Sunday, December 23, 2012

What happened to the "Sociocultural Dimension"?


Someone who is a bit rusty on the GPA, may mistakenly wonder where the Sociocultural Dimension has been in my recent posts. Well you'll recall that Sociocultural Theory is about what learning is and how it happens, and what mental functions are and how they develop.

So all I have been describing is about our nurturer interacting with us in our zone of proximal development (or as we like to say, our growth zone), and playing with us in ways that enable our growth--growth into the practices of his people group.

Then, again, if someone is rusty on all this, she may say say, but where are those host practices in your sessions? Well, the main place they are so far is in the nurturers words and utterances! Although "sociocultural" in "Sociocultural Theory" doesn't mean "anthropological," in the GPAwe also include "culture" in the anthropological sense when we say "sociocultural". We're not falling down on that front either. People say, "But you're not doing cultural observations. You're not asking the nurturer cultural questions. You're just leaving out culture." The opposite could not be truer. Words (and word combinations) are some of the most important cultural artifacts and tools that a people group has inherited and been socialised into! To say, "It's not culture; it's words," is to misunderstand "culture" and "words," the way we see things. Have you ever been in a place where you knew not a word of the local language and tried to get around and meet your needs? If you're like us, you may have felt profoundly powerless in such situations. Once, however, you knew a few dozen crucial words, you were already remarkably empowered! My, are those little chunks of sound ever powerhouses! And soon, they will enable us to discover the host world through conversing with host people, which is the only way the host world can truly be discovered.

Another aspect of "sociocultural" for us is our interpersonal relationships with host people and our involvement in the host community and the process of negotiating an identity--becoming somebody whom host people experience as a particular person they know. Well, we really have connected with our nurturer, but most of it doesn't count, because it in not his world. Our connecting is in one of his worlds, in fact, and one of ours, though far more his than hours. He lives with roommates from various people groups, and so much of his life is now in Urdu, as is much of his life with us. However, during much of the first twenty-some hours of supercharged participation activities we had done, he has indeed been relating to us in his world as he talks to us, and in so doing, manipulates our bodily actions. As for our involvement in the host community, we meet with our nurturer about ten hours a week. So we are in the host community for those ten hours a week, and that relationship is coming along fine, given that it has only been twenty-something hours. That's our community so far. It's as real as if there were dozens of people in it. It can't be much more than it is now anyway, as we don't have enough communication ability to go out and mix, and besides that, more of the people we encounter on the street are not Potwari than are Potwari. Finally, as for our host identity, it will especially spring into life soon, as we start talking in session 15.

Now the rusty have been reminded what "sociocultural" means in the GPA. It's all sociocultural all the way, and it is all cognitive all the way. Two dimensional green jello, changing steadily, socioculturally and cognitively, over time.