RE: [xmca] Tools, thought, & signs (Bruner, Peirce, Newton)

From: Peter Smagorinsky <smago who-is-at uga.edu>
Date: Tue Jul 10 2007 - 04:14:53 PDT

thanks Mike. So, how's this different from toolsforthought, and why
toolsforthought and not toolsforthinking, and why a new term if there's
already an established, serviceable term in currency?

 
Peter Smagorinsky
The University of Georgia
Department of Language and Literacy Education
125 Aderhold Hall
Athens, GA 30602-7123
smago@uga.edu /fax:706-542-4509/phone:706-542-4507/
http://www.coe.uga.edu/lle/faculty/smagorinsky/index.html

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2007 5:29 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Tools, thought, & signs (Bruner, Peirce, Newton)

He saw sign and tool as differently oriented michael, as peter indicates.
I had lots of reasons for going to artifact that have been rehearsed here
over the years.
Googling lchc site for mike and artifact would turn up the stuff, or ch5 of
cultural psych.

But for now, in shorthand,. I was seeking a concept that was both material
and ideal, orienting action both to relations and modes of production. I
wanted the properties of bateson's stick, etc.
For LSV it was a matter of "orientation" -- tools to modes of producation,
tools to relations of production (influence on others and reciprocally on
onself). I take the point, but think it more useful to emphasize that signs
are simultaneously material and ideal, influence our actions on the
non-people-world as mediators that are, in fact, in various ways
materialized and on other people as well.
Sticks and stones do break our bones
and words most certainly hurt us. (Witness unhappy instances in xmca
discourse).

D'Andrade has this lovely phrase that a table is an idea, reified in a
different medium. Etc.

Chapter 5 of Cultural Psychology has the most extended discusion of this
line of thought which I "invented"
while teaching communication here at UCSD only to be delighted to learn of
Ilyenkov via David Bakhurst once upon a time valued colleague here whom the
swirls of real life dragged over the horizon to Canada.

Mike

Ps-- I should note that Peter Jones disagrees in this interpretation of
Ilyenkov and artifacts so the issue is never completely closed. But, then,
what interesting issues ever are??

