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[Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities

Dear Andy,
(sorry for typos, I type as I think)

I agree in some way with your concerns about the model that you envisage in your mail. Although Leontiev is very disciplined in his logic, I have difficulty accepting some of the relationships there.  http://www.igs.net/~pballan/AT.htm    At this time, I cannot access articles that talk about this problem. Also, it is not very common to refer to that model as problematic. The Scandinavians talk about a problem, and their solution was to expand the original activity model to include the social environment and group action. Consider that the original activity model is created by psychologists, not social psychologists or sociologists. Even the Moscow Methodological Circle keeps with the Lentiev tradition, although have "on board" a lot of philosophers and sociologists. However, I accept Leontiev's model as general. That is why it has to be kept simple and straitforward. On the basis of this model, several other more specific models are developed. They might represent only one level selected from the general model. 

The problems I see are not that the motive is external to activity. The motive can be interpreted as internal to the subject, if necessary. However, the goal can be seen both at activity level and at operations level. The model doesn't talk about the Task. However, if you need models that incorporate Task, go to Ergonomics. Another problem that I see is that the directions at the higher levels are provided by teleological concepts. However, at operations level, the direction is provided by the Conditions. Conditions do exist at each level and do affect the trajectory/course at each level. There are many other variations as well. In Russian, they talk about deyatelnost and aktivnost. The best way to get into activity theory is to read Russian originals. There are a lot of problems when translating Russian concepts and terms in English. This comes with difficult to translate tatigkeit. Plus, the Russians have borrowed the word aktivnost  and endowed it with their own meaning. For me, it was always a puzzle why they use Aktivnost, when in English is actually Activity. But that is the nature of the production of terminology. People just take a word and endow it with new meaning that they need for communicating their ideas.

I haven't seen yet a global model of activity that models it at each level and that connects/relates all component concepts. I am not sure that this is possible. There are hundreds of model variations when we look in different disciplines. Each discipline envisages only one particular aspect and level. 

In the 1960s, Vladimir Lefevre, the founder (or one of them) of the Moscow Methodological Circle, had come with the idea of the Conceptual Configurator. It was supposed to be a model that presents all aspects and levels of a phenomenon in a coordinated way. Unfortunately, he didn't go beyond the idea. No one has ever created a conceptual configurator for activity, and I am not sure if this is possible at this time. All models are either general, at a very high level of abstraction like Leontiev's, or discipline specific, with very peculiar terminology and discriptory and explanatory capabilities. 



-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 5:15 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Leontyev's activities

Leontyev says that an activity is defined by its motive.
See "The Development of Mind," Leontyev 2009, p. 28-29 http://www.erythrospress.com/store/leontyev.html

But Leontyev, in my opinion, does not adequately distinguish between "an activity" and "a type of activity," leading to confusion on this point.
Plus the fact that the object or motive is given externally to the activity, underming his claim to have created an activity theory, rather than a theory of human needs.


The specific processes that realise some vital, i.e. active, relation of the subject to reality we shall term processes of /activity/, in distinction to other processes.

We shall also, accordingly, limit the concept of object. It is normally used in a dual sense: in the broadest one as a thing standing in some kind of relation to other things, i.e. as 'a thing having existence'; and in a narrower sense - as something withstanding (German /Gegenstand/), resistant (Latin /objectum/), that to which an act is directed, i.e. as something to which precisely a living creature relates itself as the /object of its activity/ - indifferently as outward or inward activity (e. g. /object of nutrition/, /object of labour/, /object of meditation/, etc.). >From now on we shall employ the term /object/ precisely in this narrower, special sense.

Any activity of an organism is directed to some object or other; activity without an object is impossible. Consideration of activity therefore requires us to single out and distinguish that which is its real object, i.e. the object of an active relation of the organism.

All lower filtrable organisms (certain larvae living in water, copepods, all Tunicata, etc.), for example, are capable, as we know, of altering their activity in connection with a change in the aqueous medium; in that connection it can sometimes be said with confidence that the change in the organism's activity is specifically linked with a definite activating property of the medium, for example with a greater or less concentration of nutrients. Imagine, however, that we have artificially altered the medium, for example, of a daphnia, by putting it into water that lacks its nutrient, plankton but contains particles of some neutral inorganic substance; the daphnia would react to this by a slackening of the movements that create a flow of water to its ventral slit. Is the observed slackening of the water flea's filtering movements a response to the absence of plankton in the water? Or is it, on the contrary, a response to the presence in it of unassimilable particles? Or does it, finally, depend on some other moments still, not considered by us? Only by answering these questions can we decide precisely /what/ property of the medium is the object of the daphnia's activity, i.e. with what kind of a relation we are dealing with here.

/Thus, the principal 'unit' of a vital process is an organism's activity; the different activities that realise its diverse vital relations with the surrounding reality are essentially determined by their object; we shall therefore differentiate between separate types of activity according to the difference in their objects/.

Huw Lloyd wrote:
> Well I am currently looking for specific text on how leont'ev 
> operationally defines a unit of analysis of activity, I'm sure I'll 
> find details, but some pointers may help me get there faster.
> Thanks,
> Huw
> On 7 August 2013 18:57, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Seems we are up and ready for chatting.
>> mike
>> On Wed, Aug 7, 2013 at 10:34 AM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com
>>> wrote:
>>> testing.

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