Re: sign/tools in interacting levls and forms of operation

From: Wolff-Michael Roth (
Date: Thu Jun 16 2005 - 15:00:25 PDT

one more comment--if a tool such a cane or hammer is transparent in
use, then it is similar to my tongue or my arm or my leg, it is part of
me and the world begins on the other end. (On this point, see, for
example, the discussion by Devereux, 1967, and the partition of the
observer|world dialectic.) It therefore no longer mediates
consciousness in the way we use the term. This is why we need to
distinguish whether language is used in operation or about operation,
in action (primary artifact) or for action (secondary artifact) or
about action (tertiary artifact).

Is there anybody out there who consciously selects words when talking
to family, friends? Who knows the exact sequence of words of an
utterance prior to having finished uttering a sentence in everyday
conversation? For people interested in these topics, it is worthwhile
to read David McNeill's contribution in Culture, Communication, and
Cognition, as well as his subsequent work where he writes about growth
points, catchments, the dialectic of speech/gesture, stop orders (which
allow us to stop when we have the sense that an utterance is
[grammatically] complete. He, too, grounds his work in Vygotsky, but
consequently pushes the dialectic nature of communication; he also
draws on the non-representationalist ideas of Merleau-Ponty (at least
in his later work).

McNeill, D. (1985). Language viewed as action. In J. V. Wertsch (Ed.),
Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskian perspectives (pp.
258270). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought.
Chicago: University of Chicago.
McNeill, D. (2000). Catchments and context: Non-modular factors in
speech and gesture. In D. McNeill (Ed.), Language and gesture (pp.
312328). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McNeill, D. (2002). Gesture and language dialectic. Acta Linguistica
Hafniensia, 34, 737.


On 16-Jun-05, at 2:22 PM, Russell, Donna L wrote:

> Hello Everyone
> My first post- a very brief response to Wolf-Michael Roth note on
> primary, secondary and tertiary activity and signs/tools.
> I research the use of innovative tools in educational settings using
> activity theory to identify the mediational processes involved in
> these activity settings.
> I defined the differences in mediational processes of tools among
> primary, secondary and tertiary activity among teachers implementing a
> collaborative problem-based unit in an online workspace. I found that
> primary contradictions impacted their implementation of the online
> problem-based unit in ways implied by the name-- in an underlying and
> ongoing manner that impacted their responses throughout the activity.
> However, I found that professional development that identified and
> addressed these primary contradictions,through reflection and guided
> dialogs for instance, can facilitate expansion of their object and
> impact their implementation of innovative tools.
> Donna
> Donna L. Russell, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Learning Technologies
> Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
> University of Missouri-Kansas City
> Kansas City, MO 64110
> <>
> <>
> <>

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