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RE: [xmca] Project

Dear Martin and Andy and all participants in this dicsussion,

I just get into this dconversation. It is fascinating. The concept of the project as an activity system offers heuristic advantages. It is obviously an activity system, a molar phenomenon, not a molecular phenomenon. I would mention here the concept of behavior setting by Roger Barker, the founder of ecological psychology (now environmental psychology). By the way, the bakery is a behavior setting.

For a long time I am trying to promulgate the concept of activity setting instead of behavior setting. By the way, I use activity setting as a analytical framework for analyzing build environment. I apologize to all Barker followers for my boldness, but coming from the domain of activity theory I believe that the concept of activity has stronger heuristic power than the concept of behavior. In the East European tradition, behavior is only the manifested facet of activity. In the American tradition, behavior refers to most of the content of activity. These conceptual and terminological differences produce a number of difficulties in justifying the concept of activity setting. 

However, I am also working on the concept of activity system. The activity system is a broader category, with a major emphasis on the social facets, although the mat4erial/physical aspects are considered as well. 

The project can be seen an activity system with all ensuing implications. 

If we look at the project as a personals endeavor, it might be better to talk about design activity. This will lead to major insights into personal decision-making, invention, factors influencing the decision-making process, and so forth. 

If we look at the project as a group activity, then we need to expand our framework or use a somewhat different framework that is designed to account for social relationships. There are cooperation, collaboration, and so forth. Motivation is very important.  There are also  power play, envy, confrontation, and other phenomena of that kind. 

One interesting approach to the study of individual and group design activities is the activity methodology developed in the 1960 by the Moscow Methodological Circle (MMC) lead by Lefebvre and Shchedrovitsky. http://www.fondgp.org/gp/  Lefebre was the mastermind, but after he immigrated to the U.S.A. in the 1970s (if memory serves), he stagnated. Shchedrovitsky and a number of other people, actually all comparable to him in their achievements, have achieved quite of a progress in development of their kind of activity theory, despite of obstructions from the Soviet system. Although they were not considered political dissidents, they were evidently political and scientific outcasts. They had harder time getting promotions and being published, although they managed well their careers in a quite unfriendly environment. 

There are still people in Russia working with that approach, but for linguistic reasons, they are not well known in the West, not well published, and virtually dwelling in their own consciousness. 

In the 1970s and 1980s the MMC start developing the methodology of organizational games. This is a practical application of activity theory for designing and managing social organisms and situations. It was also quite unexpected phenomena for the Soviet scientific community, which dwelled at the philosophical and theoretical layers of thinking and didn't try to get into practice, despite of formal slogans to fuse science and practice. The progress of organizational games was slowed significantly after the political transition. 

Kind regards,


Lubomir Popov, Ph.D.
School of Family and Consumer Sciences
American Culture Studies affiliated faculty
309 Johnston Hall,
Bowling Green, Ohio 43403-0059

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Martin Packer
Sent: Wednesday, April 03, 2013 9:27 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Project

It probably seems as though I am simply trying to rain on Andy's parade, or on his project. And I'm really not. There are important issues here.

Remember LSV's advice that the unit of analysis should still have the key characteristics of the phenomenon we're trying to understand. So to study water you don't study its elements, hydrogen and oxygen, you study the molecule, H2O, in its various qualitative forms.

That begs the question, then, what are the characteristics of the phenomenon we're trying to understand? Recall that we were discussing occasions of emotion - my example of a 'Gott!' when trying to open the window; Manfred's example of the bank worker getting angry at her boss.

Brecht gave us a wonderful detailed portrait of what's happened in Egypt - in which exploitation and conflict seemed to me to be write large. So let's select those two as key characteristics. Surely there are others; I've suggested reproduction (we don't want to be asking, does the chicken produce the egg or does the egg produce the chicken).

We need, then, a unit for the analysis of human activity that includes at least exploitation and conflict and reproduction. Activity (as per activity theory) doesn't seem to have these. Neither, in my view, does "project" - at least I don't yet see how it does.

Don't ask me to define it (!), but I've been having my students go out to conduct field work in a 'form of life' that they select. One group has been visiting a panaderia (a bakery, basically) - and they've done a great job describing the production (of breads) and exchange (to customers), the way the business is being reproduced on a daily basis, the degree of exploitation of workers, tempered somewhat because it is a "family business," in detail.

So what is all that? A project? An activity? An assemblage? That's what we need to figure out.


On Apr 2, 2013, at 9:04 PM, Ron Lubensky <rlubensky@deliberations.com.au<mailto:rlubensky@deliberations.com.au>> wrote:

I am going to wade warily into this discussion. I think asking for a *definition* for project is fraught in itself, because it demands ontological decomposition or deconstruction, which we resist in a dialectic analysis and an immanent critique. Andy has stated in many places that a project is "an activity". A particular activity. With an emergent concept of itself arrived through socio-cultural development and collaboration. I don't need much more to understand it.

Ron Lubensky
0411 412 626
Melbourne Australia

Please support my 200km bicycle Ride to Conquer Cancer<http://ml13.conquercancer.org.au/goto/support-ron-lubensky>(r) with a donation to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.

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