Cultural-historical activity theory
Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) is a theoretical framework which helps to understand and analyse the relationship between the human mind (what people think and feel) and activity (what people do). It traces its origins to the founders of the cultural-historical school of Russian psychology L. S. Vygotsky and Aleksei N. Leontiev. Vygotsky's important insight into the dynamics of consciousness was that it is essentially subjective and shaped by the history of each individual's social and cultural experience. Especially since the 1990s, CHAT has attracted a growing interest among academics worldwide. Elsewhere CHAT has been defined as "a cross-disciplinary framework for studying how humans purposefully transform natural and social reality, including themselves, as an ongoing culturally and historically situated, materially and socially mediated process". Core ideas are: 1) humans act collectively, learn by doing, and communicate in and via their actions; 2) humans make, employ, and adapt tools of all kinds to learn and communicate; and 3) community is central to the process of making and interpreting meaning – and thus to all forms of learning, communicating, and acting.
The term CHAT was coined by Michael Cole and popularized by Yrjö Engeström to promote the unity of what, by the 1990s, had become a variety of currents harking back to Vygotsky's work.
Origins: revolutionary Russia
CHAT traces its lineage to dialectical materialism, classical German philosophy, and the work of Lev Vygotsky, Aleksei N. Leontiev and Aleksandr Luria, known as "the founding troika" of the cultural-historical approach to Social Psychology. In a radical departure from the behaviorism and reflexology that dominated much of psychology in the early 1920s, they formulated, in the spirit of Karl Marx's Theses on Feuerbach, the concept of activity, i.e., "artifact-mediated and object-oriented action". By bringing together the notion of history and culture in the understanding of human activity, they were able to transcend the Cartesian dualism between subject and object, internal and external, between people and society, between individual inner consciousness and the outer world of society. Lev Vygotsky, who created the foundation of cultural-historical psychology, based on the concept of mediation, published six books on psychology topics during a working life which spanned only ten years. He died of TB in 1934 at the age of 37. A.N. Leont'ev worked with Lev Vygotsky and Alexandr Luria from 1924 to 1930, collaborating on the development of a Marxist psychology. Leontiev left Vygotsky's group in Moscow in 1931, to take up a position in Kharkov. There he was joined by local psychologists, including Pyotr Galperin and Pyotr Zinchenko. He continued to work with Vygotsky for some time but, eventually, there was a split, although they continued to communicate with one another on scientific matters. Leontiev returned to Moscow in 1934. Contrary to popular belief, Vygotsky's work per se was never banned in Stalinist Soviet Russia. In 1950 A.N.Leontiev became the Head of the Psychology Department at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Lomonosov Moscow State University (MGU). This department became an independent Faculty in 1966 due mainly to his hard work. He remained there until his death in 1979. Leontiev's formulation of activity theory, post 1962, had become the new "official" basis for Soviet psychology. In the two decades between a thaw in the suppression of scientific enquiry in Russia and the death of the Vygotsky's continuers, contact was made with the West.
Developments in the West
Michael Cole, then a young Indiana University psychology post-graduate exchange student, arrived in Moscow in 1962 for a one-year stint of research under Alexandr Luria. Keenly aware of the gulf between Soviet and American psychology, he was one for the first Westerners to present Luria's and Vygotsky's idea to an Anglo-Saxon public. This, and a steady flow of books translated from the Russian ensured the gradual establishment of a solid Cultural Psychology base in the west. Another American scholar, James V. Wertsch, after completing his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1975, spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow in Moscow to study linguistics and neuropsychology. Wertsch subsequently became one of the leading Western experts on Soviet Psychology. Principal among the groups promoting CHAT-related research is Yjrö Engeström's Helsinki-based CRADLE. In 1982 an Activity Conference, claimed to have been the first of its kind in Europe, organized by Yrjö Engeström to concentrate on teaching and learning issues, took place in Espoo (Fl), with the participation of experts from both Eastern and Western European countries. This was followed by the Aarhus (Dk) Conference in 1983 and the Utrecht (Nl) conference in 1984. In October 1986, West Berlin's College of Arts hosted the first ISCAR International Congress on Activity Theory. This was also the first effort to bring together under one roof researchers, theorists and philosophers working in the tradition of the Soviet psychologists Leontiev and Vygotsky. The second ISCRAT congress took place in Lahti, (Fl) in 1990. ISCRAT became a formal legal organization with its own by-laws in Amsterdam, 1992. Other ISCRAT conferences: Rome (1993), Moscow (1995), Aarhus (1998) and Amsterdam (2002), when ISCRAT and the Conference for Socio Cultural Research merged into ISCAR. From here on, ISCAR organizes an international Congress every three years: Sevilla (Es) 2005; San Diego (USA) 2008; Rome (It) 2011; Sydney (Au) 2014; Quebec, Canada (2017).
In more recent years the implications of activity theory in organizational development have been promoted by the work Yrjö Engeström's team at the Centre for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research (CATDWR) at the University of Helsinki, and Mike Cole at the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition (LCHC) at the University of California San Diego campus.
The three generations of activity theory
In his 1987 "Learning by expanding", Engeström offers a very detailed account of the diverse sources, philosophical and psychological, that inform activity theory. In subsequent years, however, a simplified picture has emerged from his and other researchers' work, namely the idea that (to date) there are three principal 'stages' or 'generations' of activity theory, or "cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT). Whilst the first generation built on Vygotsky's notion of mediated action, from the individual's perspective, and the second generation built on Leont'ev's notion of activity system, with emphasis on the collective, the third generation, which appeared in the mid-nineties, builds on the idea of multiple interacting activity systems focused on a partially shared object, and boundary-crossings between them.
