Meeting and Minding: early interactions and learning who we are
MetadataShow full item record
The works included here represent the last 10 years of a lifelong enquiry into the role of playfulness in communication, intersubjectivity and the co-construction of identity. From a focus on the attentive playfulness of very early interactions I have gone on to explore how relaxed, social communication facilitates the meeting of minds and how minding, the continuing sharing, negotiation and recalibration of attitudes and meanings, allows us to negotiate the dynamic tensions inherent in our similarities and differences. My work offers a perspective on belonging and performance that can inform our efforts to support infants’ participation in the social process of minding.
I have shown how infants’ sensitivity to being ‘liked’ fuels a ‘virtuous spiral’ of communication, as the pleasure of playful interaction builds familiarity which then allows nuances of attitudes to be read from differences in how routine behaviours are performed. I have extended this understanding of ‘liking’ to explore how communication between adults can also be enriched and deepened when we have opportunities to meet in ways that allow us to get to know each other beyond the superficial exchanging of words and ideas.
My work is informed by two very different epistemological frames: developmental psychology (specifically the growing interest in work that adopts a ‘second person perspective’) and cultural historical theory (specifically Vygotsky’s late writing on perezhivanie, the social situation of development, sense and meaning). Engaging with these different ways of seeing how infants are helped to fit in and to stand out has informed my understanding that the development of identity is not the ‘walling off’ of a private self so much as the internalisation of shared patterns of discourse. Increasing familiarity with the richly varied regularities of interactions enables us to feel ‘at home’ in a widening range of social situations. When we are able to recognise the significance of the nuances of individual performances, we are able to meet with other minds and also to notice our own attitudes.
Our understanding of early interactions is framed by cultural assumptions about a dialectical opposition between childhood and adulthood, between the disruptive, unconstrained creativity of difference and the reassuring regularity of familiar ways of thinking and behaving. A focus on the flow of minding allows us to see this tension not as a problem but as a potential source of energy. Minding depends both on sameness, or familiarity with what people can be expected to do, and on the constant refraction and recalibration of this common understanding (Vygotsky’s znachenie or ‘meaning’) through the unique associations and filters of individual interpretations (smysl or ‘sense’) and performances.
These works represent a series of stages in the development of my contribution to the flow of minding about how we help very young children to join in; to become like us but also to change what we are like. The next stage will be an exploration of how Vygotsky’s late works and González Rey’s model of subjective sense and subjective configurations can inform our understanding of performance and (inter)subjectivity.