On 7/9/07, Michael Glassman <MGlassman@ehe.osu.edu> wrote:
>
> Oh, I get angry and wave a hammer in the air - is it a tool or a sign?
> I thought one of Vygotsky's point about the guy using the same curse
> word in all these different ways suggested he didn't see any
> difference between sign and tool - but then in other places maybe he
> did. Is ambiguity a sign or a tool?
>
> Micheal
>
> ________________________________
>
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Peter Smagorinsky
> Sent: Mon 7/9/2007 5:25 PM
> To: mcole@weber.ucsd.edu; 'eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity'
> Subject: RE: [xmca] Tools, thought, & signs (Bruner, Peirce, Newton)
>
>
>
> or thinkingspeech....this might be a time to introduce a question I
> had for Mike awhile back (not raised on xmca). That is, I've never
> quite understood his use of artifact to account for both tools and
> signs, which I think can overlap but don't necessarily (or at least,
> so I think today). As I understand Vygotsky's explanation, tools act
> on the environment, while signs are more likely external (if anything
> can be said to be "external" to mind).
>
>
> David says: There seems no reason for trying to sort things into
> categories, as being either "tools" or "signs" because we should be
> concerned with how they function, not with what they "are." (did I get
> that right, David?)
>
> I should confess that I skimmed the toolsforthought paper and my
> copy's at the office, so I'm no expert on that article. But as I've
> seen it argued on xmca, it seems a right-on match for Mike's artifact.
> Why, then, a new term?
> And what if we do see a reason to make the distinction between sign
> and tool on occasion?
>
>
>
>
> My thought, too, Peter. I believe that all artifacts are sign/tools in
> different fuzzily specifiable mixes. Tools for thought.action. We are
> close to agreement here, but bears and beers aside, we trip over the
> imprecisions of thoughtlanguage.
> mike
>
> On 7/9/07, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:
> >
> > I'm wondering, then, what's the difference between the construct of
> > toolsforthought and Mike's use of the term artifact to refer to what
> > others refer to tools and signs? p
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
> > [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
> > On Behalf Of David Williamson Shaffer
> > Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2007 9:40 PM
> > To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
> > Subject: RE: [xmca] Tools, thought, & signs (Bruner, Peirce, Newton)
> >
> >
> > FWIW, I think in some ways the issues Tony raises at the end of his
> > post (or near the end) is central from a theoretical perspective:
> >
> > >> There seems no reason for trying to sort things into categories,
> > >> as being either "tools" or "signs" - the question, rather, would
> > >> be whether we are presently concerned with something as it
> > >> participates in the activity of sign-relations, or as it
> > >> functions within
> > tool-relations.
> >
> > Ontologically, Katie and I are arguing, as you suggest here, there
> > is no difference between sign and tool--a position which we note
> > contrasts with Vygotsky, but as you point our (and as we discuss in
> > the paper) is not unique.
> >
> > I think this matters, in part, because of Mike's reply below. He writes:
> >
> > >Re 2: Tools may or may not amplify. But they certainly
> > >re-mediate-- they change the morphology of action, in a sense, they
"deform"
> "natural"
> > >action.
> >
> > I think the point Katie and I were trying to get at in
> > toolforthoughts (both the term and the paper) is that there is no
> > such thing as "natural"
> > action.
> > All action is deformed (to use Mike's term here).
> >
> > Actually, to be fair, we argue, although not in these terms, that we
> > can
> > *assume* such a thing as "natural" action, but that we have to
> > recognize this is just an assumption--and of course a
> > cultural-historically determined one at that.
> >
> > Mike is correct in saying (as he did in an earlier post) that this
> > analysis applies equally to both non-computational tools and
> > computational ones.
> > But
> > computational tools open up new possibilities for action--or to use
> > Mike's terms again, new kinds of deformations. As Mcluhan suggests,
> > we tend to see new deformations as unnatural--the old ones have
> > already been naturalized, after all.
> >
> > Mike, I'd love to talk more about this last point over a bear, but
> > wildlife being scarce at least for the moment and certainly as long
> > as Bush is in office, let me say for the moment that I agree--and I
> > think Donald would too--that the point of "cognitive cultures" is
