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[Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Hi Larry,

I have a few considerations:

Merleau-Ponty works in a completely different paradigm than AT and what he says should be interpreted in the context of that paradigm. AT should be interpreted in the context of Historical Materialism. Otherwise, it is not AT. It might be a study of activity, but in a different paradigm. It might be even more productive in some ways than AT. I do not object such situation. Actually, a phenomenological approach to activity is more productive regarding a number of research problem and objectives.

In historical materialism, activity and process are two different things. Activity is a process, but it is more than a process. It is planned and goal-directed, while the process is naturally flowing. In the natural world (Nature) there are processes, but they are not activities. 

The primacy of the subject is typical for historical materialism. If someone disagrees with this, they can just work in a different paradigmatic environment. No pressure. 

The study of activity and AT are two different things. AT is a particular way of studying activity in the framework of historical materialism. Any attempt to fuse phenomenology or hermeneutics in AT might create a product that is not AT. However, I don't see a reason why people will study activity only in the AT way. I personally break away from it many times. AT is not the most productive way to engage in experiential and descriptive study of activity as an everyday phenomenon. AT presupposes a top-down approach to the study of activity, imposing a set of methodological principles and theoretical framework. There are situations when this approach is very productive. However, if we emphasize the human experience aspect and the importance to unveil new aspects and their subsequent descriptions, I would not use AT. 



-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Lplarry
Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 12:25 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Andy Blunden
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Here is a quote from the introduction of "The Cambridge Handbook of Merleau-Ponty on the topic of the subject.

"Foucault's archaeological studies of the early 1970's, most notably "The Order of Things" and "The Archaeology of Knowledge", did perhaps more than any other work of the period to LEGITIMIZE conceiving of processes without subjects."

This is an "antihumanist" program as Foucault saw the failure of phenomenology and the residual links between subjectivism and anthropology. 

The force of Foucault's argument was tying the philosophy of the subject to what he saw as an outmoded humanism. 

It may be what Andy is highlighting is a new humanism.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Lubomir Savov Popov" <lspopov@bgsu.edu>
Sent: ‎2015-‎07-‎22 8:55 AM
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>; "Andy Blunden" <ablunden@mira.net>
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

Hi Alfredo,

The object doesn't carry in itself the motive and the purpose of activity. Actually, depending on the motive and purpose of activity, the object can be approached in many different ways.

It is true that the relationship between the object and the subject caries the purpose/goal/objective/motive of activity. This type of relationship might has several aspects and the teleological aspect is one of them. Actually, in AT, the teleological aspect is central one among all aspects of Subject-Object relationships. 

The teleological aspect in AT is envisaged at several levels with distinctive teleological phenomena: motivation, goal, etc.

It is difficult to find diagrams of the structure of activity with its three levels. I just tried to do that and in most cases I got the famous "triangle." The internet is dominated by English language texts where the authors evidently use that version of activity theory. The three structural levels of activity might be found in t


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Alfredo Jornet Gil
Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 11:25 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Andy Blunden
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

That was a very helpful entry, Andy. Thanks! 
I see that our treatment of object in the paper is very much in line with the notion of Arbeitsgegenstand as you describe it.

I have many questions, most of which I should find in the literature rather than bother here. But I would like to ask one here. It concerns the quote that the object "carries in itself the purpose and motive of the activity." What does "in itself" mean here? 
Thanks again for a very informative post, Alfredo ________________________________________
From: xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: 22 July 2015 08:31
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

If I could try to do my thing and draw attention to some distinctions in this field ... we have at least three different versions of Activity Theory involved here plus Leigh Star's theory and in addition the theories that have spun off from Leigh Star's initial idea. Each is using the word "object" in a different way, all of them legitimate uses of the English word, but all indexing different concepts. So for the sake of this discussion I will invent some different terms.

The German word Arbeitsgegenstand means the object of labour, the material which is to be worked upon, the blacksmith's iron. It is objective, in that if may be a nail to a man with a hammer and waste material for a man with a broom, but it is all the same Arbeitsgegenstand. Engestrom use the word "Object" in the middle of the left side of the triangle to mean Arbeitsgegenstand, and when it has been worked upon it becomes "Outcome." The hammer that the blacksmith uses is called "Instruments" or now "instrumentality," and the Rules, whether implicit or explicit, these are respectively the base and apex of the triangle.

