The cultural-historical approach builds on the idea that human activities are mediated by artefacts, used and modified by succeeding generations of human beings and grounded on practical, everyday activities (Cole 1996, 108-110). Praxis, or practices, and cultural artefacts are developed in interaction with each other in historically situated and evolving processes (Miettinen & Virkkunen 2005). Human activity is “object-oriented” which means that also collective activity has an object of activity (related to the “motive”, or to the concrete outcomes of that activity) which characterizes how activities are, in general, understood or explained (Engeström 1987).
Primary artefacts are tools and practices directly used in human labour and other activities, secondary artefacts are “symbolic externalizations” or “objectifications” of primary artefacts; and tertiary artefacts that mediate relations between primary and secondary artefacts and no longer have a direct representationalfunction but represent visions, anticipated changes and possibilities that may be used to change the world. Wartofsky also maintained that these artefacts are not in the mind as mental entities, but are externally embodied in socially shared practices, social organizations, and culturally shared ideas.