[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Xmca-l] Re: units of analysis?

Martin, I think it is nothing more than the limitations of a metaphor - it can only illustrate one aspect of the target. In this case it is simply saying that a quantity of water is just thousands H2O molecules, and nothing else. No addition is required to manifest all the properties of water.

You would have to be a chemist to know the forces that bind the H and OH together and how they can be separated, H containing a positive charge and OH containing a negative charge - a good old positive/negative contradiction. All chemicals with the H ion are acids and all chemicals with the OH ion are alkali, but water is both acid and base and therefore neither. *If you want* the water molecule is a tangle of contradictions and transformations, along with Carbon, the foundation of the chemistry of life. :)
*Andy Blunden*

Martin John Packer wrote:
Good question, Mike!  What you're pointing out is that LSV's own example doesn't quite do justice to his analysis in T&L.  Water is not a dynamic system: once hydrogen bonds with oxygen the process stops: water is a stable molecule. He should have picked an example in which an internal tension or clash of some kind provides a continual motor for change.

In somewhat the same way, I'm trying to figure out how a triangle is dynamic. It's one of the most stable geometric shapes.  :)

On Oct 12, 2014, at 10:26 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:

Martin. What is the contradiction between hydrogen and oxygen such that two
atoms of hydrogen combined with one atom of oxygen give rise to water with
its distinctive qualities? Knowing that should help people to rise to the
concrete for their own cases.

On Sun, Oct 12, 2014 at 6:43 PM, Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co
Well, if it works for you, Helena..! :)

Clearly Yrjo does claim that the triangle represents a dynamic system with
contradictions. I'm still reading the chapter that Mike linked to, and I
already some questions. But I'll wait until I read it all before posting.


On Oct 12, 2014, at 6:10 PM, Helena Worthen <helenaworthen@gmail.com>

On the contrary.

To me, that very affordance is one of the great things about activity
theory and the activity system as a unit of analysis. A very simple example
is that if you change something in the norms/customs/laws/history corner of
the triangle (like win a court case that gives you a stronger footing in
bargaining), then your tools also change. Another: if by bringing new
members into the community (the base of the triangle) out of which division
of labor raises the subjects, you may find yourself with a leadership team
that is not all white, or not all primarily English-speaking, which in turn
will change what tools/resources you have and may, if you're lucky and
quick, change your history.
Helena Worthen

On Oct 12, 2014, at 2:54 PM, Martin John Packer wrote:

And what's neat about this way of thinking is that it implies that,
once one understands the relationships among the components, one can bring
about changes in one component in the totality by acting on *another*
component of the totality.
The activity system triangle does not suggest to me this type of
relationship among components. Instead, it seems to represent elements that
are only accidentally brought together.

On Oct 12, 2014, at 2:43 PM, Martin John Packer <
mpacker@uniandes.edu.co> wrote:
Seems to me the problem in many research projects is that the question
is not formulated in an appropriate way. LSV was exploring a method of
analysis that seeks to understand the relationship among components in a
complex totality. Not the causal influence of one factor on another, which
is often how students frame their research interest. And this means that
the unit of analysis has to represent, exemplify, this relationship.

