Archive for the 'psychology' Category

13JanPlaces and tools for multi generations

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Here it is, the reference paper about intergenerational places and tools written by Edith Ackermann and her peers.

Authors: Decortis F. , Ackermann E. , Barajas M., Magli R., Owen M., Toccafondi G .
Title/reference: From ‘La Piazza’ to ‘Puente’: How place, people and technology make intergenerational learning. In International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, Vol.1, No.1/2, 2008, p. 144-155

How places and tools can be used to help mediate mindful - and joyful - encounters between people from different generations, as well as between newcomers and old-timers to a culture.

Researching with Olivier Vaubourg on designing technological playful interfaces for grand parents and their grand kids, this paper is a milestone to start digging into this divide among generations and solutions from tools to places.

Abstract: The divide between generations and the need to integrate aging populations through life wide learning strategies have been evidenced by researches and policy documents. Yet, the lack of mutually beneficial learning practices calls for innovative solutions to prevent societal fragmentation. In ‘La Piazza’ the purpose was to identify good practices through the use of case studies and interaction design techniques and gauge the potential of digital technologies as enablers of intergenerational learning. In ‘Puente’, the goal is to further explore the transformative power of existing good practices and to provide guidelines for the design of environments in which young and old can grow in connection.

Keywords: intergenerational learning; generation divide; digital technologies; case studies; good practices; interaction design; aging populations; e-learning; online learning; technology enhanced learning.

Edith made the paper available online, so enjoy!

17JulThis silent language …

In his book The Silent Language, anthropologist Eward T. Hall analyzes the many aspects of non-verbal communication. He analyzes the way people “talk” to one another without the use of words. He proposes that the concepts of space and time are tools with which all human beings may transmit messages.


As I focused on the chapter “how space communicates”, I find intriguing the way Hall compares cultures and their reading of non verbal communication cues. He particularly states that the distance between individuals differs and can drastically affect the dynamics of space interaction. For instance, an American needs to take between 20 inches to 36 inches in a neutral conversation for a personal subject matter. Apparently in Latin America the interaction distance is much less. This claim was also proposed in his other book, The Hidden Dimension. This seems like a pretty large distance to me!

I was wandering, as we are becoming nomads, or neo-nomads –term created and analyzed by Dr. Yasmine Abbas, now that we travel constantly, I wander how these distances of interaction and non verbal communication cues have evolved. Is it possible that we absorb most of these social interactions in our everyday routines, and that after each travel, each interaction, we come back “socially transformed”? Would these non verbal communication cues become more obvious to us?


In one of his other book, The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time, Hall explores the way humans are intrinsically linked to the rhythm of life, how being unsynchronized can disturb them and even bring them into depression! He explains, based on observations, how people are tied together and yet isolated by hidden threads of rhythm and walls of time. Time is treated as a language, organizer, and message system revealing people’s feelings about each other and reflecting differences between cultures. He claims that repetition is not appreciated or that Americans are not trained to appreciate repetition. Through repetition comes learning, comes depth of understanding, comes rhythm. He proposes that the invisible rhythm is not widely recognized, that rhythms are only presented on stage by talented performers! Hall assumes there is a relationship between rhythm and love. Basically it affects our entire being. Synchrony in life seems strangely related to rhythm in music. The pattern of our movements can translate into a beat. Without this rhythm, we are not synchronized and we loose our contact with life …

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure

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14JulThe work of the imagination by Paul H. Harris

Dr Edith K. Ackermann, professor in developmental psychology and one of the three readers for my PhD general exams -contextual area: psychology- recommended me a book that I am currently reading:
The Work of the Imagination by Paul H. Harris. The author demonstrates how children’s imagination makes a continuing contribution to their cognitive and emotional development. This book is fundamental in synthesizing the research done on children’s imagination and development.

Paul L. Harris is Professor of Developmental Psychology, Oxford University, and Fellow in Psychology, St. John’s College, Oxford. He is the author of Children and Emotion, and co-editor of Developing Theories of Mind, Children’s Understanding of Emotion, and Imagining the Impossible: Magical, Scientific and Religious Thinking in Children.

