Task 9

Put out a post summarizing your understanding of activity theory and its potential for describing activity systems.

For analyzing the term I have chosen these two articles:

  1. Published in B. Nardi (ed.): Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human
    Computer Interaction, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995, pp. 17-44.

According to them:

  • the term “Activity Theory” may be misleading because the term “activity” does not carry the essential connotation “doing in order to transform something”, nor it is a theory;
  • was first born within Soviet psychology,
  • Activity Theory is a philosophical and cross-disciplinary framework for
    studying different forms of human practices as development processes, both individual and
    social levels interlinked at the same time.

  • the activity system can be best represented by the previous graphics that I have found in the internet. Here we may see that the activities are divided in certain point as: community, rules, object, subject, tools… For completing an activity at least two individuals are needed and they work is always mediated – they use special tools, follow certain rules and divide their labor according to their specialization. The subject requires the community specialized in producing some object. The community divides the process of production into separate actions and each its member is responsible for one of them.
  • Engeström talks about ‘runaway objects’- objects that have the ability to expand up to a global scale of influence (like Linux). It is hard to control them and they may have unexpected effects.
  • there are plenty of activity systems that are based on runaway objects and it is hard to describe exact relation between them (as seen in the graphics).


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