Creative Preschoolers in Self-conversation and Narration
In the preceding chapters has been indicated how the thesis of the virtual other permits an account of how the infant invites communication with actual others in protoconversation and affect attunement. We have also seen how transitional phenomena, in Winnicott's terms, may be interpreted as the infant's resort to media in recreating reciprocity by transforming some available "object" (as seen by the observer) into a "substitute" actual companion that may enter the internal dialoging space of the child's virtual companion. If this is a plausible interpretation, transitional phenomena may be seen as the first qualitative leap into modes of re-creation and co-constructing its world by various media as they become available to the child, permitting it to taste, grasp, embrace, point, move, scribble and talk. Such media may be seen as means of communication and co-construction in a double sense. First, they permit transcendence of the immediate modes of communication with the child's actual others, enlarging the child's space for contact, as it were, with a repertoire of mediate modes of communication. Second, the child's modes of conversing
with itself, of co-constructing with its virtual other their world and others in it, become enlarged and enriched. Piaget's dictum that intelligence organizes its world by organizing itself, applies to the child as it avails itself of the means for doing so in dialogue with the child's actual or virtual other.
Construction and narration, in the present perspective, is co-constructive activity involving some medium and communication with the child's companions, virtual or actual. When involved in communicative co-construction with its virtual other, it may appear to an observer as self-centered and non-communicative. But the next moment, or later in the process, the child may open itself to the actual other and let him and her in as a participant in a narrational co-constructing activity. The principle of constructivism may be regarded as relevant if it is considered pertaining to a process of co-construction involving the child's virtual other, as in so-called "egocentric speech" identified by Piaget and Vygotsky. In the following, children's "egocentric speech" and communication with companions that are named by the child, while invisible to the adult, will be accounted for in this perspective. Snapshots of preschoolers' narratives in verbal and visual forms will be offered. When the child creates a narrative by himself, and later inform others about it, this be seen as example of activity in which the child uses media as co-constructive means in the self-conversation that involves the child's virtual other, much in the same format at transitional phenomena (cf. chapter 4). Towards the ending of this chapter, and returned to later, even cases one's feeling being understood by a computer program, will be seen as a case of activation a conversation with oneself by means of a computing medium interface.
The narrational self with the child's virtual other
Trevarthen and Logotheti (1987) have observed one-year old infants starting narrative-like expressions in protolanguage, and which may be complimented and complemented by actual others in a kind of co-operative discourse that involves such patterns as question-answer; request-refusal; request-compliance, etc. (Cf. also Trevarthen, 1990). The initial asymmetry in languaging in the dyad is transformed into a near-symmetrical mode of languaging in the dyad, in which both participates in a symbolic play. The striking characteristic of the symbolic play is not only that various objects or persons may be distinguished by members of the dyad, but that absent objects or persons may be evoked in narrative-like proceedings.
According to Chapman (19..) and Stern (1985), the infant's verbal categorization and a sense of the verbal self and others begin at the 15th or 16th month. Chapman marks the beginning of symbolic play, evoking absent objects and events at the beginning of the third year, and Stern (person communication) indicates that there is a jump between 36 and 42 months in the child's life when a narrative self and others comes into play.
Sometimes, a storytelling or picture book, may serve as a medium for the process of the child's dialoging with his or her virtual other, and in virtue of which he recreates a story telling scene with the absent adult other as the story-teller. For example, the boy Johan (29 months), has brought to bed a picture book. Each page is made up of a pictured person. But the pages is split in six pieces, so that each of the pieces may be turned over, revealing a part of another character, picture on the next page. Johan is sitting in his bed, while his older brother is sleeping in a bed above him. He turns the separate pieces over as he carries on this dialogue with himself:
" Is that daddy? No, that's grandpa! Is that daddy? (as he turns a page) No, that's not daddy." He repeats this sequence several times, and then finally asks himself: "Where's Kine?" (Kine is his older sister.) He climbs out of his bed, goes into the kitchen, and grabs a bottle, exclaiming "Kine!" and then proceeds to find her. In this sequence, the boy in his third year, are making distinctions and comparison with between pictures and symbolized absent others, that otherwise plays an active part as significant others in his world. But after a while, he makes a shift. He may be seen to abort the dialogue with his virtual other about the absent others, and goes about to find and bring into his present one of them, his older sister, associating the bottle with her.
