Re: [xmca] Emotion at Work

From: Phil Chappell <philchappell who-is-at>
Date: Mon Aug 06 2007 - 04:12:52 PDT

Jstor requires a subscription, Peter. I've attached the paper (small
file size) for those interested.


On 06/08/2007, at 7:58 PM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:

> And JSTOR's got the Gillen paper at
> %3E2.0.C
> O%3B2-M
> p
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:xmca-
>] On
> Behalf Of Emily Duvall
> Sent: Sunday, August 05, 2007 9:59 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Emotion at Work
> In finishing up my dissertation, I ended up back at the Helsinki site
> and then moving forward from there. Back to in
> fact... :-)
> Theses on Feuerbach gets richer in light of new readings... excuse the
> pun.... and trying to work through material. One of my advisor's
> always
> cautioned that one be aware of versions of versions of versions. Worth
> going to the sources. Gillen (2000) does a nice piece on “Versions of
> Vygotsky”, British Journal of Educational Studies, 48(2), pp.183-198,
> discussing issues of translation and true authorship of works
> printed in
> the name of Vygotsky, but I digress.
> In terms of activity theory, there was also a nice series in the
> Journal
> of Russian and East European Psychology, May-June, 2004 volume, which
> includes, among others : Mikhailov, “Object-Oriented Activity –
> Whose?”,
> pp.6-34; Lazarev, “The Crisis of “the Activity Approach” in Psychology
> and Possible Ways to Overcome It”, 35-58; Gromyko, “The Activity
> Approach: New Lines of Research”, pp. 59-71; Rozin, “Value Foundations
> of Conceptions of Activity in Psychology and Contemporary
> Methodology”,
> pp72-89.
> Dot Robbins' work has been another great source for me
> ( She had done some nice
> work differentiating between Vygotsky's cultural and historical
> approach, activity theory/ies, and sociocultural theory/ies. I like
> her
> view that Vygotsky's work is more a metatheory.
> Yeah...everything is filtered through my dissertation these days. Hope
> this wasn't too far off.
> Andy Blunden wrote:
>> Wow! That's a classic article, Mike. Somehow I've gone all these
>> years
>> without reading it. I don't think I was aware of how deeply Engstrom
>> embedded conflict in his idea of "system of activity"; "contradiction
>> between use-value and exchange value" can sound a little dry until
>> you
>> realise that this is just the conflict that Helena was referring to,
>> viz., class interests!
>> This still leaves open a few questions for me:
>> 1. Why does this seem "cold" especially when we see how
>> conflict-ridden is Leontyev and Engstrom's original idea?
>> 2. I can see how "systems of activity" arise objectively out of
>> contradictions or relations in an existing system of activity, by a
>> process of differentiation, but what is the criterion for claiming
>> something to be a "system" of activity, rather than just an activity?
>> 3. If we can trace the source of negative emotions connected to
>> learning, in conflict, what is the place of positive emotions, or are
>> emotions simply epiphenomena from the standpoint of learning?
>> Andy
>> At 11:01 AM 5/08/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>>> As I think is true for everyone who has been following this
>>> thread, I
>>> found
>>> helena's summaries and commentaries
>>> extremely thought provoking. Whenever we dig deep into a topic,
>>> as in
>>> this
>>> case, my overwhelming impulse is
>>> to feel as if I have to go back to the beginning and rethink
>>> everything, and
>>> then I panic because I will not have time
>>> to do so, and then I start plotting to teach a class "from the
>>> beginning"
>>> and then THAT becomes too complicated
>>> to arrange, and then I start looking for shortcuts.
>>> In what follows I am not following the emotion line of discussion
>>> although I
>>> believe, along with others here as I interpreted
>>> them, that we all believe emotion to be deeply implicated in
>>> learning/work/earning a living/....... My only thought is that
>>> I want to remember moments of positive emotion, as illustrated in
>>> the
>>> article and many places, and not restrict emotion
>>> to the consequences of conflict. I don't thinks michael r does this,
>>> but in
>>> a couple of the posts, the times of intense
>>> positive emotion experienced might get submerged.
>>> Rather, I think as I read through some dozen+ messages that the
>>> terms
>>> "activity" and "activity system" are floating around
>>> in ways that leave me confused, at times, to whether and when
>>> people are
>>> agreeomg, elaborating, or talking about different
>>> things.
>>> I started stumbling over the "making a living" "vs" "commercial
>>> fishery
>>> production" as different activity systems. There seems
>>> to me to be something incommensurate, in time scale, in what we
>>> could
>>> mean
>>> by "motive", "need" or "object" these vastly
>>> different enterprises. The relations can't, it seems to me, be
>>> seen as
>>> activity 1<-->activity2 etc, but perhaps, I was thinking
>>> in terms of embedding, where "fish farming" is one of many
>>> historically
>>> accumulated ensemble of activities that, as an ensemble,
>>> constitute "making a living" for the social group or the socium in
>>> general.
