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Re: [xmca] Double Stimulation?

Thanks Ivo.
The difficulty is this, Yrjo and I would readily agree that the commodity relation may be a unit of analysis for the analysis of the fine structure of bourgois society, and word meaning or artefact-mediated action a unit of analysis for the solution of problems of psychology, but the unit of analysis required for Activity Theory has to surmount a further difficulty - it must be a molar unit, i.e. a unit which is a unit of a mass of smaller units (e.g., commodity relations or artefact-mediated actions.) ANL resolved this problem stating that *an activity* is a unit of the cultural and historical life of mankind. Yrjo represents "an activity" as a "system of activity" which I have always taken to mean a "system of actions", but I could be quite mistaken there. So this begs the question of what constitutes the "system"? And how is one system to be abstracted from the complex, interwoven fabric of human life and how can it be analysed. This is where the triangle comes in. It is a legitimate claim, but I find it problematic. I agree, if we speak the same language, we ought to be able to resolve it. I call that unit "a project". Manfred Holodynski we saw simply calls it "an activity" as ANL did. YE calls it a "system of activity". In my opinion, Marx took the molar unit of bourgeois society to be a unit of capital, i.e., a firm, but this is nowhere made completely clear.


Ivo Banaco wrote:
Dear Yro and Andy,

It would benefit a lot this list if you actually engage in a serious
dialogue rather than pretend that you have foreign and incomprehensible
languages, which is not of course true or you wouldn't be here.

If we go back to Marx for example committed as he was to study Capitalism
we already have a good demonstration of a system (capitalism) and he found
of course a unit of analysis from which to proceed, the commodity. Does it
make any sense to start from here?


On Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 11:17 AM, Antti Rajala <ajrajala@gmail.com> wrote:

Sorry about this earlier empty email. My phone seems to have written
something on its own.
Best, Antti

Antti Rajala wrote:


On Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 8:41 AM, Antti Rajala <ajrajala@gmail.com> wrote:


keskiviikko 12. kesäkuuta 2013 Greg Thompson kirjoitti:

And not to overwhelm you Antti, (and first thanks for sharing your notes
with me offline), but I have a follow-up question about how the concept
"knots" and "knotworking" is being used by Engestrom and Sannino (I
some fondness for knots and knotworking by folks at LCHC - Jay, Mike,
Camille, and Robert preeminent among them, but most literally embodied
the work of Rachel Pfister who is studying Ravelry - an online knitting
community - knots indeed!).

With regard to the concept of knots and the librarians, I see at least
two uses: one in which knots are positive, as in knots intentionally
and in which you imbricate the interests of others with your own
(and it seems that this would be wise for librarians to do...), and the
other in which knots are negative, as in knots that are caused by
unfortunate circumstances, and in which the aim is to "work" out the
that others are experiencing in their lives (something that would also
wise for librarians to do and which will de facto result in the first
of intended knots!).

In the end I'm just wondering what work the concept of "knots" and
"knotworking" are doing for the librarians?

Any chance you could provide some insight into this knotty problem? And
perhaps unravel the knot that my words have caught me up in (or,
which I have tied...)?

On Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 8:57 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Antti, I was directing my question to you and your remarks.

In Engestrom's highlky regarded, now out of print, 1987 text "Learning
Expanding", the famous triangle logo is given as Figure 2.6, and after a
long consideration of "candidates" for "unit of analysis" he says the
following about this triangle: "The model of Figure 2.6 may now be
with the four criteria of a root model of human activity, set forth
in this chapter." and goes on to list and consider the criteria which
commonly associated in this current with the notion of "unit of
(numerous citations are not required). But he never said that the
is a unit of analaysis, and it is not, and cannot be. He said it is a
model and it is. The root model is a system concept, not a unit of
Do you think it possible that this has been the source of some

Antti Rajala wrote:

Thanks Andy for sharing the wikipedia text, and your thoughts about the
issue! The thoughts about unit of analysis were my own interpretation of
the study, and I am not sure if the issue you raised concerns the

Warm wishes, Antti

On Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 9:20 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net<mailto:
ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    Antti, here is a link to th eWikipedia on "System concept"
    Why do Activity Theorists in Engstrom's current of thinking mix up
    the idea of a system concept with a unit of analysis?


    Antti Rajala wrote:


        You asked:
        ”My question is getting at where we locate "agency". In
        individuals alone?
        Or as possibly being distributed among multiple people and
        perhaps in
        amanner that isn't recognizable to the individual. But maybe
        there is
        aconcept for that that is different from "double stimulation.”

        I think that double stimulation can be analyzed not only at
        the individual
        level but at the collective level as well. Actually, the study
        of Engeström
        and Sannino (2013) that I referred to in my earlier email
        gives a nice
        example. The study also involves in some respects a similar
        situation as
        the one that you described having taken place with the workers
        in Malaysia.

        According to my reading, the study describes a change laboratory
        intervention taking place in a university library. The library
        as invited
        researchers to help them find new forms of work with research
        groups. A
        first stimulus emerges in the course of the change laboratory
        as a member of one of the research groups that the university
        library is
        delivering services says that they can find these services in
        the internet
        without the help of the library. Thus a problem emerges for
        the librarians
        to collectively produce a service that would be genuinely
        helpful for the
        research groups.

        In solving this problem, they organize their collective action
        with the
        help of a second stimulus, namely the concept of knotworking
        Engeström & Vähäaho, 1999) that the researchers have
        introduced in the
        beginning of the change laboratory. In particular, a new
        working group, a
        knot, is formed that starts to work with the emergent problem
        of inventing
        a useful service.

        What is in my opinion very innovative, Engeström and Sannino
        also provide
        an example of this second stimulus, the concept of
        knotworking, becoming an
        initial theoretical generalization that is reworked and
        enriched through a
        process of ascending from abstract to concrete as the
        intervention e

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*Andy Blunden*
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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