This entry will be a repository of my notes on the book, as summaries chapter after chapter.



The author reminds us on the human radical evolution 40 000 years ago, during the Upper Paleolitic era. The observation was made that even if we could not analyze the brain modification, we noticed a radical change in what humans did with their hands between the Upper Paleolitic era in contrast with the Neanderthal era. These created artifacts testify a cognitive change, a change in temporal organization and planning. The artifacts resemble children’s props for make believe, helping participants to be transported out of reality into some imagined settings.

Chapter 1. Bleuler in Weimar

In 1911, Bleuler distinguishes two modes of thinking: logical or realistic thinking and autistic thinking.

For Bleuler, autistic thinking is not a pathology confined in a group of children, children who exhibit a withdrawal from other people and the external world (as in Kanner, 1943). For Bleuler autistic thinking is a normal mode of thinking in both children and adults. It is evident in dreams, pretend play and reveries and in the fantasies and delusions of the schizophrenic. It is a mode of thought dominated by free association and wishful thinking. In logical and realistic thinking, affective and emotional considerations are tempered by what is recognized as faisible. Then sometimes autistic thinking override logical thinking in normal adults. In Bleuler, at the difference of Freud, the ability to conceive of alternatives to reality is not a primitive process but something relatively sophisticated. For Bleuler, reality-directed thinking comes first and autistic thinking comes later.

For Piaget, autistic thinking is suppressed with the development of logic and the child becomes more rational and objective. Children early on speak from their inner world and this is not yet adjusted to the external world, to the need of their listener. Vygotsky tried to analyze and compare Bleuler and Piaget’s theories and explained that a child learns to make a clean separation between speech for communicating and speech for the service of thinking. It does not mean that autistic thinking is egocentric speech referred by Piaget.

For Piaget, pretend play is an opportunity for the child to secure via fantasy what is not available in reality. “For example he describes how his daughter Jacqueline, having been told that she could not play with the water that was to be used for the washing, took an empty cup, went to the forbidden tub of water, and made pretend movements saying, ‘I’m pouring out water’.” For Piaget, pretend play is a temporary phase of maladaptation.

The author of the book criticizes Piaget in thinking pretend play is a primary mode of thinking nor will it be supressed in the course of development. 1- Pretend play only appears with the 2nd year of life 2-Great apes only do sporadic pretend play so pretend play is only a function of human childhood 3- Pathology studies show that the absence of early imagination is pathological. One syndrome in early childhood autism is the abscence or impoverishment in pretend play.

When children are in pretend play, they draw casual understanding of the physical and mental world. Also adults are absorbed in novels and films… Children’s ability to entertain counterfactual alternatives to an actual outcome is critical for making casual and more judgments about that outcome. So Bleuler’s autistic thinking remains a constant companion to reality based thinking.

Chapter 2. Pretend Play

Pretend Play allows children to offer a way to imagine, explore and talk about possibilities inherent in reality. Piaget, in Play, Dreams and Imitation (1962) describes how in 2nd year children’s pretend play becomes more elaborate (sustained and complex series of pretended actions) and flexible (less dependent on the support). Even though Piaget acknowledges the developmental process of the child through pretend play, he still sees it as negative and destine to give way eventually to logic and rationality. The author argues that this is especially wrong for joined pretense when two children share and communicate on a common make believe object. In joined pretense, the child gives cues of the shared pretense to the partner. For instance, if a cardboard becomes a tap, the gesture of opening water from the tap creates a shared understanding. These pretend objects also have casual power: they can deliver water! The perspective is situated within the pretense framework.

Pretend episodes include casual chains with an unfolding structure much like a narrative, all understood by a 2 years old! It is the same cognitive work as we do in a literal mode. Through studies the author found that for two years old, once a prop has been assigned a make believe identity by a play partner, children produce pretend actions towards the prop. He also found that 2 years old understand the casual power associated with a stipulated entity and use that casual knowledge to use out the consequences of a pretend transformation in their imagination.

