Role played by artifacts in cognition

How social is the social? Rethinking the role of artifacts in cognitive science is a paper by Ana Viseu that I came across while sorting my "to read" txt file. It's basically a good account of the role played by artifacts in cognition. It describes them from the perspectives of 3 different schools of thought:

  • Vygotsky's sociocultural theory: the notion of mediation through artifacts.
  • Marshall McLuhan's view of artifacts as extensions of Man
  • Actor-Network Theory (ANT), in which humans and non-humans are each considered to be actors, their agency depending on their relationships

I particularly like the 2 tables she's using to summarize these issues: the first one is about the nature and role of artifacts and the second is about the character of cognition:

Vygotsky McLuhan Actor-Network Theory
Artifacts Mediators Extensions Actors
Vygotsky McLuhan Actor-Network Theory
Thought Social--> private (individual development) Private--> social (historical development) Relational

I also like the final word:

The solution may lie in the combination of these different perspectives, a multi-disciplinary approach to cognition. But it will also lie, as Lucy Suchman puts it so well, in finding a new language to talk about cognition, for both persons and artifacts. We have to shift from a language that focuses on separation, disembodiment and isolation to one that focuses on relatedness and relationships (Suchman, 1997).

Why do I blog this? these theories of cognition quite fit into my research perspective and are totally different from what is still taught sometimes in cognitive science degrees (in which the paradigm are much more limited to the individual's mind).