[xmca] Wartofsky's artifacts recast

From: bb (xmca-whoever@comcast.net)
Date: Mon Jan 23 2006 - 07:31:49 PST

Mike wrote:
"So maybe the whole Wartofsky set of distinctions are irrelevant. Or need to
be bracket/specified more?"

I prefer the latter, at least. Re-reading what Wartofsky wrote (Thanks Phil), I see the descriptions of primary through tertiary artifacts occurring in a manner which is not located in a particular situation, but generalized, and so I have the same reservation about use of these categories as I do tool and sign. That is to say, in instantiation, something could be a tool in one circumstance and a sign in another. For example, in forensic analysis, a knife that was once a tool, an instrument of someone’s death, is matched in its shape and length to the wound, to become a sign in constructing the narrative of how the crime was committed. Similarly, if analyzed with Wartofsky’s categories, the primary artifact has become a secondary one.

Recasting the definitions of primary -> tertiary in functional terms has some advantage in specifying further how these categories can themselves function in theoretical analysis:

Primary artifacts function directly in the production of the means of existence and in the reproduction of the species.

Secondary artifacts function in the preservation and transmission of the acquired skills or modes of action or praxis by which this production is carried out.

Secondary artifacts function in preserving and transmitting skills, and in the production and use of 'primary' artifacts (e.g. tools, modes of social organization, bodily skills and technical skills in the use of tools).

Recasting this way facilitates a functional view of artifacts, aligning better Wartofsky’s categories with analysis by Halliday, Lemke, Wells, and others, examining how language functions in activity. Then, it is easier to see, how, in instantiation, artifacts can be multi-functional.

The first example is drawn from Gordon’s “Dialogic Inquiry”, (p 200) in which he shows how the third move in triadic dialogue, the E in IRE, is multifunctional: (1) in the teacher checking the students knowledge and (2) in extending the student’s answer.

The second example comes from Jeanne, my coauthor, expressing how she was reconfiguring her classroom during the summer of 2004, in anticipation of a new cohort of students. To locate this exchange theoretically, I’d like to quote Mike’s description of prolepsis, which is essentially what Jeanne engages in when redesigning the classroom to the form I have posted on the web:

“Only a culture-using human being can "reach into" the cultural past, project it into the future, and then "carry" that conceptual future "back" into the present to create the sociocultural environment of the newcomer.”
Cole, cultural psychology, p 186

Our exchange follows:

J:” I moved the circle table over mostly because I wanted to make a separate meeting area too. So there are two meeting areas now. There will be another easel, right by the black board. There’s a yellow rug, and I’ve got two red rugs.”

B: “Why two meeting areas?”

J: “Well, because I have the [collaborative model] now, this year. So I’m going to have two teachers in here. There will be two teachers, me and Gina. And, um, so I have a higher population of special ed. children, so this way I have more leverage. I can break kids up. Gina and I can say OK you take the same lesson, differentiate it, but we can actually do it at the same time. Two places to work. I can meet with reading groups over there….

What’s also going to happen is that this new meeting area is going to have more math stuff over here. So we’ll do more math things because the screen is right there. So I can pull the screen down and most of the kids should be able to sit there or at a table. All the kids will be able to stay right there and see the screen. Maybe grab a clipboard and that’s easy. And then the other one am going to keep more for literacy, read alouds, I put the big book holder, the chart thing, the schedule.

Morning meeting will be in the same place. But I’ll have more leverage. I finally have a place for that chart thing, right there next to you. I won’t have to move it, I’ll just have to move the children. The pocket chart. The big pocket chart, which also has poems on it. So when we are doing nursery rhyme study, I’ll be able to have that in a much better place than it was last year. “

Jeanne’s use of future tense, in Halliday and Hasan’s terms: cataphora, e.g. “will be”, “going to happen”, “going to have” indicates her projecting into the future, and her making both cataphoric and anaphoric reference “Morning meeting will be in the same place”, with “same place” referencing back into “the same place as last year” and which I understood in context. The exophoric references Jeanne makes to the artifacts in her classroom, “right there”, “over here”, indicate how these artifacts contribute to the narrative in which Jeanne tells me of the processes of her planning.

Whether this future world in which Jeanne anticipates what will be happening with her children qualifies as a tertiary artifact, I’m still not convinced. But if it does, it has the following implications. The tables, the screens, the yellow rug, the red rug, the easel, the circle table, are all secondary artifacts for the children, who are learning to read, write, do math, etc.. They function in the children’s learning activities during the day, qualifying as secondary artifacts. But for Jeanne, the physical locations and orientations of these materials function in her planning for the entire school year, anticipating the diversity in children’s learning, the role of other adults, the curriculum that the children are about to learn, supporting her imagining what will happen in her classroom.. The spatial location of these artifacts mediate Jeanne’s thinking about what is to happen in the classroom. As in Mike’s description of prolepsis, Jeanne has not yet met the childre!
 n, but is configuring her room in expectation of their future activity. In her planning, in this instantiation, the very same artifacts that function secondarily in the children’s learning, function in a tertiary manner in Jeanne’s planning.

Does this make sense?

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