Re: [xmca] definition of 'activity'

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Sun Jan 08 2006 - 14:56:58 PST

   I would tend to try to start like you did Mike, using activity in a 'common
   sense' way, to define it. How people conceptualise that and build theories
   on it, is some thing else.
   If Fichte is the first to use 'activity' as a category, then the special
   feature of activity for him was that it was both subjective and objective,
   both initiated by a will, but following paths determined by objective
   constraints, both the result of an image in the mind and an effect in the
   material world. Fichte also introduced the idea of intersubjectivity as a
   process of Ego development, very similar to GH Mead's idea.
   Hegel introduces the dreaded triangle, where the specifically human kind of
   activity involves using tools, symbols and other people. I think, from what
   you say about the diversity of opinion on this matter Mike, that this is
   enough to justify the abstract notion of 'activity', and if I go with A N
   Leontyev's theorising, I will be doing justice to how it is used in the CHAT
   tradition. For my purposes, I do not need to elaborate Yrjo's
   triads-within-triads, and so on. I am an outsider in this field.
   Mary, thank you for the point to Wikipedia. Here is what she says:

                An activity is seen as a system of human "doing" whereby a
                subject works on an object in order to obtain a desired
                outcome. In order to do this, the subject employs tools, which
                may be external (e.g. an axe, a computer) or internal (e.g. a
                plan). ... As we shall see later, many subjects may be involved
                in the activity and each subject may have one or more motives.

   And yes Mike, of course, this is very much connected with that earlier
   thanks all,
   At 01:42 PM 8/01/2006 -0800, you wrote:

     On 1/7/06 8:27 PM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:
> 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
>> 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.
     I was thinking about this very thing this morning, reading the definition
     Activity Theory on wikipedia... And it occurred to me as I presented one
     the many variants of the triangle to the students in my brand new
     sociocultural theory class, that there is an odd disconnect between
     theory, and its attendant notions of goal-directed actions and the
     importance of objects, and object-relations theory, and its critical focus
     on the psychological and constitutive value of objects. Maybe there is
     really well known piece of work out there that brings these two threads
     together, but if there is -- (a) I don't know what it is (not surprizing)
     and (b) I would love to read it, so please tell me about it.
     The affective and psychic -- that is, subjectivity -- pieces of activity
     theory seem really short-sighted and overly rational, which is where
     object-relations seems to have a lot to offer, and yet rarely be cited by
     Sunday musings,
     Mary (Happy New Year)
     PS> I was going to propose to moderate/coordinate a discussion of a
     in February, but I think with the generous offer of participation by Mike
     his mediational theories course, that perhaps I should hold off until May
     xmca mailing list
     [1]htt= p://

   Hegel Summer= School 17th February 2006, University of Melbourne
   "UnReason in Revolt= - Postmodern Conservatism"


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