>>> Following this line of thought, I was led backward in my thinking to
>>> Yrjo's
>>> philosophical anthropology of the evolution from animal
>>> to human activity, where human activity is vastly more
>>> differentiated
>>> (in
>>> his representation of it) than animal activity.
>>> I have no great insights to offer here. For those who have never
>>> done
>>> so, it
>>> might be worthwhile looking at
>>> where this story is told in synoptic form and the issue of division
>>> of labor
>>> and class come up as well.
>>> Thanks a lot for the stimulus to re-education, all.
>>> mike
>>> On 8/5/07, Steve Gabosch <> wrote:
>>>> Many aspects of the situation Wolff-Michael
>>>> describes in the fish hatchery with Erin and Jack
>>>> - layoffs, new management, new policies,
>>>> initiative from workers ignored, solidarity among
>>>> workers, negative attitudes, arguments with
>>>> management, budget cuts, threats of job cuts -
>>>> remind me of hundreds of similar situations I
>>>> have experienced in the aircraft manufacturing
>>>> plants I worked at for many years, and just
>>>> retired from (yea!!). A complex work
>>>> environment like a fish hatchery or a mega
>>>> manufacturing company tends to exaggerate the
>>>> dynamics and contradictions of everyday activity
>>>> - the class conflicts in particular between
>>>> people are more pronounced and expressed in more
>>>> specific ways in a larger production oriented
>>>> workplace than is typically found in a shopping
>>>> mall, neighborhood, or even a school, where
>>>> conflicting needs and motives between and within
>>>> people are always there but tend to be more
>>>> smoothed over and less obvious. As Helena
>>>> indicates, in workplaces, especially if there is
>>>> open activity supporting workers (organizing a
>>>> union, getting a better contract, fighting for
>>>> better working conditions, opposing
>>>> discrimination), deeper social questions rise to
>>>> the surface and can become explicit. And it most
>>>> certainly is a world of many emotions, emotional
>>>> payoffs, varying emotional payoffs, which is
>>>> Wolff-Michael's most important point - emotions are very much at
>>> work at
>>>> work.
>>>> A way I try to make sense of the zillion
>>>> conflicts between people that can be observed in
>>>> a large factory or any work environment is to try
>>>> to get a handle on what a person's concrete needs
>>>> and motives are. There is usually much more
>>>> going on than meets the eye. Sometimes, even the
>>>> persons involved are not fully aware of (able to
>>>> fully articulate verbally) the multiple needs and
>>>> motives that are driving them and the people
>>>> around them. Helena points to a very common
>>>> conflict, between participating in production and
>>>> earning a living - layoff situations. During a
>>>> layoff, as with Erin, the relationship between
>>>> these two activities becomes problematic. I have
>>>> sure seen that many times! I have been through
>>>> several waves of massive layoffs at Boeing, which
>>>> tends to have a cyclical production cycle, and
>>>> emotions certainly do run high on the job during
>>>> these very difficult situations.
>>>> Safety issues are another arena where
>>>> "participating in production" can conflict with
>>>> worker's self-interests. Although people are not
>>>> necessarily fully conscious of it, these issues
>>>> get resolved almost minute to minute in dynamic
>>>> ways, sometimes resolved by choosing to get
>>>> something fixed or changed, generating potential
>>>> conflicts with supervision, sometimes resolved by
>>>> working around or through the safety or health
>>>> issue, perhaps just accepting the wear and tear
>>>> on one's body and taking other little
>>>> risks. These issues can hide beneath the surface
>>>> for a while and then break out more dramatically
>>>> when someone gets hurt or something otherwise
>>>> goes wrong (and then the fingerpointing begins,
>>>> where needs and motives may get openly
>>>> debated). Helena alludes to this when she
>>>> points out how safety questions, especially
>>>> incidents and near misses, are really good ways
>>>> to get people to talk about their jobs. Part of
>>>> what makes these stories so interesting is the
>>>> way they reveal conflicting needs and motives,
>>>> between labor and management, between different
>>>> workers with different tasks, between a worker and herself or
>>>> himself.
>>>> Another area of conflicting motives and needs I
>>>> have seen over the years: during union activity
>>>> that could result in a strike, solidarity can
>>>> come into conflict with earning a living. Some
>>>> contemplate crossing a picket line, a
>>>> particularly dramatic example of dealing with
>>>> conflicting motives in a work situation - and one
>>>> with consequences that are likely to generate
>>>> very tense emotional valences, sometimes for a long time after.
>>>> - Steve
>>>> At 07:17 PM 8/4/2007 -0500, you wrote:
>>>>> Andy --
>>>>> Almost. It's not the *key* fact about emotion.
>>>>> However, when there is conflict between the
>>>>> bottom line and the attempt to earn a living,
>>>>> that conflict shapes the knowledge that people
>>>>> bring to bear on resolving the conflict.
