[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[xmca] The Differentiation of 'Cool'

Dear Katherine:
First of all, a very warm welcome. As you can see from Ulvi's letter, there's a lot of interest in your part of the world on this list.
For MY part, I'm interested in comics, particularly in the context of education. There's an extremely popular set of science comics here in Korea called 'Why?' (nobody really knows why the title is in English). They have so far consistently outsold Harry Potter books, and they are being translated into English. 
I have been reading them as part of an 'immersion' project I'm working on and I'm quite mystified. It's clear to me that the way they work is to make science 'cool', as Jay would say. It's also clear to me that the way they make science 'cool' is by differentiating the notion of 'cool' fairly carefully: fart jokes for younger kids, a little bit of sexual tension for the older kids, and of course lots of meaningless violence for all grade levels.
I'm not sneering at any of this; on the contrary. I strongly believe that what Vygotsky says about cognition really goes double for affect; kids have to differentiate lower level psychological functions from culturally mediated higher level ones, and the struggle for 'cool' is ultimately a struggle to subordinate the emotions of farts, sexual fear, and mindless violence to notions of 'face', companionship and justice. 
I can easily seeing this happening alongside the development of science concepts that I see in the 'Why?' comics. In particular, I can see it happening around the title question; there is a particular way in which Korean kids intone the word 'Why?' when they have been thumped or slapped which to me holds the key to both the cognitive and the affective differentiation of 'cool'? (It's a long whine, which means something like 'Why, in this world, do you start suffering the moment you go out the door?")
We showed a North Korean monster movie to one four year old, my former student's daughter, as part of a study we did on the differentiation of the moral and the purely aesthetic overtones of 'good' and 'bad' in Korean (which can mean both 'like/dislike' and 'just/unjust'). We asked her if she liked the metal-eating monster, and she said she liked him (though she said that if he started to eat all the spoons and chopsticks she would kick him out of the house). We asked if it was because he was cute, and she said, 'No, he's cool', wrinklig her nose as if to say that cute was uncool. 
So that's the bit I don't understand. Obviously, 'cool' is uncute, and 'cute' is uncool. And being cool has something to do with farts, fear of girl germs, and getting thumped a lot, all of which are cool and none of which are cute. But it also has something to do with self-regulation, self-possession, self-reliance, and moral autonomy, as well as the key moment, crucial to both moral and mental development, when children seize hold of conscious awareness. And somehow it has a lot to do with these otherwise very unprepossessing comic books. As the kids very properly say...
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?" (Why?)
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education 

--- On Wed, 7/8/09, Plakitsi Katerina <kplakits@cc.uoi.gr> wrote:

From: Plakitsi Katerina <kplakits@cc.uoi.gr>
Subject: [xmca] cartoons-comics in sociocultural context
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 7:03 AM

Dear colleagues,
do you know about any articles concerning the role of cartoons or comics in the sociocultural context? I would be grateful for your help.
Katerina Plakitsi
Assistant Professor of Science Education
Departement of Early Childhood Education
School of Education
University of Ioannina
tel. +302651095771
fax: +302651095842
mobile: +306972898463
e-mail: kplakits@cc.uoi.gr

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list