Children's invisible playmates
Later in life, the preschool child's conversation with imaginary playmates may be seen in this light as coming about through a creative act involving the child's virtual other. This seems consistent with Stern's identifying an evoked companion in the child that operates in the absence of actual others.1
Parents paying attention to the children's activity when left by themselves will sometimes realize that a child, who may be two years old or older, with voice and bodily gestures carries on long conversations with someone or something that is invisible to the parent. Unlike dolls or teddybears or other bodily realized and named playmates visible to the adult, the child's invisible companion can only be inferred from the child's own gestures, and sometimes, from what the child tells about this specific companion. The child may let the parents or care person in on this communication with this invisible companion or playmate, and even tell them the name. The adult may even be invited to participate in the communication with the invisible playmate, pretending to pay attention and show consideration. The parent may also attribute such pretended play-acting to the child, that is, assuming that to the child the invisible companion is not "really there", the child only pretends and play-acts as if the invisible companion really exists. Be that as it may, the child will usually demand that its invisible companion be taken seriously. The invisible companion may take a part in funny incidents shared by the child, but the invisible companion, like the child, should not be made fun of. The child's invisible companion are brought along on all serious undertakings. It should be given food, room should be made for it in the wagon, it should be brought along on trips, etc. The case story of an invisible companion to a boy, named Haukur, when moving to Island, told by his mother, illustrates this aspect:
"Haukur was three and a half year when the family moved from Oslo to Akureyri, a village in the northern part of Island. When we had lived there for some weeks Haukur began talking about his friend "Little Haukur"...after a while he told us that Little Haukur had his own job in a large white house at the harbour. One day he showed us the building.."There Little Haukur has his office with his name on the door." We later learnt that this was not the first time he had pointed out the working place of Little Haukur. Before that he had been there with his grandparents and shown it to them.
All through the winter we were invited to follow the development at his working place. The narratives usually started with "At the job of Little Haukur..." We were also kept oriented about Little Haukur's opinions about our daily life.
After the winter at Akureyri the family was to return to Oslo.... via Reykjavik for about two weeks stay there. On the road to the airport at Akureyri Haukur suddenly began to cry. He told us that we had forgotten to bring along Little Haukur.....After a while we worked out a solution asking the driver to bring with her Little Haukur when she were to return to Reykjavik in a few days. Haukur instructed her carefully about how to find Little Haukur and emphasized the name on his office door.........
Nowadays Haukur speaks rarely about Little Haukur. One day I asked him how was it with Little Haukur, should we not go and fetch him. Haukur smiled and said: "Didn't you know. Little Haukur is only me", pointing at his own head.
This was the last time I heard about Little Haukur."2
By that time Haukur was five, approaching six years old. This story illustrates several important aspect of the prevailing phenomenon of children's invisible companion. First, the invisible companion initially appears to exist to the child in time and space, and takes a part in the child's activities. When Little-Haukur was left behind, Haukur acutely felt the loss of the companionship of Little-Haukur (an perhaps also the felt communion of earlier childhood) and took steps to re-create the relationship. When approaching school age it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the companionship with someone "out there" who has no bodily realization. That which is acceptable for the toddler need not be felt acceptable for one approaching school age. Gradually, the existence of Little-Haukur as independent of Haukur is denied. But there is an elegant twist to this: Little-Haukur's existence is not explicitly denied. Haukur informs his mother, or maybe even assumes that his mother realizes, that his named companion is actually himself, or a littler version of himself.
It is interesting that six year old Haukur's "solution" is close to the way in which we speak of the related phenomena in adult age. We speak of people's tendency to mumble or talk "to themselves". For example, a post-doctorate student noticed that while she mostly were welcomed at the luncheon table, on certain days her colleagues tended to avoid her during luncheon time. She wondered about this and outright asked them why. She was then told, that the partitioned walls of her office did not reach the ceiling. Hence, on certain days her angry voice, when she was talking to herself, could clearly be heard. Those were the days they stayed clear of her.
Again, I venture that most of the readers of this book at some time or other have been talking audibly to themselves, perhaps afterwards embarrassedly looking around to check if someone has heard them, or being arrested by someone nearby present who innocently asks: "What did you say?", or, "Did you say something?". Some people, and not merely of old age, carry this audible talking to themselves openly and without embarrassment. For example, contemporaries of Adam Smith, remember him as a child who could not join the rough and tumble of the playground, and recall his remarkable good nature, his prodigious memory, and "his habit of talking to himself, a habit that he never lost in adult life".3
It should be obvious from the way in which the dialogic and reciprocal nature of the mind has been laid out in the previous chapters, that such overt cases of people talking to themselves and of children conversing with invisible playmates may be seen as outward manifestations of processes that go on almost all the time in the absence of conversations with actual others. That is, when the child's or adult's mind is not engaged in conversation with some actual other, the mind in a wakeful state is engaged
in conversation with what is here termed a virtual other, or with some re-presented other, an evoked companion as Daniel Stern terms it, activated in the companion space of the virtual other. As he points out, "in fact, because of memory, we are rarely alone, even (perhaps especially) during the first half-year of life" (Stern, 1985:118). We are nearly always engaged in operation with the other, actual or virtual.
If we permit the term "memory" in the above quotation to be replaced by "the dialogic nature and reciprocal operation of the mind", as an operational definition of the memorizing mind, then the above statement provides the key to understanding human understanding in a new way: "Remembering" becomes "re-construction with one's present, re-presented, or virtual other"; "thinking" becomes "conversation with one's virtual other", and, "talking to oneself", including aspects of what Piaget identified as "ego-centric speech" becomes manifestation of thinking, interpreted in the above manner as conversation with one's virtual other.
