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Article

There and Back Again: A (Reversed) Vygotskian Perspective on Digital Socialization

Frontiers in Psychology. 2021. Vol. 12. P. 1-4.

Digital transformation of human mind is on the agenda in both cognitive and personality psychology. There is a number of approaches in cognitive science addressing the question how humans create culture, but less approaches address the issue of how culture transforms our ‘natural’ cognitive functions. One of such approaches, the cultural-historical psychology, was proposed almost a century ago by Vygotsky. This paper aims at demonstrating how Vygotskian framework, and his concepts of cultural mediation and the zone of proximal development in particular, could be used to understand cognitive development in the digital world. I argue that digital technologies transform the course of cognitive development as outlined in Vygotsky’s cultural-historical psychology. First, socialization is not internalization any more, as our cognitive functions become externalized again due to the use of new digital ‘tools of the mind’, in agreement with the Extended Cognition framework. Second, an adult doesn’t set the ‘zone of proximal development’ for a child any more, with this function being entrusted to digital devices, similarly to how the Material Engagement Theory treats evolution of the first prehistoric tools. I demonstrate that, whereas digital technologies challenge cultural-historical psychology, it might provide new insights into cognitive development in the digital context.