Culture, History, and Societal Relations
  Laboratory of Applied Cognitive Science




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1. Theoretical Studies

Advancing ideas sketched by the late Vygotsky.   Over the last 18 months of his life, the Russian psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky began to radically revise all of his earlier work—for which he is still widely celebrated—and which has been strongly influenced (a) by his reading of Baruch Spinoza, the German materialist philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, whose reading had turned Karl Marx from an idealist dialectician to a materialist dialectician. Vygotsky aimed at developing a new psychology that would overcome the mind–body problem that plagues psychology to the present day, a project with respect to which he saw himself as the biblical Moses who had seen the Promised Land but never was allowed to set foot on. We are taking some of his last writings and take off from his notebook entries, intending to develop a psychology that overcomes the mind–body problem that is pervasive everywhere we care to look. We take on notions such as neoformation, pereživanie (perezhivanie), thinking–speech, and mediation, developing them to be consistent with the dialectical materialist, Spinozist take that Vygotsky was aiming at, thereby contrasting the individualist readings some or all of these notions have received in the Anglo-Saxon literature. (Wolff-Michael ROTH & Alfredo JORNET)


Transactional approaches to cognition.   For the purpose of overcoming the self-actional and inter-actional approaches common to much of research, including sociocultural and social-constructivist approaches, we are taking up the works of Vygotsky, John Dewey, Gregory Bateson to work out a truly trans-actional approach that does not reduce human behavior to individuals, their intentions, actions, and discourse. (Wolff-Michael ROTH & Alfredo JORNET)


Life as life, as moving.   Virtually all theoretical approaches think about life and living forms in terms of systems with parts that act upon other parts and that interact. Forces are outside the basic entities, which are taken as elements from which the whole system is constructed. (This is also the case in cultural-historical activity theory, where what are to be constituent parts are thought and empirically treated as elements.) Our goal is different. It aims at thinking and investigating movement, the minimum unit of which is movement and therefore change. It investigates the drama of life through dramatic forms, which cannot ever be reduced to the individual, and therefore always contain difference and change within. In the following image, a line is drawn. The minimum unit is one includes the drawing of a part of the line, which implies the movement of the hand, chalk, a change in the person drawing, the chalkboard, the chalk, etc. (Wolff-Michael ROTH)

Fig. 1  A line is born—a minimum unit contains change in every aspect of the situation


World-as-event, life-as-event.   Much of 2017 and 2018 I have spent reading the (complete) works of George Herbert Mead, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, and John Dewey. These works have given me new understandings of the attention these philosophers gave to the world as continuously unfolding, where every happening (event) inherently comes with novelty, which means that we cannot ever know the future in its entirety even seconds hence—think of all the little accidents of everyday life, a nick with a kitchen knife, a shattered glass that we have inadvertently touched, etc. I began to appreciate the Jamesian notion of the specious present, which simply means that cognition is extended and itself an event. Some of my new understandings have led to Transactional Psychology of Education: Toward a Strong Version of the Social (Cham: Springer, 2019) and the upcoming Adventures of Mind and Mathematics.



2. Empirical Studies

The arts and creativity in primary school.   As school curricula have become more open and geared towards facilitating cross-curricular integration, an increasing number of practitioners are advocating for the use of the visual, crafts, and performative arts as a means for integrating otherwise distinct subjects (math, health, science, social studies). We are interested in investigating how such integration takes place in the living work of joint creation, with a focus on how the work of artistic expression and craftsmanship relates to cognitive and affective development within a school community. We also work together with the school to define and envision ways in which values inherent to the arts, such as care and responsibility, may further foster the school's professional and community development. (Alfredo JORNET & Wolff-Michael ROTH)

Fig. 1  A child taken an artistic perspective on a topic


Software development.   We are currently involved in a collaboration with computer science (David Socha & Josh Tenenberg) and engineering education (Robin Adams) colleagues to analyze a large set of videotapes collected at BeamCoffer (pseudonym), a software development company. David Socha recorded events in this company for 11 consecutive days with 10 video cameras, multiple audio recorders, and photo cameras. He also conducted interviews with a number of the people. One interesting fact about the work at BeamCoffer is pair programming, that is, where pairs of programmers simultaneously work on the same code (and workstation). Every 2 hours, one of the members is replaced so that at the end of the day, two people different from the two who started that morning work there. We look at interactional issues primarily. (Alfredo JORNET & Wolff-Michael ROTH)

Fig. 2  Wide angle shot of the BeamCoffer facility


Integrating haiku and mindfulness in teacher education.   In a first project, we investigate the commonalities in the discourses of mindfulness and the practice of writing haiku. Most texts regarding mindfulness and those regarding haiku share topics, such as form, minimalism, simplicity, affection, and catharsis. We are researching how the haiku has been transformed in the educational environments of some western countries, to propose that in teaching poetry or any literary form, the teacher should be familiar with the discourse of poetry, rather than using only a metalanguage approach. One line of this work research will introduce writing haiku in teacher education to examine how this writing process might transform the way teachers may talk about their experience in teaching/learning. (Hong-Nguyen [Gwen] NGUYEN & Wolff-Michael ROTH)

