Archive for the ‘tasks’ Category

Task 13: Bringing together your framework and Activity Theory

November 19, 2012 4 comments

It is about time to wrap up the course. We have only one task left. Last week we had some nice and interesting group presentations. They actually worked out rather well despite of some technical difficulties in the beginning. Thanks for everybody who decided to actively take part in the session. Hopefully this international group work offered you a somewhat different learning experience.

Now, about the last task for this course…

In the beginning of the semester you tried to come up with a potential framework for describing (mediated) human activities based on our self-observations and comparisons to other participants’ descriptions. Later in the course, we started to explore Activity Theory as one of the frameworks for describing and analysing (mediated) human activities. As our last task take a look at your initial framework developed for Task 5 and your interpretation of Activity Theory and compare them by looking for similarities and differences.

Please, put your final reflection into a post on your Weblog.

The deadline for Task 13 is: Sunday, November 25th, 24:00 (Estonian time).

Categories: tasks

Task 12: Applying concepts of Activity Theory

Hi folks,

I am finally back in business. I know, it was quite hard for you to go through a whole week without a reading/discussion task. Didn’t you just miss it… ? 😉 Anyway, I am trying to play the catch up game now.

Instead of throwing more literature at you, let’s engage in a different type of analytical/reflective task this week.

We have tried to get familiar with how Activity Theory (or in other words… of the “cultural historical school of thought”) conceptualises, analyses and describes mediated human activity; we have compared Activity Theory with other postcognitive theories; we have explored some of the limits and challenges of Activity Theory to respond to the unfolding digital transformation of society and of human activity; we have studied some examples and potentials of Activity Theory in the context of interaction design. Now, let’s try to apply some core concepts of Activity Theory to an “activity system” you are currently involved in.

You are engaged in a distance group work mediated by various instruments, which can be seen (and described) as a forming “activity system”. Take a step outside of this ongoing group work and analyse the formation of this activity system over the last few weeks by trying to describe its core components (actors, instruments, object…) and how they evolved over time. Try to identify areas of problems, tensions and contradictions that you have experienced. Finally, provide some directions for potential improvement, some projections of what further development this activity system would require to make it function better. Are there instruments (conceptual, digital… and so forth) that need to be improved? … are the rules that need to revised or refined?… does the work need to be (re-)examined and divided differently? … and so forth.

Kaptelinin & Nardi (2006) provide the Activity Checklist (p. 269 – 278) which might provide some useful questions to ask while analysing your group work as a forming “activity system”. Feel free, however, to make use of any of the concepts that we have covered over the last few weeks.

Publish the product of your analysis and deliberation on your personal weblog.

The deadline for Task 12 is: Sunday, November 11th, 24:00 (Estonian time).

Categories: tasks

Task 11: Interaction Design informed by Activity Theory

Hello everyone,

though I feel inclined to continue with the more critical and future oriented discussion of Activity Theory that last week’s reading proposed, I think we should try to connect back to what one can do with Activity Theory in the context of Interaction Design.

So, this week I want us to return to Kaptelinin & Nardi (2006) and go through the following parts:

4 Interaction Design Informed by Activity Theory – page 73-83 (10 pages)

These pages provide “a brief history of the introduction of activity theory to interaction design and then discuss the ways in which it has helped reframe key concepts including transparency, affordance, and direct manipulation” (Kaptelinin & Nardi, 2006, p.73). What follows in this chapter is a more detailed presentation of studies in a variety of areas (collaborative learning, developmental work, etc.). If you have the time… I recommend reading the whole chapter. However, let’s keep the compulsory part to page 73-83 only.

5 A Design Application of Activity Theory: The UMEA System – page 117-134 (17 pages)

This short chapter provides a sort of case study in which the authors outline how Activity Theory has informed their design work.

Minimal contribution to this week’s discussion is set again at 2 (meaningful) posts on the board. Feel free to put out your own discussion topics. Try to respond to your peers … and properly quote from the text to illustrate your arguments, critique, and so forth.

The deadline for Task 11 is: Sunday, October 28th, 24:00 (Estonian time).

Categories: tasks

Task 10: Tool or medium?

Hello everyone,

in a recent post I had already outlined that we will try to continue with some “more reading, reflection and discussion in parallel” to the international group work that has just kicked off.

I understand that you guys need to dedicate some time to get all up and running for this collaborative group task, thus I thought we would keep the reading part at a rather modest level this week.

