Home > tasks > Task 10: Applying activity theory into practice

Task 10: Applying activity theory into practice

Although there are scholars and researchers who are skeptical about the activity theory and its applicability into practice, I personally believe that it has its potential and has something to offer. For grasping every detail of this theory and its underpinning philosophy we would need another course focusing on activity theory and its roots, however, trying to apply the theory into practice might help to gain a better understanding.

As pointed out by Norbert in his Weblog one of the important aspects is “the researcher/observer’s complete understanding of the activity system under observation, including the dynamic interplay of all the units of the activity system”. Maria has added “that activity system is shaped over a long time thus the (local) history of the system itself and its components need to be studied for understanding its problems and potentials”. Katri points out that “human actions cannot be studied in controlled environments because the environment also is affecting the way how we act. Activity theory can be suitable for studying social interactions and it makes it possible for studying how interaction changes over time”.

Acknowledging the aforementioned aspects we are going to make an attempt to apply activity theory into two courses:
1. PLENK 2010 – it is a so called massive open online course (MOOC).
2. our course “New interactive environments”

Where to draw system boundaries depends on an observer. For instance, a university course together with its participants can be observed as one activity system. Thus, we are going to explore the PLENK2010 course, which is new to you and needs some time to understand it; and our own course, which should be rather familiar to you as you are active members of this system.

Here is the step by step instruction:
1. Have a look at the “PLENK2010” course and try to understand its set up, interactions, subjects, rules, instruments etc. (components of activity system). If you want to, you can also register to the course. Describe the course according to the activity theory and produce its activity system.
2. Think about the course “New interactive environments” and describe the course according to the activity theory and produce its activity system.
3. Compare the two described courses. First, think of the drawbacks of this activity theory while trying to analyse digitally mediated courses, the challenges and limitations you faced while implementing activity theory into practice. Secondly, have a look at these two activity systems and bring forth differences and similarities of these courses (if any).

For completing the task the following article might be useful while applying the activity theory (provides some guiding questions).
Uden, L., Valderas, P. & Pastor, O. (2008). An activity-theory-based model to analyse Web application requirements. Information Research, 13(2).

As this is a time-consuming task and requires quite a bit of your effort, no more tasks will be required during this week, but it might be worth to think of whether this theory provides some insight for your own master thesis.

The deadline for task 10 is: Sunday, November 28th, 24:00 (Estonian time).


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