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

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at gmail.com>
Date: Tue Jul 10 2007 - 07:13:13 PDT

I think its just a matter of different people coming to similar points of
view and finite
amounts of reading capacity, Peter. So far as I know, David and Katherine
had not
read Cultural Psychology or Bakhurst or Ilyenkov. Dewey appears to me to be
a
congenial way into the issues, Burke (a la Wertsch) etc. Each with different
gaps
or over-emphases. But all useful toolsforthought. :-)

I like the aphorism attribured to Goethe and probably a lot of other people:
"Everything has been thought of before. The trick is to think of it again
under the
right circumstances." (or words to that effect)
mike

On 7/10/07, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:
>
> 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.
> > > >>
> > > >> _______________________________________________
> > > >> xmca mailing list
> > > >> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > > >> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> > > >>
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Received on Tue Jul 10 07:14 PDT 2007

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