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Re: [xmca] activity (was concepts)

Well, this convesation is really demonstrating something about concepts and language, isn't it?

When Huw joined the conversation, he silently changed the topic. Previously we were talking about human beings and their life activity, using concepts from Cultural Psychology and Activity Theory; Huw talked about machines, using cybernetics. But he used the same words, and did not signal thgat he was using the words now in a different context and therefore indicating different concepts.

No problem with using xmca to talk about machines, or people-as-if-they-were-machines, but we need to be clear about it.


Huw Lloyd wrote:
On 19 April 2011 17:00, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

Huw et al --

I am getting really confused by the course of this conversation. I am
sitting here typing, experiencing, reflecting, feeling my aching back, the
murmer of the crowd
on the street outside.

These are all activities a la the present conversation? Are we crossing
everyday and technical/scientific/discourse-specific concepts?

Hi Mike,

The response I provided was to the question "How do I conceive of activity"
and, indirectly, "what on earth is your conception of epistemology?"

As noted, cybernetics comes with baggage.  "Systems theory" is perhaps more
harmonious, although potentially less rigorous once it slides into systems
thinking etc.

The main point is self-regulating systems and activity as this
regulation/prediction etc.  Variety is also appropriate to social modelling
too, I believe.  I personally see plenty of overlap between Vygotskian
theory, the text given below "*it mediates, regulates, and controls
relations*", and other forms holistic thinking.  There's plenty of other
good aspects about it, though I'm more interested in other viable approaches
than defending a point of view etc.

Was there anything else that I may have missed in the context of your
original question, Mike?


In the glossary that Martin sent yesterday Tolman offered the following
defintion of activity (within a philosophical/scientific tradition that
calls itself activity theory ..........).

*Activity (German: Tätigkeit; Russian deyatel'nost')

*"Activity is a concept connoting the function of the individual in his
interaction with the surroundings. Psychic activity is a specific relation
of a living body to its environment; it mediates, regulates, and controls
relations between the organism and the environment. Psychic activity is
impelled by need, aimed at the object which can satisfy this need, and
effected by the system of actions. It presumes that the body has psyche, but
at the same time constitutes the basic cause of its development. The
elementary form of psychic activity should be distinguished from its highest
form. The former is typical of animals and consists in the instinctive
adaptation of the body to its environment. The latter, which stems from the
former and transforms it, is exclusively an attribute of man. The
specifically distinctive feature of the highest form of activity is man's
deliberate effort to transform his environment. The activity of man has a
social complexion and is determined by the social conditions of life.
Psychic activity of man may be external or internal. The former consists of
specifically human operations with existing objects effected by the movement
of arms, hands, fingers, and legs. The latter proceeds in the mind, by means
of 'mental actions' wherein man operates not with existing objects and not
through physical movements, but with their dynamic images. Internal activity
plans external activity and realises itself through it. Division of labour
causes a differentiation between theoretical and practical forms of activity
of man. According to the range of man's and society's needs, there also
arises the range of concrete types of activity, each of which usually
embraces elements of external and internal, practical and theoretical
activity" (Frolov, 1984: 8).*

I am not quoting this to endorse the statement, made  by a Soviet
philosopher almost three decades ago in a different world, and for sure I
think the ideas of Bateson and others mentioned are interesting, relevant,
and important. But to
equate experience and activity, to get into arguments about cybernetics and
closed/open systems and so on seems either a great example of Vygotskian
chaining or perilously close to it.


On Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 5:20 AM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>wrote:

What notion of activity are you using when you write below:

"The omission I'm noticing here is that knowing and experiencing is an
activity" ?

(I include the immediately preceeding paragraph for context)
Mental activity.  Experiencing is not passive, it is met half way and is
actively interpreted (when I get round to it, Husserl is the place to go for
this, I believe).
For clarity, with respect to further interpretations lifted from the other
thread, I am conceiving of this activity cybernetically, i.e. as part of the
process of self-regulation.  That is, our experience and our knowing is,
amongst other things, mediated by our concepts (or the semiotic units
derived from their employment) as part of our regulatory processes which we
call activity.

I hope that helps!


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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=g932564744
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857
MIA: http://www.marxists.org

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