Dear Ana and All,
Thanks for your last paragraph, which not only helps me (and I hope
others) grasp the idea of a single process occurring with tools and
signs that Mike mentioned earlier, but also resonates with a paragraph
on signs from LSV himself:
"Initially the sign is always a means of social connection, a means of
affecting others, and only later does it become a means of affecting
oneself...[R]esearch has demonstrated that there undoubtedly is a
genetic connection between the child's arguments and his reflections.
The very logic of the child confirms the basis of this...[I]f it is
true that the sign is initially a means of socialising and only later
becomes a means of behaviour of the individual, then it is absolutely
clear that the cultural development is based on the use of signs and
that including them in the whole system of behaviour occurred initially
in a social, external form. (Collected Works Vol. 4, p. 103)"
I suggest we keep this theme in mind (pardon the metaphor) when we
tackle Ruqaiya Hasan's critique of Vygotsky's semiotic mediation in
social context. Earlier, Gordon pointed us to Anna Stetsenko's paper,
which contextualises Vygotsky's work much more broadly. I note that
Stetsenko uses the concept of emancipation for an object of Vygotsky's
activity; to afford the freedom to "act purposefully according to
socially meaningful goals and with the help of socially developed
tools, thus overcoming the dictates and constraints of nature and
environment" (Stetsenko paper). However, as Hasan argues, sites of
semiotic mediation may free humans up from natural constraints, but
they are not "given" sites of freedom; they are sites of power and
But that's jumping ahead a few days...would it be timely now to turn to
the Lantolf and Thorne paper with a view to widening our search for a
model of language for activity?
As we switch threads, we might use the subject line as a tool/sign for
others and use the "LCA plus colon" sign to indicate where we're at -
this current discussion will no doubt continue on.
On 17/06/2005, at 1:46 PM, Ana Marjanovic-Shane wrote:
> Steven and all,
> I think that the primary difference between tools and signs is in the
> different place and function of the mediational processes. Both tools
> and signs change both the nature of the individual's and culture's
> relationship to the environment, on the one hand, and the nature of
> the relationships between individual people, between individuals and
> institutions and between segments of culture to other segments of
> culture. However there is a difference in WHERE the mediation occurs
> and how the process is started and by what means it is carried out.
> Moreover, those differences are systematic and not random.
> Tools mediate the "subject" - "object" relationship. They not only
> enable different and further reaching transformations of the
> environment, but also enable specific conceptualizations of the
> "object", making certain aspects of the "object" more "visible" than
> the others. I am using the notion of an "object" in a very abstract
> way -- not just material environment, but also people if "objectified"
> -- like in our own dialogue about the nature of human communication,
> or relational objects like "electricity", "power" etc.
> Semiotic signs, on the other hand, mediate the relationships between
> persons, the "subject" - "subject" relationship, changing it form
> direct affective response relationships (attack/defense;
> appeal/appeal; rivalry; power domination; etc) to relationships ABOUT
> something else that is addressed in the semiotic signs. Semiotic tools
> also change the subject/object relationships, however only within the
> subject/subject relationships. This is where the significance and the
> meaning of the semiotic signs are forged. So, tools change the nature
> of the subject-object relationship first and through that, they
> indirectly affect and change social relationships (through the
> division of labor and through changing the nature of social
> possibilities, norms and rules. Semiotic signs, on the other hand,
> change the nature of social relationships from direct emotional ones
> based on immediate reactions between the subjects, to relationships
> which are mediated by topics and themes far out (in place and time and
> the nature) of the immediate present reality. Through mediating
> interpersonal (and inter "institutional") relationships, signs give
> the "object" to which they refer a different significance and meaning,
> and thus also mediate the subject/object relationships. What is also
> important is Vygotsky's notion that the sign mediates between "I" and
> "me" -- i.e. that when an interpersonal process is internalized, then,
> not only signs become tools of self direction, but because the
> interpersonal relations are changed from immediate ones to the
> mediated ones, the nature of identity is changed from immediate
> emotional, sensory-motor one (primary psychological functions) to a
> person with a meaning (not just "me" but also "I") -- in other words,
> self-awareness is directly born in the process of internalization of a
> mediated social relationship.
> I think that this distinction is relevant, because it creates a
> functional explanation of different types of mediating processes and
> the relationships between them.
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