Fig. 3  Class-based mindfulness practice


Bringing cooking challenges and skills to the school kitchen. In close relation to the ongoing project "The arts and creativity in primary schools," we have started to propose cooking activities within the school's kitchen facilities. We believe that engaging children in cooking tasks might represent an important contribution to the development of practices toward an increasing cross-curricular integration in education. Beyond expanding the formal classroom learning setting and format we investigate the joint work performed by the students inside the kitchen. Our focus is to recognize possible learning issues emerged from the interactional context of attending or elaboration a cooking recipe in group. (Isabel ANTONINI, Alfredo JORNET, & Wolff-Michael ROTH)

Fig. 4  Learning to cook in the school's own kitchen


Technology in elementary schools.   Technology and engineering turn out to be ideal contexts for children to learn. Mijung Kim recorded numerous lessons in an innovative school where science plays an important part in the curriculum. Among others, children build structures and in the process learn about stability, strength, balance, etc. Among others, we investigate how higher psychological functions, such as scientific argumentation, first exist as social relations and then are observed as individual behaviors. Important, what will be a psychological function will have been a relation—not just having appeared in a social relation, which is a trivial aspect of the social. (Mijung KIM & Wolff-Michael ROTH)
Fig. 5  Children in the process of building bridges, with little toy cars visible a little bit everywhere


Decision-making in collaborative design.   Decision-making tends to be conceptualized as a product of individual cognition that, in the case of collaborative design, is merely expressed through the medium of language by people so that they can "construct" meanings and "come to agreements." In this project, however, we are investigating how student designers actually do decision-making as social process. This means that they jointly accomplish particular commitments about future action by what they make available and intelligible to each other through and as talk-in-interaction. Through the conversation analysis of decision-making episodes recorded in project meetings, labs, and talk-on-the-move, we are discovering how teams do decision-making in the same three invariant stages, which are accomplished in multifarious ways. It has been recognized that the quality of design outcomes hinges on design decisions. As such, this research has implications for helping newcomers to design to function in ways typical of designers, specifically by making how teams do decision-making—their collaborative-reasoning-in-talk—an instructable matter. (Chris CAMPBELL & Wolff-Michael ROTH)

Fig. 6  Students soldering (left); lab setting (right)


Individual versus collaborative problem solving in science and engineering.  We are interested in how people work in teams to solve real-world ill-structured problems—particularly the differences between how they do it individually versus in teams. In this study, we are investigating the differences between how individuals and pairs of students solve ill-structured or "wicked" problems (e.g., having unclear goals, unstated constraints, multiple solution pathways, multiple criteria for evaluating solutions, too much/little information). In this study, one sample of students are presented with two ill-structured problems and walked through a think-aloud protocol in which they verbalize their thinking in real-time, concurrently to their problem solving activity. A second sample of students, working in pairs, are walked through a modified think-aloud protocol, meaning that they are asked to collaborate naturalistically to solve the same problems as the individual sample. Comparison of the individual and collaborative talk through content-analysis and conversation analysis, respectively, promises to extend our knowledge of problem solving in these different modes of learning and lead to implications for fostering and assessing problem solving under naturalistic conditions. (Chris CAMPBELL, Wolff-Michael ROTH, Kadriye ERCIKAN [UBC], & Alfredo JORNET)

Fig. 7  Engineering student doing a task in the think-aloud protocol mode


Debriefing in aviation.   Another important part of our work have been debriefing meetings involving aviation pilots just after they have exited from the simulator where they receive training and undergo (high-stakes) examinations twice per year for two days each. One of the things we are interested in this work is how the debriefing tool—which features a video of the pilots during the examination, an image of what the pilots have seen, and many of the instruments that they have in the cockpit with the actual displays during the flight event show—assists the pilots and the examiner in making present an experience that the former have largely forgotten because of its intensity. (Alfredo JORNET & Wolff-Michael ROTH)

Fig. 8  The debriefing tool may play an important role in remembering for learning to fly better in the future




























update: 19-NOV-19



cultural-historical studies
- "symmetrical ZPD"
- Experiencing (pereživanie) as developmental category
- Vygotsky, Bakhtin, Vološinov
- Theory of Experience
- Sociocultural perspectives
- Situated cognition
- Societal mediation of mathematical cognition
- Development of concepts
- ZPD symmetrically

phenomenological studies
- The Emerging Presence
- Birth of intentions
- Event-in-the-making*
- Post-constructivist ethics
- Pregnance of bodily movement
- Origin of signs