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Re: [xmca] Current edition of Theory & Psychology

This discussion is very helpful for us at LCHC where, you can be sure, the
issues raised by Arturo are much discussed.

Our lab meetings are on Tuesdays from 10:30-12:00 PST (California) time.
For sure we will be discussing this issue this week because two PhD theses
have linkages to
more "macro" levels of analysis as constituents.

We currently experience these matters intensely in all parts of our work.
Institutionally our University says it wants diversity but has a "business
model" that makes work such as we do difficult to arrange, difficult to
sustain. Our University is being rapidly privatized. Our state budget is
aiming an axe at poor people. We work in subsidized housing. Its ALL there.

But the logic of our work demands our ongoing, day to day, interaction with
the people among whom we work over years. So our analyses of the larger
context to which Arturo quite justifiably points remain mainly in our local

I have been arguing for some time that this entire line of research
REQUIRES  inter-institutional collaborations of a high order, of the order
of a *co-laboratory*. Careful documentation as well as co-constructive
program development are everywhere, but our flashlight has a narrow beam
and its kinda dim too.

Still, there are positive examples.  One that has my attention as an

Kris Gutierrez, Bill Penuel, and others at Colorado have a very interesting
set of activities going and they have actually put a person on their
team who job it is to collect data at the institutional and

We need the applications of a methodology that genuinely allows us to tract
interweavings across levels *in addition to *the more micro-levels at which
we are able to engage with sufficient density of interaction to make
scholarly publication possible.

