Bringing Objects into Play and Language: Mediate Understanding
In the previous chapter was considered the self-creative transitional use of media to recreate the mutually felt immediacy of the baby-adult dyad. This may be seen as the first stepping stone in a self-transformation whereby the internal and external world of the dyad comes to the attention of the baby with the accompanying adult, as distinctions are made by the adult with the baby in a language horizon that is gradually coming to be shared.
Already during protoconversation and vocalization in unison the adult has resorted to various expressions in a language adapted to the event and attuned to the states of the dyad and its participants. While participating in the event, the adult erects, as it were, a "scaffold" (Cf. chapter 2) and a language frame, a meaning horizon, that permits expressions of the actual state of shared feeling. Thus, the first occasions of asymmetric languaging in the dyad are not references to some world or "objects out there", but self-other-expressions of intra- and interpersonal states in the dyad. Language first comes into usage by the dyad in the adult participant's expressing and reflecting back inner states shared by both of them, and which serves to confirm the child's sense of self and the actual other and awareness of affective states (Cf. Mahler et al. 1975; Lacan 1977; Stern 1985). At the same time, the asymmetric languaging in the dyad is an recurrent invitation to the child to begin to make distinctions in terms of some symbolic medium of expression.
Transition from immediate to mediate understanding
During playful exploration with "objects" on part of the child while in the dyad comprising the adult other, languaging on the part of the latter does not only express shared states of feeling, but may also involve references to the event of exploration or playing, and to the "object", for example the toy or baby-doll, that are involved in the event that allows for affect attunement. That
is, in addition to the self-other expressions of affective states, the adult may introduce object-referential utterances in some language, L, that accompany the child's reaching for, pointing at, or grasping some "object" T.
I shall now turn to the way in which such processes of dialoging offer media for the BA-dyad of the baby B with the adult A to recreate itself as a BAT-system,1 where T is some toy or tool or object or event made into a topic or "text" which A distinguishes with B, and which come to acquire stable conceptual characteristics in the language horizon in which A lives with B. The characteristics of protoconversation in the BA-dyad from the second or third months in the infant's life and of affect attunement in the BAT-system involving engagement in some toy, tool, or topic, from the eighth or ninth month onwards, have an important bearing upon the emergence of a quasi-verbal protolanguage and symbolic play during the second year of the infant's life. This transformation of the BA-dyad into a BAT-system is illustrated by the difference between the first picture (i) and the remaining pictures (ii - v) in Fig. 5.1.
Infant-adult contact in different worlds
Stern (1977) has identified vocalization in unison as a complementary mode of infant-adult interaction to that of protoconversation. When replicating the studies of Mary Bateson, he also finds the pattern of infant and mother frequently vocalizing in unison. I have heard such a pattern exhibited by the infant-mother pair, and also by the infant, between two and three months old, in concert with the elder sibling, two or three years old. On the other hand, when the infant appears to invite protoconversational turn-taking, taking pauses and listening to the elder child, the latter appears to prevent their entering into protoconversation, and caries on vocalization without taking pauses to listen to the baby.
A cultural bias may be involved in the focus upon protoconversation as the distinct mode of infant-adult communication. For example, there is a higher frequency of mutual gazing and protoverbal contact in some Western communities than in cultures where the infants are carried on their caretakers' back. In the Gusii-culture, reported on by Levine and Levine, there is hardly any face-to-face contact involving mutual gazing between the infant and the mother. The infant is usually carried on the mother's back until she gives birth to her next child, at which time an elder sibling takes over. Even as adults, when talking to each other, members of the Gusii-culture tend to stand side by side, not facing each other. The infant is carried and held constantly by the mother during the first two years of life, but is rarely talked to or looked at.2 Levine and Levine compare the frequency of the mother's holding (in terms of physical contact), looking at and talking to the infant in the Gusii community of Kenya with parental behavior in some Western communities (Boston in the USA; Italy, and Sweden).