Children's "egocentric speech"
This view implies that the child should be expected to be active in covert or overt dialogue with his virtual other, in other words, talking to himself in a way that even may appear as non-sense to the observer. In other words, the implied self-creative dialogue of the child may manifest itself in the way that correspond to the phenomenon that Piaget calls "egocentric speech". He considers it a primitive and infantile language function and finds that it disappears with the child's coming of age and beginning school.4 Vygotsky objected to Piaget's view. He considered that so-called egocentric speech continued as an internal mode of thought in school children, with more rare external manifestations.
It terms of the idea of the dialogic nature of mind that which manifests itself as egocentric speech may seen as an externalization of the child's self-creative dialogue with his virtual companion. In the absence of some actual other taking the place of the one's virtual other, this self-creative dialogue may be expected to occur at different stages and age-levels, although its overt manifestations may vary with age, state and situation. For example, as we shall see later, even a "conversation" with a computer program that give the user the feeling of being understood, may be seen as a conversation between the user and his virtual companion.
Vygotsky's view of so-called "egocentric speech"
In view of Vygotsky's emphasis on the priority of interpsychic processes over intrapsychic ones it is only natural that he should object5 to Piaget's expectation of the disappearance of the so-called "egocentric speech".
Vygotsky points to demonstrations of how the relative amount of children's egocentric speech increases as the difficulty of the child's task increases:6
"In order to determine what causes egocentric talk, what circumstances provoke it, we organized the children's activities in much the same way as Piaget did, but we added a series of frustrations and difficulties. For instance, when a child was getting ready to draw, he would suddenly find that there was no paper, or no pencil of the colour he needed. In other words, by obstructing his free activity we made him face problems.
We found that in these difficult situations the coefficient of egocentric speech almost doubled, in comparison with Piaget's normal figures for the same age and also in comparison with our figure for children not facing these problems."7
In terms of the present thesis this means that the inner dialogue with the Virtual Other becomes intensified and even manifests itself overtly in relation to the difficulty of the problem situation. It is expected to occur even in the adult, in which the dialogic circle with his virtual Other is being activated during interaction with a problem-posing object, that is, as a dyadic unity processing the task in question.8
The very act of drawing, for example, may thus be seen as an activity in which the internal dialogue recreates itself in an exteriorized form in which expressive media are comprised by the self-creative dialogic network in the which the child engages in conversation with his virtual companion. The drawing, or other kinds of expressions, are created by the child with the child's virtual companion. When obstructions are introduced from the outside, for example through removing or hiding means of expression such as pencil or paper, the self-creative dialogue with the child's virtual companion continues and makes itself felt through other available means of expression. The child talking to himself, or rather, carrying on a loud conversation with his virtual companion, is one such available way. The finding of increased frequency of so-called egocentric speech upon removal of means may be taken as an indication that the internal dialogue with the child's virtual companion which may have been silent if the handling of a task situation was allowed to run its way, still continues but chooses other means of expressing itself.
The thesis thus entails that so-called ego-centric speech is not an epi-phenomenon, but an expression of an integral part of the self-creative dialogic activity. Vygotsky's describes an incident that may illustrate this. A child (five-and-a-half year) is in the process of drawing a streetcar when his pencil breaks. He tries to continue with the pencil, but in vain, and mutters: "It's broken!". Taking watercolors instead, he now begins depicting a broken streetcar after an accident, continuing to talk to himself from time to about the change in his picture. As Vygotsky's states it:
"The child's accidentally provoked egocentric utterance so manifestly affected his activity that it is impossible to mistake it for a mere by-product, an accompaniment not interfering with the melody."9
Vygotsky's interpretation is consistent with an interpretation in terms of the present thesis: The child is engaged in a self-creative dialogic process involving his virtual companion, and which continues even when the pencil breaks, but now in loud conversation with his virtual companion, the content of which in turn becomes an integral part of the continued self-creative activity involving watercoloring and conversation.
An example may illustrate this: Sitting beside me as a stranger on the plane from Bergen to Oslo, five-year-old Silje was traveling by herself. The stewardess handed her a plaything consisting of a coloured landscape of trees, grass, water and sky, and a set of loose marks for plants, animals, birds, etc. Silje immediately got about the task of placing the various marks on to the corresponding places in the landscape surround. While she was working on this task, she was talking loudly to herself. Sometimes she would turn silent, and look in my direction. But soon she would forget about the stranger besides her, and being absorbed in her work, her talking to herself could be heard again. After her task was completed, she fell asleep. This case of Silje invites two interpretations. First, that her talking to herself was an epiphenomenal activity, not inherent or essential to what she was actually doing with the bits and pieces. The second interpretation, in line with the perspective developed in this book, is that Silje's very processing involved her conversing all the time with her virtual companion, irrespective of whether it manifested itself audibly or not.
