Re: [xmca] Mediation?: I am seeing double...

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Mon Jul 25 2005 - 16:57:16 PDT

Beware the active silent reader!
 Let me venture a speculation, Mary.
First, you have correctly deduced that no one has asked this (obvious)
question. Until now, at least.
 If I were to think about the answer online, I guess my mind would take the
following paths. First, I would
take the road of thinking of artifacts in terms of (very roughly) of
primary, secondary, and tertiary artifacts.
The law of three? So a primary artifact is taken to be a tool such as a
hammer or a computer, or a sewing needle
(gender seems to slip into the examples). And secondary artifacts are sort
of "recipes" of the uses to which primary
artifacts are ordinarily put. They go by different names, but my intutition
goes to a notion I think of as "scripts as
performed." I like the dramatic metaphor in this respect. It kind of keeps
the conventional structures and underspecifying
lived reality, so the performance aspect is important.. A liked what I
understood of Wartofsky's use of tertiary artifact
and thought that my experimental activity system is such a thing. A designed
cultural practice which is playful and mindful
at the same time and that can exist, I believe, in some set of (as yet
unspecified) social ecologies.
 So from this perspective, the dialectic between the shape of the artifact
and its sociocultural context underpins the
idea of homo duplex-- people who live in two worlds at the same time, and
can know it. The shape of the artifact
and its positioning are not accidently related to each other. Both are
artifacts and both are polysemic.... after all, words are artifacts
as well as tables, and polysemy is characteristic of both. A hammer has
multipe meanings "affordances"which have arisen as
part of its histories of interactions with its socio-cultural-history. We
can tell ginger rogers from fred murray, but we cannot
tell the dancer from the dance.
 But its best not to respond on line, so I await the list of brilliant
expositions. Myself, I have more questions.
The question, at least, is very clearly posed so
Thanks for your economic note and long experience!

 On 7/25/05, Mary K. Bryson <> wrote:
> Hello XMCA'rs
> I am writing an AERA proposal, and have come to the point where I actually
> need to deal with a conceptual block that has thus far remained a pleasant
> paradox.
> How do I usefully distinguish between discursive and artifactual
> mediation? And in relation to the latter mediation by means of artifacts
> -- how should I account for the doubled mediation afforded by (a) the
> artifact itself, and then (b) the artifact as it is positioned within a
> particular discursive framework?
> Surely someone must already have written a brilliant paper on this
> question, to which you need only point me in the right direction. And for
> that assistance I would be extremely grateful.
> Best,
> Mary
> ---------------
> Dr. Mary K. Bryson, Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator, ECPS,
> Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
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