>>>>> Sometimes there is no conflict. Either way, the
>>>>> kind of knowledge that people develop in order
>>>>> to survive and protect or improve their jobs is
>>>>> emotionally charged, and that emotion can be
>>>>> seen to have been shaped by the social relations of their work.
>>>>> Take symphony orchestra players -- for example,
>>>>> the Milwaukee symphony. They organized a union
>>>>> (based on the example of the Chicago symphony)
>>>>> back in the 1970's or earlier. When they started
>>>>> bargaining, the job of a symphony musician was a
>>>>> terrible job. (To check out what a "bad" job for
>>>>> performers is, take a look at the Washington DC
>>>>> ballet.) Over the course of 30 years, the
>>>>> Milwaukee job has become better and better. The
>>>>> musicians have a considerable amount of power --
>>>>> over the choice of program, the hiring of a
>>>>> conductor, the hiring of new musicians, loans
>>>>> for instruments, conditions while touring, etc.
>>>>> Whether the city can afford the good working
>>>>> conditions is another question. Negotiating an
>>>>> incrementally better contract year after year
>>>>> takes knowledge. That knowledge has an emotional
>>>>> valence, positive valence -- to use Wolff-Michael's terms.
>>>>> At the other extreme, remember the Sago mine
>>>>> tragedy? There was one survivor. While he was in
>>>>> a coma, his wife was interviewed on television.
>>>>> She described how she and her husband had talked
>>>>> about how dangerous the mine was. The problem
>>>>> was that if he left the mine, she'd have to go
>>>>> to work, and there was no job she could get that
>>>>> would pay enough to support them and cover
>>>>> childcare. The actual level of danger, the
>>>>> immediacy of the danger, was unknown to them,
>>>>> although that information existed. This was a
>>>>> mine that had been closed but reopened when the
>>>>> price of gas rose and coal became economically
>>>>> viable. It was a non-union mine. The calculation
>>>>> that she and her husband made about his
>>>>> likelihood of surviving his job was deeply
>>>>> fatalistic. This is a case where someone knew he
>>>>> was engaging in very dangerous work but just
>>>>> went ahead and did it because he felt he had no other choice.
>>>>> People do work all the time that exposes them to
>>>>> risks, and they know it, and sometimes they know
>>>>> how to do something about it and sometimes they
>>>>> just shrug their shoulders and say, "I can't do anything about
>>>>> it."
>>>>> This body of knowledge about how to survive a
>>>>> job, and how to protect or improve it, is common
>>>>> across all kinds of work. Symphony musicians can
>>>>> talk to grocery clerks can talk to social
>>>>> workers can talk to prison guards can talk to
>>>>> teachers about what they know about it. The
>>>>> emotions are all over the map, depending on
>>>>> their job, but the knowledge is something they have in common.
>>>>> Helena Worthen
>>>>> NEW EMAIL:
>>>>> Chicago Labor Education Program
>>>>> Suite 110 The Rice Building
>>>>> 815 West Van Buren Street
>>>>> Chicago, IL 60607
>>>>> 312-996-8733
>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>> From:
>>>>> [] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
>>>>> Sent: Saturday, August 04, 2007 1:39 AM
>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>> Subject: RE: [xmca] Emotion at Work
>>>>> That's fascinating Helena. I feel I've got to know you for the
>>>>> first
>>>> time.
>>>>> Thank you.
>>>>> Just to clarify: you are saying that conflict (interpreted as
>>> conflict
>>>>> between activity systems, endowing actions with conflicted
>>> motivations,
>>>>> significance, etc.) is *the key* fact about emotion. yes? Would
>>> you go
>>>> any
>>>>> further than this? Or is this too narrow?
>>>>> Andy
>>>>> At 07:04 PM 3/08/2007 -0500, you wrote:
>>>>>> Hello -- I'll try to respond to Wolff-Michael, Andy and Paul all
>>>> together,
>>>>>> since all three are picking up on my claim that two, not one
>>> activity
>>>>>> systems are taking place in the fish hatchery where the
>>> employees that
>>>>>> Wolf-Michael observed are working. I especially want to reply to
>>> Andy's
>>>>>> question, "If someone were to deny that, say, earning and living
>>> and
>>>>>> producing a product, were two different activity systems, how
>>> would you
>>>> go
>>>>>> about justifying that?"
>>>>>> It has to do with what you're trying to do, what you need the
>>> theory to
>>>> be
>>>>>> able to show or explain.
>>>>>> Wolff-Michael's discussion article is an effort to enrich and
>>> expand
>>>> the
>>>>>> theory itself, and I thank him for doing that. He is writing "as
>>> part
>>>> of
>>>>>> an effort to develop third-generation-historical activity
>>> theory," and
>>>> to
>>>>>> incorporate emotion, motivation and identity into that theory.
>>> If you
>>>>>> picture his audience, he's speaking to other researchers and the
>>>> academic
>>>>>> community generally. His data contributes to this effort.
