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[Xmca-l] Re: Activity Setting
- To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Activity Setting
- From: Huw Lloyd <email@example.com>
- Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2013 20:01:46 +0100
- Cc: "Cliff O'Donnell" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Roland Tharp <email@example.com>
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On 12 August 2013 18:12, Lubomir Savov Popov <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Hi Andy,
> I am also interested to find the term "activity setting" in Vigotsky's
> writings or those of his followers, including everyone in the East European
> activity theory tradition. I would appreciate articles or specific
> references and page numbers. I need this to anchor some ideas and to pay
> tribute to earlier theorists if they have worked on this.
> I am also interested if there are people on this list who work on the
> development of the concept of activity setting or on activity theory in
> relation to the planning and design of built environment. They can contact
> me at the e-mail below my signature or via this list, whichever is more
> convenient. I was going to make such a request on this list some time ago,
> but now is a good occasion for this.
Jan Derry's philosophical work on educational design, e.g.
implicit mediation is relevant.
A popular historical on buildings (Stuart Brand):
My personal favourite (for buildings) is Christopher Alexander's original
works: A synthesis of form and the 3 volume pattern language (life
If one subscribes to the notions of Conway's
one should also be studying the activity of the designers and the influence
of the environment.
I have more design centric references (without reference to Activity
theory) if want them.
> To my knowledge, no one in the East European activity theory tradition has
> used the term "activity setting," at least till the late 1980s. If I have
> missed something, it is good to catch up.
> I personally work (on and off) on the concept of activity setting since
> the early 1980s. However, I develop it as a methodological category for the
> study of built environment. I have to acknowledge that I got the idea for
> activity setting from Roger Barker's "behavior setting." At that time, in
> East Europe, the concept of behavior was considered one-sided and with less
> explanatory power than the concept of activity. There was no way to
> introduce the behavior setting concept without setting the reaction of
> mainstream social scientists. Even if someone dared to suggest the behavior
> setting concept in an article, the reviewers will automatically recommend
> to rework it as "activity setting." In East European social science of that
> time, behavior referred mostly to the visible, mechanistic aspects of
> activity or in the sense of "demeanor."
> Bob Bechtel has done a good work in the early 1980 expanding on Barker's
> behavior setting, operationalizing his ideas for the field of Environment
> and Behavior (Architecture and Human Behavior; Man-Environment Systems).
> However, this work didn't continue. On the other hand, at that time, it
> was too early to talk about activity settings in the USA. It is early even
> now, in particular in the field of Environment and Behavior. Many people in
> that field resent the idea of ditching behavior for activity. They believe
> that the concept of behavior setting is good enough and there is no need to
> introduce one more concept of similar kind.
> In relation to the field of Environment and Behavior, I personally believe
> that Barker has offered very useful ideas and they can become a stepping
> stone for developing the concept of activity setting. The activity setting
> concept will allow us to use the apparatus of activity theory which is more
> powerful than the concept of behavior. I also believe that the development
> of the activity setting theory for the fields of teaching or management or
> social work and community building will be somewhat different. Their focus
> will be different and this will lead to working on different details. As
> usual, it is not possible to study everything about one object of study. We
> have to make difficult choices regarding aspects and depth: what to study
> first, what to defer, and what to skip.
> Barker had a lot of conflicts with main stream psychologists (not activity
> theorists). I have heard from Bob Bechtel (a student of Barker) that
> psychologists were telling Barker: Roger, you think just like a
> sociologist, which in psychological parlance meant Roger, you are a SOB.
> This illustrates the disciplinary biases and divisions.
> Best wishes,
> Lubomir Popov, Ph.D.
> School of Family and Consumer Sciences
> American Culture Studies Affiliated Faculty
> Bowling Green State University
> 309 Johnston Hall,
> Bowling Green, Ohio 43403-0059
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com [mailto:
> firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
> Sent: Monday, August 12, 2013 9:55 AM
> To: Roland Tharp; Cliff O'Donnell
> Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: CHAT and Community Psychology
> Thank you very much for your considered response, Roland and Cliff.
> Just a couple of follow ups, because I think healing an interdisciplinary
> gap requires the maximum possible clarity over shared concepts.
> (1) I am still not clear about the meaning of "acitivity setting." I have
> read Wertsch, and I have nothing at all against him, but I am just not as
> familiar with his work as I would like to be. But I have read a lot of
> Vygotsky and never came across the term "activity setting" in Vygotsky's
> writing. There may be an issue of different translations possibly. I wonder
> if you could perhaps scan a page of a book where Vygotsky explains his
> meaning or at least uses the term.
> I have generally come across the term used to indicate, for example, the
> school, or family or a specific workplace, and the norms and rules and
> expectations prevailing in those settings. I gather you take "setting"
> to refer to a particular, rather than a general, such as "family" or
> "school." So "Sandy Bay Elementary" would be an activity setting, but not
> "school," which would be just a type of activity setting. I see that
> "activity setting" is an activity, but includes the particulars, such as
> the participating individuals and the physical surroundings. It seems such
> an important concept for you, as Community Psychologists, I would
> appreciate more specification.
> (2) By me taking an extreme example (slavery) we quickly achieved
> agreement that further specification of "shared activities" is needed for
> an understanding of how mutual understanding arises. (Of course it did to
> an extent under slavery too). I categorise forms of collaboration into 3
> modes: direction (line management, command-and-obey, as pertains in the
> normal capitalist firm or public service department), exchange (purchase
> and sale, customer-service provider, as pertains in the market
> place) and collaboration as such (mutual criticism, shared attribution and
> decision-making). It seems to me that distinctions like these are
> important. Being a teacher or boss in a community, especially if you are
> otherwise an outsider, can be problematic, even though you are engaged in a
> "shared activity" with the locals. I was really impressed by the examples
> you cited, so obviously you have thought these issues through.
> What is the anatomy of an "activity setting" then?
> (3) What other ways do you conceptualise "context"?
> (and please not "Professor," I am an independent scholar, retired.)
> Roland Tharp wrote:
> > Professor Blunden,
> > Please find our responses to your questions attached. Thank you for
> > your interest.
> > Roland Tharp
> > Cliff O'Donnell
> > On Sat, Aug 10, 2013 at 3:58 AM, Andy Blunden <email@example.com
> > <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>> wrote:
> > Thanks for sharing that very interesting paper, Mike. From what I
> > see, there is little justification for the dislocation between
> > these two research communities - CHAT and Community Psychology.
> > Their aims, sources and methods seem so similar and compatible.
> > I would just like to ask the authors a couple of questions.
> > * Do you take "activity setting" to be the optimal conception of
> > "context"?
> > * What exactly do they understand by "activity setting"? You cite
> > Vygotsky in a book edited by Wertsch, but I do not have that book.
> > I associate "activity setting" with the current of CHAT around
> > Mariane Hedegaard. It seems to me to be similar in meaning to
> > "institution". Thus I quetion the efficacy of this concept for
> > grasping social change, as opposed to just child development.
> > * Is "mutual understanding" is what you mean by "intersubjectivity"?
> > * I agree that participation in shared activities is the necessary
> > condition for peope to achieve mutual understanding. But this is
> > not necessarily the outcome, is it? It depends on the type of
> > collaboration within the activity. EG White slaveowners and black
> > slaves collaborated in the production of cotton in the Confederate
> > States of America for many years, but this did not result in
> > mutual understanding. So it seems that the notion of "shared
> > actvities" needs further specification. Yes?
> > thanks
> > Andy