| Learning and Computing | Education | Computing | Psychology | Artificial Intelligence |
Bricolage, as a name representing the functional lability of cognitive structures,
with its focus on the interaction of pre-existing tools and available materials,
helps to explain the power of the particular in determining the course of
development. Here is a profound convergence, permitting a unification of
points of view through which the form of evolution of species, the rise
of civilization, and the pattern of development of the individual mind can
be seen as the parallel results of the same sorts of historically determinate
Bricolage and Cognitive Structures
What are the practical advantages of discussing human activity as bricolage
in contrast to goal driven planning? The first advantage is that it is more
natural, a more fit description of everyday activity than planning is. The
second is that it is more nearly compatible with a view of the mind as a
process controlled by contention of multiple objectives for resources than
is planning, which seems to call for a single center of decision or a chain
of decisions in a pre-ordered form. The final and most important advantage
permits a new vision of the process of learning. Bricolage can provide us
with an image for the process of the mind under self-construction in these
If viewed as claims, such statements are not easy to prove. However, they
provide a framework for investigating learning which could be valuable by
NOT demeaning human nature through assuming it is more simple than we know
to be the case. With such an intention, it is reasonable to ask if these
ideas can be applied to a specimen of behavior -- one able to sustain extended
analysis -- so that we may return with a richer and more precise application
of how the development of objectives and learning create the self-constructed
- if the resources of the individual's mind are viewed as being like the
tools and materials of the bricoleur, one can appreciate immediately how
they constrain our undertaking and accomplishing any activity.
- not only constraint comes from this set of limited resources; also comes
productivity, the creation of new things -- perhaps not exactly suited to
the situation but of genuine novelty.
- the mind, if seen as self-constructed through bricolage, presents a clear
image of the uniqueness of every person:
a. each will have developed his own history of conceptions and appreciations
of situations through which to make sense of the world.
b. each will have his personal "bag of tricks," knowledge and procedures
useful in his past.
c. each will have his own set of different, alternative objectives to take
up as chance puts the means at his disposal.
Implications for Method
The image of bricolage, when extended from a description of behavior to
a characterization of typical human thought, suggests how to explore human
behavior for evidence about mind. It gives hints of what to look for in
the search for the psychologically real (concrete experiences and their
sequelae). It emphasizes the importance of following an individual's selection
of activities and the need for sensitivity to cultural pressions in tracing
the development of mind on a Piagetian scale of development. Given that
such observation has provided a fecund method to study the development of
objectives, should it not be extensible for the exploration of such issues
as how the fragmentary character of experience affects the mind and how
significant learning happens in concrete situations? After this analysis
of Robby's project, such questions generated The Intimate Study.
Publication notes:Written in 1976. Unpublished..
Subsumed in Chapter 1, "The Development of Objectives," in Computer Experience and Cognitive Development, John Wiley, 1985.
Learning and Computing | Education | Computing | Psychology | Artificial Intelligence |