The Pragmatics of the Object
It is a theoretical perspective that originated in the Geneva School in the 1980s. It defends the need to give a pragmatic turn to the understanding of objects and their uses when studying early development.
Objects are not just a “physical reality”: (1) they are part of a cultural tradition, (2) they are subject to conventional rules of use of varying semiotic complexity and (3) they are protagonists in communicative exchanges as we communicate about and through them.
It is important to distinguish between objects and their uses, i.e. what is done with them. Functional uses are evident to adults but not to children. Their understanding is a progressive construction that is achieved through mediation by others. Adults use a variety of semiotic mediators with which they progressively introduce the child to the conventional uses of objects. The uses of objects are conceived as a privileged place for communication and the construction of meanings during the first years of life..
In its studies, the Pragmatics of the Object focuses on the analysis of the semiotic systems at play in communicative-educational processes. Its unit of observation is the triadic child-object-adult interactions and it is especially interested in the sign systems that provide the child with the possibility of communicating with others and with him/herself, and which function as instruments of thought..