Vygotsky reports that school children tended to act differently than preschool children in a task situation. The older children appeared to evaluate the situation, take a prolonged pause, and then proceed to find a solution. But
when asked what he is thinking about, such a child would answer much in line with "the thinking aloud" of a preschooler.
However, by now, he has learnt to be silent in class and listen and learn. He will more rarely forget himself and resort to so-called egocentric speech. But according to Vygotsky it does not disappear, as Piaget would have it; it merely "goes underground", turned into inner speech as a mode of thinking. This is in line with the present thesis: the self-creative dialogue will continue to recreate itself in various modes and through various means of expressions. But it may also undergo periodic collapse and be replaced by monologic, or even monolithic, modes of thinking. I assume that this is not only a matter of maturity, but also of the disciplinarian context and the kind of invitations that a school normally extend to the child to think, write and draw in the one right way, which is the way of the school, rather than as expressions of self-creative dialogic terms. Also the case of Peter, to whom we shall turn to later, may indicate this.
Preschoolers' creative drawings
Since the turn of this century there has become available a steadily growing number of books and exhibitions devoted to children's drawings. They are studied and described from a number of different viewpoints, in terms of pedagogical, psychological, psycho-analytical, anthropological and artistic perspectives (for example, Boutonier, 1959; Eng, 1945; Dileo, 1983; Gardner, 1980; Kellog, 1969; Laszlo, 1905; Mortensen, 1984; Cornell et al., 1985).
In his work on the significance of children's drawings Howard Gardner (1980)10 has summarized some of the findings about similarities in the development of forms of expression across different cultures where paper and a marker, a brush or a pencil, are available. In the third or fourth years of life, the child seems to be establishing a vocabulary of lines and forms as basic building blocks for graphic expressions, and which the adult may describe, for example, as circles, crosses, rectangles and triangles. Already in the drawings of second or third years old children, certain combinations of forms may be seen to appear more frequently than others, for example, mandala-like forms with one or several crosses inside or across the closing boundary. This is revealed in the collection of and study by Rhode Kellogg (1969).11 She sees in the drawing development of the children a quest for order and harmony, and considers the circular form as a pivotal means of expression in this development: From variations of the circle will grow suns with lines of radiation, and the means of constructing human-like figures that the child may label "mommy" or even "me". To the adult these forms may look like tadpoles, with eyes marked inside the circular body and two lines extending from its lower part, sometimes also with arms sticking out of the sides of the circle.12
To adult eyes such drawings re-present humans. But such an attribution needs not be quite adequate. The child may present her mother, herself, or some person or pet, as part of a narration that brings them forth, makes them present. The child will declare that this is mommy and this is doggy, not that this is a picture of mommy or doggy. The awareness of himself being present in the mirror or of some other person being present in a picture may come very early. For example, Johan (18 months old) is looking at his grandmother's making portraits of his mother and father. Afterwards, when grandmother shows him the portraits hanging on the wall, while saying "Mama" and "Papa", Johan suddenly turns around in her arm towards a painting of his grandfather hanging on a nearby wall and exclaims stuttering with excitement: "Bbppap!" (Bestepappa; Norwegian for Granddaddy). He was happy about recognizing granddaddy (who was absent at the time). When two years old and looking at a video-recording in which his mother calls his name, "Johan", he acknowledges with a loud "Yes" (here I am).
When three years and three month the same boy, Johan, was looking with grandmother at all the children drawings on her bedroom wall. Grandmother explains: "There Karin (his sister) has drawn Chansey (the dog in the family), there she has drawn (another sister), there Mommy and Daddy, there Jan Andreas" (an elder brother). Johan the exclaims: "But where am I then?" Admitting that he is not on the wall, grandmother suggests that he make a drawing himself, and it shall be put on the wall. Exclaiming "yeah!" Johan rushes into his bedroom. With his mother's attending he makes scribbles in blue, black, and yellow, commenting as he draws: "Here is Carl Christian, has a knife". "Here is a fly." "Here is a train, the path that the train follows" (a large loop in black). "A big stone". "Daddy's boat." "A dragon" (a dramatic and intricate scribbling across the page).
When the child enters the second and third year of life and gradually acquires graphic means for creating forms and give them life on the paper or on some other surface, the question in the adult's mind about what it may re-present, may not be quite pertinent. The question may rather be what the child has made present through its creative and narrational activity, albeit the question about what it looks like will frequently occur in the adults' comments.