The author wanted to know if children will use the objective truth (what is actually there) or the make believe truth in describing a pretend object. In the study, children selected mainly the imaginary outcome, as opposed to objective ones. They used the references used to construct the imaginary world.

Pretend play can incorporate casual chains. Casual chains in which an initial event enables conditions for a next are understood by 2 years old children. For this children need toenvision the outcome of an initial action, for instance, I turn the tap to get water, because of the water the Teddy bear will get wet, and then I need to dry the Teddy bear with a towel! The author’ study showed that two years old can sustain a casual chain in their imagination and describe its outcome.

The author proposes that 2 years old understand some of the essential ingredients in drama and fiction. They recognize that events occur in a make believe framework and not in the real world. This is very different than Piaget who states that pretend play is a representation of reality, that what is being signified is reality itself. However the act of pretense is not to signify. It is only inspired by reality. Children are like novelists, they are inspired by actual events and everyday routines, all material for their imagination. Pretend play or make believe is also different than re-enacting a particular action carried earlier. The author claims that children do possess a genuine imagination while Piaget would see it as a subjective assimilation of reality. When a child would pretend being half a dog-half a bird crawling on the floor, Piaget explained that it cannot be seen as part of children’s imagination but a distortion of the real world. On the other end, the authors claims it is truly imaginative as much as novelist are inspired by reality to create fiction. The author concludes that pretend play is the first indication of a lifelong mental capacity to consider alternatives to reality.

Chapter 3. Role Play

Children incorporate animated being into their pretend play. The author examines children’s ability to imagine and act out the role of a person or creature. This role playing happens with friends, a key form of interaction between friends. Successful cooperation in this type of play calls for considerable sensibility and flexibility. In all cases of pretend play, the child uses or not a prop and uses or not herself as a prop. In role play, a sub category of pretend play, children temporarily immerse themselves in the part they create. They talk from the point of view of the creature, taking the mood and tone of voice that is appropriate, give expression to the emotions, sensations and needs for the adopted role. When children engage in role play, they do not simply remain off stage, directors or puppeteers, they enter into the make believe situation they create and adopt the point of view of one of the protagonist within it.

At 2-3 years old, children can invoke a creature, an imaginary person that becomes a companion for the child, this without the need of prop.

An invisible character, named and referred to in conversation with other persons or played with directly for a period of time, at least several months, having an air of reality for the child, but no apparent objective basis -Svendsen (1934)

Marjorie Taylor (1998) reports that 2/3 of a sample of American children had either an imaginary companion or one projected onto an external prop before age 7. There is no evidence of difference in personality or behavior between children with imaginary companions and children without. However there is an intriguing difference. Children with imaginary companions proved to be more skilled in assessing how people might feel.
For instance, at 24 months BT pretended he was a kitten after having visited his grand mother who had a kitten. Until 36 months he was “meowing” and licking milk. At 30 months his best friend was a dog, an additional role of his.
When a child plays out a particular character, she needs to have a set of meta-theories: theories about the theories that the character holds. Children reproduce routine aspects of human mentation in any character they enact by recruiting their own knowledge base. Studies show however that children do not understand that pretense initially depends on a well informed representation of what is being pretended. With pretend play, children can notice the gap between representation of reality and reality itself, therefore it will facilitate their understanding of mental states. All pretend play involves mental representation so it is helpful for understanding mental states, however only pretend play with animated objects (versus an airplane for instance) correlate with good performance on belief tasks. The absence of mental states at 18 months is associated with a late diagnostic of autism (Baron-Cohen et al, 1996); autistic children perform poorly on false belief tasks compared to normal or retarded children.

It is then role play rather than pretend play that facilitates mental states understanding and autistic children are especially limited in role play. Children who engage into role playing have a predisposition to better be able to view a situation from another person’s point of view. What happened as children get older? When enacting a role, children imagine the world from the point of view of another person. We do the same when we reada biography, an historical novel. We locate ourselves inside the world of the novel rather than the real world and we share the same spatial and temporal framework than the protagonist.