I have selected a paper from Georg Rückriem a retired professor from Berlin who is still rather active in the realm of cultural-historical activity theory. In recent years Georg Rückriem has published a few contributions that raise important questions regarding the ability of different versions of Activity Theory to respond to the unfolding digital transformation of society and of human activity (work, play, study…).

I think based on the reading we have done so far it is worthwhile to take a look at some of Georg Rückriem’s concerns.

The rather short paper (around 10 pages) Tool or Medium? The Meaning of Information and Telecommunication Technology to Human Practice (pdf) discusses the legacy of the “tool” concept in Activity Theory and its applicability in the context of “digital information and telecommunication technologies”.

Since it is already Tuesday… I would like to set the minimal engagement at only 2 related (meaningful) contributions on the discussion board. Either you reply to one of the discussion topics I put out, or you publish your own discussion topic… if you feel like you want to moderate some topic yourself.

The deadline for Task 10 is: Sunday, October 21th, 24:00 (Estonian time).

See you on the board… 😉


Categories: tasks

Task 9: International group work

To make it clear for you, we also decided to present our international group work as a proper task. It started yesterday with the online meetings. Every group decided on how to continue. Those, who haven’t found a group yet, please do it as soon as possible. You can find more information about the group work here. If you were not able to participate in one of the online meetings and you have difficulties to figure out how your chosen group has decided to proceed, don’t hesitate to contact me or other group members.

As I mentioned earlier the group work will be counted as 30 points.

The deadline for Task 9 (finalised chapter) is: Sunday, November 18th, 24:00 (Estonian time). However, please keep in mind that November 15th an online seminar will take place and the groups are going to present their work.

Categories: tasks

Task 8: Activity theory in comparison to other postcognitivist theories

Hi everyone,

this week I want us to take a (second) look at Activity Theory in comparison to other post-cognitive theories that are somewhat influential in Interaction Design. For that I have selected some additional parts of Kaptelinin & Nardi (2006) as our basic reading material.

I want you study the following parts:

6 Objectively speaking – only page 137-143

These few pages address some important terminological problem with the English translation of certain concepts in Activity Theory. They also outline some important differences between Leontiev’s conceptualisation of activity and the Helsinki based school of thought that is lead and promoted by Engeström. I suggest that these aspects are really good to know for any further reading in the area of cultural-historial thinking and theorising.

9 Postcognitivist Theories in Interaction Design – page 195-236

This is the main text for this week. This chapter discusses some differences and commonalities between activity theory and other postcognitivist approaches (such as distributed cognition, actor-network theory, …). In their review the authors focus in particular on intentionality, and fissures in routine activity arising from creativity, reflexivity, and resistance. I think this chapter might help to place activity theory into a wider landscape of approaches. Furthermore, it highlights some additional aspects that might enrich analysis in Interaction Design.

I ask you again to summarise the main insights (or issues) you gathered from the overall text (and our ongoing discussion) in one blog post. I want to encourage you all to actually quote certain parts of the original text to illustrate your summary, argument, etc. Make sure you use proper citation style if you quote (quotation marks, page numbers at the end of paragraph).

In addition I want to keep the discussion on the board going. So, I suggest that you put out some questions, observations, comments, and so forth, while you are going through the text. As a point of reference… let’s set the minimal level of engagement on the board at 3 contributions during this week (starting from Tuesday, October 9). You are free to either start your own discussion topic, or respond to new topics or comments that others have posted. You can always engage as much as you want. Don’t shoot for the minimal level… if you don’t have to. 😉

Reminder: the deadline for your 5 contributions to the task 7 related discussion ends only on Monday, October 8 at 24:00.

Please, don’t hold back your contributions to the ongoing exchange on the discussion board until the very last day… which you will probably want to use for writing up your blog post anyway 😉

The deadline for Task 8 (weblog post + discussion) is: Sunday, October 14th, 24:00 (Estonian time).

Categories: tasks

Task 7: discussing Acting with Technology

Alright folks, let’s get the ball rolling…

I have started to put out some topics on our discussion board. I will add a few more over the next few days.

Since there are always some participants that feel better with rather formal requirements, I would like to set the minimal engagement at 5 (meaningful) posts on the board.
Either you reply to one of the discussion topics I put out, or you publish your own discussion topic… if you feel like you want to moderate some topic yourself.

The deadline for Task 7 is: Monday, October 8th, 24:00 (Estonian time).

What I said yesterday, however, still holds true:

“Naturally, I would like you all to engage with the discussion board as much as possible over the next few days. My preference would be for you to come by more often and rather leave a number of contributions than waiting for one elaborate reply at the very end…”

I am looking forward to hear from you,


Categories: tasks