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Re: [xmca] activity (was concepts)
- To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: Re: [xmca] activity (was concepts)
- From: mike cole <email@example.com>
- Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2011 02:43:50 -0700
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I appreciate all the thoughtful good will going into the attempts to find
common grounding and explore one's own thinking in this/these
I fear i violated Tony's reasonable 2 cents rule because I, too, have had
too little time to write and the intermixing of pieces of threads and thus
added to the difficulties.
I believe that Andy identified one problem when he pointed out that Huw,
coming from a somewhat different (and relevant!) tradition(s) introduced
concepts such as activity as he understood them from, say, Maturana or
Bateson. So, for example, he pointed to Jim Wertsch's *Mind as Action* as a
source for explication of the concept of activity using the pole vaulting
example. But, Jim uses this example to talk about mediated action in
context, his preferred unit of analysis at the time (at the end of *Vygotsky
and the Social Formation of mind-*- which you can find whole on the internet
but not download- he DOES discuss notions of activity following LSV).
For those of us who have been drawing upon this latter tradition,
Leontiev has been an important source. As in
*Activity is the nonadditive, molar unit of life for the material, corporeal
subject. In a narrower sense (i.e., on the psychological level) it is the
unit of life that is mediated by mental reflection. The real function of
this unit is to orient the subject in the world of objects. In other words,
activity is not a reaction or aggregate of reactions, but a system with its
own structure, its own internal transformations, and its own
*Introducing the category of activity changes the entire conceptual
framework of psychology. But in order to do this, we must accept this
category in its complete form, with all its implications with respect to (1)
its structure, (2) its specific [p. 47] dynamics, and (3) its various forms.
In other words, we are concerned with answering the question of precisely
what form the category of activity will take in psychology....*
*Human psychology is concerned with the activity of concrete individuals,
which takes place either in a collective - i.e., jointly with other people -
or in a situation in which the subject deals directly with the surrounding
world of objects - e.g., at the potter's wheel or the writer's desk....*
*With all its varied forms, the human individual's activity is a system in
the system of social relations. It does not exist without these relations.
The specific form in which it exists is determined by the forms and means of
material and mental social interaction (Verkehr) that are created by the
development of production and that can not be realized in any way other than
in the activity of concrete people. It turns out that the activity of
separate individuals depends on their place in society, on the conditions
that fall to their lot, and on idiosyncratic, individual factors.*
For a discussion of this tradition of the use of "activity" and its relation
to Bateson and Pierce, see
Yrjo, too, has his critiques, but his Doktorat provides lots of good links
to other traditions and may serve as one useful starting point.
Now I will gather up my .25$ and listen instead of prattling!
On Wed, Apr 20, 2011 at 1:13 AM, Huw Lloyd <email@example.com>wrote:
> On 20 April 2011 02:27, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > Well, this convesation is really demonstrating something about concepts
> > language, isn't it?
> > When Huw joined the conversation, he silently changed the topic.
> > we were talking about human beings and their life activity, using
> > from Cultural Psychology and Activity Theory; Huw talked about machines,
> > using cybernetics. But he used the same words, and did not signal thgat
> > was using the words now in a different context and therefore indicating
> > different concepts.
> Possibly because I do not hold that dichotomy.
> Maturana, Autopoiesis and Cognition, p78:
> "Living Machines.
> That living systems are machines cannot be shown by pointing to their
> components. Rather, one must show their organization in a manner such that
> the way in which all their peculiar properties arise, becomes obvious. In
> order to do this, we shall first characterize the kind of machines that
> living systems are, and then show how the peculiar properties of living
> systems may arise as consequences of the organization of this kind of
> Though I'd also add that any theoretical model presented is a machine too.
> Many people think of machines that are closed, like the jacquard loom,
> rather than open to the environment like the watt governor.
> > No problem with using xmca to talk about machines, or
> > people-as-if-they-were-machines, but we need to be clear about it.
> > Andy
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