They find that while the frequency of holding is by far the highest in the Gusii community, the frequency of looking and talking is much higher in the Western communities. Levine contrasts the soothing behavior of the Gusii mother towards her child with the exciting, playing behavior of the mothers in the Western communities. The Gusii mother hardly ever looks at or talks directly to her child, while she responds immediately to the infant's crying. Such crying seems to occur less frequently than in the Western communities.
In communities where infants are carried on the caretaker's front, hip, or back, the infants tend to resort to a motoric style of subtle, tactile communication, rather then resorting to vocal modes. In contrast, infants spending much time in beds, cradle, or playpens, tend to develop a more vocal style, emerging from their crying or calling for their caregivers' attention. (J. Whiting, 1981; B. Whiting and C. P. Edwards, 1988: 144).
Thus, infant-adult communication modalities may vary with cultural patterns and community settings. Some of the protoconversational characteristics, for example, the frequency and periods of mutual gazing, focused upon in the previous chapters may not only vary with each individual infant-adult pair, but also with the actual local culture and the specific caretaking practice that constitute the situational context. In the case, for example, of Naseeria and her Morocco father, they were carrying out a dialogue-like duet without eye-contact, while there was bodily contact. (Cf. chapter 1).
Above, we have seen how the dyad of the baby, B, and the adult, A, transforms itself into an BAT-system, focusing upon some object, T, of shared attention, for example, when engaged in play-like exploration of things around them. The below illustrations illustrate this. The first ones (i - ii) are taken from a Norwegian study of attention during interplay during the first year by Röed Hansen (1991a).
In line with other findings (Brazelton et al. 1975;5 Trevarthen, 19776) she reports patterns of protoconversation and perturbations which appear to support the present thesis (Röed Hansen, 1991b: 576),7 and relates it to congenial perspectives offered by Ed Tronick (1989)8 and Jessica Benjamin (1990).9 The former emphasize the infant-adult dyad as a holistic and affective system of communication. The latter emphasizes the intersubjective nature of reciprocal smiling. The typical face-to-face interplay situation (i) at eleven weeks involving dyadic closure to the exclusion of external objects in joint attention, differ from (ii) the interplay situations around seven or eight months when objects are brought into play, albeit the child may yet lack the motoric capacities to handle it as an object in give and take. This corresponds to the phase in which, according to Trevarthen, there is a transition from primary to secondary intersubjectivity. It corresponds to the shift from immediate understanding to mediate modes of understanding. The three snapshots from Bali, taken from Gregory Bateson's and Margaret Mead's photographic studies of the Balinese, illustrate how some topic of joint attention is brought into play as part of the adult's guiding the infant. The first is from a dancing lesson, the second of mother and child in a feeding situation, the third shows father and child in music "lesson" between the eight and the twelve month.
The four illustrations in (Fig. 5.1 (ii - v) of adult-infant contact, respectively from Röed Hansen's study of attention during infant-adult interplay during the first year of Norwegian infants, and from Gregory Bateson's and Margaret Mead's studies of the Balinese in the 1930's, illustrate the way in which the dyad of the baby (B) and the adult (A) focuses upon an object T of shared attention. In the Balinese snapshots there is a concrete demonstration of "scaffolding". In the first situation, (iii) Karba, 8 months, is given dancing lessons by his father. In the second snapshot (iv), he is 11 months. Carried by his mother, she guides his hands as he eats. When 12 months (v), he is sitting on his father's lap, being taught to play a bamboo xylophone.
In all the cases, the adult, A, and the baby, B, are jointly engaged, not in each other as subjects of conversation, but in the attendance of a common object, T, approached by B with A as the guiding participant.10Stern's model of how the subjective experiences of the mother and child may be bridged through mediational representations concerns the domain of mediate contact, i.e. contact mediated by generalizations of previous contact experiences. It applies to the stage when the child may be attributed an experiential and mediational basis for a represented or generalized other, using this as an evoked means for understanding the actual other in a mode of mediacy.....cf. also ...
