Re: [xmca] Correct unit of analysis for human activity (in games)

From: Polin, Linda (
Date: Fri Mar 10 2006 - 08:15:50 PST


We haven't quite gotten to this issue in our work because we keep
finding more and more and more complexity in the WoW experience. The
third party communities, the forums, the guilds, the cross-game
guilds (eg, a guild whose players play in multiple MMOGs)'s
rather amazing in its sophistication and reach.

Because we are many (5 of us), we are tackling this on multiple
levels, in part to determine what actually IS useful as a focal
point. My personal interest is actually looking at the Blizzard
design community, because there is so much intentionality behind what
is in and around the game to support learning. These folks are
masterful designers, in the Gee sense. (My own interests tend to
foreground community/culture over individual.)

What do you want to know? What observation or experience drives your

(Hallgrima, lvl 44 warlock)


new mask

On Mar 10, 2006, at 12:55 AM, Patrik Bergman wrote:

> Hi,
> Perhaps you have all gone through this debate before, but I will
> give it
> try: What do you consider being the correct unit of analysis for
> understanding human activity? I am reading the works of Yrjö
> Engeström quite
> a lot now and he states that the prime unit of analysis is a
> collective,
> artefact-mediated and object-oriented activity system. Others, such
> as James
> Wertsch, state the correct unit is an individual acting with
> mediational
> means. Meantime, Mike has for example stated that “Mediated action
> and its
> activity context are two moments of a single process, and whatever
> we want
> to specify as psychological processes is but a moment of their
> combined
> properties.”, which to me sounds like something in the middle of
> Engeström’s
> and Wertsch’s descriptions.
> PhD student that I am, I might be totally off track here, but it
> would be
> interesting to hear your views on this since I am thinking about
> this in
> relation to studying the online game World of Warcraft as a learning
> environment. As far as I can see, it can have large effects on a
> study if
> one chooses to study individuals and their meditational means,
> compared to
> also incorporating the whole activity system (including its history).
> Best,
> Patrik Bergman
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