On Oct 12, 2014, at 1:31 PM, Helena Worthen <helenaworthen@gmail.com>
As someone who uses the concept of "unit of analysis" in a very
down-to-earth, quick and dirty, applied way to shape collective responses
to a crisis in a labor and employment relationships (like, when a rule
changes creates difficulties for workers), I would agree with Andy:
The other thing is that discovering a unit of analysis is an
*insight*. It
is not something that can be achieved by following a template, it is
breakthrough in your research into some problem, the leap. It
usually comes
*after* you've collected all the data for your research using some
unit of analysis.
First comes the story, the details, the experiences. The question
lying behind the telling of the stories is, "What are we going to do?" The
unit of analysis gets defined by the purpose we are trying to accomplish.
Are we trying to get the employer to back off temporarily? Are we trying
get the rule changed? Example:  In a big hospital system in Chicago,
clerical workers were no longer allowed to leave an "I'm going to be late
to work today" or "I have to stay home with my sick kid today and will miss
work" message on the answering machines of their supervisors. We're talking
about a workforce with hundreds of employees, most of them middle aged
minority women -- with grandchildren and extended families to be
responsible for.  Not being allowed to leave a message on a machine, but
being required to actually speak to a supervisor in person who would then
keep a record of the call, was a problem because supervisors were often
away from their desks and the whole phone system was unreliable. Also, a
lot of workers didn't have cell phones at the time this was happening
(2004) and pay phones are few and far between, so if someone it out buying
more asthma inhalers for a grandkid, making a phone call is not easy.
So, exactly what is the purpose that we're trying to accomplish,
here?  To repeal the rule? To fix the phone system?  To educate members of
the union and other others about how to respond collectively to something
that only affects some of them? To make a profound change in society so
that middle-aged women are not the primary caretakers of an extended
family?  Pick one. Once you've picked one (hopefully, one that you can
carry out) you can define the unit of analysis and then reviewing the whole
Engestrom triangle and evaluating your strategy becomes, as Andy says,  a
matter of solving puzzles.
From the employer point of view, asking workers to actually speak to
a live supervisor makes a certain sense. That's why we talk about activity
system(s), not just one activity system. But they are often in conflict
with each other, which adds to the drama.
Is the data in your study being gathered with some purpose in mind?
Is the purpose the purpose of the children, the purpose of the class, or
the purpose of the PhdD program?  To me, what would be most interesting
would be a comparison between the unit of analysis (purposes of children)
and unit of analysis (purpose of classroom). I'll bet they're not identical.

Helena Worthen

On Oct 12, 2014, at 10:20 AM, Katerina Plakitsi wrote:

This problem of the ' unit of analysis' is my concern too. I
three PHD students on Science Education in a CHAT context. Two of
them on
early childhood science education and one on primary science. They
collected log files, children discourses consisted of
scientific justifications, accepted rules, and forms of division of
They have collected children narratives, and drawings. When they
decided to
analyze their data they follow different paths into CHAT context
modeling them using Engestrom's triangle. They still doubt about the
" unit
of analysis".

Στις Κυριακή, 12 Οκτωβρίου 2014, ο χρήστης Andy Blunden <

Katie, picking up on your concern about units of analysis, it was
one of
the points I mentioned in my "report" from ISCAR, that this concept
almost lost to us. A phrase I heard a lot, and which was new for
me, was
"unit to be analysed." If anyone knows the origin of this
expression, I'd
be interested in hearing. It seemed to me that what it referred to
was a
"closed system" for analysis, that is, abandoning CHAT methodology
keeping the word. If I am mistaken about this, please let me know.

The other thing is that discovering a unit of analysis is an
*insight*. It
is not something that can be achieved by following a template, it
is the
breakthrough in your research into some problem, the leap. It
usually comes
*after* you've collected all the data for your research using some
unit of analysis. In Kuhn's terms, discovery of the unit is the new
paradigm, after which it is just a matter of solving puzzles. So for
graduate students to use the concept of unit in their research,
depends on the wisdom of teh direction they get from their
supervisor. I
don't know how many PhD students I've met who have got to this
point in
their thesis and discover that the data they have is not the data
they now
know they need.


*Andy Blunden*

Katherine Wester Neal wrote:

I like Holli's plan to commit some time to reading the two
articles. But,
as usual, I don't know that I'll have much to contribute in posts.
usually get deep in thinking about the posts and don't follow that
to write something. The writing is much harder, and I am usually
trying to keep up with reading!

For me, the thread has been fascinating, probably because I'm
in different units of analysis, what they might be used for, and
how they
fit together with theory and conducting research. What are people
with units of analysis and why? Or why aren't units of analysis
being used?
If anyone wants to write more in that direction, I'd be very
interested to
read, and I'll try to respond, although the questions might be as
basic as

Lastly, Andy has basically been articulating my thoughts (in a
much more
eloquent way than I would) about action as a unit of analysis. In
example about driving and thinking and writing, I'd add that the
action is
mediated. Together with sociocultural and historical factors that
influenced those actions (and which, as has been said here before,
often difficult to get a look at), the actions create a picture of
more than just Mike's behavior.

Katie Wester-Neal
University of Georgia

Katerina Plakitsi
Associate Professor of Science Education
School of Education
University of Ioannina
University Campus Dourouti 45110
tel. +302651005771
fax. +302651005842
mobile.phone +306972898463


It is the dilemma of psychology to deal with a natural science with an
object that creates history. Ernst Boesch.