To such events, the scaffolding model referred to in chapter 2 may truly apply. But these are cases of mediate interplay focused on some shared toy, tool, topic, or "text", not protoconversation in immediate reciprocity. The adult A making a distinction ("T") with the baby B in some language domain, and which later come to be repeated by the infant when by itself.
Different domains of relatedness
In this way, the interpersonal world of the dyad, comprising also states and objects, may gradually come to be differentiated, as the adult, with the child, indicates some distinction, and the child, with the adult, re-makes the distinction or makes a new one. In logic, Spencer-Brown (1969) has shown how a universe comes into being when a severance is made in terms of a primary distinction, and how different kinds of logics can be reduced to crossing and re-crossing operations. (Cf. also Herbst, 1976). The operation of making a distinction in the process of crossing, involves a marking of the value of the cross. The interpersonal world that comes into being as distinctions are made during protoconversation and affect attunement, is a universe pertaining to the particular BAT-system, of which the adult, A, makes distinctions with the baby, B, in terms of some language, L, which A brings to bear on the process. The baby is invited in turn to make distinctions first with A, and, later, by himself, that is, with his virtual other, *A, as the child acquire access to the symbol system, L, that permits the forging of shared meaning, involving that other, 'A', and the object, 'T', symbolized in L.
Thus, new domains of relatedness emerge, and with them different senses of self and the other. Stern (1985) distinguishes the domain of emergent relatedness at birth involving senses of an emergent self and embryonic other, from other domains of relatedness and senses of self. Between 7 to 9 months of age he considers the time for the emergence of intersubjective relatedness, and with it a sense of a subjective self. Around this time, or earlier or later during the first year, we may find occurrences of what Winnicott terms transitional phenomena. Around the beginning of the second year a domain of verbal relatedness emerges, and towards the end of infancy a domain of narrational relatedness with a sense of the narrational self. By now a linguistic basis for mediational understanding and distinction has been established in some language L.
These different domains of relatedness may be subsumed in these three encompassing domains (Fig. 5.2):
(D1) the domain of immediate understanding, involving an emergent self and the virtual other, by virtue of which there may be immediate understanding of some actual other stepping into the companion space of the infant's virtual other (Cf. Fig. 3.1)
(D2) the domain of transitional understanding, involving an emerging sense of a subjective self and an actualized other, recreated though the use of some medium or "transitional object" (Cf. Fig. 4.1)
(D3) the domain of mediate understanding, involving narrations about some topic T in terms of a narrational self and re-presented other. (Cf. the symbolic representational model in Fig.2.1, involving simulation of the other, but now applied to the child's anticipatory simulations of the other's respons to the narration).
In line with Stern's model, to be turned to below, and Mead's related notion of the Generalized Other (Mead, 1934; Bråten, 1973, 1988a), the essential feature of the workings from the child's perspective in the latter domain may depicted as in Fig. 5.2 (3), emerging as the consequence of scaffolding in some domain of mediating a common topic T.
The difference between the above three domains are succinctly indicated in the below transitional diagram (Fig. 5.2). While the above may be considered as steps from what Trevarthen terms primary intersubjectivity to secondary intersubjectivity, it should be born in mind that all three steps continues throughout life as competing modes of understanding and relatedness that may come to be activated dependent upon circumstances. This is also emphasized by Stern (1985) concerning the different senses of self which he associate with different domains of relatedness. That is, even when the infant or the adult has acquired means of representing the other and can resort to linguistic means of understanding, contexts may occur that active immediate or transitional modes of relating to oneself or the other. This is here not considered as mere instances of infantile regression on the part of the adult, but as essential and existential modes playing a constitutive role in the mature adult's relating to others. A number of instances have already been considered, namely, the part played by the adult in protoconversation and communion, inviting the infant to the enter the companion space of the adult's virtual other in a reciprocal mode of felt immediacy.