Howard Gardner compares drawings of three-and-one-half-year children, which he classifies as either being a "patterner" or a "dramatist". The patterner appears engrossed in the patterning and repatterning of visual forms, for example, beginning with dots and making lines that connect them, fascinated by the complexity of the forms that emerge. The dramatist may create a dramatic episode of social relations through his drawing, for example when Johan begins drawing his friend with his knife, or, as in the below example (Fig. 6.1) by another three-and-half year old:
""Once upon a time, there was a little fish" (draws...) "and he had a mommy fish" (draws...). "Once the little fish went swimming away (draws loop above the little fish). "The mommy chased after him" (draws...). "'Bad, bad, you!" she said. "'I am going to have to put a gate on'." (draws ..stripes on top of the little fish)..'and I want eyes to see you'." (adds eyes on both the fish)." (Gardner, 1980:49)13
Is this a story about two fishes only re-presented on the paper, or are they made present in the narrative act? The narrative child has acquired a rich repertoire of symbols, and creates new symbolic expression in his verbal and visual story-telling. If we were to ask him if there is actually a fish there on the paper, or whether it is a drawing of a fish, he would admit to its being a drawing. And yet, the distinction between symbols and the things that symbols may "re-present" may be disregarded in the child's creative process, sometimes fusing, as it were, that which is brought forth and the means of expression. The above narrative may be seen as an act of creation of two fishes that come alive and acquire features as part of the very creation of the drama of their life and relations. The fishes are presently swimming on the paper, not merely re-presented as swimming in the water somewhere else.
But there comes a time when the child with his elders will make a distinction with between his marks on the paper and persons and entities elsewhere in his universe. He is faced with questions about the degree to which his markings resemble something else than his markings, and of what they may re-present. The fact that he puts names on his markings does not attest to this. When, for example, asserting that a drawn circle is a balloon, or a "poopoo", one should take his statement for what it is, namely "That's a balloon,.., a poopoo", not a statement about the form resembling or representing a balloon.14 As the school age is approaching the frequency of questions about and requests for resemblance and representations is increased. The creatures and configurations of forms in the graphically constructed worlds of the child gives way to drawings in the quest for photographic reproductions of things and beings in the world outside the drawing itself, or the drawing activity may be shelved altogether.
While the children's power of, or interest in, free graphic creation, elaboration and self-expression seems to wane during the early school years (Gardner 1980:11), their power of symbolic representation through the use of various media increases. Their ability to create striking expressions, even graphically, is not lost. For example, when studying step-family relations, Irene Levin (1989) asks the children to depict their relations in the families graphically. Ole (7 years) comes up with the picture of a tree, with a circular symbol for his smiling face placed in the trunk, and the symbolized faces of each family members of his two families placed on the branches at each side of the tree, all of them smiling except for his stepbrother (with only eyes and nose). His father and mother are placed on the two uppermost branches, on their respective sides of the trunk. Truls (14 years) resorts to another graphical solution. He places symbols for each of the members of the two households within two separately, but interlined drawn houses, and then distributes two symbols for himself, one in each house. In one of them, the marks for his two stepsisters are put within parenthesis ("they are not in the family, but they are there").15
Cosmology of a five year old child
When Peter is four years old he starts to produce a number of scribbles which he and his father collect in a folder for "important things". The scribbles appear to picture human beings, animals, trees and things, linked together by arrows.
Peter has watched his father's drawing with colleagues flow charts as basis for computer programming. He may have come to understand that when the adults try to picture "important things" they resort to the use of arrows. Peter has a number of important things to ponder about on his own. What are the questions he asks himself, and what kind of replies does he offer to himself and others? One day, when Peter is five years old, his father places him on his lap and ask Peter to tell him about his drawings. Peter is the teacher, his father the pupil. Peter shows patience with his father's ignorance and misunderstandings, and tells him about the world and things in it in terms of cords and containers of air, water, earth and fire.
His drawings combine scribbles, naturalistic styled forms, and various forms of box diagrams and arrows.16 The latter means of expression he has probably picked up from observing his father's working with flow charts for computer programming. A selection of his drawings17 is shown in Fig. 6.2 and 6.3.
As Peter explains to his father what he has brought forth, it turns out that they are expressions of a child's metaphysics. Peter has made his own observations, for example of the changing faces of the moon, or how matches flare up when struck against the side of the matchbox. He also draws upon stories he has heard, for example about the genesis and about evolution, about the growing of trees, about people and animals. But the questions and replies about the how and why of things in his universe he has come up with on his own account. Here are some of Peter's own expressions (taken out of context and translated as nearly as possible to his grammatically informal statements):
"This shows..... ".. it (water) that made people and God who made the other things.." (Fig.6.2 (i)) ".. how the brain was made..." ".. how it is inside...that there eye ours..." ".. why one always thinks that what one sees.." ".. why the body grows..." ".. how wounds heal themselves..." ".. when the heart beats........" ".. why the heart does not beat when one is dead.." ".. why one has closed ones eyes when one is dead.." ".. why one is cold when waking up in the morning.." ".. why clocks tick.."
