how tools and mediation works

July 25, 2007

Finding something new is always fascinating. Yesterday’s finding was a reference towards POGO storyworld from University of Siena.
Antonio Rizza and his associates have a couple of papers online that introduce the environment.
I was reading the Pirkko’s thesis about PLEs and these POGO papers today and was thinking of how relativistic is the tool conception.

Theoretical ideas from POGO paper:

According to Vygotsky (1978) a human individual never reacts directly (or merely with inborn reflects) to environment. Instead, tools and signs mediate the relationship between human agent and objects of environment; thus, for Vygotsky, mental process can be understood only if we understand the tools and signs that mediate them.

Surprisingly this is very much in line with the new ideas of what affordances are. If affordances are not direct part of the environment, but rise in the cognitive processes as part of putting intentions into actions – the tools (either cognitive or material) are nothing but the part of the environment we make meaningful, literally ‘our own’ when we try to shift some of it from external to internal, from separate to embodied, using the affordances. The perception of affordances makes tools.

Lev Vygotsky maintained that the notions of reality and imagination are not as separated as they appear to be in every day life. Fantasy disposes traces of events in new forms. This constitutes the first relation between fantasy and reality. The second relation does not consist of a relation between the elements of fantastic construction and reality, but between the ready product of fantasy and any complex phenomenon of reality.
The third kind of relation concerns emotion. Fantasy’s images supply an inner language to our feelings. Our feelings select elements that are isolated from reality and combine them together in a relationship that is internally conditioned by our state of mood, instead of by temporal or logical relationship among images. Each construction of fantasy influences our feelings, so even if it’s not a construction that corresponds to reality, the feeling evoked by it is effective and really lived.
A construction of fantasy may constitute something effectively new, something which has never existed before in the experience of man, and which does not correspond to any object/concept really existing. Yet, once this crystallized image of imagination is externally embodied, once it is concretized, once it has become a thing among other things, it really starts to exist in the world, and to impact upon other things.
The cycle of creative imagination is a process that develops in four phases, namely exploration, inspiration, production and sharing, and describes how the individual experiences the external world, elaborates the impressions received, assembles them in a novel way and shares this production with others.

If we use external tools (cognitive, like language and material, like artifacts), why cannot we consider that there are also internal tools what enable us to realize our objectives and actions. Imaginations what we create and use in our mind, can be seen as these internal tools that mediate between our objectives and actions.

These relations derived from Vygotsky, are at the core of the pedagogical objectives of POGO. The POGO environment should:
(1) expand as much as possible the sensorial experience of children within each type of relationships: the imaginary relationship between the real elements (first relation), and real relationships between not-experienced elements (second relation);
(2) allow comparison and experimentation among both relationships, stressing the social origin of the second relationship (cf. the forth pedagogical objective).
Emotional relation is the central issue of the second pedagogical objective: the POGO environment should support children in developing emotional knowledge (e.g. empathy) through the law of the common emotional sign and the law of reality of imagination.
The third pedagogical objective: the POGO environment should sustain children to complete the circle of creative imagination that starts from sensorial knowledge of reality and goes back to reality through active modification of the environment produced by the embodiment of imagination. The process of embodiment concerns not just the material/technical aspects but also the emotional/conceptual ones.

POGO activity 2

POGO should support the understanding and the management of different ways to organize narrative processes (i.e. narrative structures) so to enable a richer way to build meaning out of our experience and consequently to become conscious of what the narrative interpretation imposes on the reality it builds.

Any artifact has a dual nature, a material one and a conceptual one and that both, but specially the conceptual one, give shape to the human cognitive process when people interact with that specific artifact.

POGO mediates cognitive activity. In POGO world, the conceptual level of the artefact is step by step embodied in the physical and functional form of the artefact.

pogo activities

If i understand it correctly, the idea is that we create internal conceptions, which will be turned into narrative/material form by embodying the them as meanings into cognitive or material tools.

It is sort of the process of making the external tools from the internal ones, while the other process, what i described earlier, is making the external tools from external world, environment.

Internal conceptions, imaginations come first, and then through abstracting them (could it happen if we make up the main features of them, select affordances?) we externalise conceptions as meanings and embody them into certain cognitive or material ‘objects’ which will then mediate our meanings as tools.

This shifting of the borders is in principle the main idea in semiotics what Lotman has suggested. Can we say that what mediation (and tool-using/tool-making) actually is, is shifting the borders between external and internal, outside and embodied, align and our own. This shifting happens by finding the translation points (what Stecconi and Lotman both describe). These translation points are very much alike to the affordances what we anticipate and what we put in action.


One comment

  1. […] action – in order to use part of the environment for our actions, we need to make it our own, by toolisizing some of its objects through identifying some of their existence as affording our actions and emotions (basically during […]

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