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure

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19JunA journey for the foreigner

All foreigners who have made a choice add to their passion for indifference a fervent extremism that reveals the origin of their exile – Julia Kristeva

I recently read a book, depressing and fascinating, Strangers to Ourselves, by Julia Kristerva. This book is a journey through the notion of the stranger (the foreigner, outsider or alien in a country and society), and explores the idea of strangeness within the self (a person’s deep sense of being). In this book Julia Kristeva distinguishes the inside from the outside appearance and the conscious idea of self. She explains mostly the point of view of the foreigner, how he feels and perceives others in his welcoming foreign country. She attempts to analyze him and shows how this exile is nurtured by a deep inside exile. I share my notes because I know many foreigners who will resonate with this book.

Strangers to ourselves

In the first chapter, “Tocata and Fugue for the Foreigner”, the author explains her attempt to not turn the foreigner into a thing, but rather to “brush it” with no permanent structure. She presents a happy foreigner to the eyes of others, while the foreigner is actually away from his homeland because most probably he has lost his mother. As in Camus, his Stranger reveals himself at the time of his mother’s death: “One has not much noticed that this cold orphan, whose indifference can become criminal, is a fanatic of absence”. The foreigner is a devotee of solitude.

In the eyes of the foreigner those who are not foreign have no life at all: barely do they exist, haughty or mediocre. In contrast, the space of the foreigner is a moving train! As for confidence, the foreigner has no self. An empty confidence, valueless, which focuses his possibilities of being constantly other: “I do what they want me to, but it is not me. Me is elsewhere, me belongs to no one, me does not belong to me, … does me exist?”. Julia Kristeva concludes that the foreigner is a dreamer making love with absence, one exquisitely depressed. Happy? No one knows better than the foreigner the passion for solitude. “The paradox is that the foreigner wishes to be alone but with partners, and yet none is willing to join him in the torrid space of his uniqueness”.

The author proposes two categories of foreigner. The one who agonizes between what is no longer and what will never be, the advocate of emptiness, usually the best ironist, and the one who transcends, living neither before nor now but beyond, a believer and sometimes ripens into a skeptic! She explains how meeting balances wandering for the foreigner. The banquet of hospitality is the foreigner’s utopia with the brotherhood of guests who soothe and forget their differences … the banquet is outside of time!

The author shows how the foreigner constantly feels the hatred of others and how living with the foreigner (with the other) confronts people with the possibility or not of being an other, as in being in his place. Rimbaud’s psychotic ghost Je est un autre (I is an other) is the acknowledgment of this exile: to be foreign and live in a foreign country.
“Being alienated from myself, as painful as that may be, provides me with that exquisite distance within which perverse pleasure begins, as well as the possibility of my imagining and thinking, the impetus of my culture.” Split identity? Should we recognize that one becomes a foreigner in another country because he is already a foreigner from within?

How strange is Camus’ Meursault (The Stranger, 1942), so anesthetized, lacking emotions, all passion having been eradicated, and not a scratch to show for it. One could easily take him for a borderline case, or a fasle self, in short for a quasi-psychotic, rather than for a prototype of the foreigner.

Julia Kristeva brings language into this exile. The foreigner does not speak his mother tongue nor he is filled with resonance from the body’s memory! The resurrection through a new language slowly appears superficial and meaningless. This new language appears like a prosthesis, it is superficial.

Apparently, nobody listens to the foreigner, because the foreigner is only tolerated. As the author explains: “Those who have never lost the slightest root seem unable to understand any word liable to temper their point of view”. And the foreigner’s friends, aside from bleeding hearts who feel obliged to do good, could only be those who feel foreign to themselves.

