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Thinking together with material representations: Joint epistemic actions in creative problem solving

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How do material representations such as models, diagrams and drawings come to shape and aid collective, epistemic processes? This study investigated how groups of participants spontaneously recruited material objects (in this case LEGO blocks) to support collective creative processes in the context of an experiment. Qualitative micro-analyses of the group interactions motivate a taxonomy of different roles that the material representations play in the joint epistemic processes: illustration, elaboration and exploration. Firstly, the LEGO blocks were used to illustrate already well-formed ideas in support of communication and epistemic alignment. Furthermore, the material concretization of otherwise abstract ideas in LEGO blocks gave rise to elaboration: discussions, requests for clarification and discovery of unnoticed conceptual disagreements. Lastly, the LEGO blocks were used for exploration. That is, the material representations were experimented on and physical attributes were explored resulting in discoveries of new meaning potentials and creative solutions. We discuss these different ways in which material representations do their work in collective reasoning processes in relation to ideas about top-down and bottom-up cognitive processes and division of cognitive labor.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Semiotics
Pages (from-to)103-123
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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