Engestrom says " The object carries in itself the purpose and motive of the activity." So this "purpose or motive" is not shown on the triangle, but I will call it the OBJECT.
This is what Leontyev meant by "object" when he talks about "object-oriented activity." The OBJECT is a complex notion, because it is only *implicit* in the actions of the subject(s); it is not a material thing or process as such.
Behaviourists would exclude it altogether. But this is what is motivating all the members of the design team when they sit down to collaborate with one another. Bone one of the team thinks the OBJECT is to drive the nail into the wood and another thinks the OBJECT is to sweep the Arbeitsgegenstand into the wastebin. These OBJECTs change in the course of collaboration and in the End an OBJECT Is
*realised* which is the "truth" of the collaboration, to use Hegel's apt terminology here.

Surely it is important to recognise that while everyone shares the same Arbeitsgegenstand, and ends up with Outcome as the same OBJECT, along the road they construe the object differently. This is what Vygotsky showed so clearly in Thinking and Speech. It is not the Arbeitsgegenstand or some problem carried within it alone which motivates action, but *the concept the subject makes of the Arbeitsgegenstand*!

Then Leigh Star comes along and applies (as Lubomir astutely
notices) postmodern ideology critique to the collaboration within an ostensibly neutral infrastructure - that is, in Engestrom's terms Rules and Instruments, which are naively supposed to be there just to aid collaboration. And Leigh Star shows that this is an illusion; the Rules and Instruments are in fact residues of past collaborations which carry within them the Outcomes, i.e., realised OBJECTs of past collaborations. It is these one-time OBJECTs,
now-Instruments+Rules which are the Boundary Objects.

But it seems that other have grasped the postmodern critique elements of this idea, that apparently ideologically neutral obJects (in the expanded sense of socially constructed entities, usually far more than OBJects - as things, or artefacts, including institutions - fossilised "systems of
activity") and recognised the shared OBJECT as a Boundary Object, reflecting the fact not everyone has the same concept of the OBJECT, as Vygotsky proved.

But what Engestrom has done, by placing the Boundary Object in the place of Object on his triangle, joining two "systems of activity," for the purpose of looking not at cooperation but rather the conflict within the broader collaboration.
The reconstrual of the Arbeitsgegenstand is deliberate and aimed to change the relation between Subject and obJECT (here referring to the Hegelian "Object" usually rendered as "the Other.") thereby introducing yet a different strand of postmodern critique into the equation, namely Foucault's Poststructuralism, to mind mind, with great effect.

OK, so we have Arbeitsgegenstand. OBJECT, Boundary Object, OBject, obJECT and obJect. And I might say, the situation is almost as bad in Russian and German,


