data, the ropes of our lives.
> JAY.
> Jay Lemke
> Professor
> University of Michigan
> School of Education
> 610 East University
> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> Tel. 734-763-9276
> Email.
> Website. <>
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

Ana Marjanovic'-Shane,Ph.D.

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Philadelphia, PA 19144

Home office: (215) 843-2909

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