Referring to his illustrations in Fig.6.1 (i), five-year old Peter gives his account of genesis and evolution in this way: Peter: "Here I just show that - emm - that, do you think that it was in that water that provided us, but - or do you think that it is God who created water?" Father: "Hmm, yes, both (interrupted by an eager Peter) Peter: "I believe it was - yes, that I believe, too. I believe it was it (the water?) that made people and God who made the other things." Father: "I see. (Javel)" Peter: "That animal I believe, yes, became a man. Father: "Yes, that's why you've have drawn it like that, yes" Peter: "Ummm" Father: "and one arrow come from God and the other from the animal?" Peter: "No!" Father: "Ah, no." Peter: "It just shows either is that animal that is made or either is it God." Father: "Yes, well, I see, mmm." Later they turn to the second illustration in Fig. 6.2 (ii): Peter: "Here is how God managed to create things." Father: "Yes. Aha. Let's put a "k" on this one, then." Peter: "But you - shall I tell you something? You know, I believe there are many things down in the earth." Father: "Yes." Peter: "and each time God said that now shall there be a tree - then the tree came up from the earth." Father: "Yes." Peter: "I believe there were many things inside the earth - earth - came up each time God said so." In a related manner Peter accounts for how it is that makes the match take fire when struck against the matchbox, and what it is that make a lamp lighten up in these ways: There is already a fire inside the head of the match. When being stricken, the cover is destroyed and the fire shows itself. There is fire inside the earth, conducted by a cord to the lamp:
"Look here. Here is something too (unclear). Shall I tell you something? That, you know, I believe inside the matches there is something..(interrupted by the father who marks the drawing and Peter switches his attention to another part) You know, let me tell you something...You know there that really hot inside the earth..and from that warmth there is a cord. And that cord follows up to the lamps. And then the lamps becomes lighter. Just like this there. It lightens and that for the warmth comes in the cords.....and here. You, and look (turn to his matchbox drawing) I believe there is fire inside the matches."
There are many more examples of the questions elicited in Peter from what he may have heard from others or observed by himself, and to which he then have proceeded to provide a reply. For example, about what it is that makes one return to a house when walking straight all the time. Peter illustrates this by placing the house linked by an arrow to an array of persons walking on a circumference (Fig.6.3 (i)). He tells his father:
"..You know, here I just show that if one walks from a house and then walks straight all the time..then one will return to the house."
In this way Peter has illustrated a story he may have been told about how a straight walk from one's house may bring one back to the house. He has his own explanation of how the moon changes its form (Fig. 6.3 (ii)):
"let me tell you - that here I merely show that I believe that there are many such stripes ...stripes, mm..on the moon...and each time then - then some of them fall off, that is, some of the strikebits, then some of the parts of the moon fall off...Then it is half moon! But these - when it becomes full moon, then they return - then the magnet pulls all the parts together again - then full moon becomes."
In many of his accounts Peter employs the container principle which he has used in some of the above illustrations. For example, a match flares up when struck because the surface is broken letting out the fire contained inside the match-head. The earth contains warmth and trees which come out on the surface upon some perturbation or command. He considers the body a container of air. Hence, for example, when he poses himself the question of how a man grows smaller when he becomes an old man, he explains it in terms of air gradually leaking out of the old man's body. He even applies this to the effect of being shot by a gun. In his own (translated) words: "Each time one is shot, there will be a hole in the brain and air will not enter the heart, but leaks out of this pipe."
It is apparent from the above conversations that Peter enjoys telling his father what he has found out. He combines bits and pieces of information he has picked up from various sources.
But he makes his own observations, also, and the questions he poses and the accounts he comes up with are documentation of a self-creative activity on his own premises. That is, the questions and replies as to the why and how of things he have heard about or experienced himself, emerge from his dialoging with himself and his explaining them to others, or in terms of the thesis: from his dialogue with his virtual companion as well as with his actual companions.
During his fifth year Peter enjoys telling also other children what he has found out. Sometimes in the Kindergarten he may be seen strolling around with a little girl or a boy behind him, gesticulating and appearing to explain something or other to the other child. Sometimes he may even be seen strolling around by himself, his gesticulating revealing his conversation with himself.
Peter's case need not be considered a unique one. As has already been referred to, children's talk and scribbles reveal a richness of insight and creativity to those who pays caring and respectful attention to them without posing questions about what the scribble "represents" or resembles, and without offering smug replies about how things "really are". In terms of the present thesis, any preschool child may be seen as engaged in a quest for making sense out of his universe, co-constructed in conversations with his virtual other and with available actual others. But the kinds of questions, the means of expressing them, and the availability of conversational partners without ready-made answers and prescriptions that can silence the child's dialoging on his own premises can differ.
Temporarily collapse of self-creative dialogue: Model monopoly
As has been indicated above, the internal dialoging in the child has a self-creative aspect, even when it employs "objects", and later, linguistic and other means in its dialogic mode of operation, such as the infant's doll or the preschool child's means for scribbling and talking to himself. As may be seen from the artful scribbles reproduced by Howard Gardner and others, and from the case of Peter, such expressions of the preschool child's activities indicate that if circumstances permit, the preschool child may sometimes be highly creative, posing questions, devising replies and expression in his own terms.
