Re: [xmca] definition of 'activity'

From: bb (
Date: Sat Jan 07 2006 - 19:22:02 PST

>From where does the following text come Mike, from CP? I'm away from my library, so i can't check personally.


> *Following the Activity Thread*
> Activity theory is anything but a monolithic enterprise. Within Russia there
> are at least two schools of thought about how best to formulate Marx's ideas
> in psychological terms (Brushlinsky, 1968; Zinchenko, 1985). There is a long
> German tradition of activity theory research (Raeithel, 1994), a
> Scandinavian/Nordic tradition ( Hydén, 1984; Engeström, 1993) and now,
> perhaps, an American tradition (Goodwin and Goodwin, in press; Nardi, 1994;
> Scribner, 1984). A good statement of general tenets of this approach is
> provided by Engeström, who writes that an activity system,
> integrates the subject, the object, and the instruments (material tools as
> well as signs and symbols) into a unified whole.
> An activity system incorporates both the object-oriented productive aspect
> and the person-oriented communicative aspect of human conduct. Production
> and communication are inseparable (Rossi-Landi, 1983). Actually a human
> activity system always contains the subsystems of production, distribution,
> exchange, and consumption (p. 67).
> The attractiveness of this formulation in light of the discussion of
> artifact mediation at the beginning of this chapter should be apparent:
> Engeström's formulation promises a way to incorporate ideas about the
> duality of artifacts but does not privilege production over social cohesion.
> Engeström represents his conception of activity in a manner that both
> includes and enlarges upon the early cultural-historical psychologists'
> notions of mediation as individual action. Once again we see a triangle, but
> now it is a set of interconnected triangles (See Figure 5.3). At the top of
> the figure is the basic subject-
> [Insert Figure 5.3 about here]
> mediator-object relationship depicted in Figure 5.1. This is the level of
> mediated action through which the subject transforms the object in the
> process of acting upon it. But action exists "as such" only in relation to
> the components at the bottom of the triangle. The *community* refers to
> those who share the same general object; the *rules* refer to explicit norms
> and conventions that constrain actions within the activity system; the
> *division
> of labor* refers to the division of object oriented actions among members of
> the community. The various components of an activity system do not exist in
> isolation from each other; rather, they are constantly being constructed,
> renewed, and transformed as outcome and cause of human life.
> Engeström echoes contemporary dissatisfaction with conceptions that either
> treat contexts as "containers" of behavior, untouched in themselves by human
> actions or as contained within interpersonal interaction. Jean Lave nicely
> summarized the shortcomings of these two conceptions by declaring that "one
> has system without individual experience, the other experience without
> system (Lave, 1988, p. 150)."
> In activity theory as summarized in Figure 5.3, contexts are activity
> systems. The subsystem associated with the subject-mediator-object
> relationships exists as such only in relationship to the other elements of
> the system. This is a thoroughly relational view of context.
> Jean Lave (1993) provides a succinct summary of several themes uniting
> scholars interested in activity and practice theory:
> 1. An emphasis on the dialectical character of the fundamental relations
> constituting human experience (in Lave's terms, human agency is "partially
> determined, partially determining").
> 2. A focus on experience in the world that rejects the structure and
> dynamics of psychological test procedures as a universally appropriate
> template.
> 3. A shift in the boundaries of cognition and the environment such that, in
> Lave's phrasing, cognition "is stretched across mind, body, activity and
> setting" (a perspective sometimes referred to as "distributed cognition"
> (Hutchins, 1991; Norman, 1991; Salomon, 1993).
> On 1/7/06, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
> >
> > Can anyone help me with a succinct (NB) definition of 'activity' as it is
> > used in the CHAT literature.
> > I am sure this is a hotly contested topic, but if there is any kind of
> > lowest common denominator or consensus on this I would be very grateful.
> >
> >
> > Andy Blunden
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Feb 01 2006 - 01:00:09 PST