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[Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities

Greg Thompson wrote:
Andy, I think I need still more help.

I got lost at, well, "an activity (generally) exists". Wondering what this could mean.

   xmca didn't exist when Mike Cole launched it. But for the many
   thousands who have joined it since, it *existed*. Thus is
   "generally" exists. On the whole, we *join* rather than create
   activities (projects).

Then the middle part seems to make some sense for me: activities don't simply and reasonably follow the intentions of their participants, but then lost you again at the end, with "the outcome in '*immanent* in the project itself". Not sure what exactly that means either.

   As Vygotsky says somewhere, the problem which stimulates the
   activity (the development of the concept) cannot in itself account
   for the project (or concept). The *means* utilised, which
   corresponds to how the problem or task is conceived by the agents,
   is what is crucial. I.e., not the problem or task as such, but the
   conception of the task, constitutes the ideal. But what this ideal
   is, is *only realised by the work of the project itself*.

And as a bigger question, I am trying to figure out "where" the activity exists? And "who" is a part of it?

   OK, but just don't expect to find an abstract empirical (logical
   positivist) answer to that. An activity (or project) is an aggregate
   of *actions* not *people*. These actions are the fundamental (micro)
   unit of an activity, which is a molar unit of human life as a whole.
   So an activity exists in its artefact-mediated actions, not a group
   of people.

For example, with XMCA, is each thread or discussion an activity? What about all the intersections and overlaps with previous and soon-to-be discussions? Or is the whole history of XMCA an activity? And as to "who", is it just the people talking (i.e. writing!), or are the "lurkers" part of the activity? And are non-XMCA folks with whom the writers and lurkers speak, and who have significantly influenced the writers' ideas - are they a part of the activity?

   (1) Like all the concepts which are part of a science, projects are
   *nested*. An aggregate of actions may have ideal or object which
   makes sense only as part of one or more larger projects. All the
   concepts of a science obviously have complex interactions and
   interdependncies. No clear boundaries or lines of demarcation. Their
   truth is part of the *whole*. (2) The question of "who" is part of
   it  is the wrong question. An activity is an aggregate of actions,
   not individual persons. Also, a project is the particular of a
   concept. As a particular, the project has a relatively definite
   location in time and space. But it is an instance realising a
   concept which is a unit of an entire social formation. So the scope
   of a project, being part of a family of such projects, may be larger
   than the immediate participating actions.

In short, what are the bounds of an activity?
(oh, and where does a "project" fit into all of this?)

   Boundary questions are the royal road to confusion. The question is
   what is the concept (or in common parlance the "essence") of a project.
   "A project" is just another word for "an activity." But it has its
   own history and connotations in our culture. (BTW "project" and
   "design" are the same word in Russian: "proyekt" and the etymology
   of "de-sign" is interesting too) and also, by using a different word
   I can get away from the orthodoxy of what ANL or someone else says
   is the case for "an activity." So if I say that the object of a
   project is immanent within the project, I am not directly
   contradicting an Activity Theorist for whom the Object or motive is
   given for the Activity. I want to re-discuss all the concepts of
   Activity Theory without being stumped by orthodoxy, so a new word helps.