> > less to suggest that we can characterize thinking in one age or
> > another by a particular cognitive form, than it is to identify when
> > substantially new deformations appear. (Donald argues that the human
> > mind is a palimpsest--he calls it a "hybrid"--where old forms are
> > retained with the new.)
> >
> > That matters because in a time of rapid change in the nature of
> > available deformations, we have to be especially careful about these
> > assumptions--because assumptions about what is natural and what is
> > deformed have pedagogical consequences.
> >
> > Thanks again for the thoughtful comments and perspectives....
> >
> > David
> >
> >
> >
> > >-----Original Message-----
> > >From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
> > >[mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
> > >On Behalf Of Mike Cole
> > >Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2007 7:24 PM
> > >To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > >Subject: Re: [xmca] Tools, thought, & signs (Bruner, Peirce,
> > >Newton)
> > >
> > >Thanks for the synoptic discussion, Tony.
> > >
> > >I think Bruner is at least partially mistating things at the
> > >beginning of your post:
> > >"What is most characteristic of any kind of tool-using," he wrote,
> > >"is not the tools themselves, but rather the program that guides
> > >their
> use.
> > >It is
> > in
> > >this broader sense that tools take on their proper meaning as
> > >amplifiers of human capacities and implementers of human activity."
> ....
> > >
> > >What bothers me about this well known formulation, even though I
> > >initially thought it just fine, is two things: 1) the strong
> > >boundary between the "program that guides the action" and the tool;
> > >2) the notion of amplification.
> > >
> > >Re 1: See Bateson, (and, I believe, both Merleu-Ponty and
> > >Heidegger) using the blind man and stick metaphor about "where the mind
ends."
> > > Suppose I am a blind man, and I use a stick. I go tap, tap, tap.
> > >Where do I start? Is my mental system bounded at the hand of stick?
> > >Is it bounded by my skin? Doe it start half way up the stick? Does
> > >it start at the tip of the stick? ((Steps to an ecology of mind, p.
459).
> > >
> > >Bateson goes on to discuss how "the mind" slides up and down the
> > >stick and out away from the stick, "depending."
> > >Wertsch, in Mind as Action spends a lot of time discussing about a
> > >unit of analysis he calls "person acting with mediational means in
> > >cultural context." The short form of JSB's idea here belies that
> > >unit of analysis and the fusions it points to.
> > >
> > >Re 2: Tools may or may not amplify. But they certainly
> > >re-mediate-- they change the morphology of action, in a sense, they
"deform"
> "natural"
> > >action. Peg Griffin and I wrote about this in an article called
> > >"Cultural amplifiers reconsidered" which is not in electronic form.
> > >Anyone interested we can get it into such form. The basic idea is
> > >to think of amplication as increased amplitude of a signal without
> > >change in its form; that is not human, artifact-mediated, activity.
> > >
> > >Very interesting about Newton. It gives one pause to think when one
> > >hears discussions of human progress. Now uneducated farmers can
> > >kill hundreds, and soon thousands, with some simple apprenticeship
> > >in killing, but they stand on the shoulders of giants of course.
> > >
> > >Thanks Tony, thought provoking once again.
> > >mike
> > >
> > >On 7/8/07, Tony Whitson <twhitson@udel.edu> wrote:
> > >>
> > >> Before we move on to the next article, there are things I've said
> > >> about tools, thought, and signs that were offered more or less as
> > >> assertions, without the explanation needed to make sense of them.
> > >> This longish post attempts to remedy that.
> > >>
> > >> A much more readable version (layout, formatting, live links, and
> > >> even a photo of the inscription that was minted on the edge of
> > >> Newton's coins)
> > is
> > >> posted at
> > >> http://postcog.net/2007/06/16/tools-thoughts-signs/
> > >> I would suggest that anybody who wants to read this post should
> > >> read it there, and come back here if you would want to discuss
> > >> anything from it
> > on
> > >> this email list.
> > >> ------------
> > >>
> > >> This post relates to a discussion of Shaffer and Clinton (2007)
> > >> on the eXtended Mind, Culture and Activity discussion list (XMCA)
> > >> in June and July of 2007.
> > >>
> > >> 1. Bruner and tools for thought
> > >>
> > >> In the toolforthoughts article, computer technology is the focus
> > >> of discussion about tools in relation to thought. Noting
Levi-Strauss'