>>>>>> I'm dealing with a different problem. I'm trying to explain
>>> something
>>>> that
>>>>>> is going on in my classes. However, I can't do it without ALSO
>>>> speaking
>>>>>> to the same audience as Wolff-Michael and engaging with theory.
>>> This is
>>>>>> because theory is an indispensable tool for successful practice.
>>> But
>>>> I'm
>>>>>> trying to answer the question, "How do we explain the intense
>>> emotion
>>>> with
>>>>>> which the learning produced at work is charged?"
>>>>>> In my job as a labor educator for the University of Illinois, I
>>> teach
>>>>>> people about work from the point of view of workers. This means
>>>> everything
>>>>>> from labor history, labor law, basics of representation and
>>> bargaining
>>>> to
>>>>>> job design, including safety. Just as in any teaching, I have to
>>> find
>>>> out
>>>>>> what my students, most of whom are working adults, already
>>>>>> know in
>>>> order
>>>>>> to figure out how and what to teach them. This is axiomatic in
>>> teaching
>>>>>> kids and undergraduates -- you build on prior knowledge,
>>>>>> right? But
>>>> when I
>>>>>> start to investigate what my adult students know, I find it
>>>>>> charged
>>>> with
>>>>>> strong -- sometimes extreme -- emotion. It has other
>>> characteristics as
>>>>>> well, but the one that surfaces immediately in the classroom is
>>> this
>>>>>> emotion. It can run the gamut from despair to pride to
>>>>>> gratitude to
>>>>>> bitterness. Whatever it is, that's what a teacher has to build
>>> on. For
>>>> my
>>>>>> practice as a teacher, I need theory that can account for
>>>>>> this. As
>>>>>> Wolff-Michael shows, this emotion is integral to the cognitive
>>> activity
>>>>>> going on. The cognitive activity is not "cool," it's hot. Where
>>> does
>>>> this
>>>>>> emotion come from? Thus my investment in seeing CHAT developed to
>>>> account
>>>>>> for emotion.
>>>>>> Sociocultural learning theory generally assumes that social
>>> context has
>>>> a
>>>>>> powerful, if not fully determinative impact on learning. The
>>> Engestrom
>>>>>> model -- the famous triangle -- gives us a representation of
>>> what we
>>>> mean
>>>>>> by "social context." Andy, since you ask about "unit of
>>> analysis," I'll
>>>>>> respond by saying that I'm happy with the concept of "unit of
>>> analysis"
>>>>>> and furthermore, I like Engestrom's model as an image of the
>>> unit of
>>>>>> analysis of an activity system. It's a concise way to visualize
>>> all the
>>>>>> things you have to think about when you ask, of a situation,
>>> "What's
>>>> going
>>>>>> on here?" or of a person or group of people, "What are they doing
>>>> here?"
>>>>>> The Engestrom model leads me to ask, "What's the nature of the
>>> division
>>>> of
>>>>>> labor that I'm looking at?" "Who is the community out of which
>>> these
>>>>>> people have been selected?" "What are the history, the
>>> traditions, the
>>>>>> customs, the rules of this activity?" "What are they using --
>>>>>> what
>>>>>> material or cultural tools, what resources or equipment?" and
>>>>>> most
>>>>>> important, "Why are they doing what they're doing?"
>>>>>> One of the things you can do with that model is talk about how it
>>>>>> transforms and expands, moves via contradictions from one
>>> activity to
>>>>>> another, is part of a network of activity systems or is nested
>>> in other
>>>>>> activity systems (I'm looking at Engestrom 1987 Figure 2.11 and
>>> 2.12,
>>>>>> here). All I've done is place one activity system opposite
>>>>>> another
>>>>>> activity system to represent that there is a conflict between
>>> the two
>>>>>> activity systems. One is the activity system of production, the
>>> other
>>>> is
>>>>>> the activity system of earning a living.
>>>>>> This is the image I propose to represent the difference
>>>>>> between the
>>>> kind
>>>>>> of learning activity that workers engage in when learning how to
>>> do the
>>>>>> work they are hired to do, as opposed to the kind of learning
>>> activity
>>>>>> that workers engage in when they are learning how to survive at
>>> their
>>>> job
>>>>>> or how to protect or improve their working conditions. These two
>>>> activity
>>>>>> systems are driven by different motives. Sometimes there is no
>>> conflict
>>>>>> between them but sometimes the conflict is extreme. Either way,
>>> we need
>>>> to
>>>>>> be able to theorize what's going on. Either way, the social
>>>> relationships
>>>>>> of those activity systems impact the learning activity and leave
>>> their
>>>>>> mark on it. It seems reasonable to me that that is where the
>>> emotion
>>>> comes
>>>>>> from.
