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[Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities

Not that I am suggesting this is your situation, Lubomir. But my reading of
the tone here of "getting it work" and "fitting it together" brought to
mind the notion that a theory is not a tool.  But from the perspective of
someone with an empirical job to do, one can see how it is convenient to
use it as a tool.

In case it has not cropped up on your radar, on descriptive approaches to
designed artefacts Suchman's "plans and situated actions" was influential,
also Koschmann is a rich mine on design & collaboration.

On 15 August 2013 01:23, Lubomir Savov Popov <lspopov@bgsu.edu> wrote:

> [...]
> For me, classic activity theory hasn't worked much for the study of
> sociospatial interactions (in architecture, not in ergonomics) with the
> purpose of understanding user needs and cultural patterns. A pragmatic
> interpretativist approach with a very strong descriptive component has
> worked much better. At least, I get better descriptions of activities and
> needs, with more details. By the way, I am more interested in describing
> sociospatial interactions rather than finding causal relationships or
> explaining particular phenomena.  My problem is that I cannot use Goffman
> in conjunction with activity theory. When I look back, this has been a
> problem of mine since the beginning. I attribute the difficulties to
> paradigmatic difference. After the attempts to put together AT and Goffman,
> I experienced firsthand the incompatibility of different paradigms, or at
> least of some paradigms. That is how I become a paradigmatic purist.

> In some way, it is much easier to interface Parson's General Theory of
> Action with AT ways of thinking, in particular at societal level, although
> there are paradigmatic differences between them that lead to a number of
> difficulties. However, Parsons can be incorporated much better in a project
> performed with AT. Or at least, it is possible to borrow more from Parsons
> and similar texts.
> Just a few thoughts,
> Lubomir
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
> xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Greg Thompson
> Sent: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 6:11 PM
> To: Andy Blunden; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Leontyev's activities
> Apparently this conversation didn't go to the group - or maybe parts of it
> did. So here is a recap of the thread:
> Huw commented that an activity is defined by its object.
> I inquired about what the "object" is when *conversation* is the activity.
> Huw responded "the object of the conversation is the subject's purpose".
> Andy added:
> "There are important differences in the methodological implication which
> go to the collection and interpretation of empirical data, Huw. These
> mainly arise from the idea of the continuity of a project as it passes
> through different formations, as the motive undergoes immanent change and
> the forms of collaboration and objectification change. But as a momentary
> snap-shot of an activity, the two conceptions coincide, yes."
> And here is my (as yet unsent! Hot off the presses!) response to Huw and
> Andy:
> "Motive" seems a slippery concept to rest too much on. Andy I'm wondering
> how you answer the question you put to Roland, namely whether or not master
> and slave are participating in the same activity/project? Or, what about a
> golfer and caddy? And so on down to, as Phillip and Carol point out - the
> different participants in a discussion on XMCA.
> I'm rather fond of Goffman's question "what is it that is going on here?"
> as a way of thinking about "activity". As Goffman notes, the golfer and
> caddy have different "motivational relevancies" (1973, p. 8), but this
> doesn't mean that they are "doing" different activities. In the end I think
> Goffman is really working out a practice theory that treat's John Austin's
> famous question of how it is that we can "do things with words" (although
> his lectures, of course, were titled as the answer to the question - How to
> do Things with Words). Goffman is trying to figure out how Austin's primary
> performatives are accomplished, joked, faked, imitated, fabricated, etc. in
> actual practice. What is it that goes into making an instance of talk an
> instance of an "insult" or a "compliment" or an "argument"? And how do
> these become consequential in practice. This, it seems, is Bateson's point
> in "This is Play"; it is a life and death matter for the animal to know
> whether or not an instance of interaction is play or serious. Maybe not
> quite so consequential (immediately) for us humans, but it can certainly be
> the difference between getting a laugh and getting a punch in the nose.
> Goffman's answer is interesting in that he doesn't rely on the motives
> (motivational relevancies) of the participants, but rather creates a notion
> of the local context as a "frame" that exists somewhere between
> participants. No one person can dictate the frame (even dictators have to
> deal with the possibility of duplicitousness - the word with a side-wards
> glance - hence irony is a powerful weapon of the weak - even if James Scott
> didn't recognize this, Bakhtin clearly did). Frames emerge as participants
> take parts in the unfolding play of some event or happening, and, to a
> certain extent, without regard to alignment of the motives of the
> participants. Every once in a while the motives of all participants create
> a frame may be relatively closely aligned, but it seems much more common
> that frames are built out of a plethora of motives.
> I should add that I wonder if Susan Leigh Star's concept of Boundary
> Objects might be useful here as well. These are objects that emerge despite
> a plurality of motivations. Building on Latour's notion of interessement
> (and From Star and Griesemer, boundary objects are: "objects which are both
> plastic enough to adapt to local needs and the constraints of the several
> parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity
> across sites...The objects may by abstract or concrete."
> Etienne Wenger seems to offer a start in this direction. But only a start.
> Can we imagine "activity" (or whatever we want to call it - "project,"
> "frame," "social doing," etc.) as a boundary object - something that
> captures a relation BETWEEN persons. Activity always as "inter-activity."
> So then, how do we tell "what it is that is going on here?" where "here"
> is the "current" temporally displaced moment of me writing and you reading
> this. Is this just me being a show-off? Is this me trying to work through
> some of my ideas in order to publish a paper (with the real motivation to
> simply keep my job)? Is this just me musing with friends about ideas about
> which I feel very strongly? Or is something altogether different happening
> here?
> I take Goffman's answer to this to be: it's up to you - or better, to the
> relation that will emerge BETWEEN us. Who's to say what that will be.
> -greg