Re: [xmca] Activity theory and qualitative research

From: Mary van der Riet <VanDerRiet who-is-at>
Date: Thu Nov 20 2008 - 00:48:19 PST

Dear Elina
thank you for your response. I wonder if it possible to obtain some of
the papers presented at the fora you mention ie 2007 AERA and 2008
And would it be possible to see your presentation that you are giving
at the 'Methodology and methods' conference?

Mary van der Riet; School of Psychology; University of KwaZulu-Natal
Private Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209

tel: 033 260 6163; fax: 033 2605809

>>> "Elina Lampert-Shepel" <> 2008/11/20 09:34 AM
Mary and Mike,
 I have been interested in this theme for quite a long time. Mary, you
some important issues. I organized 2007 AERA symposium on exactly the
topic and the presentations were fascinating. Martin Parker organized
symposium on CHAT as a research methodology in 2008. I am now at
Russian Institute of Pscyhology participating in the conference on
and methods of psychological research (cultural-historical aspect)* and
has been already three days we were discusing various issues related
cultural-historical methodology as well as research methodology that
grounded on it.

There is a lot to say, but I need to come back to New York before I
fully participate in the discussion. In my presentation I tried to
various form of relationships between cultural-historical psychology
focused most of all on their complementarity. I would argue
that cultural-historical psychology has been used mainly as a
framework in qualitative research rather than research methodology.
To be continued,

On Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 10:49 PM, Mike Cole <>

> Mary--
> Your note come at a time when a professor and group of students in
> Columbia, are, among other things, asking the same questions.
> The topic seems so worthwhile of systematic co-reading and discussion
> order to create significant common ground that it seems unlikely we
can get
> a mutually satisfying grip on the issues in the helter-skelter of
> we could create, within the existing XMCA framework, a focused
> discussion on this topic which always had the same header and where
> participants agreed to read together, discuss together, even do
> video discussions together.
> It has worked in the past and our facilities are stronger, so it can
> again.
> I have written some on this issue and my very short answer is that
> depending
> upon the purposes of the research, both what are considered
qualitative and
> quantitative methods
> (under at least some of the desiderata that different people
> focus on when discussing qualitative research) are appropriate within
> chat
> framework.
> An example I use is one where we start with fieldnotes written by
> undergraduates. On the basis of those notes we
> are able to identify/classify/count various kinds of events
> involving characteristic behaviors and artifacts. We then
> can provide interesting evidence (quantitative) to justify claims for
> particular designed environment as increasing,
> relative to relevant contrasting situation, behaviors we had hoped
> foster. But then, we also see trends (say, by age)
> in the frequency of some one(s) of those countable categories and we
> driven back to the fieldnotes because the categories "lied." They
> together variations which,
> as a first pass, we could pass over, but which we were pushed back to
at a
> later stage.
> In so far as CHAT is interested in developmental transformations, and
in so
> far as the term, "developmental transformation" involves qualitative
> variation, what would it mean to exclude qualitative methods? If it
> claimed that the use of the change laboratory has effects desired by
> workers in Helsinki, what would it mean if there was no quantitative
> evidence that they had achieved goals that were a part of the
> they had decided to implement, a process which is itself a process
> qualitative change?? Sure as hell their managers are going to do
> counting.
> The above is by way of an unsatisfactory answer and a call for those
> have serious common interests in such complex problems to coordinate
in an
> effective manner to make headway on obtaining answers that they
> productive according to their local criteria
> mike
> On Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 5:04 AM, Mary van der Riet
> >wrote:
> > Activity theory as emblematic of qualitative research?
> >
> > I have a question. Many studies which use cultural-historical
> > theory, do not explicitly identify a research design or paradigm
> > might be because activity theory operates on both methodological
> > method levels, but that is another issue)
> >
> > I have been trying to draw out some of the links between the
> > research paradigm and 'activity theory'. There are elements of
> > methodology that draw on different dimensions of qualitative
> > and could be said to have allegiances to different
> > and practices within the qualitative approach (interpretive,
> > hermeneutic, grounded theory, social constructionist).
> > Perhaps you have some ideas?
> >
> > Broadly, qualitative research is defined (in the classic
approaches) as
> >
> > * an open-ended and inductive exploration of a phenomenon, rather
> > providing causal explanations (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994).
> > * having a concern with making sense of/obtaining an understanding
> > human experience,
> > * broadly 'interpretivist' – this means:
> > * assuming that people's subjective experiences, the meaning these
> > experiences have for them, and thus their representation of
reality, can
> > and should be a focus of study (Kvale, 1996).
> > * and that it is a search for a detailed, 'thick description'
> > 1973), of these experiences.
> > * and assuming that an understanding of human experience requires
> > contextual approach (Schwandt, 1994; Denzin & Lincoln, 2005); that
> > 'meaning' of a phenomenon is indexical, and thus human experiences
> > need to be explored and examined in context, as they are lived.
This, in
> > part, means understanding the social, linguistic and historical
> > which shape human phenomena (Kelly 2006).
> >
> > [this bit seems to have the most synergies with CHAT – but I
> > think it is meant in this way i.e. that there is a dialectical
> > interaction between social and individual 'levels of analysis']
> >
> > And what about the 'critique' of the situated perspective which
> > predominates in ethnographic approaches? This is articulated as
> > * there is a need to move beyond describing and 'understanding'
> > experience in situ. Kelly (1994) argues that the participant,
> > in his or her reality, perspective and context, does not possesses
> > 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
> > or expansion, of the participant's account.
> >
> > And what of the social constructionist perspective: which argues,
> > drawing on Terre Blanche, Kelly and Durrheim (2006), that
> > thoughts, feelings and experiences are products of systems of
meaning at
> > a social level (Terre Blanche et al, 2006). Constructionist
research is
> > about "interpreting the social world as a kind of language; that
is, as
> > a system of meanings and practices that construct reality" (p.280)
> > "everyday actions or images create and maintain" the world in which
> > live (Terre Blanche et al, 2006, p.280). They argue that
> > this social world means understanding and examining this system of
> > meanings, these representations of reality, practices, and
> > arrangements which "construct particular versions of the world by
> > providing a framework or system through which we can understand
> > and practices as well as understand who we are and what we should
do in
> > relation to these systems" (ibid, p.282). When we act, they argue,
> > we achieve is to "reproduce the ruling discourses of out time and
> > re-enact established relational patterns" (p.282).
> >
> > Is Activity Theory just a social constructionist approach? It
> > emphasize the historical trajectory ofand dilemmas, but it seems to
> > essentially concerned with the same
> > thing.
> >
> > Has anybody been writing about this?
> >
> > Mary
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Mary van der Riet; School of Psychology; University of
> > Private Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209
> >
> > email:
> > tel: 033 260 6163; fax: 033 2605809
> >
> > Please find our Email Disclaimer here:
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Received on Thu Nov 20 00:49:54 2008

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