>>>>>> Other major theories of learning do not have the potential to be
>>>> developed
>>>>>> in this direction. Some theories of learning are individual
>>> (Kolb). But
>>>>>> even among theories that treat learning as a collective activity
>>>>>> -- distributed cognition, legitimate peripheral participation,
>>>>>> communities of practice, human capital theory -- we don't hear
>>> about
>>>>>> conflict. Sometimes this doesn't matter. When we're talking about
>>>> school
>>>>>> learning or informal learning such as second language acquisition
>>>> outside
>>>>>> school, we may not need to be able to talk about the conflicting
>>>> purposes
>>>>>> of the site where the learning is being produced. But if we're
>>> talking
>>>>>> about working adults (of whom there are a lot), we do need to be
>>> able
>>>> to
>>>>>> surface the reality that what people learn in order to meet the
>>> demands
>>>> of
>>>>>> production is sometimes in conflict with what people learn in
>>> order to
>>>>>> survive their jobs, and that this conflict generates emotions
>>> which, as
>>>>>> Wolff-Michael puts it, "are integral to the cognitive activity."
>>>>>> The easiest stories to elicit from students that illustrate this
>>>> conflict
>>>>>> are stories about safety incidents -- accidents, near misses,
>>>>>> etc.
>>>>>> Helena
>>>>>> Helena Worthen
>>>>>> NEW EMAIL:
>>>>>> Chicago Labor Education Program
>>>>>> Suite 110 The Rice Building
>>>>>> 815 West Van Buren Street
>>>>>> Chicago, IL 60607
>>>>>> 312-996-8733
>>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>>> From:
>>> []
>>>> On
>>>>>> Behalf Of Paul Dillon
>>>>>> Sent: Friday, August 03, 2007 5:56 AM
>>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Emotion at Work
>>>>>> Helena,
>>>>>> As I read your comments I found the first activity system
>>>>>> described/named but not the second except insofar as you
>>> identified
>>>> it's
>>>>>> object: making a living, which you contrasted to the object of
>>>>>> the
>>>> first
>>>>>> activity system: being a fish culturist. But the first activity
>>>> system,
>>>>>> the focus of the discussion paper, was also clearly identified in
>>>> other
>>>>>> activity theoretic categories in your comments. Perhaps
>>> Wollf-Michael
>>>> is
>>>>>> right in saying there is only one activity system. But if we,
>>>> adopting
>>>>>> Marx's categories as Engestrom applied them, consider that the
>>>> use-value
>>>>>> of being a fish-culturist is doing the best job and getting the
>>>> biggest
>>>>>> and healthiest fish as a member of the entire team, while the
>>>>>> exchange-value of that job is for each member of the system
>>> "making a
>>>>>> living", the fundamental condition of wage labor, is the problem
>>>>>> resolved? I don't remember any analysis of the contradictions
>>>>>> between use value and exchange value of the fish culturist's
>>>>>> labor
>>>> in
>>>>>> the paper.
>>>>>> Not too sure about this expanding power stuff either.
>>>>>> I don't know if Engestrom has changed his position about the
>>>>>> contradictions between use and exchange value in activity
>>> systems but
>>>>>> perhaps that would account for your concern which seems to be
>>>> addressing
>>>>>> the class character of all labor in capitalist economies. Our
>>> ability
>>>> to
>>>>>> participate in "this or that activity" is a function of the
>>> market for
>>>>>> the labor commodity, no matter how skilled. Certainly,when one
>>> does
>>>> the
>>>>>> best job they can but still gets laid off, frustration and
>>> resentment
>>>>>> arise. I'm not sure whether the term "wage-laborer", someone
>>> who haas
>>>> to
>>>>>> "make a living", as opposed to someone who inherited a lot of
>>> money
>>>> for
>>>>>> example, is a category of a specific activity system or one of
>>>>>> the
>>>>>> principles of all activity systems in capitalist economies. The
>>>> latter
>>>>>> is how I understand Engestrom when he evaluates how ithis
>>>> contradiction
>>>>>> works itself out in the different vertices.
>>>>>> As far as production, distribution, exchange, consumption in the
>>>>>> Grundrisse, Marx's analysis in that work showed how production
>>>>>> was
>>>>>> determinant of the of the others despite their ability to be
>>> analyzed
>>>> in
>>>>>> terms of each other. Hence commodity production as determines the
>>>>>> specific characteristics of the other elements of the economic
>>> system
>>>> as
>>>>>> a whole.
>>>>>> Paul Dillon
>>>>>> Wolff-Michael Roth <> wrote:
>>>>>> Hi Helena,
>>>>>> I am sure all appreciate your extensive comments as much as I
>>> do. The
>>>>>> one question I have is about the two activity systems and how
>>> you see
>>>>>> them as operating in the hatchery.
