[xmca] Tool taxonomy

From: Lemi Daghan Acay (lacay@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au)
Date: Wed Mar 08 2006 - 19:33:23 PST

Sorry for the confusion;

I guess I need to clarify the references too. The paper attached to this e-mail which I have extensively discussed one and only one paragraph only is from the collected work and exact reference goes like this.


Yrjo Engestr¨om. When is tool? multiple meanings of artifact in human activity. In Learning working and imagining,

chapter 8, pages 171-195. Orienta-Konsultit, 1990.


I believe discussion of ideal should be brought into this discussion too (see my previous post). There are three other references for that but for now I will only give the pointer to Ilyenkov which you can find in Marxist.org. title is "Concept of ideal" 1977 and the link is


finally two other references in citation form is as follows

Marx W. Wartofsky. "Perception, representation, and the forms of action: towards an historical epistemology" in Models: Representation and the scientific understanding, volume 48 of Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland, 1979.

Bakhurst, D. (1997). Activity, consciousness, and communication. In M. Cole, Y. Engeström, and O. Vasquez (eds.), Mind, culture, and activity: Seminal papers from the laboratory of comparative human cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 147-163.

For interested reader I can post these two references in digital form too. Please continue to read to see my discussion and my questions on "When is tool? ..."


Daghan ACAY


Lemi-- This should be sent to XMCA.

I am not sure what the source of the tool & symbol discussion is, p. 181. Collected works?

On 3/7/06, Lemi Daghan Acay <lacay@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au> wrote:



I have attached the references that I locally have in digital form to this e-mail. I am searching the site for some other discussions you did in the past. For the sake of initiating the discussion here is one question. How tools (by tool I do not distinguish signs from labour tools) are selected in the activity. That is, do we start and activity because we have the necessary tools disposed to our use (just because these tools afford the activity) or "need" is objectified and thus motivate and activity independent of the available tools hence later this activity organized the selection of the tools.


Let me examine third paragraph under "tool and object" title at page 181.


1- He mentions external features of patient as object of activity but then continues as "However, before the patient enters ...". My question is, object of the activity is not available while the primary tool of patient's data is selected. But in the first paragraph first sentence he claims that "tools are dependent on the object". Later in the paper he claims "why" tools explain the behaviour of the object and justify the use of particular primary tool. So in this case which one overrides the other, and what is the real object of this activity?

2- He continues "the expectations are thus 'modulated' or 'filtered' by these entries" so is it primary "what" tool modifies the secondary "why" tool?

3- Finally in the final sentence of the third paragraph my question is simple. What is that the "what" tool represent in this particular example? Simply put does it represent the optimal use or does it represent available skills of the given individual?

4- Of course, overall question is "what is the activity here?" Is it care giving a patient, is it increasing the life expectancy of the human kind, or is it knowledge discovery?


I can ask more questions. What I am saying that is flexibility of AT create the anomaly of substituting different meanings to terminology. This allows the researchers to articulate the world as they see it but does not add anything to the theory. And eventually this results in increased complaints about the difficulty of understanding AT. Please let me know if I can read a paper or book that does not twist the meaning of the terminology and consistent through out the article.


Second article is the Ilyenkov and it is available online at marxist.org That one is more related with the concept of ideal and does not consider the tool taxonomy. If this e-mail create some interest in the community I can also submit papers from Barkhust and Wartofsky.


Thank you all

-Lemi Daghan ACAY



From: Mike Cole [mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, 4 March 2006 12:09 PM
To: Lemi Daghan Acay
Subject: Re: [xmca] Tool taxonomy


Hi Daghan-

Send along the when is a tool and other chapters. we may have some of them, but I am unsure.
There is a pretty long history of discussion about these issues in various forms on xmca that you should
be able to find in the xmca archives by googling the local site. I am not sure when such a discussion would get
under way. XMCA is very informally organized! And of course, we can talk.

Norman and Engestrom are no longer at UCSD, but of course, there is quite general interest in these issues here.

On 3/1/06, Lemi Daghan Acay < lacay@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au <mailto:lacay@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au> > wrote:

Dear Prof. Cole;


It is an honor writing to you. Thanks for your friendly response. I envy the working environment in UCSD. All leading people working on situated theories are there, Norman, Engestrom, Hollan, Hutchins, Kirsch, of course you and many others I have not read yet. Thanks for offering to open this topic to discussion. I believe it is profitable for everyone who is interested in AT. I think I can supply "When is tool?"(Engestrom), "Perception, Representation and the forms of action: toward an historical epistemology"(Wartowsky). We may also want to put "Activity, consciousness, and communication" (Barkhurst) and "The concept of ideal"(Ilyenkov). Your suggestion on the selected papers and others that may be related is more than welcome. As I said I am new and I may not have enough coverage on the topic. In the future, when our discussion comes to a mature stage, I like to talk to you on the phone or even visit you. As I have mentioned before I am interested in implementing a computational paradigm for tool. I know I can not cover all the aspects of it but at least I like to include the major properties that does not contradict with AT. I did not know If I had to write this to XMCA or you but I took your invitation as a private one. You may forward this to XMCA if you wish.


Best Regards

-Daghan ACAY

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