Re: [xmca] signs and scientific activity

From: Jianwei Zhang (
Date: Wed Oct 18 2006 - 12:24:12 PDT

Hi Mickael,

Thanks for sharing with us this interesting article, which is very
closely related to my interest on the creation of epistemic artifacts
in knowledge building communities. Unfortunately, I found that the link
you provided does not work. Could you please help check it?



Jianwei Zhang, PhD, Post-doctoral Fellow
Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology
OISE/University of Toronto

On 18-Oct-06, at 8:33 AM, Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:

> Hi all,
> Tony Whitson had asked me to make this paper available, which will
> appear some time next year in the special issue of SEMIOTICA edited by
> Don Cunningham. Michael Hoffmann is a philosopher who did his PhD in
> philosophy on Plato but then specialized on Peirce.
> I paste the abstract and the link below.
> Cheers,
> Michael
> Hoffmann_Roth_complementarity203.pdf
> The complementarity of a representational and an epistemological
> function of signs in scientific activity
> Abstract
> This contribution essentially is about the role of signs and sign
> systems in the construction
> of knowledge and understanding by social scientists (e.g., educational
> researchers,
> psychologists) interpreting educational data and the constraints of
> relationship
> between the knowledge these scientists bring to the interpretation and
> the
> knowledge displayed in the data on the interpretative results. Signs
> do not only “represent”
> something for somebody, as Peirce’s definition goes, but they also
> “mediate”
> relations between us and our world, including ourselves, as has been
> elaborated by
> Vygotsky. By using signs we (a) make distinctions, (b) specify objects
> and relations
> we refer to in thinking and communication, (c) structure our
> observations and experiences,
> and (d) organize societal and cognitive activity. Based on the demand
> that a
> “semiotically inspired theory of teaching and learning” should
> conceptualize the relation
> between the semiotic approaches of Peirce and Vygotsky by the notion of
> “complementarity” (Seeger 2005), this paper attempts to achieve this
> goal in two
> steps. First, we show that the same model can describe the
> representational and the
> epistemological function of signs—by interpreting it in two different
> ways. This model
> emphasizes that both functions of signs can only be fulfilled if we
> presuppose what
> Peirce called “collateral knowledge,” that is, a network of different,
> mediating
> knowledge forms. The central problem becoming visible in this way is
> that the interpretation
> of signs as well as the knowledge generating organization of our world
> by
> means of signs can be radically different depending on different
> collateral knowledge.
> This problem is the starting point for our second step. By reflecting
> on examples
> of our own scientific activity we will show (a) that this problem
> causes the very
> dynamics of scientific activity, and (b) that this dynamics can best
> be described by a
> dialectical process resulting from the complementary of the two sign
> functions.
> Keywords: epistemology; activity theory; collateral knowledge;
> dialectic; Peirce; Vygotsky
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