Mediate Interactional Experiences (Stern's model)
Stern has developed a model that applies to domain (D3). It accounts for how the subjective experiences of the mother and child may be bridged through mediational representations. Let us now take a closer look at this model, which concerns the domain of mediate contact, i.e. contact mediated by generalizations of previous contact experiences. It applies to the stage when the child may be attributed an experiential and mediational basis for a represented or generalized other, 'A', using this as an evoked means for understanding the actual other, A, in a mode of mediacy.
Stern suggests that earlier episodes of interactive experience is represented pre-verbally in the child. He terms them 'Representations of Interactions that have been Generalized' (RIGs),11 referring to Roger Schank's computational conception of a dynamic memory in terms of scripts.12 A script is primarily a set of expectation about what will happen in a given situation. In terms of his theory of Dynamic Memory, concerned with processes and reminding and learning in computers and people, Schank sees the small child as building personal scripts. It is also capable of connecting situational scenes together in the form of Memory-Organizing-Packets (MOPs), permitting reconstruction, generalization, and learning on the basis of previous experience. A scene is a combination of physical aspects and goals or expectations, associated with these physical aspects. The six months old child, for example, is expected to be able to operate in terms of different types of MOPs, focusing upon the physical, the societal and the personal aspects, for example, the physical features of the world around the child, what people are present, and his own feelings and sensations at the moment.13
Stern attributes in a related manner the capacity to form RIGs to both mother and child:
"Lived episodes immediately become the specific episodes for memory, and with repetition they become generalized episodes.. They are generalized episodes of interactive experience that are mentally represented - that is, representations of interactions that have been generalized, RIGs. For example, after the first game of peek-a-boo the infant lays down the memory of the specific episode. After the second, third, or twelfth experience of slightly different episodes, the infant will have formed a RIG of peek-a-boo...
The experience of being with a self-regulating other gradually form RIGs. And these memories are retrievable whenever one of the attributes of the RIG is present."14
RIGs form the basic building blocks of Stern's model of the subjective worlds of respectively the infant and the adult (fig. 5.3). In the observable interactions that acts as interface, each encounter may call upon several working models in the mother's repertoire of mental representations. There are RIGs making up a working model of infant. Other RIGs make up mother's working model of self, and again, others are making up mother's working model of her mother, of her husband, etc.
The infant has a less developed repertoire of mental representations. But at least there are a number of RIGs making up the infant's working model of mother. Each forms a different subjective experience of the on-going specific episode of interaction, during which particular RIGs are evoked in the activated memory, playing a part in the subjective experience of the specific episode.
Stern distinguishes between abstract mental representations, say the infant's working model of the model in terms of RIGi, RIGj,...,RIGn, on the basis of previous episodes of interaction, and the activated memory that involve the evocation of an active exemplar during a specific episode. Some of the attributes of a specific episode will act as a retrieval cue to the RIGs, evoking subjective experience that involves what Stern calls Evoked Companion. This is an important notion. It captures in terms of an active exemplar in activated memory the subjective experience (Erlebnis) of being with the historical actual other. The evoked companion is evoked from the RIG not as a recall of an actual past happening, but as an active exemplar of such happenings. The RIGs are abstract representations that cannot be experienced in the form of life as lived. But they can be instanciated in the form of an evoked companion as an activated memory that can be part of lived moments.
The current interactive experience with the present, actual other is compared with the simultaneous occurring experience with the evoked companion. Most important, the detection of any deviation comes about subjectively, in the differences in the "feel" of the evoked companion compared with the actual one. This comparison serves, in turn, to determine what new contribution the current specific episode can make in revising the relevant RIGs.
In the above schematization (Fig.5.3) of a particular episode there is a mark in the mother's field of mental representations for an evoked companion. For the child this corresponds to what is more generically called "subjective experience of the observable event".
Discussion: the evoked companion and the virtual other
In terms of the present thesis it makes sense to state that the evoked companion is an evocation of a re-presented other in the companion space of what I term the virtual other, and distinguished from the latter by its nature of having emerged on the basis of previous interactional experiences.
