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Lev Semenovich Vygotsky

1896-1934

1996 marks the Centenary of Vygotsky's birth in Belorussia. There will be a number of events occuring in celebration of this. We are initiating one here that we hope will mark the start of a continuing resource for anyone interested in exploring his work.

Within Vygotsky's conceptualisation of human psychology, a basic notion is that of mediation:

'the central fact about our psychology is the fact of mediation' (1982:166)
The point being made is that humans in their history have invented cultural tools, both material and psychological, that constitute a 'cognitive technology' whereby we have restructured our abilities and reconfigured our 'nature'. And it is at this point in our histories that we are beginning to explore a new 'technology', one which unites the material with the psychological, an 'informational technology' that in the emerging community of the WorldWideWeb is providing a new means of mediating our activities.

It thus seems appropriate to convene a celebration that may make a lasting contribution as a resource for teaching and research in this medium, in celebration of an individual whose thinking and research has contributed so much to our conceptualisation of education and development.

The proposal is to mark the centenary of Vygotsky's birth by setting up the equivalent of a web-conference on Vygotsky's opus. We are inviting people to 'submit' a piece of around 1000 words in the first instance as comments on, or in exegesis of, central concepts and themes in the Vygotskyean oeuvre.

What are these central concepts? It is not our intention to establish an orthodoxy, but among them are the distinction between higher and lower mental functions; the planes of intramental versus intermental psychological abilities; the zone of proximal development; psychological tools; and the principle of the decontextualization of mediational means; at least.

It is quite possible that these 'vignettes' could be done as 'class projects' in a number of different honours or graduate courses, for example. Or they may be individually 'submitted'. The possibilities noted here should not be taken as definitive.

Procedures for submissions

There are no closing dates! Our preference is that we act as a 'link site', cataloguing resources as they become available via their addresses at independent, local sites, so as not to swamp our own ability to store and redistribute material. However, where that is not possible, we will provide 'library' facilities, and material can be sent here if there are no alternatives available. Queries, offers, etc., can be mailed below.

Michael Cole, University of California, San Diego
Andrew Lock, Massey University
James Wertsch, Washington University, St. Louis

Currently available

  • The role of culture in Vygotskyean-informed psychology
    A paper by James Wertsch and Michael Cole that is an accessible source of the main thrust of Vygotsky's general developmental framework, as well as offering a contrast to the Piagetian approach.

  • Talk of saying, showing, gesturing, and feeling in Wittgenstein and Vygotsky
    A 'reading' of Vygotsky's central notions through the work of Wittgenstein by John Shotter. Note: this paper is long.

  • An introduction to culturally-mediated identity
    An introduction to some of the basic concepts of Vygotskyean theory by Trish Nicholl.


    There is a Cultural-Historical Activity Theory discussion group called XMCA. This discussion list is managed by Mike Cole at the Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition at the University of California at San Diego. To be added to the group send mail to:

    XMCA-request@weber.ucsd.edu


    Materials available via other web pages

    Links are provided here to material available at other sites. They are listed in no particular order at this point in time.

    Culural-Historical Psychology provides a periodically-updated listing of Vygotskyean and related resources available on the Web.

    Two sites hold materials from the 'Proceedings of the International Conference on L.S.Vygotsky and the Contemporary Human Sciences' held in Moscow in 1994. The holdings at each site appear to include different materials, and thus both are worth checking:

  • http://psych.hanover.edu/vygotsky/vygotsky.html

  • The Proceedings of International Conference L.S. Vygotsky and the Contemporary Human Sciences

    Very brief information can be found at

  • TIP: Theories

    This 'snippet' is embedded in more extensive material on theories of learning and instruction that can be accessed separately.

    Robert Boyle maintains a periodically-updated list of Vygotskyean resources that are turned up by the Lycos Web Crawler under the title of Bob's Vygotsky NetCompendium

    A very brief overview of ' Egocentric Speech: A Debate Between Piaget and Vygotsky' also contains another photo image of Vygotsky.

    Lisbeth Dixon-Krauss (University of West Florida) presents a mediation model for dynamic literacy instruction which

    is based on two principles derived from Vygotsky's ideas. First, his idea that the primary function of language is social for communication (Vygotsky, 1981) leads to a view of literacy as a communication form using printed signs as the media for sharing meaning. Second, the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978) leads to a view of school literacy instruction as sign-mediated activity nestled within socially mediated activity. The teacher mediates shared meaning between the reader and text author. She provides the learner support as they collectively build bridges of awareness, understandings, and competence through social interaction (Griffin & Cole, 1984; Wertsch, 1984).

    Materials that come from the same context that Vygotsky worked in by Bahktin can be accessed via the The University of Sheffield: Bakhtin Centre
    A paper that draws on Bakhtin, as well as Vygotskyean concepts, can be accessed under the wonderful title of LINGUIST: 6.1268



    Comments to A.J.Lock@massey.ac.nz
    Department of Psychology, Massey University , New Zealand
    URL: http://www.massey.ac.nz/~ALock
    last changed Tuesday, 30 July 1996

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