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Becoming a biologist: a Laminated trajectories of literate activity and disciplinarity across the lifespan Paul Prior University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

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Presentation on theme: "Becoming a biologist: a Laminated trajectories of literate activity and disciplinarity across the lifespan Paul Prior University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana."— Presentation transcript:

1 Becoming a biologist: a Laminated trajectories of literate activity and disciplinarity across the lifespan Paul Prior University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

2 Mixing CHAT, dialogic semiotics, and ANT (actor-network theory), my research has focused on graduate study and faculty work in higher education, exploring the relation of literate activity (writing in classroom, institutional, and disciplinary contexts) to disciplinary enculturation/production.

3 How do we understand disciplinary trajectories of participation? We have thus situated learning in the trajectories of participation in which it takes meaning. These trajectories must themselves be situated in the social world…We are, then, trying to furnish the social world in a way that begins to do justice to the structured forms and relations in which legitimate peripheral participation takes place. —Lave & Wenger, 1991 p. 121

4 In most high schools, there is a group of students engaged over a substantial period of time in learning physics. What community of practice is in the process of reproduction? Possibly the students participate only in the reproduction of the high school itself.... The reproduction cycles of the physicists’ community start much later, possibly only in graduate school. —Lave & Wenger, 1991, p. 99 (emphasis added)

5 Because writing is so bound up with situation, the title of this book is not as hyperbolic as it appears. Writing at school and writing at work are indeed worlds apart.... Writing is acting, but in Activity Theory terms, writing at work and writing in school constitute two very different activities …. We write where we are...location, it would appear, is (almost) everything. —Dias, Freedman, Medway and Paré. (1999). Worlds Apart: Acting and Writing in Academic and Workplace Contexts (pp. 222-23)

6 But where and when do we write? In our drawing studies (Prior &Shipka, 2003), we found that academic writing is chronotopically laminated, that writers write in many locations, from various roles, with varied others, and across time.

7 I have argued (Prior 1998, 2003) that the theory of discourse communities is quite flawed, but robustly grounded in a set of ideologies: conduit tropes of communication, the structuralist imaginary of macrosocial norms and rules that govern individual performance, the dominant political ideology of nationality (Anderson 1991; cf. Pratt’s 1987 “linguistic utopias”), and the typifications our languages provide that name social institutions and groups.

8 Drawing on sociocultural theories of the mediated production and co-genesis of the person and society across heterogeneous times, places, and activities, I am challenging such worlds’ apart accounts. See, e.g., del Rio & Alvarez, 1995; González-Rey 1999, 2011; Hutchins, 1995; Latour, 1999, 2005; Prior, 1998; Prior & Hengst, 2010; Prior & Schaffner 2011; Roozen, 2009; Scollon, 2001; Wertsch, 1991)

9 How do moments add up to lives? How do our shared moments together add up to social life as such? —Jay Lemke, 2000, p. 273

10 In trying to analyze which needs “crystallized” in one or another “motive,” what is behind the child’s inclination toward one object or one or another, we found a complex knot of needs, desires and intentions where it was difficult to understand which was the object of an activity and which the motive. — L. Bozhovich (1978), translated and quoted in González-Rey (2011), p. 37

11 ..subjectivity as those processes of subjective sense 4 in their multiple and constant configurations in different human activeness. 4...subjective sense is configured as a network of emotional and symbolic processes that emerge from the collateral effects of living an ongoing human experience. —González-Rey (2011), p. 38 & p. 49

12 Today I sketch a case study of one biologist-in- the-making, a Ph.D. student completing a dissertation and publishing articles on the neuroendocrinology and behavioral display of social bonding in zebra finches. The case study is based on life-history, semi-structured, and text-based interviews; observations; a collection of texts that reach back to her elementary school years; and memory.

13 To explore “the collateral effects of living an ongoing human experience” across the lifespan, a particular trajectory through deeply woven social worlds, the analysis traces how a history of multiple literate and semiotic engagements with popular, school, and disciplinary biology has shaped Nora’s ways of being-in-the-world as a biologist.

14 One Sunday night when Nora was five years old, we watched “Cheetahs in the Land of Lions,” a Nature episode described on the website: Very few cheetah cubs in the Serengeti survive to become adult. The struggle of a female cheetah to keep her cubs alive is captured on film as two surviving cubs learn to hunt and to interact with other wild animals, including other cheetahs, on their journey to independence from their mother. This is a dramatic study of cheetah behavior set against the spectacular landscape of the Serengeti plains.


16 The Whole Story (4 th grade) Page 4: I would like to dedicat my whole life to nature so I feel very good when I am around animals or outside. Page 9: I want to go to Africa to see Cheethas, Lions, and many other creatures. Page 17: I’ll be glad when people listen to me, and start helping wildlife. Page 22: A job I will have in 20 years is either a olmpic swimmer or I will study animals on the Africa savan.

17 Makerere Biological Field Station, Uganda This slide from Nora’s 2010 presentation at the Association for Environmental Studies and Science conference summarized the first objective of her research.

18 It is late spring in the desert, and flowers are blooming. At noontime, it is hot and many animals stay still in the shade. This way, they do not need as much water…Not all the animals are resting. Quail run through the buses. A red racer slithers across the hot sand to the shelter of a rock. The snake would die if it stayed too long in the sun. Two hawks perch above their nest.

19 Two artifacts: Jaguarundis and Zebra Finches N. Prior (1997) N.Prior, S. Heimovics & K. Soma. (2013)

20 Nora’s trajectory into being a biologist has been shaped by: childhood encounters with popular science and naturalist texts (books, TV, computer games) and artifacts (e.g., science toys), home experiences with dogs and cats, nature activities (bird-watching, kayaking), family talk (cf. Ochs et al., 1992) other activities (e.g., musical performance). Throughout, biology has been sociohistorically woven into here lifeworld.

21 Chronotopic lamination and co-genesis …if laminations and heterogeneities make disciplines open and relational, the question arises of how centripetal enculturation is achieved. Co- genesis points to the co-evolution of people, tools, and worlds. It creates not shared culture, but affordances for alignment in what Rommetveit (1985) identified as ‘pluralistic, only fragmentarily known, and only partially shared’ worlds. —Prior, 1998, p. 277

22 Conclusion Learning to write as a biologist is not about picking up some compartmentalized skill set; it is about nothing less than developing ways of being-in-the-world. Where Dias et al. (1999) suggested that location is everything, I argue that historical becoming and the practices of weaving together trajectories and artifacts are central to how moments add up to lives.

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