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

A small note

October 29, 2012 1 comment

I have two points to make for this week.

First, Sebastian has managed to catch cold, thus, he is not going to be very active in the next coming days. I noticed that you have put quite many messages on the discussion board. Although the main facilitator is not going to be around, this discussion can continue regardless ;).

My second point…

This week we are going to focus only on our group work. No individual task will be posted for this week. For the remaining course we have only 2 individual tasks left. One for the next week (5.11-11.11) and the other one for the last week of the course (19.11-25.11).

Enjoy your group work!

If you have problems, questions regarding your group work, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Last week I sent out e-mails regarding your current situation with the points. If I have missed someone, please contact me.


Categories: announcements

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

A short comment on procedure

Let me just add a few words on how we want to handle the next few weeks.

As we have said before, Terje is facilitating the international group work part. She is your contact for all issues concerning this line of action. Task 9 and its deadline is your point of reference. We will not publish any additional (sub-)tasks related to the group work.

In parallel to the group work we expect you to dedicate about 3-4 hours every week to further reading, reflection and discussion. We will publish weekly tasks to drive that process.

If you feel the need for more clarification, please feel free to post in the Procedural aspects of the course thread in the discussion board.

Categories: announcements

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 RĂźckriem a retired professor from Berlin who is still rather active in the realm of cultural-historical activity theory. In recent years Georg RĂźckriem 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 RĂźckriem’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

A small note

Dear participants,

If you haven’t received an invitation from the Finnish partner regarding purot wiki (the wiki environment we are going to use during the group work), you can also create your own account here. Just click on Sign up and fill in the required fields.

As a reminder, today we are going to have online meetings with Finnish and Norwegian partners. You can see your specific time for your group meeting and the link to the AdobeConnect (the tool for the meeting) on Cocreat purot wiki under the introduction of every chapter. Just click on the link, enter as a guest.

Have a nice week!

Categories: announcements