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Re: [xmca] Re: Reading Mike's cultural psychology

On 7 April 2012 12:36, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Huw:
> I just got back from a Saturday seminar on Chapter Two of Vygotsky's
> "History of the Development of the Higher Psychological Functions". Like
> Mike's book, it's a frustrating piece of writing in some ways: Vygotsky
> tells you that he is going to produce a small working model of a higher
> psychological function, which will create the very basis for their
> experimental replication that the traditional Stimulus-Response experiment
> has failed to provide.

Hi David, the points I raised, for me, aren't indicative of a frustrating
text.  I think the text does a good job of demonstrating the kind of deeply
systemic approaches required.

> He then tells you that it is based on a real but rudimentary function.
> That although it is today eking out a miserable existence in a world it no
> longer understands, it once played a heroic role in leading the whole of
> humanity out of the bestiality of an animal existence into the
> semi-bestiality of a capitalist one.
> After sixty highly opaque pages, he tells you exactly what he has in mind:
> Buridan's ass, an imaginary donkey surrounded by bales of hay, unable to
> decide which to eat first, and therefore starving to death. (This is then
> the basis for three real monographs of rudientary functions: casting lots,
> tying knots and counting on your fingers, or auguries, mnemonics and tokens
> for manipulating concepts.)
> Why a gedankenexperiment (actually, Buridan's donkey was really a
> rhetorical ploy by angry Aristotelians against Jean Buridan, one of the
> world's first strict behaviorsts and as such a denier of free will)? Why
> not a real experiment?
> Oh, Vygotsky explains that too: In a logical account, you move the main
> purpose of your object of analysis to the beginning of your account of it,
> but at the beginning of a truly developmental chronological account, that
> purpose is nowhere to be seen.
> Such a logical account (where the unit is analyzed first) is always
> contained in a chronological account but it is also hidden, because
> "chronos" stands in front of it and obscures it, with all the messy things
> that humans fill their time with.
> And of all of that is really standing in front of my real defense of the
> imaginary character. In English language teaching studies here in Korea, we
> found that contrary to the usual dogma of "real life" talk about "you and
> me", talk of imaginary characters in the classroom almost always produces
> language that is consistently more uninhibited, and linguistically more
> complex.
> We also found that children are much more able to reason morally and
> ethically when they are talking about hypothetical moral dilemmas then when
> they are confronted with (fabricated) "real" ones (e.g. classroom turn
> taking). And that even preschoolers are much more likely to use the ethical
> meaning of "good" when they are in the third person point of view then when
> they are exercising the second or first one.
> Why should this be? Oh, the linguistics of it is easy to explain: in all
> the languages I know, first and second person is more iconic, more
> indexical, more context-embedded and thus less sophisticated symbolically
> (compare "Look here!" with "I would like him to look at me.")
> The developmental aspect is less transparent. In language teaching we have
> committed a hundred year mistake, quite similar to (yea, predicated upon)
> the mistakes of structuralist linguistics: we have assumed that the pure
> purpose of language is social communication and that the derived purpose of
> self-communication is somehow always a derivative of this, the way written
> language is supposedly a derivative of spoken.
> But suppose self-communication were, developmentally, the central goal of
> language use (as it is in a Korean classroom)? Yea, suppose the child's own
> self is an imaginary character?Then, as Brecht says, the reality of the
> theatre lies precisely in its unreality, about which it behooves us to be
> perfectly and completely frank. To children one must always tell the
> absolute truth about lies.

This refers to point 3.  So is there anything in the quality of pretending
and being frank about it, that is important here?  A simpler version,
perhaps is Bateson's animals signalling play, which he suggested is a kind
of pretend act.  But this kind of pretend act is the pretense of a real
act.  One cannot pretend about father christmas in this way to a mature


> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> --- On Fri, 4/6/12, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
> From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
> Subject: [xmca] Re: Reading Mike's cultural psychology
> To: "Huw Lloyd" <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>
> Cc: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Date: Friday, April 6, 2012, 9:02 PM
> Sound like excellent questions. Wonder what the answers are!?
> mike
> On Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 8:23 PM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > I've been reading through Mike's cultural psychology book.
> >
> > There's plenty of good material arranged in a way a found helpful.
> >
> > Three points I'd be interested in hearing elaboration and, or,
> > confirmation on are:
> >
> > 1.  The logical typing of the implicit unit of analysis employed (on p.
> > 233 Vai literacy types and filter method as practice types) for the
> > cross-cultural research where by:
> >
> > a) The 'unit instance' (data) is not logically comparable to any other
> > data other than data from the same context.
> >
> > b) A filter method of approximate testing that the context has not
> > changed, or that the context is being approximated to the fidelity aimed
> > for.
> >
> > c) This filter as a recursive means of qualification around the integrity
> > of the data.
> >
> >
> > 2.  The idea of Lurias method for discovering hidden processes applied to
> > a very rich activity, with the smoothness of the (implicit, perhaps
> unknown
> > to the subjects) base process.
> >
> > a)  Finding a suitable base process becomes the initial search which
> > mediates the hidden processes sought.
> >
> > b) Demonstrating an effective base process would seem to come after
> trying
> > out various base processes (i.e. revealing symptoms in useful ways).
> >
> >
> > 3. The use of fictional characters in the 5th dimension.
> >
> > a) The pretense of communicating with and heeding a fiction/fantasy
> seems,
> > to me, to be, potentially, a longer term impediment (both to scaling the
> > activity to different kinds of knowledge and the longitudinal involvement
> > of maturing children).  To what degree is the wizard necessary?  Why
> > wouldn't an equally playful/friendly environment be set up around say a
> > historically real figurehead?
> >
> > b) To what degree are the fictions of the wizard a political statement to
> > the adults/parents of fitting their own fantasies of idyllic fairy
> > childhoods or is the means of signposting the activities as not needing
> > adult interference, "this is our world thank you, don't interfere"?
> >
> > c) As I understand it, urban contemporary children want to get involved
> in
> > the world of adults, which they're often denied access to.  Setting up
> > environments that are child friendly, accessible and pliable for the
> > children is part of this, though I wonder if sugaring up the central
> theme
> > as a fantasy figure goes against this.
> >
> >
> >
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