SYMP 079 - The magic of signs: Creative coordination of transformative activity

1.1 Social, cultural, linguistic and educational mediation
Symposium (Symp)
Tuesday Aug 29   01:30 PM to 03:30 PM (2 hours)
Signs seem to have an almost magical power to enhance and transform human psychological abilities, as even mainstream psychology is now discovering. But from what source does this quasi-mystical power derive? Vygotsky’s pioneering account of signs as “psychological tools” attempted to place the development of semiotic mediation within the dynamic development of human activities. Through his investigation of egocentric/private speech, Vygotsky developed a bold hypothesis about the relationship between language and cognitive development, self-regulation, and consciousness itself. Yet, despite these revolutionary advances, problems remain in cultural-historical accounts of semiotic mediation and the development of sign-making capacities in early childhood, leaving open the door to dualist accounts of natural/cultural lines of development, and corresponding lower/higher mental functions. Neo-Vygotskian accounts of internalization based solely on word meaning may be too narrow to fully understand the role of individual (and ‘inner’) communicative creativity within collective social practice. Furthermore, CHAT’s general theory of language has been criticized for orthodox assumptions that downplay spontaneous sign-making in the coordination of collaborative activity. To address these lacunae, this symposium demystifies the magic of signs by situating them within the creative coordination of transformative activity. A key reference point for the four papers in this symposium will be Anna Stetsenko’s ‘transformative activist stance’ – an ongoing effort to overcome ontological dualism in cultural-historical activity theory. Each paper contributes to mapping the contours and dynamics of the semiotic activity which is inherent to the whole of culture, locating the power of signs in practical activity and its transformational potential.
The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)
College of Staten Island, The City University of New York, USA
The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) (New York, NY, United States)
Sheffield Hallam University
The Pennsylvania State University

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