*Andy Blunden*
On 22/07/2015 5:46 AM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
> Thanks a lot for your appreciation, Lubomir.
> To clarify my question in the previous e-mail, I wish to add that I am a bit familiar with the distinction between object and tool in activity theory, though not enough yet. I can see, and we were aware through the process, that what we describe in the paper has to do with how the object of design emerged and developed for the team in and as they were dealing with, developing, and resorting to particular means or tools. But I guess we could say that in our analyses there is a lack of a historical account of the object that goes over and above the particular instances analyzed. Although we provide with some ethnographic contextualization of the team's developmental trajectories, all of our discussion is grounded on concrete events and their transactional unfolding. We did not resort to the distinction between object and means because it seemed to be the same thing in the there and then of the episodes analyzed, at least in what participants' orientations concerned. If they ori
>   ented towards anything beyond what was there in the meetings, it was in and through the meetings' means. How would then the distinction between means and object have added to our understanding of the events? (And this is not to doubt of the contribution from such a distinction, I really mean to ask this question for the purpose of growing and expanding; and as said before, part of the answer may be found in Engestrom et al. contribution).
> As to how we would position our contribution with regard to activity theory, I would reiterate what we said when introducing the paper for discussion: we begun with the purpose of working outside any particular framework and think, as we think Star did, broadly, drawing from several sources. These included cultural historical psychology, ethnomethodology, and discourse analysis. But also the ideas about Experience (in the Deweyan/Vygotskyan sense) that have been the topic in this discussion were in the background all the time, but we did not operationalize them in terms of any particular theory. This is not to say that we went for the "anything goes;" we tried our best to keep internal coherence between what we said about the data, and what the data was exhibiting for us. Perhaps Rolf would like to add to this.
> I think the questions you are rising about activity theory are very much in the spirit of what I am after, and I am not the best to answer them; but this xmca list may be one of the best places to be asking those questions.
> Alfredo
> ________________________________________
> From: xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu 
> <xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of 
> Lubomir Savov Popov <lspopov@bgsu.edu>
> Sent: 21 July 2015 21:16
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects
> Dear Alfredo and Rolf,
> There are also a few other things that I would like to bring to this discussion.
> First, you have a wonderful project and a great article. It is a great example of an interpretativist approach to everyday life phenomena. Really interesting and fascinating. It is all about our minds, culture, and activity.
> However, how is your approach related to classic Activity Theory? Some people might find that it is a Symbolic Interactionist approach; others might say it one of the Deconstructivist approaches that emerge right now or have emerged in the last decades; still other people might look for connections to ethnomethodology, discourse analysis, etc. I am not trying here to impose a template or categorize your methodology -- just raising a question about its connection to Activity Theory. And again, I am not saying that this is a shortcoming -- I would like to clarify certain things for myself.
> For example: What are the limits and boundaries of Activity Theory? How much we can fuse Activity Theory and Postmodernist approaches? What do we gain when we infuse new methodological, epistemological, and ontological realities into Activity Theory? What do we lose? What is the threshold when it is not Activity Theory anymore? (I mean here Activity Theory as research methodology.) Do we need to call something Activity Theory if it is not? If we create a new approach starting with Activity Theory, do we need to call it Activity Theory?
> Activity Theory is a product of Modern thinking, Late Modernism. The discourse you use in your paper borrows strongly from Postmodern discourses and approaches. I am not sure that Modernist and Postmodernist discourses can be fused. We can borrow ideas across the range of discourses, but after we assimilate them for use in our project, they will "change hands" and will change their particular discourse affiliation and will become completely different components of a completely different discourse. Mostly because the epistemologies and ontologies are different; and the concepts are very different despite of the similarities in ideas and words used to name these ideas.
> Just a few questions that I hope will help me understand better what is going on in the realm of CHAT.
> Thank you very much for this exciting discussion,
> Lubomir
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu 
> [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+lspopov=bgsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of 
> Alfredo Jornet Gil
> Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2015 11:36 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Andy Blunden
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects
> Andy, all,
>   I just recently begun to read Engeström and cols. contribution to the special issue, which is very interesting. I have particular interest in the difference that they point out between boundary object on the one hand, and object and instrumentality as different aspects of activity theory on the other. Rolf and I came across this distinction while writing our own paper. We noticed that the museum space, through multiple forms of presentations (e.g., the room itself, a floor plan, performances of being in the room while not being there, etc), was a means, an instrument for achieving a final design product.
> At the same time, the museum space begun to become the object of the designers' activity. Since this were interdisciplinary designs, and the partners had multiple, sometimes opposite interests, what seemed to be a common object for all them was the museum as place. Thus, most representations of it begun to be made in terms of narratives about being there. That was the orientation that seemed to stick them together.
