Sociogeneses of knowledge

Within the Vygotskian view of sociocultural theory, the activities in which individuals engage in and through which their cognition is transformed are held to have historical and cultural geneses (e.g. Cole, 1998; Rogoff, 1990; Scribner, 1985). These accounts refer to four lines of development or sources comprising the: (i) phylogenetic – the evolving history of the human species; (ii) sociocultural – development which reflects particular cultural need; (iii) microgenetic development – the moment-by-moment problem-solving which occurs through individuals’ engagement with the social world; and (v) ontogenetic development – the evolving base of individuals’ socially constructed knowledge as a product of their life histories. However, these levels need to be augmented by a consideration of the contributions of situations and situational factors.

Figure 1 aims to depict the reciprocal relations between social practice and ontogenetic development. It depicts how the historical and cultural geneses in the form of sociocultural practice and situationally-constituted factors shape the goal-directed activities with which individuals engage. It also identifies micro-genetic actions as source of cognitive change. These actions occur at the intersection between the social contributions (the social experience) and the ontogenetic development (the cognitive experience). In doing so, the Figure 1 proposes a tentative view of how individuals’ thinking and acting is mediated reciprocally through microgenetic actions by engagement in socially constituted activities that are historically, culturally and situationally shaped, on the one hand, and socially derived ontogenies on the other. As with ontogenetic development, these sociocultural practice and situational factors are not fixed, they are in constant transformation, as are their relations.