>>>>>> I think if you took Marx's Capital, or perhaps rather Klaus
>>>>>> Holzkamp's extension of Leont'ev, you would think of one rather
>>> than
>>>>>> of two systems. As individuals, we expand our own room to
>>> maneuver---
>>>>>> control over our life situation---if we contribute to the
>>> collective
>>>>>> control over life conditions. By participating in this or that
>>>>>> activity (Tätigkeit, deyatel'nost'), we expand our person
>>> control---
>>>>>> we buy food, clothing, a roof over our head, etc.
>>>>>> Now you COULD see it as two systems, but the second would be an
>>>>>> integral and constitutive part of the first, just as Yrjö (1987)
>>>>>> cites the GRUNDRISSE, where Marx writes how production can be
>>>>>> analyzed in terms of consumption, exchange, distribution, and
>>>>>> production; and each of these terms in turn can be analyzed in
>>> terms
>>>>>> of production, consumption, distribution, and exchange. Thus
>>>>>> productive activity, such as working in a fish hatchery, involves
>>>>>> exchange processes---but whether these constitute activity
>>>>>> (Tätigkeit, deyatel'nost') is another question, which is answered
>>>>>> when you ask, so what is societal about this?
>>>>>> Thanks again for your careful reading,
>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>> On 1-Aug-07, at 9:20 AM, Helena Harlow Worthen wrote:
>>>>>> Hello, xmca --
>>>>>> I hope this response is not too late to re-engage in the
>>>>>> discussion
>>>>>> of Wolf-Michael's paper "Emotion at Work." It always seems to
>>> take me
>>>>>> a while to work my way through a paper. By the time I get
>>> through it,
>>>>>> and then read through the discussion, the discussion has
>>>>>> started to
>>>>>> fade. In addition, I tend to write pretty long responses
>>>>>> because I
>>>>>> come to these discussions as a labor educator and therefore
>>> imagine,
>>>>>> rightly or wrongly, that I have to load up my contribution with
>>> some
>>>>>> explicit explanations. So apologies for the long post and the
>>>>>> late
>>>>>> contribution, but I'm very interested in hearing anyone's reply.
>>>>>> Helena Worthen
>>>>>> Comments on Wolf-Michael Roth's paper, Emotion at Work (MCA14,
>>>>>> 1-2)
>>>>>> Wolf-Michael follows the work experience of two employees at a
>>>>>> federal fish hatchery in Canada over a period of five years,
>>>>>> with a
>>>>>> return visit one year after the five-year period. In this
>>> article, he
>>>>>> is concerned with investigating the relationship between
>>> emotions and
>>>>>> motivation and identity for the purpose of incorporating these
>>>>>> into
>>>>>> activity theory, which he says has tended toward being a
>>>>>> theory of
>>>>>> "cold cognition." He compares the emotions, motivation and work
>>>>>> identities of two employees, Erin and Jack, to show how their
>>>>>> feelings about their work relate to their motivation and
>>>>>> identity -
>>>>>> or more specifically, how their emotions about their expertise at
>>>>>> work and the degree to which it is valued in the workplace affect
>>>>>> their motivation to do their work and consequently, their
>>> identity as
>>>>>> workers.
>>>>>> Bringing emotion into the discussion of the production of
>>>>>> knowledge
>>>>>> at work is very important, and this ethnographic study provides
>>>>>> plenty of material. As someone whose job (labor education)
>>>>>> consists
>>>>>> of teaching employees about the social relations of employment
>>>>>> from
>>>>>> the perspective of workers, I appreciate attempts to approach the
>>>>>> profoundly important question of how people feel about what they
>>> know
>>>>>> and how this affects what they learn on the one hand and what
>>> they do
>>>>>> with what they know on the other hand. Since learning goes on
>>> all the
>>>>>> time at work, and since the success or failure of both workers
>>>>>> and
>>>>>> workplaces is tightly related to what is learned and what is done
>>>>>> with that knowledge, this is a question of general interest to
>>>>>> both
>>>>>> employees and management.
>>>>>> However, I would argue that Wolf-Michael's study would benefit
>>> from a
>>>>>> step which would have to be taken early in the analysis. I would
>>> like
>>>>>> to see the comparison of the emotional valence of Erin and Jack's
>>>>>> deployment of their expertise framed in terms of not one activity
>>>>>> system but two. First is the activity system of production and
>>> second
>>>>>> is the activity system of earning a living. Through the
>>>>>> division of
>>>>>> labor of the first system, Jack and Erin are fish culturists,
>>> engaged
>>>>>> in fish feeding, ordering feed, cleaning the fishpond and other
>>>>>> actions that contribute to the overall activity of fish hatching
>>> (p.
>>>>>> 45). In this first system, their goal-directed actions are
>>> consistent
>>>>>> with the collective motive of the hatchery: hatching fish. But
>>>>>> through the division of labor of the second, they are
>>>>>> employees who
>>>>>> are trying to earn a living. Not always, but sometimes, these two
>>>>>> activity systems conflict, with resulting tensions between the
>>>>>> emotions, motivations and identities associated with them. Wolf-
>>>>>> Michael notes that Jack and Erin could be doing the same actions
>>> in a
>>>>>> backyard fish pond, where they would also be engaged in a
>>>>>> different
>>>>>> activity system (motivated by recreation, not production or
>>> earning a
>>>>>> living), but he doesn't distinguish between the two activity
>>> systems
>>>>>> that are taking place at the workplace - fish hatching and
>>> earning a
>>>>>> living.
