Home > tasks > Task 6: diving into Activity Theory

Task 6: diving into Activity Theory

Hello folks,
how is everybody doing?

I think it is about time to change gears a bit…. The last few tasks have mainly tried to get you started on thinking about how elaborate and instrument mediated human activities could actually be captured and described.

Why would we want to engage in such types of exercises in the first place?

Well, while a good part of HCI (human computer interaction) and interaction design has been (and still is…) focusing on a single user interacting with some type of interactive system, the ongoing digital transformation of human activities poses new challenges for the analysis and design of interactive environments in work and study. Many activities are increasingly supported by rather elaborate configurations of networked instruments (e.g., PDAs, tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices) and span a wide range of contexts. Thus, the cognitive approaches to analysis and design that have been dominating interaction design seem to reach their limits. Or in other words… these approaches might not provide the appropriate analytical tools to address the ongoing development.

So, we think it is worthwhile to expose you to some alternative (sometimes labelled “post-cognitivist”) frameworks that strive for taking a somewhat different conceptual angle. One of these approaches is (cultural-historial) activity theory. In order to reflect upon and discuss the conceptual ideas that this approach is built on … and to contrast those ideas with what you guys have produced so far… we need to engage in a bit of careful reading and study. I have picked the text “Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design by Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie A. Nardi. This text from 2006 provides a pretty decent introduction to, and discussion of, some of the core aspects that we would like to explore with you.

So, this week’s task is pretty straight forward. Let’s drill into the text of Kaptelinin and Nardi to get some material on board that we can use in the week after for some in depth discussions.

I want to you study the following parts:

1 Introduction – page 3-14 (this part is optional… but doesn’t hurt to read…)

2 Do We Need Theory in Interaction Design? – page 15-28

3 Activity Theory in a Nutshell – page 29-72

Summarise the main insights you gathered from the overall text in one blog post.
Try to outline any open questions, problems, issues that came up while you were studying the text.

The deadline for Task 5 is: Sunday, September 30th, 24:00 (Estonian time).

Terje will let you know how to obtain the text material.

I am looking forward to your posts… and our discussion of the material.

If you need to get in touch don’t hesitate to contact me.
Either through the discussion board or email.

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