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Re: [xmca] Cultural memory

That's a good point, Deborah, change of technological environment causes loss of cultural memory, and you can demonstrate that story-telling cannot overcome this. Part of my problem is that a counterexample is needed to fault my case (a norm maintained over generations by speech alone) so there is always the possibility of a ounterexample turning up, so I can disprove but not prove my case that way.

I fear you may be right about "agreeing to disagree." No interactionist or pragamtist I know sees the point of going on and on about mediating artefacts. Heidegger people are the only ones who come near this point. I suspect this is to do with the times we live in. Our technology is so mobile that people just don't see it. A great big power failure might help concentrate the mind maybe? But I am always reminded of a rich person who tells a poor person how they don't care about money at all. Our independence of material culture is one big illusion of our times. I think also it may be due to an effort to distance oneself from the taint of Marxism, and not give any role in human life to the products of material labour.

But I think this is an illusion which needs to be dealt with, and your example is but one good reason.
Thanks Deborah.

Deborah Rockstroh wrote:

I'm wondering if you could approach the challenge from a different angle?
For instance, what happens when cultural memory can't be called upon in an
activity setting - such as when people are forced to use the artifacts of an
unfamiliar culture in technology transfer. Would that demonstrate the
significance of mediation? I'm not sure, but as people tend to take cultural
artifacts for granted (the water that fish swim in), there may be some merit
in taking the cross-cultural technology transfer approach. I'm thinking of
desert Aboriginal people - who have extensive cultural expertise catching
and cooking meat traditionally - have been known to struggle with adapting
that process to a domestic kitchen (i.e. laying a kangaroo across the top of
a stove). If this is of any help I can provide numerous other examples.

Otherwise it may be a case of agreeing to disagree. Sometimes different
theories (and personalities!) are like parallel lines that run so close to
each other, there comes a point along the line where it is not worth
pursuing where the lines meet, if at all.


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Saturday, 15 October 2011 10:54 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [xmca] Cultural memory

I need some help. I am having a discussion with a supporter of Robert Brandom, who was at ISCAR, but is not an Activity Theorist. on the question of cultural memory.

One of my criticisms of Robert Brandom is that he does not theorise any place for mediation in his theory of normativity. He supposes that norms are transmitted and maintained down the generations by word of mouth (taken to be an unmediated expression of subjectivity), and artefacts (whether texts, tools, buildings, clothes, money) play no essential role in this.

I disagree but I cannot persuade my protagonist.

I challenged him to tell me of a (nonlierate) indigenous people who managed to maintain their customs even after being removed from their land. My protagonist responded by suggesting the Hebrews, but of course the Hebrews had the Old Testament. Recently on xmca we had the same point come up and baseball culture was suggested, and I responded that I didn't think baseball-speak could be maintained without baseball bats, balls, pitches, stadiums, radios, uniforms and other artefacts used in the game.

Am I wrong? Can anyone point to a custom maintained over generations without the use of arefacts (including land and texts as well as tools, but allowing the spoken word)?


*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

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