>>>>>> For example: Wolf-Michael's description of Erin's voice pitch as
>>> she
>>>>>> analyses the computer generated plot of fish length and weight
>>>>>> (rising pitch, positive valence of emotion) is taken from a
>>>>>> moment
>>>>>> when she is talking about her work in the activity system of fish
>>>>>> hatching. He does not provide a description of her voice pitch
>>>>>> when
>>>>>> she is talking about the changes undertaken by the new
>>> management or
>>>>>> the impending layoffs, although he does report that at the time
>>> when
>>>>>> she is being laid off, the emotions expressed through voice
>>> pitch (p.
>>>>>> 50) are wider in range and there are "many more emotional
>>>>>> outbursts
>>>>>> with large differences" (p 52). I would have said here that we're
>>>>>> looking at the emotional tension between Erin's pride in her
>>>>>> expertise as a fish culturist and her anger as an employee at
>>>>>> being
>>>>>> laid off - one activity system (fish culturing) is going well
>>> and the
>>>>>> other (earning a living) is going badly. If we are looking at two
>>>>>> systems, we can understand why Erin, for example, might feel
>>>>>> proud
>>>>>> and committed with regard to her work as a fish culturist but
>>> anxious
>>>>>> and even bitter with regard to her job, and that these two
>>>>>> emotions
>>>>>> would be in tension with each other.
>>>>>> Similarly, Wolf-Michael's description of Jack's emotional state
>>> could
>>>>>> also benefit from being understood as the tension between being
>>>>>> engaged in two conflicting activity systems at once. Wolf-Michael
>>>>>> gives us more information about Jack. Although he is a gifted and
>>>>>> conscientious fish culturist who developed some original
>>> experiments
>>>>>> and did research that at first got some recognition, the
>>> hatchery is
>>>>>> now under the new management and support for his professional
>>>>>> development has evaporated. He is seeing doors of opportunity
>>>>>> closing. He's understandably angry and cuts back on his
>>> investment in
>>>>>> the fish hatchery beyond what he has to do to earn a living:
>>>>>> he re-
>>>>>> calibrates his commitment to being just an employee.
>>>>>> Separating out these two activity systems early in the analysis
>>>>>> allows us to see how the knowledge or expertise produced within
>>> each
>>>>>> of them becomes charged with emotional valence. Wolf-Michael
>>> proposes
>>>>>> "positive" and "negative" labels for this valence, which we might
>>>>>> expand by proposing pride, enthusiasm, elation, curiosity,
>>>>>> anxiety,
>>>>>> disappointment, fear, anger, bitterness, etc - some of these are
>>> Wolf-
>>>>>> Michael's. This separation would open the door in two directions.
>>>>>> In one direction we would look outward to the pressures on that
>>>>>> workplace from society which are typically transmitted through
>>>>>> management into a workplace. In the other direction we would
>>> look to
>>>>>> see the relationship between individual workers and the
>>> collective of
>>>>>> workers. Activity theory helps us hold these two perspectives
>>> steady
>>>>>> while we investigate what is going on in each of them.
>>>>>> Looking outward, in order to really understand the social
>>>>>> relationships of a workplace and thereby to interpret how people
>>> are
>>>>>> behaving and feeling, we need to be explicit about the industrial
>>>>>> relations system within which that workplace is operating. We
>>> need to
>>>>>> look closely at the concrete reality of the division of labor
>>>>>> that
>>>>>> has sorted some people into management, others into employees
>>> (or in
>>>>>> this case, two people into management, five into fish
>>>>>> culturalists,
>>>>>> two into maintenance/administrative assistant staff workers, and
>>>>>> perhaps thirty into seasonal employees). Looking inward, we
>>>>>> need to
>>>>>> understand what kind of solidarity (Michael's word in page 59,
>>>>>> although he notes it as something that "fuels invidiaul short-and
>>>>>> long-term emotional states") is available to the employees.
>>> These two
>>>>>> dimensions, both easily approached through activity theory, will
>>> give
>>>>>> us the concrete reality of the kind of control that the managers
>>> have
>>>>>> (or don't have) over the work done by Jack, Erin and the other
>>>>>> employees. How was this division of labor established and how
>>>>>> is it
>>>>>> maintained? What are its edges and limits? What are the
>>> resources of
>>>>>> the employees? The answers to these questions would provide the
>>>>>> framework, or matrix, within which the emotions that
>>> Wolf-Michael is
>>>>>> writing about are generated.