Nowhere does one find better somatization than among foreigners, so much can linguistic and passional expression find itself inhibited

The realm of the foreigner slowly becomes silence. “It is the silence that empties the mind and fills the brain with despondency, like the gaze of sorrowful women coiled up in some nonexistent eternity.” Instead of approximating words, the foreigner no longer says them. The foreigner has lost his own language in a foreign land …

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure

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16JunA century of evolution between La Guerre des Boutons and Harry Potter

I’d like to share the notes I wrote about a fascinating French book:
De la Guerre des Boutons à Harry Pottter by Jean-Marie Gauthier and Roger Moukakou.

In this book, two psychiatrists connect the novel of Louis Pergaud, La Guerre des boutons (English: “War of the Buttons”) written in 1906 with the best seller of Joanne K Rowling (1997-), Harry Potter. The authors present a century of evolution in the teenagers’ life: their space/time structure, their relationship to a group of peers, and their appropriation of the land. The authors analyze the progression from developing concrete skills (close to the ones of adults) to an imaginary virtual world. Based on these two influential novels, a repository for this evolution, they illustrate their clinical analysis with real life scenarios of teenagers.

La Guerre des Boutons VS Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix movie

You can read on La Guerre des Boutons flyer: “Il y a des guerres qui durent des années, celle-ci doit se terminer avant le diner” which stands for “There are wars that last for years, this one needs to be over before diner”. For the ones who do not know this French novel, I am posting some screenshots from a movie interpretation of La Guerre des boutons made in 1962 by Yves Robert.

An excerpt from the movie can be found ->here<-

La Guerre des Boutons

Notes from: De la Guerre des Boutons à Harry Pottter by Jean-Marie Gauthier and Roger Moukakou.

Essais anthropologiques

The authors observed that the ones who usually have difficulties to talk and show some reserve towards socialization, tends to spend a long period of time on internet for remote communication. With the computer, the relationship between distance and proximity, direct communication, corporeal and indirect, mediated is transformed. It is as if these teenagers privilege a communication in which the body is absent. The authors propose that this transformation induces difficulties in sharing and exchanging across generations and difficulties in the position that parents take place in the growth of their children.

The relationship to the body
- Rhythm of lives is different. We neglect the sun’s motion in our lives! Before the industrial revolution, a rhythmic life was imposed due to the constraints of working in the field, outside! Now we eat at unstable hours, find abnormal quantity of food anytime of the day, forgetting that meals can have a social function. The social function of meals is replaced by their nutritional function.

- The physical constraints related to transportation have been transformed. We walk less, thus transforming our relationship to time and space as well as our relationship to the body: feelings, feeling tired, cold/heat or being well.
At the time of “la guerre des boutons”, children were progressively learning how to build toys, hunting equipment, using the wheelbarrow under the grand father’s supervision! Now we can be a champion in Karate without moving a finger! The measure of each gesture (cause and effect) goes through an iterative process usually explored by gathering in locations & spaces.

La Guerre des Boutons

The Land
Play is key for social & individual development, a way to measure personal skills in comparison to others at the same time than measuring one’s body, a necessary step imposed by the life as an adult.


Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix movie

Urban concentration has reduced the children’s possibility to gather outside. The space for play and collective experience is disappearing. Not only that but the parents themselves lost their everyday corporeal connection, their craftsmanship and their personal space. These transformations impact our ability to measure the consequences of our actions; this can explain a come back of the magical thought in a world where the relationship between causes and effects is more and more uncertain. Not only the quantity of available land has changed but also its quality has decreased. Before one could close his house with doors and windows, now it is completely impossible. The house walls not only did become porous, but the family remains in communication with the entire world through telecommunication, TV, internet, mobile phone… thus interrupting the paternal order of things!
Distinguishing between the inside and the outside world is harder (this relationship becomes more and more ambiguous). Distinguishing between private, individual, internal and external realities becomes very hard.

The Group
Children have a predisposition to form groups in which learning by imitation is very important. This helps children leave the exclusive parental relationship to enter a more complex form of socialization: creating an identity and functional skills. In La Guerre des Boutons one practices his skills by crating weapons for hunting while in Harry Potter to compete with one another the children use magical formulas.
In psychoanalysis, authors such as Leroi-Gourhan, Winnicott, Mendal, Montagner, Gibbs show the importance of a psychic construction that needs to connect to the outside world, necessarily going through gesture and object manipulation. Playing without using the body, without manipulating objects is very different.

