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Re: [xmca] Dialogue on Concepts Part 1 Released!

I have three pieces of very recent research in our department to add to the Tolman article on this question. They are all about something we may call "volition" but which I think is very hard to call "distance" or "decentration" except in an unhelpfully metaphorical way. 
It's all thesis work that was just finished up last month. I would like to share it with you here because I'm pretty sure it's unpublishable (we had a pretty tough time just getting the nod from my normally very amiable colleagues, and I'm not really sure why).
The first thesis, by Minkyeong Yi, concerns the distinction between the following initiates, which may be graded according to the degree of agency required in the response.
1. Don't listen T: (writing on the board, talking to a colleague, doing something that does not require learner participation at all).
2. Look and listen T: Look! (points to her head) This is my head! (names her head)
3. Listen and do T: Point to your head! (children point to their heads)
4. Listen and repeat T: Listen and say it. This is my head (children repeat)
5: Listen and answer yes or no T: Is this my head (or my foot)? (children answer yes or no)
6. Listen and finish the sentence  T: This is...? (children complete the sentence)
7. Listen and answer with a word T: What's this?
8. LIsten and answer with a sentence T: Tell me about this.
9. Listen  and answer with a superordinate concept T: What kind of thing is a head?
You can see that the various question forms require quite different degrees of agency on the part of the children. But you can ALSO see that precisely BECAUSE they require different degrees of agency on the part of the children that they are NOT going to always get what is required (so for example it's possible to give a nonverbal response to a request for verbal thinking, etc.).
As a result (I think) we found that this idea of direct demand correlated poorly (though significantly) with the level of abstraction in the response we were looking for, except for ONE lesson, which was, I think noncoincidentally, about family members.The thing about volition is that it is by definition not required, although in a developmental sense it is, of course, necessary.
I don't think this is "distance" in any real sense. In at least one important sense, it's the opposite: the child is getting closer to the essence of the concept and further away from the merely seen and heard. I also don't think it's "decentration" in any useful way; in some ways it's the opposite, because the child is learning his/her place in the system.
The second piece of work, by Eunshil Kim, is more directly about motivation. We were looking at how the kids' preferences, stated on a questionnaire, really corresponded to the choices they made in conversation. For example, if they said that their favorite character was Jinho and their least favorite character was Peter, did that mean that they spent a lot of time talking about Jinho and ignored Peter? (Jinho is a Korean and Peter is black.)
It often meant, in practice, that they spent a lot of time talking about Peter and ignored Jinho. But we also found out that the students did not really differentiate much between major and minor characters, but within characters they are more interested in mental processes (feeling verbs) than material (action verbs), at least in the sense that the former produce much longer sentences and much longer exchanges.
Once again, it doesn't seem to me that the concept of "distantiation" really explains much. Of course we might explain the difference between "favorite character" and "favorite topic of conversation" as the difference between wanting to BE Jinho and wanting to TALK ABOUT Jinho. But that doesn't explain our other results at all. Much the same can be said of "decentration".
The third bit of thesis work is by Seongeun Hong. We divided the output of the kids into three rough groups based on Tomasello:
a) Fixed expressions (e.g. "hello", "goodbye" and fixed textbook phrases)
b) Item-based combinations (e.g. "Let's + verb", "I'm a + noun" and combinations of grammatical patterns in the textbook with "free" vocabulary)
c) Creative abstract constructions (e.g. SVO).
Now what we discovered is that you are MUCH more likely to get c) if you are talking about "him" or "her" than if you are talking about "I" and "you". I don't think this is exactly distantiation, because in a very important sense it's the very opposite: the kids are mostly talking about PICTURES when they say "he" and "she" (What is Jinho doing?) and they are mostly talking about IMAGINARY SITUATIONS when they say "I" and "you" (T: Sanghun, let's go swimming after class!). But it certainly is what Trevarthenan is on about when he talks about secondary intersubjectivity.
Put together I think I can offer the following "definition" of volition, at least in so far as child foreign language learning is concerned (Chapter Six of Thinking and Speech). Volition is the ability to discriminate between, isolate, and control the elements in a discourse, a text, an utterance, a word, a syllable, and not simply take the unit as given. This ability to discriminate, isolate, and control allows the child free will in the following very important sense: it allows the child to say things that the child has never heard.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education 

--- On Wed, 7/28/10, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Dialogue on Concepts Part 1 Released!
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Wednesday, July 28, 2010, 8:29 PM

I think the Tolman article speaks to your query about volition and
motivation, Monica.

I am having trouble distinguishing distanciation, de-centering, distancing.
All are used in various developmental traditions.


On Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 3:49 PM, Monica Hansen <
monica.hansen@vandals.uidaho.edu> wrote:

> All,
> Point of information:
> Can someone elucidate the terms "motivation" and "volition" in the context
> of our discussion. What is the distinction?
> For example, Larry uses "volitional" in his response below,
> the volitional capacity to engage various "perspectives of
> distanciation" from the immediate concrete moment to the most "abstract" -
> distanciated from the concrete - systematic concepts.
> What type of impetus is required for something to be classified as
> "motivation" as opposed to "volition"? It seems as though the simple
> definitions in a common dictionary would suggest the distinction between
> them as a varying degree of conscious agency? Is this consistent with your
> point here, Larry?
> Monica
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
> Behalf Of Larry Purss
> Sent: Monday, July 26, 2010 9:48 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Dialogue on Concepts Part 1 Released!
> Paula, David, Mike [and Andy & others developing the Vimeo site]
> What a powerful medium for clarifying and extending the CHAT dialogues.
> A few quick comments that are more impressionistic on this very educational
> video presentation and elaboration of concept formation.
> David, your historically situating the shift from chapter 5's account to
> the
> chapter 6 account as embedded in Stalin's draconian approach to education
> and the radical shift in the way  pedagogy was required to be presented
> gives a deeper context to the evolving theory.  The metaphor of the globe
> -moving from concrete to abstract- as a process of increasing
> "distanciation" as a more "general" way of discussing heaps, complexes,
> psuedoconcepts, true concepts, and scientific concepts is very helpful to
> orient my understanding of these ideas.
> Mike, your elaborating the notion of "scientific systems of concept
> formation" as not universal but evloving from INSTRUCTION within SCHOOL
> settings and questioning if there are other ways of formulating systematic
> theories that are cultural but not situated within schooling links up with
> hermeneutical conceptions of "traditions" as formations of systematic
> concept development [and also social representations from Moscovici].
> Schooling develops traditions of increasing "distanciation" but still
> leaves
> open the central question of "layering" As we coordinate and move within
> the
> latitude and longitude of the concrete-abstract configuration is it a
> linear
> progression of transcendence "over" the concrete [mastery & control] or is
> it more a formation of increasing coordination of complexity on "the globe"
> and the volitional capacity to engage various "perspectives of
> distanciation" from the immediate concrete moment to the most "abstract" -
> distanciated from the concrete - systematic concepts.
> Chapter 5 p.133 "transition from UNMEDIATED intellectual processes to
> operations mediated by signs" [Mead's significant SHARED symbols]  I think
> this concept is a central notion to be elaborated and critiqued. My
> understanding of "mediation" would include David Kellogg's "2nd  moment" of
> development of the concept.  The nonvolitional affective "movement between
> actual persons" IS "mediational"  [mediated by OTHERS] and seems to be
> foundational for developing concepts. This affective realm, which in some
> accounts would be theorized as "unmediated by signs", seems to be a
> critical
> MOMENT in development. The reason I like the term "distanciated" as a way
> of
> understanding the coordination of concrete-abstract perspectives is it does
> not bias the "scientific concepts" over everyday concepts or cognition as
> separation of affect from thought.  Distanciation "as a tool" which comes
> increasingly under volitional control as perspectives are developing
> increasing complexity recognizes the centrality of mediating the
> development
> of a "communal self" that can NEGOTIATE and COORDINATE subjective and
> INTERSUBJECTIVE perspectives which are experienced as more or less concrete
> or abstract but does not privilege one perspective as more "true".
> Last point.  "scientific concepts" as a particular "system of
> distanciation"
> which exists within a particular hermeneutical "tradition" and expands our
> "horizon of understanding" is maybe the most powerful tool we have yet
> developed for coordinating and systematizing our concepts but it is still a
> particular historically developed tradition [which develops particular
> kinds
> of persons] Schools, as institutions, structure and systematize the
> development of this tool for distanciating from the immediate visual field
> BUT it is within historical  circumstances that  "hermeneutical
> traditions" as  systems of social relations and systematized scientific
> concepts evolve. Ontological development "and systematic conceptions of
> "self" and "subjectivity" emerge within these horizons of understanding
> [which must be systematic and regulated in order to exist as particular
> perspectives on "reality" [perspectival realism].  These "tradititions" are
> mediated by significant symbols [concepts] which are systems of concepts.
> These systems may be more or less "distanciated" from the concrete
> immediate
> moment BUT even in the most "advanced" scientifically informed
> societies experience is a dynamic process of movement between the
> "coordinates on the globe"
> Once again, thank you for producing this very informative video [which in
> combination with the conversation on CHAT has been successful in helping me
> coordinate multiple perspectives to deepen my understanding of
> "developmental psychology" as a "system  of thinking and concept
> formation".
> Larry
> On Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 2:26 AM, Paula M Towsey
> <paulat@johnwtowsey.co.za>wrote:
> > Part One of the *Dialogue on Concepts*, a collaborative presentation
> > initiated by Andy Blunden, has now been released and is open for
> > discussion.
> > XMCAers are invited to view it at:
> >
> > http://vimeo.com/groups/39473/videos/13550409
> >
> >
> >
> > _________________________________
> > Paula M Towsey
> > PhD Candidate: Universiteit Leiden
> > Faculty of Social Sciences
> >
> >
> >
> >
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