Being postulated as innate the companion space of the virtual other applies to domains of immediate reciprocity (such as domain (D1)), and allows for the co-genesis of re-presented others or evoked companions, applying to domains of mediate understanding (domain (D3)). According the present thesis the virtual other is already in internal operation prior to interactional experiences that permit generalizations and representations.
Stern's notion of the working model of the other, made up by such RIGs, emerging from prior interactional experiences, is related to Mead's more general notion of the Generalized Other (G.H. Mead, 1934) which in turn has influenced the notion of the simulated other (Bråten 1974). Stern's identified evoked companion in the infant, is accounted for in terms of an activated RIG that permits detection of differences in the "presence" and "feel" of the evoked companion compared with the actual partner.15
Such an account makes the infant's internal evoked companion an activated representational prototypical other that serves to guide experience during a specific episode of interaction, and which may be activated in the presence and absence of actual others. Stern shows how the evoked companion lends itself also to the affective nature of being with other, mediating, as it were, the subjective experience or Erlebnis of feeling with the actual other. It permits subjective experience (Erlebnis) of feeling to come about in the interaction with an actual companion. According to Stern, the evoked companion remains evoked as an entity that mediates the actual subjective experience of the actual companion.
In the presence of an actual other, evoked companions according to Stern function to tell the infant what is now happening, as a record of the past informing the present. That is why evoked companions also may be retrieved in the absence of others from working models formed on the basis of previous interactions. In terms of the present thesis, such evoked companions serving as re-presented others emerge in the companion space of the virtual other. But when the infant's companion space is filled with an actual other in a lived moment of immediate reciprocity the actual other temporarily replaces the infant's virtual other as the self-organizing dyadic mind recreates itself (Cf. Fig. 5.2 (D1)).
According the thesis of the virtual other, the actual companion takes the place of the infant's virtual companion through the self-creative dialogic network of the mind. The infant's evoked companion, revealed by Stern, may be seen to be activated in the postulated internal companion space, termed the virtual other, by virtue of which there may affective attunement in a mode of felt immediacy, not mediacy, when the actual companion takes his place in the self-creative dialogic network of the child. The difference is that when the infant is engaged in protoconversation with the actual other in a mode of felt immediacy, this companion space is seen as being filled by the actual other, replacing the virtual other, who otherwise is active when the actual other is absent.
The companion space of the infant's virtual other, which may be filled by an actual or actualized other, and which, through the primary understanding that comes about in virtue of this felt immediacy, gives rise to the formation of generalized and constructed others, and hence, for activating an exemplar as a simulated or evoked companion in a mode of mediacy.
Stern regards the transition to intersubjectivity to be a "quantum leap".16 This applies to the transition to mediate understanding in domain (D3). But with regard to the primordial domain (D1) no qualitative leap is involved: By virtue of the dialogic closure involving his virtual alter, the infant is able to engage in an intersubjective dyad with his actual alter without any qualitative jumps. The actual other is invited to step in the innate companion space, replacing the virtual other. By virtue of these first encounters involving immediate understanding an experiential ground is established for the emergence of means for expression and understanding in a mediate sense.
As can frequently be observed the infant is engaged not only in contact with actual others, but also appears to be in conversation with himself, that is, with his virtual other or with what Daniel Stern (1985) identifies as evoked companions:
"The infant engages with real external partners some of the time and with evoked companions almost all the time. Development requires a constant, usually silent, dialogue between the two."17
When the infant is by himself, the infant's virtual other will operate much in the same manner as an evoked companion, that is, as a companion process in the infant's dialogue with himself.
Operationally, it may be seen to conform to the format of the dialogical (Cf. Fig.5.3 (D2).
