Re: [xmca] Streamed Discussion of Discussion of Development in CHAT theory

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Wed Nov 07 2007 - 16:27:32 PST

Dear Mike:
  Well, I do have a kind of write-up, now that you mention it. In fact, it was going to be the core of my Ph.D. project, but as you know I'm having some trouble with supervision. Right now though I'm trying to rejig it for publication SOMEWHERE (Three rejections and counting!). And now that you mention it I would also like to put together a video of some of the "interventionist" work we've been doing here in South Korea.
  None of it is very glamorous, I'm afraid; in fact, I think the unifying idea behind it is the fairly banal one that the zoped can be considered as a descriptive rather than a prescriptive device for further terrorizing teachers. Any place we have learning turning into development we should be able to find it, and so that would include some pretty drab activities (spontaneous play and highly deliberate researcher interventions but also the gamut of ept and even inept teaching intereventions in between).

  More of that anon (when I figure out what to actually DO about it). Today I'm thinking about the question of "Where's the activity?" and your point about Vygotsky's point about the difference between within-period and between-period development.
  I was thinking about the tendency in the recent "toolforthoughts" discussion to mix up tools and signs. Volosinov is quite clear on this (and it seems to me the influence of Volosinov on Vygotsky is undeniable on this evidence alone, although, as Bakhurst has pointed out, there is plenty of other evidence besides). A hammer is a tool, and so is a sickle, but a hammer and sickle is not a tool but a sign. If you cover a hammer with ornamental hammer-and-sickle signs, it is not the signs that will pound in nails, but the hammer.
  Let's assume that the transition from a predliction for tools to a preoccupation with signs is one of the things that happens in between-period development (e.g., the growth of a two-year old obsessed with toys into a five-year-old obsessed with make-believe). During the within-period development, we do find a good deal of change, and it can be neatly characterized as changes in activity.
  For example, some children begin playing with stuffed animals and go on to prefer mechanical robots. The two activities are different (and the parent will find that the expenses incurred are quantitatively different), but they are not qualitatively different. They both involve a primary preoccupation with the manipulation of objects.
  But the transition to make-believe is not so easily characterized as a change in activity. What was a central line of development (the accumulation of objects) has now become quite peripheral. And conversely, what was a peripheral line of development (the telling of stories about the objects) has now become quite central. To call both of these things "activities" is really to miss the key break.
  Let me give a rather far-fetched analogy that has to do with the less noteworthy tendency of adults to accumulate objects (books) and tell stories with them. Sometime in the nineteenth century, Russian writers began to write truly PSYCHOLOGICAL novels (the Germans had written Gothic novels, including some in which not everybody could see the ghost, but Dostoevsky and Tolstoy were really up to something quite different, because not even Ivan Karamazov or Anna Karenina saw ghosts...).
  How did this qualitative change in the novel come about? (That is, how did the ghost of the German Gothic novel become COMPLETELY internalized as a purely PSYCHOLOGICAL, and thus quite paradoxically realist, art form). Volosinov says that the rise of the "superfluous man" (Raskolnikov and even Anna) in Russian literature, a character who does little except talk and think for most of the book, is not a pure reaction to the fall of the gentry. Nor can it be understood as a sudden, inexplicable stylistic device, connected with the sudden discovery of quasi direct discourse in Russian.
  We can only understand the sudden appearance of Oblomov and all the rest in the context of a restructuring of the novel as a whole, which comes about in connection with a restructuring of the field of literature (which was indeed part of the general upheaval going on in society, but only a part).
  During this literary revolution, the restructuring of the novel as a whole determined the changes we find in the various parts, rather than vice versa (it is not the VERSE in Eugene Onegin which determines Pushkin's use of quasi-direct discourse to convey Lensky's thoughts but rather the story, or rather the lack of a story).
  Shortcuts (e.g. the freeing of the serfs led in a direct way to "Dead Souls", and Napoleon's invasion of Russia was the stimulus to which Tolstoy's "War and Peace" was the automatic response) will only lead to vulgar determinism that cannot explain the qualitative "breaking away" of one paradigm from another. I really think the same thing is true of a mechanistic view of the relationship between the social situation of learning and the transition from tools (toys) to signs (make-believe).
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education
  PS: Here's some Alison Wray that I've enjoyed:
  Wray, A. 2000. Formulaic sequences in second language teaching: principles and practice, Applied Linguistics, 21/4: 463-89.
  Wray, A. 2002a. Conceptualizing transition, in A. Wray (ed.): The Transition to Language, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  Wray. A. 2002b. Formulaic language in computer-supported communication: theory meets reality, Language Awareness. 11/2: 114-131.

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Received on Wed Nov 7 16:29 PST 2007

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