What is your definition of consciousness?  How was your consciousness formed?  Have you ever stopped and thought about this before?  What are your thoughts?  Today in Dr. Rowe’s theory meeting we had much conversation about consciousness in relation to Vygotsky and the sociocultural theory of learning.

Here is a quote from Vygotsky and the Social Formation of Mind by James V. Wertsch:

On the basis of this Marxian axiom Vygotsky argues that ‘the socialdimension of consciousness id primary in time and in fact.  The individual dimension of consciousness is derivative and secondary’ (1979, p.30)” 1985, p. 58

In our meeting today the question was proposed that does this mean that for Vygotsky that there is no consciousness without the social aspect of society?  The interactions between people and the formed realization of what these actions mean?  What about the individualism of the person?  What about the biological make-up of individuals?  Do these factors play a role in the Vygotsky view of consciousness?  Do they play a role in your view of consciousness?

The example one can think of when trying to wrap your brain around these questions is the symbol of language.  One does not just know language, but one typically has the needed “biological functions” to produce the mechanics of sound.  Language, and some argue even speech is a social behavior.

It became clear in our conversation that this view seems to have some deficits, mainly the lack of attention to the individual, the development of the individual as they grow and “learn” before the age of five and the role of the of form instruction given (school learning is very different then at home or social learning for example).  As thoughts were brought forth, it seemed that we considered the role of the individual married with the social interaction begins that formation of consciousness.  As the individual grows and develops the skills they acquire from the social group they are in as well as their own physical progression increases the amount of signs and tools for that individual.  When one is able to deliberately choose what tool to use, knows how to use the tool, why they want to use the tool and what outcome they are expecting from the tool use, consciousness is forming.  One statement that even takes this further by Dr. Rowe is that once an individual learns to use a tool, it potentially changes the way that individual will do all future things.

So what are your thoughts?

What did Vygotsky mean when he was referring to mind?  During our weekly theory meeting we as graduate students spent time reflecting on this today. We are currently reading Wertsch, Vygotsky and the Social Formation of Mind and came across two sections that took up the bulk of our conversations.

First we reflected on the choice of the word “mind” in the title.  What does this mean?  Is this a connection to the English translation of Vygotsky’s work Mind and Society trying to link the two books?  Is it a reference to the higher mental functions of brain and thought processes together?  Is it the conscience part of the individual?  Is it the part of the developmental process Vygotsky was referring to that was social and not biological?  We had much conversation on these questions.  What are your thoughts on these questions?  Our group tabled the topic for a future week. 

The second major discussion point was about mediation.  Can one mediate a tool? Or is a tool there to help with mediation?  What is the difference in these questions?  Is there a difference?  After various examples, there seemed to be some agreement on the idea of three stages of tool use.  These stages would progress as the individual develops high mental functions or thought processes.  First would be the use of the tools and gaining a general understanding of the task. Next would be the use of the tools to further that knowledge base. And finally there would be the mediated use of the tools with new tools for new formation of knowledge.  Laura gave a great example of these steps with learning about tides.  What are your thoughts?