Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Iraq playing cards and mediation

I'm discussing Vygotsky's insights on mediation in class today, and preparing for the lecture reminded me of the infamous playing cards that the US military issued troops after the Iraq invasion. See this picture of the cards from a random Flickr set.

What reminded me was that -- despite the message many took away from the deck, that capturing the Iraqi leadership was a "game" -- these playing decks present a strong example of what Vygotsky meant by mediation. In Mind in Society Ch. 3, he talks about how adolescents used colored cards to keep track of which colors they had used in a game as well as which colors were "forbidden." I imagine that these cards were used in much the same way by some troops, with captured leaders being removed from the deck. On the other hand, they were also used as playing cards, and in that capacity they allowed military work to infiltrate even the sparse leisure activities enjoyed by the soldiers. And I suppose that reminds us that mediation is a sociocultural phenomenon, and as such is never far from ideology.

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