The terms ‘object’ or ‘shared object’ are used in a theoretical sense in the trialogical learning but have also a very practical connotation. They refer to knowledge artefacts, or also practices and processes developed together, that is, some concrete things developed collaboratively (similarly to an ordinary sense of ‘objects’ or ‘things’) for some later use or for some purpose. On the other hand, ‘object’ refers here to something to which actions are directed (near ‘objective’) (cf. ‘knowledge object’ 3.). As an example, students can be modifying a project plan (i.e. a knowledge artefact which is in one sense an “object”) as one part of their work for conducting a certain course (finalizing the course being another “object”). This kind of a dual meaning of ‘objects’ is emphasized also in activity theoretical literature where it is emphasized that objects have concrete, thing-like characteristics but they are also something to which actions are directed, that is, a motive for collective action (cf. Engeström & Blackler, 2005). Similarly Knorr-Cetina (2001) has emphasized that modern knowledge work is work with ‘epistemic objects’ (and ‘epistemic practices’) which are at the same time concrete things that are developed but very dynamic and constantly in a process of change.

The notion of ‘object’ within trialogical learning owes then a lot to object-orientedness as defined and discussed within activity theory (see e.g. Kaptelinin & Miettinen, 2005). But it has its background also in approaches emphasizing the role of artefacts in various forms (see e.g. Cole 1996, Wartofsky 1980; Bereiter 2002). The specific feature of the trialogical learning approach is that a learning community not only aims to get insight into some phenomena (see knowledge object) as a collaborative endeavor but works with knowledge artefacts in order to develop concrete usable solutions, products or applications that address some specified aspect of the phenomena. So instead of focusing on object-orientedness in general, the trialogical approach emphasizes a narrower outlook on those “objects” and “artefacts” which are collaboratively and iteratively developed and modified for some later use or for some purpose (heading towards some “objective”).

Related concepts used in the KP-Lab project:

‘Object-oriented inquiry’ (see e.g. Muukkonen 2011) `or object-oriented collaboration` emphasizes collaboration around shared, tangible objects in relation to inquiry learning.

‘Object-bound commenting’ and ‘object-bound chat’ refer to commenting and chat-discussion which, instead of having general and detached discussion on some topic, direct comments or discussions to certain specific places of the “object” (or artefact) under development. This kind of object-bound commenting can then be very near of modifying the artefact itself (which is emphasized in trialogical learning).

Also: ‘object of activity’ (or ‘object of inquiry’), ‘epistemic object’.


Bereiter, C. (2002). Education and mind in the knowledge age. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

Cole, M. (1996). Cultural Psychology. A Once and Future Discipline. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Engeström, Y. & Blackler, F. (2005). On the Life of the Object. Organization 12(3), 307-330.

Kaptelinin, V., & Miettinen, R. (2005). Perspectives on the Object of Activity. Mind, Culture, and Activity 12(1), 1-3.

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2001). Objectual Practice. In T. R. Schatzki, K. Knorr Cetina, & E. von Savigny (eds.). The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory (pp. 175-188). London and NY: Routledge.

Muukkonen-van der Meer, H. (2011) Perspectives on knowledge creating inquiry in higher education. Doctoral dissertation, University of Helsinki, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Studies in Psychology, 75. Helsinki: Helsinki University Print.

Wartofsky, M. (1979). Models: Representation and Scientific Understanding. Dordrecht: Reidel.

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