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As a means of scoring poems, negative infinity, zero, and pi function as a kind of Rube Goldberg machine, accomplishing a fairly simple task in an unnecessarily complicated manner, but not so complicated as to be unfamiliar to a college-aged audience or unusable to score the poems. Later, he drafted, revised, reworked, and polished his explanation of this system into an opening monologue for his character in the sketch, the ‘rambling announcer’ who opened the Poetry Slam by selecting the judges, introducing each of these symbols, and outlining how the scoring system worked.

Which points to fully embodied semiotics in the world, not only talk. Theories of mediated and distributed activity (see Cole and Engeström, 1993; del Rio and Alvarez, 1995; Hutchins, 1995; Wertsch, 1991, 1998) highlight the critical place of material–semiotic artifacts such as hammers, languages, computers, narratives, and interpretable texts, in the (re)production of society and the development of individuals. As Wertsch (1991) notes, mediated activity offers a unit of analysis that integrates the social and psychological, the situated and the historical.

In this repurposing, multiple representations of pi are jointly codeployed in order to explain the third symbol employed to rate poems. While Brian vocally delivers the value of pi to 22 digits beyond the decimal point, his stage partner displays three different visual representations in turn – pi as the mathematical symbol, as the numeric value consisting of 100 digits, and as the homonym ‘pie’ – a move that elicits a good deal of laughter from the audience. In addition to multiplying the meaning of the verbal representation, displaying the cards demonstrates to the judges the procedure they are to follow for scoring each poem throughout the sketch.

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