> Thus, the museum space was both object and instrument. We wondered whether we should do connections to notions of object of activity and tools, but we felt that that road would take us away from the focus on body and experience. We ended up drawing from Binder et al (2011), who differentiate between object of design, the design thing that work delivers, and the object's constituents (or means of presentation before the design thing is finished).
> When bringing the notion of boundary object into the picture, we could discuss the history of development of these relations between the different forms of presentations of the museum means towards the object without necessarily articulating the differences between the two. One advantage was that boundary objects focus on the materiality, which, as already mentioned, is not about materials in themselves, but about consequences in action. From the point of view of the persons implicated in the process, the museum space as object of design was an issue in and through the working with some material, some form of presenting it or changing it. Both object and instrument seemed to be moments of a same experience. But I still want to learn what we may get out of making the distinction between object and tool, as Engeström and colleagues do (so I should perhaps read more carefully their study rather than be here thinking aloud).
> Any thoughts?
> Alfredo
> ________________________________________
> From: xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu 
> <xmca-l-bounces+a.g.jornet=iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of 
> Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
> Sent: 21 July 2015 14:38
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects
> Henry, anything. But the point is objects which play some role in 
> mediating the relation between subjects, probably a symbolic role, but 
> possibly an instrumental role, too, and one subject challenges that 
> role and turns the object into its opposite, and changes the terms of 
> collaboration.
> A number of examples spring to mind.
>    * Loaded, especially pejorative words, such as Queer, are
>      embraced by a despised group who take control of the
>      word and assertively embrace it;
>    * The post-WW2 women's peace movement who deployed their
>      stereotype as housewives and mothers to magnificant effect;
>    * ISIS's hatred and fear of women turned into a weapon
>      against them by Kurdish women fighters (ISIS flee before
>      them rather than in shame);
>    * The Chartists who turned the British govt's stamp which
>      put newspapers out of reach of workers against them by
>      printing the Northern Star as a stamped newspaper and
>      obliging workers to club together in groups to buy and
>      read it, thus making the paper into a glorious
>      organising tool;
>    * the naming of Palestine and the Occupied Territory /
>      Israel is the struggle over the meaning of a shared
>      object (the land);
>    * Gandhi's use of the landloom as both a weapon and tool
>      for Indian independence and self-sufficiency, raising it
>      from the status of obsolete and inferior technology to a
>      symbol of India.
> In think this is not what Susan Leigh Star had in mind when she 
> introduced the term, but core point is that  the ideological 
> construction placed upon an object is subject to contestation, and if 
> successful, the re-marking of an artefact is a tremendously powerful 
> spur to subjectivity.
> Yrjo raises the question: is the"boundary object" a mediating artefact 
> or the object of work (/Arbeitsgegenstand/)? I think the answer is 
> that in these cases it is a mediating artefact, tool or symbols 
> according to context. In principle it is not the Object in the 
> Engestromian sense, though it might happen to be.
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> On 21/07/2015 12:27 PM, HENRY SHONERD wrote:
>> Rolf, Alfredo, Andy,
>> I got to thinking about the photographs as boundary objects. What about video?
>> Henry
>>> On Jul 20, 2015, at 6:07 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>> Yes, thinking about this overnight, I came to see that it was the photographs that Thomas was endeavouring to turn to use to recover his humanity. This is consonant with how Yrjo was using the idea in relation to the subsistence farmers' movement in Mexico and their corn.
>>> Thanks Rolf!
>>> Andy
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> *Andy Blunden*
>>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>> On 21/07/2015 3:04 AM, Rolf Steier wrote:
>>>> This makes sense to me, Andy. I could also interpret the photographs as boundary objects as they support the coordination of therapy activities between Thomas and the nurse. I think it depends on the aspect of activity one is attempting to explore as opposed to the definite identification of what may or may not be a boundary object. This is only my opinion though!
>>>> On Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 3:49 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>>>      Or alternatively, the boundary object in question is
>>>>      Thomas's aged body, which is subject to an
>>>>      interpretation which Thomas contests by showing
>>>>      photographs of far away places and explaining how
>>>>      well-travelled he is, seeking an interpretation of
>>>>      himself as a well-travelled and experiences
>>>>      man-of-the-world.
>>>>      Does that make better sense?
>>>>      Andy
>>>>      ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>      *Andy Blunden*
>>>>      http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>>>      <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>>      On 20/07/2015 11:27 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>          Yes, I agree. My own interest is in social theory
>>>>          and I'd never heard of "boundary objects." It
>>>>          seems to me that what BOs do is introduce some
>>>>          social theory into domains of activity (scientific
>>>>          and work collaborations for example) where the
>>>>          participants naively think they are collaborating
>>>>          on neutral ground. So it is not just granularity,
>>>>          but also the ideological context.
>>>>          In Yjro Engestrom's article, the home care workers
>>>>          collaborate with the old couple according to rules
>>>>          and regulations, communications resources,
>>>>          technology, finance and so on, which in the
>>>>          unnamed country, the old couple are apparently
>>>>          cast as "patients". Isn't it the case that here it
>>>>          is those rules and regulations, etc., which are
>>>>          the "boundary objects"?
>>>>          Andy
>>>>          ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>          *Andy Blunden*
>>>>          http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>>>          <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>>          On 20/07/2015 11:1

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