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The Utility of Narrative Archives as Social Support
"What Engenders an Organic Linking of Information? Report on Our Participation in the “3rd International Seminar of Cultural Psychology”"

Writer: FUKUDA, Mari (Kinugasa Research Organization Post-Doctoral Fellow)   terms: 2014 7

Research project overview

We started the project “The Utility of Narrative archives as social support” in August 2013, that was selected for one of “2013 Exploratory Research Projects” at Institute of Human Sciences, Ritsumeikan University. This project involves conducting research with a focus on “narrative archives” that collect stories of people’s experiences and make public and transmit them. We review information (information), individuals and society from an open system perspective. In addition, with an archive as an intermediary, we propose the possibility of social support that would connect individuals and society (including culture and social system) and facilitate communication and the organic linking of information.

One issue that this project must address is a methodological issue in describing the process of the organic linking of information. In other words, the issue is how researchers can describe this process by which an individual internally engage with an archive (information) and determines if the information in archive is beneficial or not.

3rd International Seminar of Cultural Psychology

3rd International Seminar of Cultural Psychology  In order to learn about methodologies that could be used to resolve this issue, I took part in the “3rd International Seminar of Cultural Psychology: Conceptualizing Catalysis in Theory and Practice”. The “International Seminar of Cultural Psychology” is a biennial research seminar for researchers and students in this field, and this year it was held over four days in Bahia, Brazil. Cultural psychology, which can be differentiated from cross-cultural psychology, views culture as the one that belongs to the mental system individuals and plays a functional role therein. From the perspective of cultural psychology, human personality is a system in which symbolic mediations are integrated at various levels. Based on the comprehensive systematic analyses of individuals within cultural contexts, it has developed and proposed the models of individuals and cultural activity and interaction between individuals and culture. (For more on Cultural Psychology, see Valsiner, J. “Culture in minds and societies: Foundations of cultural psychology.” SAGE Publications, 2007).

The mental systems of individuals that change within irreversible time

The main topic at this seminar was the mental systems of individuals that transform within irreversible time. In the Trajectory Equifinality Model (TEM), for example, the possible trajectories that an individual may take at a point in his/her life are presented as in the figure (Sato, Hidaka and Fukuda, 2009).
Trajectory Equifinality Model (TEM)(Sato,Hidaka and Fukuda,2009) 

In the cases shown in the figure, to reach trajectory a, it is first necessary to reach Bifurcation point c. Once Bifurcation point c is reached, whether the individual proceeds along trajectory a or b changes depending on the interaction with Social Guidance (SG) which promotes this and Social Direction (SD) which impedes it. Whether the individual proceeds along trajectory a is decided depending on the symbolic value of trajectory a and a dialogue in a space where multiplicity of selves exists within him or her.

The seminar also featured presentations of research focusing on the operation of “catalysts” that give rise to the symbolic value of trajectory a as a “sign”. The research on various psychological topics were presented, such as the loss of experiences by mothers who have lost a child, graduate students entering school, the meaning of silence, and child rearing. The participants discussed the concept and definition of “catalyst” in Psychology.

Information (archives) within the mental system of an individual

Let me return to the discussion of our project on the organic linking of information. The problem that we have to solve was the issue of how an individual brings an archive (information) into him or herself, and how he or she decides if the information is beneficial or not.

The above-mentioned theories and methodologies found in cultural psychology can presumably provide valuable hints when it comes to describing the organic linking of information process. For example, when an individual engages in a certain behavior, collecting information (an archive) may function as a sign that promotes this behavior. If people in the same state obtain the same information and engage in the same behavior, this information may then be thought of as a Bifurcation point leading to a certain action being taken by people in certain state. If this behavior is prosocial behavior, this information can presumably become information (an archive) that supports people who tend to be socially isolated.

The inquiry of how archive functions in the mental system of an individual that transform within irreversible time (archive is a sign? a “catalyst” that makes a certain sign? a turning point?) is the micro-genetic description of how an individual receives information. This can also be thought of as a support model that clarifies the ways of informational support.

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