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


I am overwhelmed by this thread so this's query may be badly timed. But
....  I recall Lubomir writing that AT was centered on the subject. And now
Andy is gesturing to Strands of AT theory that give everything to the

Question-- isn't this a version of Rubenshtein/Leontiev schools' conflict?
Or LSV "vs" AN L on the problem of the environment?


What is at stake here theoretically and practically?
PS.  I am still trying to absorb the multifaceted discussion of boundary
object.  I almost want to ask -- what forms of joint mediated activity do
not involve boundary objects? But I am pretty sure that not knowing the
answer to this question is a result of the richness of the discussion.

It's fair to say that XMCA is a boundary object??

On Wednesday, July 22, 2015, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> That is exactly right, Larry, I am advocating a humanism, in opposition to
> poststructuralism, structuralism Marxism, and strands of Activity Theory
> which give everything to the Object.
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> On 23/07/2015 2:24 AM, Lplarry wrote:
>> 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.
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> From: Lubomir Savov Popov <mailto:lspopov@bgsu.edu>
>> Sent: ‎2015-‎07-‎22 8:55 AM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <mailto:xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>;
>> Andy Blunden <mailto: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
>> 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: 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
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> *Andy Blunden*
>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>> 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
>> [The entire original message is not included.]


Both environment and species change in the course of time, and thus
ecological niches are not stable and given forever (Polotova & Storch,
Ecological Niche, 2008)