Above, Mead's identification of a generalized other and Stern's concern with working models of the other (domain (D3)), mediated by interactional experiences, have been complemented by the attribution of the virtual other to the infant's organization, in an immediate, pre-and extra-linguistic sense, that permit dyadic closure with an actual other (in domain (D1)). When the infant is by himself, what Stern calls the infant's evoked companion and what is here termed the infant's virtual other, permit the same kind of operations. The infant's evoked or virtual companion takes part in the infant's dialogue with himself. Transitional phenomena (D2) involves a peculiar modus such self-conversation, as accounted for in the previous chapter.
In the next chapter we shall see how this may throw light upon some aspects of creativity and the phenomenon that Piaget terms "egocentric speech". The very creative act involved in what Winnicott terms transitional phenomena, and specified above in terms of the companion space of the infant's virtual other, may also be seen to be related to the preschooler's, and even the adult's, use of various media in self-creative transforming feats of conversation. To this I shall now turn.
161091 NOTES TO CHAPTER 5
1In his description of attitudinal organization and interpersonal psychology, Fritz Heider (1946; 1948; 195?) introduces an POX-notation for, respectively, the person, the other, and the object, X, attended or related to by P and O. Having his notion in mind, I first considered using X for some "object" of shared attention by the infant-adult dyad. Upon later reconsideration I have decided on T as a notation for the object or topic of joint attention, consistent with the usage by Gordon Pask in his conversation theory. While the X-notation may give association with some unknown variable in an equation, the T-notion opens for associations with topic, toy, tool, and even "text" in an enlarged sense. All such associations apply to the system to be considered in this chapter. In activity theory (Enerstvedt,....) there is an emphasis on tools, in line with Vygotsky's paradigm. This will be seen to fit the descriptions offered in the following.
2R. and S. Levine: Mother-Child Interaction in Diverse Cultures. Guest lecture at the University of Oslo, 22 August 1988. See also R. Levine: Parental Behavior in Diverse Societies (in press.) and R. and S. Levine: Onwan: Infants and Parents in a Kenyan Community, Cambridge Univ. Press (in press.)
3Björg Röed Hansen (1991a): Den förste dialogen (The First Dialogue: A study of Infants' Attention in Interplay). Solum forlag, Oslo 1991 (Dr.philos. thesis in psychology at the University of Oslo).
4From Gregory Bateson's Photographic studies of the Balinese and a Photographic study of Balinese Childhood and studies by Margaret Mead and Frances Cooke Macgregory (Added illustrations in Charles Darwin: The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, 1955-edition of the Philosophical Library, with a foreword by Margaret Mead.
5T.B. Brazelton, E. Tronick, L. Adamson, H. Als and S. Wise (1975): Early mother-infant reciprocity. In: Ciba Foundation Symp. 33 Parent-infant Interaction. Amsterdam: Associated Scientific Publishers 1975.
6C. Trevarthen: Descriptive analysis of infant communicative behavior. In H.R. Schaffer (ed.): Studies in Mother-infant Interaction. New York: Academic Press, 1977.
7Björg Röed Hansen: Intersubjektivitet: Et nytt utviklingspsykologisk perspektiv. Tidsskrift for norsk psykologforening, vol.28 1991 pp.568-578.
8E. Tronick (1989): Emotions and emotional communications in infants. American Psychologist, 44, 1989, pp.112-119.
9Jessica Benjamin: An outline of intersubjectivity. Psychoanalytic Psychology 7 (Suppl.) 1990. pp.33-46.
10Here, we may resort to a model of the adult in control by virtue of the adult's representations of the baby and the object........
11D. Stern, op.cit., p.97.
12Schank has developed with Robert Abelson the notion of a (manu)script in computational contexts of artificial intelligence, and which has been found useful also to account for children's behavior.R. Schank: Dynamic Memory: A Theory of Reminding and Learning in Computers and People, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1982, p.3.
13R. Schank, op.cit., pp.129-130.
14D. Stern. op.cit., p.110.
15D. Stern, op.cit., p.116.
16D. Stern, op.cit.,p.133.
17D. Stern, op.cit., pp.116; 118.
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