In short, Andy and Arturo, what is to be done? Not a new question in this

On Sat, Nov 12, 2011 at 9:28 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> On your first point Arturo. I think you make valid points in relation to
> Yrjo's and Mike's articles. Jaakko Virkkunen tried to go further and
> introduce a broad consideration of the wider social and historical context,
> and I found the effort laughable and abandoned reading his article after a
> few pages. I appreciated the insights in Yrjo's theoretical section, which
> I shared earlier, but as you say, it is all based on the fact that
> management has already invited him in as an expert with a brief to
> facilitate change. Like Steve Gabosch, I have been through a number of
> these exercises as an employee and the supposed "empowerment" of employees
> these guys go on about is a charade. I am sure Yrjo is not like any of
> those I experienced, but my own interest comes from  experiences in
> organising change in the teeth of opposition from management, and it is
> very different.
> On your final paragraph, you refer to some true things, Arturo, but things
> I take to be the core concerns of CHAT.
> Andy
> Arturo Escandon wrote:
>> Hi Andy.
>> While I believe Mike et al's paper is outstanding and inspiring, I do
>> not see an analysis of the macro structures that shape that kind of
>> intervention.
>> What I miss from accounts of procedures is a language of description
>> of the general context in which the intervention or mutual
>> appropriation is going to be carried out. Again, the "context" is
>> given almost for granted and assumed to be constant.
>> When some institution in Finland gives funding to a researcher to get
>> another organisation sorted out by means of an intervention it is
>> proof of the kind of research and consultancy culture Finland has
>> developed over decades. Where does the power to implement the right
>> intervention come from. It does not come from from the internal
>> "contradictions" of the activity system but from a culture that is
>> able to recognise the values of such an implementation, a research
>> culture embedded in political and social systems that legitimate those
>> interventions. In other words, a culture that is able to grasp and
>> solve contradictions creatively before they reach a political
>> standstill or social crisis. So here you have the researcher taking a
>> vantage point. Overall, this reminds me of the business consultancy
>> that is commissioned by top authorities of a given industry. You need
>> some form of umbrella authority that paves the way to recognising the
>> intervention as valid (you need a credible authority).
>> In Mike's case, the power comes from the implicit recognition of
>> social bankruptcy. That is a case which better resembles many
>> situations where neoliberalism and public policy have failed big time,
>> and therefore I see it has the chance to be applied in many more
>> contexts than the plain intervention depicted in the papers written by
>> Engestrom and his colleagues. The researcher cannot take a vantage
>> point but agents are willing to give a try just because everything
>> else has failed.
>> I have seen Japanese researchers trying to implement interventions
>> shaped by the principles given by Yrjo. They fail again and again not
>> because they do not apply those principles or fail to use the right
>> unit of analysis but because their mandate is ridiculously limited and
>> they lack a principle of authority (are you able to change the
>> educational system or even the culture of one particular school with
>> one single case study that took months to arrange against all odds,
>> despite the fierce opposition from agents involved?). In such a
>> context, intervention is seen as a technical tool or method, not as a
>> philosophical principle or methodology. Where you can implement mutual
>> appropriation in Japan? Well in communities in Fukushima that have
>> witnessed their government's failure in dealing with the nuclear
>> crisis and no longer trust it.
>> The issue of the unconscious. I believe the notion of subject in CHAT
>> is that the subject emerges after taking position by means of an
>> attempt in appropriating cultural tools: the processs of objectivation
>> of the subject and subjetivation of the object. But mastery is not
>> rational. Subjects use words before they know their meaning.
>> Pseudoconcepts are used before truly concepts are formed. Complete
>> sets of conceptual systems are mastered before one has a clear idea of
>> what those systems are for or their affordances. How do we deal with
>> implicit semiotic mediation in the intervention? The unconscious is
>> underneath the tension between sense and meaning. The sign ties,
>> establishes relations, but also produces breaks and disjoints.
>> Best
>> Arturo
>> On 11 November 2011 08:57, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>> That's a very interesting series of points, Arturo!
>>> Could I just ask you to elaborate a little on what you meant by "the
>>> unconscious in sign-making" and "the problem of fetishism of the sign."
>>> I guess that you are right that in almost any social context (the US
>>> included I suspect), the kind of project that Mike writes about can only
>>> be
>>> implemented by surruptitiously moving the goal posts set by the
>>> recognised
>>> authorities, by a kind of subversion, making use of openings created by
>>> manifest social crisis.
>>> As I'm sure you know, I am in agreement with your critique of the
>>> failure to
>>> satisfactorily "marry" psychological concepts with sociological
>>> concepts, in
>>> CHAT or anywhere else for that matter. But doesn't the kind of project
>>> Mike
>>> is talking about, where goals are immanent in the project itself, and the
>>> project is thoroughly and explicitly collaborative, go some way to
>>> addressing this problem?
>>> Andy
>>> Arturo Escandon wrote:
>>>> Just wanted to point out that there are places where you cannot even
>>>> think of implementing a simple plain standard design experiment, let
>>>> alone an ad-hoc intervention because educational settings and
>>>> institutions are thought to be mere knowledge
>>>> reproduction-distribution centers. Research is the job of the Ministry
>>>> of Education. "Joint activity"? What on Earth is that in Japan except
>>>> the illusion of freedom framed under top-down cosmological structure.
>>>> I am afraid that most of the cases depicted in the journal are a
>>>> reproduction of the cultural conditions existing in few settings, in
>>>> few communities, in a handful of countries. Am I able to implement an
>>>> intervention or mutual appropriation in the Japanese educational
>>>> context? No. Am I able to do it in "local communities", yes, but under
>>>> considerable restrictions. However, I am guessing that the most
>>>> effective interventions in local communities spring from social
>>>> crisis, not from planned activity, that is, some sort of punctuated
>>>> equilibrium in which the community changes or perish.
>>>> I am very curious about (1) how the structural constraints and
>>>> affordances of organisations themselves shape those mutual
>>>> appropriations and how we can account for them; (2) how the mediating
>>>> means themselves are unequally distributed (knowledge differential):
>>>> in order to bridge the differences established by the lack of a common
>>>> repertoire of meanings you have to engage in meaning making, creating
>>>> in fact a new differential; (3) the unconscious in sign-making or
>>>> using activity. Educational activity brings consciousness at the
>>>> expense of bringing unconsciousness as well. I have not read a single
>>>> decisive work addressing the problem of fetishism of the sign, on
>>>> which a theory of the uncosciousness could be integrated into CHAT,
>>>> except for works that deal with the problem of "the ideal".
>>>> Seeger asks the right questions but I believe there is much more out
>>>> there about ways of marriaging psychology and sociology to give a
>>>> better account of agency. At the end, the issues raised by Sawyer are
>>>> still relevant: CHAT keeps operating with a process and methodological
>>>> ontology whereby the individual and the social are inseparable but
>>>> does not provide a clear cut language of description of how the social
>>>> structure shapes activity or, to put it in Seeger's terms, how power
>>>> shapes discourse (and consciousness and identy).
>>>> Best
>>>> Arturo
>>>> On 10 November 2011 23:41, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>>>> The current edition of Theory & Psychology looks very special. I admit
>>>>> I
>>>>> have at this stage only actually read the article by Mike Cole, Robert
>>>>> Lecusay and Deborah Downing-Wilson, but it is a special issue on CHAT
>>>>> and
>>>>> interventionist methodology, with articles by a number of people from
>>>>> Yrjo
>>>>> Engestrom's CRADLE and also Falk Seeger, who is guest editing the
>>>>> Special
>>>>> Issue of MCA on Emotions.
>>>>> Mike's article elaborates on what the participants call a "mutual
>>>>> appropriation" approach to developing theory and practice. Instead of
>>>>> implementing a project design and then modifying it in the light of the
>>>>> reseacher's experience, the researchers go in to a local community with
>>>>> very
>>>>> open ended ideas about how and what they want to achieve, and engage
>>>>> with
>>>>> their community partner, learn about their (the partner's) project,
>>>>> offer
>>>>> assistance and resources and share knowledge and objectives and ....
>>>>> mutually appropriate. The article describes the results of a specific
>>>>> project which is an exemplar of "mutual appropriation" which has grown
>>>>> out
>>>>> of the 5thD after-school programs which LCHC began in the 1980s.
>>>>> The article is actually very moving. I personally think that this kind
>>>>> of
>>>>> work is tackling the main problem in front of us cultural-historical
>>>>> cultural psychology people today. If you don't subscribe to Theory &
>>>>> Psychology, I don't know how you can get to read the paper. Maybe
>>>>> someone
>>>>> has a solution there. But it is a must read. I will read the remaining
>>>>> articles in the special issue, but this is a real high.
>>>>> Andy
>>>>> --
>>>>> ------------------------------**------------------------------**
>>>>> ------------
>>>>> *Andy Blunden*
>>>>> Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/**toc/hmca20/18/1<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<http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857>
>>>>> ______________________________**____________
>>>>> _____
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>>>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/**listinfo/xmca<http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca>
>>> --
>>> ------------------------------**------------------------------**
>>> ------------
>>> *Andy Blunden*
>>> Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/**toc/hmca20/18/1<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<http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857>
> --
> ------------------------------**------------------------------**
> ------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/**toc/hmca20/18/1<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<http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857>
> ______________________________**____________
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