At some point in the development between the two years old creating a balloon, the three years old creating the drama of the fishes as she creates them, and Ole's symbolizing himself and his families' members, distributed around the trunk of a represented tree, there occurs a shift from graphical forms as creatures in themselves with symbolic labels attached to them to the creation of symbolic form to represent others than themselves. To Peter this may have occurred when he watched the adults drawing circles and boxes and linking them with lines that showed some direction, and when he came to realize that he could imitate such a means of expressing some of his own reasoning about the how and why of people and things in his co-constructed universe. In his case, as well as in the drama of two fishes, quoted from Gardner's quote, talk accompanies the drawing; the fishes are created as the child talks and makes a drawing. In the case of Peter, his graphic productions run parallel to his conversations with his friends and with himself. And as he goes through his drawings with his father, each of the drawings (that he recognizes) re-activates some of his thinking when making the drawing.
Everyone of the above preschoolers may in some respect be compared to the infant involved in what Winnicott terms transitional phenomena. They resort to various media in what is here seen as an self-creative activity that involves dialoging with themselves in terms of the child's virtual other. Today, computational media are made available. Sherry Turkle has studied children from age four to fourteen in interaction with computer programs and highly interactive objects that "talk, teach, play, and win". In her book, The Second Self, she reports how the children discuss interactive features of the computer in psychological terms, rather than physical or mechanical ones, that is, whether or not "it" is aware, is conscious, has feelings, and so on. They make distinctions, for example, between thinking and feeling. Some of the children define themselves, not in terms of how they may differ from animals, but by how they differ from computers, for example by having feelings; the computer may be smart, but it cannot feel anything. Yet, the children sometimes seem to want their computer to be alive. Turkle recounts the story of five years' old Lucy, who is small for her age and teased by the other children. She makes her mother buy her a Speak and Spell programme. She makes it her constant companion, and works out a special way to "breathe life into" the programme, making it 'alive'.18 In terms of the present thesis, the programme may have contributed to the activation of her dialogue with herself, that is, with her virtual other.
When entering school this internal dialogue may come to be temporarily silenced. There appear to be a qualitative change from preschool to school age: Children's artful scribbles mostly disappear. So does overt manifestation of so-called "ego-centric" speech unless the situation is problematic. The school children come to take part in an institution which is to function as the source of the right answers to the right questions.
For example, the continuation of the story of Peter's case is this: When approaching the year for beginning at school, he went, six years old, with his father to the school and brought the folder with the important things in it. But since day one at school he never again produced another scribble expressing his cosmology. His folder of important things was laid aside, never to be retrieved. Instead, he learnt at school to listen to his teachers and pay attention to their ready-made questions and replies about how things "really" are.
Again, this is not a unique happening, applying only to Peter. We have seen how the self-creative dialogue manifesting itself in so-called egocentric speech appears to disappear during school age as children becomes more disciplined. This may indicate not only that the outward manifestation disappear and goes "under ground", as Vygotsky considers it. It could also be taken as an indication that the child's self-creative activity involving dialoging with the child's virtual companion collapses, at least periodically, as the child enters school time and there learns that there is no need to ask questions of himself; the teacher has all the answers.
In terms of the present thesis: that which manifests itself as egocentric speech may seen as exteriorizing the child's self-creative dialogue with his virtual companion. In the absence of some actual other taking the place of the one's virtual other, this self-creative dialogue may be expected to occur at different stages and age-levels, although its overt manifestations may vary with age, state and situation. But when there is available at nearly all time an actual other who may provide all the "right" answers, then the child's self-creative dialogue may collapse. As found by Howard Gardner and others, there appears to be a qualitative change from preschool to school age with regard to children's artful scribbles: They mostly disappear. Could it be that the disappearance of such phenomena reflects a collapse of the self-creative dialogue in the child? In the process of becoming aware that the teachers have the access to the right expression and the valid replies, that the child is at school to learn how things "really" are, the internal dialogue in the child, as well as its outward expressions, may come to be silenced, be perturbed by the process of learning the one true way which is the way of monologue, to repeat that which the adults already know and not stray away from it.19
When the school functions in this way it may be seen to provide the ground for what elsewhere has been termed "model monopoly" (Bråten, 1973a, 1983, 1984).20S. Bråten (1983): Dialogens vilkår i datasamfunnet (Dialogue Conditions in the Computer Society), Oslo: University Press.