La Guerre des Boutons

Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix movie

Creating relationships between children is a considerable advantage as it allows children to realize early on the human’s fundamental destiny: a social being (De Waal, F. 2005). It also allows kids to find modes of learning outside of the parental relationship. The authors remark that we need to think of this child’s pleasure to group and learn in a group and reevaluate the quality of learning that can happen within the group. It is not impossible that behind this pleasure of the group, kids can rediscover values of solidarity probably essential to our humanity and that were still very present at the beginning of industrialization but that are disappearing.

With La Guerre des Boutons one would constitute a group that opposes itself to another one, but today individuals are pushed towards being identical. Solidarity as a value is the most compromised, while individuation is assimilated to the general identical. Consumer society can only live if it destroys values of sharing and solidarity benefiting individualization …

Time and space
Important for rational thinking, time and space are constituted and function via intuition. These intuitive forms of representation are constructed progressively while the child uses his corporeal skills. Corporeal exercise has a direct influence on the essential cognitive functions (Gibs, Gauthier, Montagner).
With a computer, one can be in contact with the entire world without having moved from the parent’s house. The computer is the perfect compromise between the teenager’s necessity to go outside to become independent and the necessity to keep the protection and security of the parent’s house.

La Guerre des Boutons

Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix movie

While in the 20th century, kids were riskily gathering outside, creating groups, risking their identity confronting others, now kids can just stay home while contacting the external world, protected by their parents. According to the Oedipian complex, teenagers have to develop their personal lives outside of the family environment [Winnicott & Mendel], the computer seem to be the perfect compromise as children avoid the risks of the foreign while being closely connected to this outside world. The teenagers can also escape their fears related to their own body in comparison to the severe criticisms induced by co-located peers! The narcissistic image remains idealized. The teenagers will not quit their bedrooms and will remain dependent on their parents, because this context does not offer a way to move physically away from the family house.

Communication technologies modified our relationship to space and time and this cannot be left without consequences on the development of thoughts. Instead of confronting peers using a verbal exchange, communication is now guided with icons that one needs to only “clic” in order to be projected in the other side of the globe. The relationship to speech in which the exchange is contrary to the magical icon formula, is a relationship of time.
This modification of the general relationship to space/time can explain the modification of our potential to take time to share thoughts. Language is more and more stereotypical and univocal (close to the marketing discourse) which appears in the political speech today (Chomsky, 1986, 1998).
The dialog with the computer is a series of keywords and reveal the transformation of the structure and use of language in our occidental society. Harry Potter is truly a hero of our time!

To separate themselves from their parents, children need to be a minimum aggressive to distant themselves. At the same time, children need to identify to their parents.
However, parents are questioning their role models and hesitate to propose them as references to their children. So the entire reproduction of behavior and models is questioned. Speed, technological progress and the fact that children possess higher skills in tech fields such as IT, all contributed to this change in the parental role. Harry Potter and his adventures confront us to tendencies and forces, that are modified both in the parental and social space.

The hunting land and the exploration space are restricted. It is now rather difficult to find resources outside of the parental home, parental home from which one of the two parent is usually absent. Grand parents are usually distant geographically. Living conditions have changed so much that there is an unbalanced between our human potentials and the environment in which we evolve. This can explain largely the developmental difficulties of the children. The authors question how socially we can address the educational needs of children considering that we cannot go back in time!
The conditions for education have changed because parents have changed. It happened before, but this time it happened extremely rapidly and the educational methods have not evolved as much. Harry Potter raises interesting questions on how the individual maturation of a teenager is a complex and uncertain process, because of the uncertainties that rest on the transmission mechanism across generations.
Most probably the teenagers need to rediscover the joy of living in a group, the values of solidarity and the belonging to a group of peers. Wouldn’t that be what these novels of youth are demanding from adults?

La Guerre des Boutons

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure

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