Home > musings > On the cultural-historical school of thought

On the cultural-historical school of thought

Hi everyone,

I wanted to take a moment to comment on our reading and Activity Theory in general. While I think that Kaptelinin and Nardi (2006) do a decent job in providing a somewhat accessible introduction to the topic, we have to keep in mind that there are different “flavours” of Activity Theory around. If you dig more into the available literature you will find a range of (sometimes contradicting) interpretations and a number of conceptual problems. You will find some rather orthodox proponents of Activity Theory who seem to be mainly in the business of interpreting the Russian Psychologists of the last century on one hand, and some scholars who try to build bridges to system-thinking and media theory on the other hand. Instead of “Activity Theory” I sometimes prefer to speak of the “cultural historical school of thought” if I want to embrace all these different strands of thinking and theorising.

Though our overall (time) resources are obviously limited, I will try to bring in a few additional “voices” beyond Kaptelinin & Nardi over the remaining run-time of the course. Hopefully this will allow you to build up some interest in a much wider field of theorising and application.

One thing that is important to keep in mind, however, is the fact that the unfolding digital transformation also creates numerous challenges for all existing strands of theorising on human (inter-)action. The cultural-historical school of thought is no exception to that. So, we should expect a certain amount of contradictions and tensions right within this particular body of work. A lot of things are in transition (in work, learning, play…) and we are all trying to make sense out of them while we are moving along.



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