S. Bråten (1984): The Third Position - beyond Artificial and Autopoietic Reduction. Kybernetes, vol.13, 157-163 (Reprinted in G.Geyer and J. van der Zouwen (eds.): Sociocybernetic Paradoxes. London: Sage 1986, 193-205. It refers to the way in which, with reference to some particular universe of discourse, a model-weak participant B submits to the mediated perspective of the model-strong participant A in a manner that rules out any complementary perspectives. That is, B not only takes A's perspective, but is overtaken by it in a manner that subsumes his own with reference to the universe of discourse:
(p1) Given a stable universe of discourse that is well defined by a model-strong participant A, acknowledged by a model-weak participant B as the source of truths about that universe, B may come to submit to A's mediated perspective in a way that rules out any complementary perspective that may be applied to the universe, including any alternative that B otherwise might have come up with on his own.
This may not only apply to the school child submitting to the model monopoly of the teacher or the text book author. In chapter 9, devoted to internalization of principles, I shall give an example from the history of science of how Leibniz submitted to Aristotelian logic in a manner that postponed the introduction of mathematical logic for one and a half century (Russell 1961:173; Bråten 1988b).21S. Bråten (1988b): Between Dialogical Mind and Monological Reason: Postulating the Virtual Other. In: M. Campanella (ed.): Between Rationality and Cognition. Torino: Albert Meynier, 1988,205-236. This exemplifies how dialogue between complementary perspectives under certain conditions, such as specified in (p1), temporarily may be brought to collapse, silencing any dialogue in or between minds with reference to the universe of discourse. In the next part I shall return to this and also consider other ways in which the inherent capacity to relate to others in a reciprocal manner may collapse.
E271191 NOTES TO CHAPTER 6
1Cf. D. Stern, op.cit., p. 116.
2I am grateful to Helga Sigurdbjarnadottr (CORRECT SPELLING?) for writing down this story about her son.
3Quoted from an exhibition folder "Morals, Motives & Markets. Adam Smith 1923-90", Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh 1990, p.9 (I owe this reference to Colwyn Trevarthen).
4Cf. J. Piaget, op.cit., 1960, pp.9-15; 17: 21.
5L. Vygotsky: Thought and Language. New, revised ed. by A.Kozulin, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1986.
6L. Vygotsky: Mind in Society, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.,p.27.
7L.Vygotsky, op.cit.,1986,s.30; see also L.Vygotsky, op.cit.,1978,s.27,
8In a film sequence of two different subjects engaged in the Hat-rack task from about 1970 Kjell Raaheim (Cf.his Problem Solving and Intelligence, Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, pp.46-52) demonstrates two distinct patterns of problem-solving behaviour: One with his back to the experimenter and immersed in the task of trying out possible solutions; the other repeatedly looking at the experimenter as if to engage him in communication while proceeding with the task. Only in the former could one expect occurrence of "inner speech" (dialoging with his virtual Other), not in the latter, who apparently was trying to engage the experimenter as his actual Other. Needless to say, the latter would also be expected to fail in his task.
9L. Vygotsky: Thought and Language. New ed. ed. A. Kozulin. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 1986, p.31.
10H. Gardner: Artful Scribles. New York: Basic Books, Inc. 1980.
11R. Kellogg: Analyzing Children's Art. Palo Alto: National Press Books 1969 (referenced in H. Gardner, op.cit.)
12H. Gardner, op.cit., pp. 43; 60-61.
13H. Gardner, op.cit., p.49.
14Here, I may express disagreement with the position of Howard Gardner (op.cit.,p.50), who see this feat of the twenty-eight months child as expression of a quest for a possible fit between depiction and referent. When his daughter, Kay, two years old, is presented with a large circle, she is able upon request to place hair at the top of the circle and dots for eyes near the top, he makes this comment: "I would not here speak of genuine representation, for the impulse to represent came from outside the child. At the same time, once offered the relevant suggestion, the child was able to add features that clearly reflected some topological fidelity to the human body." True, upon request the child may have created (with his parents) a human being present there on the paper, not a picture or re-presentation of one.
15I. Levin: Barnetegninger - stefamiliens fingeravtrykk?" i: I. Levin and .........Relasjoner. Trondheim: Tapir 1989, pp.63 - 65.
16For the Freudian interpreter of the drawings to follow, accustomed to interpret pillars in terms of penis symbols, it should be remembered that Peter has acquired the means of using arrows as a means of artistic expression.
17In all about 40 or so drawings were commented by Peter in a "lecture" to his father where Peter recounts his thinking while making the drawings and corrects his father from time to time when the latter misunderstands.
18Sherry Turkle: The Second Self, Granada, London 1984, pp.41-42.
19But such periodic collapses of the self-creative dialogue on own premises need not only in the transition from being a preschooler to becoming a schooled child. In any disciplining context that demands consistency, coherence, and reduction in terms of ready-made knowledge accepted as valid by the community of minds, this kind of collapse may occur. This, then, should also apply to the adult in contexts of philosophy and science. To this we turn in the next chapter.
20S. Bråten (1973): Model Monopoly and Communication: Systems theoretical notes on democratization. Acta Sociologica, vol. 16, no.2, 98-107.
21B. Russell (1961): History of Western Philosophy, London: George Allen & Unwin, 173.
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