> > >> observation "that totems (e.g., animals and other natural
> > >> objects) were not chosen because they were good to eat, but
> > >> because they were good to think with," Paul Dillon implicitly
> > >> raised a question of tools for thought as something more general
> > >> than computers in the world we live in.
> > >>
> > >> Other examples are suggested in Peter Dow's account of a
> > >> curriculum development project headed by Jerome Bruner (circa 1965):
> > >>
> > >> Concern with teaching about technology had been a persistent [p.
> > >> 87] theme from the beginning at ESI Social Studies. .... Bruner
> > >> linked technology to the development of man's conceptual powers.
> > >> "What is most characteristic of any kind of tool-using," he
> > >> wrote, "is not the tools themselves, but rather the program that
> > >> guides their use. It is in this broader sense
> > that
> > >> tools take on their proper meaning as amplifiers of human
> > >> capacities and implementers of human activity." ....
> > >>
> > >> Early efforts to define the technology unit and translate
> > >> these general notions into effective classroom materials bogged
> > >> down in debates over
> > how
> > >> broadly to define the term tool. Should the discussion of tools
> > >> be restricted to physical objects, or is a logarithm a tool? Is
> > >> the Magna Carta a tool? Is E = mc2 a tool? Should the technology
> > >> materials include perspectives from disciplines as diverse as
> > >> mathematics and history? One of the difficulties in trying to
> > >> construct a unit on this topic was the lack of a clear conceptual
> > >> structure for defining what technology is and for considering its
> > >> social implications. Here, as with the other topics, some of the
> > >> most interesting issues and questions fell outside of the
> > >> framework
> > of
> > >> established academic categories. ... (Dow, 1991, pp. 86-7)
> > >>
> > >> 2. Peirce, thought, & signs
> > >>
> > >> Schaffer and Clinton draw from Latour's strategy for correcting
> > >> what Latour sees as the problem of treating the human and the
> > >> non-human asymmetrically.
> > >> It seems to me, though, that what Latour sees as a problem arises
> > >> from an assumed Cartesian dualism. The problem does not arise, in
> > >> the first
> > place,
> > >> within a Peircean perspective that does not presume that kind of
> > >> dualism between the human and the natural, or the human and the
> > artificial.
> > >>
> > >> Peirce recognized the world as constituted semiosically, with
> > >> humans ourselves emerging within our participation in the
> > >> semiosis that was well underway before we got here. Peirce
> > >> understood the entire universe as "perfused with signs":
> > >>
> > >> It seems a strange thing, when one comes to ponder over it,
> > >> that a sign should leave its interpreter to supply a part of its
> > >> meaning; but the explanation of the phenomenon lies in the fact
> > >> that the entire universe - not merely the universe of existents,
> > >> but all that wider universe, embracing the universe of existents
> > >> as a part, ... that all this universe is perfused with signs, if
> > >> it is not composed exclusively of signs (Peirce, CP 5.448; cf.
> > >> Whitson,
> 2007,
> p. 322 ).
> > >>
> > >> Peirce says "all thought is in signs," understanding "thought" as
> > >> as an activity of the world (not just humans), and "signs" also
> > >> in a sense that's not limited to human communication. From
> > >> Whitson (2007, pp. 296-7):
> > >>
> > >> As distinguished from semiology [i.e., in the tradition of
> > >> Saussure - including Greimas and Latour], as well as earlier
> > >> historic forms of semiotics [e.g., with the Stoics], semiotics
> > >> following the
> > work
> > of C. S.
> > >> Peirce is today, first and foremost, the study of semiosis, or
> > >> the activity of triadic sign-relations, recognizing that
> > >>
> > >> the whole of nature, not just our experience of it, but
> > >> the whole of nature considered in itself and on the side of its
> > >> own and proper being
> > is
> > >> the subject of semiosis - the process and product, that is, of an
> > >> action of signs coextensive with and constructive of the actual
> > >> world as well as
> > the
> > >> world of experience and imagination. (Deely 1994: 187-188)
> > >>
> > >> As Peirce observed, 'To say ... that thought cannot happen in
> > >> an instant, but requires a time, is but another way of saying
> > >> that every thought must be interpreted in another, or that all
> > >> thought is in signs' (CP 5.253). Once the semiosic character of
> > >> thought is recognized, thought itself is understood in a more
> > >> general sense, such that
> > >>