>>>>>> Wolf-Michael tells us a few things about the concrete social
>>>>>> relationships of the hatchery, so that we can extrapolate what is
>>>>>> probably going on. There are 18 federal fish hatcheries in this
>>>>>> province and this one employs 2 managers, 5 culturists, a
>>> maintenance
>>>>>> person and an administrative assistant, and up to 30 seasonal
>>> temps.
>>>>>> This means that there are not a lot of alternative jobs for fish
>>>>>> culturists (especially for one like Jack who has only a high
>>>>>> school
>>>>>> education) so that keeping one's job is very important. There is
>>> new
>>>>>> management and thus probably new employment practices on the
>>> agenda.
>>>>>> Costs are closely watched to the point of choosing what kind of
>>> feed
>>>>>> to give the fish and whether to drive 50 kilometers to exchange
>>> a set
>>>>>> of keys, and the survival of hatchery is always in question (p.
>>> 53).
>>>>>> We can't tell much more than this, except that "collectively,
>>>>>> then,
>>>>>> there was a sense that things were going from bad to worse" (p.
>>> 56).
>>>>>> It would help if we knew what the overall agenda of the new
>>>>>> management was with regard to budget and target number of
>>> employees;
>>>>>> that, after all, is the overarching framework of the social
>>>>>> relationships of the workplace which are being experienced by the
>>>>>> employees. If we were looking at this material as an activity
>>> system
>>>>>> in which managers were trying to manage a workplace during a
>>>>>> period
>>>>>> of budget cuts and downsizing, and employees were trying to
>>>>>> earn a
>>>>>> living and protect or improve working conditions (including job
>>>>>> security and earnings) at that same workplace, we could
>>>>>> understand
>>>>>> the emotional valence in which the knowledge of how to do these
>>>>>> complementary and conflicting activities becomes charged.
>>>>>> It's within the workforce, obviously, not between the two
>>>>>> managers,
>>>>>> that the "sense that things were going from bad to worse" is
>>>>>> generated. Wolf-Michael notes this: "Interactions with the new
>>>>>> managers were laden with conflict" (p. 57). We are now looking at
>>>>>> Jack as a member of the workforce, and Erin as a member of the
>>>>>> workforce - them as employees, not as fish culturists. Not
>>>>>> surprisingly, Jack - who as an older employee (he was in fact
>>>>>> once
>>>>>> Erin's mentor) has fewer options in case he is laid off -
>>> resorts to
>>>>>> his knowledge of how to behave as just an employee - not someone
>>> who,
>>>>>> as a fish culturist, gives 300%, but someone who as an employee
>>>>>> calculates how to invest the least effort for the highest
>>> return. He
>>>>>> works to rule and minimizes contact with the new management.
>>>>>> Finally, in the absence of making the distinction between the two
>>>>>> activity systems that are going among the workers at the fish
>>>>>> hatchery at the same time (hatching fish and earning a
>>>>>> living), we
>>>>>> have a hard time making sense of what we're reading on several
>>>>>> accounts. The fish hatchery is referred to as a "collective."
>>>>>> Although we are not told much about the collective solidarity of
>>> the
>>>>>> workforce, it sounds as if Jack is pretty isolated in his
>>> withdrawal
>>>>>> into work to rule. When we get to the final section on page 59
>>> where
>>>>>> Wolf-Michael is talking about the phenomenon of collective
>>>>>> emotion
>>>>>> and its connection to individual emotion,it sounds as if he's
>>> saying
>>>>>> that everyone who works at the fish hatchery, the new management
>>>>>> included, is part of the collective. I would argue that the
>>>>>> collective is not the whole hatchery including the new
>>>>>> management,
>>>>>> but that it's the employees for whom the hatchery is a way to
>>> earn a
>>>>>> living. This essence, which can be left in the background when
>>>>>> budgets are generous and jobs are secure, jumps into the
>>>>>> foregrand
>>>>>> during a period of layoffs and budget cuts, which is what is
>>>>>> happening in this fish hatchery.
>>>>>> Helena Worthen
>>>>>> University of Illinois Labor Education Program
>>>>>> Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>> ---------------------------------
>>>>>> Need a vacation? Get great deals to amazing places on Yahoo!
>>> Travel.
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380
>>>>> 9435,
>>>> AIM
>>>>> identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>> AIM identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> --
> He only earns his freedom and his life, who takes them every day by
> storm.
> -- Johann Wolfgang Goethe
> Emily Duvall
> Doctoral Candidate (ABD) / Graduate Assistant-Instructor
> Language and Literacy Education (LLED)
> Department of Curriculum and Instruction
> College of Education
> Penn State University
> 256 Chambers Bldg.
> University Park , PA 16802
> 814-861-3315 (home)
> 814-404-6175 (cell)
> 814-863-4511 (office)
> FAX: 814-863-7602
> email:
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

Received on Mon Aug 6 04:14 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Oct 08 2007 - 06:02:23 PDT