Re: [xmca] Activity theory and qualitative research

From: Phil Chappell <philchappell who-is-at>
Date: Wed Nov 19 2008 - 15:38:28 PST

Hi Mary,

One paper that might touch on some of your issues comes to mind:

Wardekker, W.L., 2000, Criteria for the Quality of Inquiry, Mind,
Culture, and Activity, 7(4), pp. 259-72.


On 20/11/2008, at 10:19 AM, Arturo Escandon wrote:

> Hi Mary.
> Quite interesting. Your questions go obviously beyond the few lines I
> can drop here. I will try to make some points from a meta-scientific
> point of view. I think Mike gave an answer from the point of view of
> practice already.
>> need to be explored and examined in context, as they are lived.
>> This, in
>> part, means understanding the social, linguistic and historical
>> features
>> which shape human phenomena (Kelly 2006).
> Fair enough but does the qualitative research paradigm make a
> distinction between ready-made concepts and the enaction of those in
> particular "contexts" (activity systems)? Does it see the (potential,
> eventual) contradiction between a fossilised language, product of kind
> of obsolete social relations, and the enaction of the needs, or, as
> Leontiev puts it, the orientation of activity towards an object? The
> whole advantage of CHAT is its unit of analysis. The social,
> linguistic and historical features are contained in the unit of
> analysis. I do not see how an "approach" can do that without some form
> of Hegelian methodological rendition.
>> [this bit seems to have the most synergies with CHAT but I don't
>> think it is meant in this way i.e. that there is a dialectical
>> interaction between social and individual 'levels of analysis']
> In CHAT the unit of analysis overcomes the "individual/social"
> analysis. Vygotsky thought of "word meaning" as a unit, which also
> tries to evercome that problem.
>> And what about the 'critique' of the situated perspective which
>> predominates in ethnographic approaches? This is articulated as
>> follows:
>> * there is a need to move beyond describing and 'understanding' human
>> experience in situ. Kelly (1994) argues that the participant,
>> embedded
>> in his or her reality, perspective and context, does not possesses
>> the
>> perspective necessary to provide a comprehensive account of an
>> experience or phenomenon. There is thus a need to provide an
>> account of
>> a phenomenon which exceeds the self-understanding of the
>> participants, a
>> distanciated account (Kelly, 2006). Thus description alone, and a
>> description in the participants' words, is insufficient for an
>> explanation of a phenomenon. There is a need to provide an
>> elaboration,
>> or expansion, of the participant's account.
>> Is Activity Theory just a social constructionist approach? It might
>> emphasize the historical trajectory ofand dilemmas, but it seems to
>> be essentially concerned with the same
>> thing.
> In social constructionism, meaning and sense are thought to be the
> very same thing because they are undifferentiated. Social
> constructionism is based upon the idea of "meaning negotiation" in
> the construction of the social world, but it does not deploy the
> conceptual tools to understand the difference between objective
> meanings and personal meanings. More obscure yet is social
> constructionism's concept of subject. I think CHAT has enough trouble
> with the Notion of subject (in the Hegelian sense), but in social
> constructionism there is no Notion at all (understood as a
> methodological construct whereby the parts are contained in the unit
> of analysis). There are many ontological issues here (see references
> bellow). In an activity system, the division of labour gives you an
> idea of the distribution of power but culture, understood as
> ideological formations as well, is undertheorised in CHAT.
>> Has anybody been writing about this?
> Not precisely on qualitative research and CHAT as such that I know of,
> but certain issues are touched by Sawyer, Perez Campos, and by Billet.
> Sawyer,
> Perez Campos,
> Billet (2003) Sociogenesis, Activity and Ontogeny, Culture &
> Psychology, Vol. 9, No. 2, 133-169 (2003)
> I would appreciate if you can report back your findings to the list.
> Best,
> Arturo J Escandon
> 37-1 Towa City Homes 402, Kinugasa Takahashi-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto
> JAPAN 603-8374
> Telephone/Fax +81 (75) 461-0250
> Mobile +81 (908) 796-4220
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Received on Wed Nov 19 15:39:11 2008

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