> > >> Thought is not necessarily connected with a brain. It
> > >> appears in the work of bees, of crystals, and throughout the
> > >> purely physical world; and one can no more deny that it is really
> > >> there, than that the colors, the shapes, etc., of objects are
> > >> really there. ... Not only is thought in the organic world, but
> > >> it develops there. (CP 4.551)
> > >>
> > >> What exactly is it that Peirce says is 'really there' in the
> > >> physical world, as undeniably as the colors and the shapes of
> > >> objects? What Peirce is referring to is the semiosic action of
> > >> triadic sign-relations:
> > >>
> > >> It is important to understand what I mean by semiosis.
> > >> All dynamical action, or action of brute force ... either takes
> > >> place between two
> > subjects
> > >> ...
> > >> or at any rate is a resultant of such actions between pairs. But
> > >> by 'semiosis' I mean, on the contrary, an action, or influence,
> > >> which is, or involves, a co÷peration of three subjects, such as a
> > >> sign, its object,
> > and
> > >> its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in any
> > >> way resolvable into actions between pairs. (CP 5.484; original
> > >> emphasis)
> > >>
> > >> What, then, are tools, or toolforthoughts? Are they different
> > >> from signs, species of signs, or what?
> > >>
> > >> 3. Newton, signs, and tools
> > >>
> > >> rough coinageAmong the problems tackled by Isaac Newton, over the
> > >> course of his varied career, was the problem of preserving
> > >> England's currency against counterfeiting and "clipping" (filing
> > >> off precious metal from the edges
> > of
> > >> coins). As head of the Royal Mint, Newton oversaw torture to
> > >> induce confessions, capital punishment, and even having offenders
> > >> drawn and quartered to protect the value of the royal coinage.
> > >>
> > >> Newton's mint began the practice of making coins with ridges
> > >> around the edge so that clipping could be easily detected; and
> > >> also, at that time, actually engraving the edge with the words
> > >> "DECUS ET TUTAMEN" - a phrase that
> > might
> > >> be literally translated as "an ornament and a safeguard," but
> > >> which we might also recognize as an engraving that is announcing
> > >> itself as "both a sign and a tool."
> > >>
> > >> 4. Of tools and signs (umbrella example)
> > >>
> > >> Let's try this example: Suppose I know that you always check the
> > >> weather on your computer before you go out for lunch. Today I
> > >> notice you picked up your umbrella on your way out the door.
> > >> Without checking the weather for myself, I take my own umbrella
> > >> with me when I go out. From a Peircean
> > perspective,
> > >> my action of taking my umbrella is one of the three terms in a
> > >> triadic
> > >> sign-relation: My action is an interpretant determined by your
> > >> action
> > (the
> > >> representamen), interpreted as a sign of possible rain (the
> > >> object-term
> > in
> > >> this triad). Here the umbrella participates in the activity of
> > >> triadic sign-relations.
> > >>
> > >> When we get outside, either of us might be preoccupied with
> > >> holding our umbrella in the right position so it doesn't get
> > >> blown inside-out by the wind. Now our concern is with the
> > >> umbrella in its tool-relations - or simply its instrumental use
> > >> as a tool for keeping dry.
> > >>
> > >> There seems no reason for trying to sort things into categories,
> > >> as being either "tools" or "signs" - the question, rather, would
> > >> be whether we are presently concerned with something as it
> > >> participates in the activity of sign-relations, or as it
> > >> functions within
> > tool-relations.
> > >>
> > >> What do you think?
> > >>
> > >> Dow, Peter B. Schoolhouse Politics: Lessons from the Sputnik Era.
> > >> Cambridge,
> > >> Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.
> > >>
> > >> Peirce, Charles S. Collected Papers. Cambridge: Belknap Press of
> > >> Harvard University Press, 1866-1913/1931-1958.
> > >>
> > >> Shaffer, David Williamson, and Katherine A. Clinton.
> "Toolforthoughts:
> > >> Reexamining Thinking in the Digital Age." Mind, Culture, And
> > >> Activity 13, no. 4 (2007): 283-300.
> > >>
> > >> Whitson, James Anthony. "Education Ó la Silhouette: The Need for
> > >> Semiotically-Informed Curriculum Consciousness." Semiotica 164, no.
> > >> 1/4
> > >> (2007): 235-329.
> > >>
> > >> _______________________________________________
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> > >> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> > >>
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Received on Tue Jul 10 03:16 PDT 2007

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