First generation – Vygotsky
The first generation emerges from Vygotsky's theory of cultural mediation, which was a response to behaviorism's explanation of consciousness, or the development of the human mind, by reducing "mind" to a series of atomic components or structures associated primarily with the brain as "stimulus – response" (S-R) processes. Vygotsky argued that the relationship between a human subject and an object is never direct but must be sought in society and culture as they evolve historically, rather than in the human brain or individual mind unto itself. His cultural-historical psychology attempted to account for the social origins of language and thinking. To Vygotsky, consciousness emerges from human activity mediated by artifacts (tools) and signs.
This idea of semiotic mediation is embodied in Vygotsky's famous triangular model which features the Subject (S), Object (O), and Mediating Artifact triad: in mediated action the Subject, Object, and Artifact stand in a dialectical relationship whereby each affects the other and the activity as a whole. Vygotsky argues that the use of signs leads to a specific structure of human behavior, which breaks away from mere biological development allowing the creation of new forms of culturally-based psychological processes – hence the importance of (cultural-historical) context: individuals could no longer be understood without their cultural environment, nor society without the agency of the individuals who use and produced these artifacts. The objects became cultural entities, and action oriented towards the objects became the key to understanding the human psyche. In the Vygotskyan framework the unit of analysis, however, remains principally the individual. First-generation activity theory has been used to understand individual behavior by examining the ways in which a person's objectivized actions are culturally mediated. Besides a strong focus on material and symbolic mediation, internalization of external (social, societal, and cultural) forms of mediation, another important aspect of first generation CHAT is the concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD), meaning, as advanced in Mind in Society (1978), "the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers". ZDP is one of the major legacies of Vygotsky's work in the social sciences.
Second generation – Leontiev
While Vygotsky formulated practical human activity as the general explanatory category in human psychology, he did not fully clarify its precise nature. The second generation moves, beyond Vygotsky's individually-focused to A.N. Leontiev's collective model. In Engeström's now famous graphic depiction of second-generation activity, the unit of analysis has been expanded to include collective motivated activity toward an object, making room for understanding how collective action by social groups mediates activity. Hence the inclusion of community, rules, division of labor and the importance of analyzing their interactions with each other. Rules may be explicit or implicit. Division of labor refers to the explicit and implicit organization of the community involved in the activity. Engeström articulated the clearest distinction between classic Vygotskian psychology, which emphasizes the way semiotic and cultural systems mediate human action, and Leontiev's second-generation CHAT, which is focused on the mediational effects of the systemic organization of human activity.
In insisting that activity only exists in relation to rules, community and division of labor, Engeström expands the unit of analysis for studying human behavior from that of individual activity to a collective activity system. The collective activity system includes the social, psychological, cultural and institutional perspectives in the analysis. In this conceptualization context or activity systems are inherently related to what Engeström argues are the deep-seated material practices and socioeconomic structures of a given culture. These societal dimensions had not been taken sufficiently into account by Vygotsky's, earlier, more 'simple' triadic model: in Leontiev's understanding, thought and cognition should be understood as a part of social life – as a part of the means of production and systems of social relations on one hand, and the intentions of individuals in certain social conditions on the other.
In his famous example of the 'primeval collective hunt', Leontiev clarifies the crucial difference between an individual action ("the beater frightening game") and a collective activity ("the hunt"). While individuals' actions (frightening game) are different from the overall goal of the activity (hunt), they all share in the same motive (obtaining food). Operations, on the other hand, are driven by the conditions and tools at hand, i.e. the objective circumstances under which the hunt is taking place. To understand the separate actions of the individuals, one needs to understand the broader motive behind the activity as a whole: this accounts for the three hierarchical levels of human functioning: object-related motives drive the collective activity (top); goals drive individual/group action(s) (middle); conditions and tools drive automated operations (lower level).
Third generation – Engeström et al.
After Vygotsky's foundational work on the individual's higher psychological functions and Leontiev's extension of these insights to collective activity systems, questions of diversity and dialogue between different traditions or perspectives became increasingly serious challenges, when, especially in the post-1990s, activity theory 'went international'. The work of Michael Cole and Yrjö Engeström in the 1970s and 1980s – mostly in parallel, but occasionally in collaboration – brought activity theory to a much wider audience of scholars in Scandinavia and North America. Once the lives and biographies of all the participants and the history of the wider community are taken into account, multiple activity systems need to be considered, positing, according to Engeström, the need for a "third generation" to "develop conceptual tools to understand dialogue, multiple perspectives, and networks of interacting activity Systems". This larger canvas of active individuals (and researchers) embedded in organizational, political, and discursive practices constitutes a tangible advantage of second- and third-generation CHAT over its earlier Vygotskian ancestor, which focused on mediated action in relative isolation Third-generation activity theory is the application of Activity Systems Analysis (ASA) in developmental research where investigators take a participatory and interventionist role in the participants' activities and change their experiences.
Engeström's now famous diagram, or basic activity triangle, – (which adds rules/norms, intersubjective community relations, and division of labor, as well as multiple activity systems sharing an object) – has become the principal third-generation model among the research community for analysing individuals and groups. Engeström summarizes the current state of CHAT with five principles:
- The activity system as primary unit of analysis: the basic third-generation model includes minimally two interacting activity systems.
- Multi-voicedness: an activity system is always a community of multiple points of views, traditions and interests.
- Historicity: activity systems take shape and get transformed over long stretches of time. Potentials and problems can only be understood against the background of their own histories.
- The central role of contradictions as sources of change and development.
- Activity Systems' possibility for expansive transformation (cycles of qualitative transformation): when object and motive are reconceptualized a radically wider horizon opens up.
Most often, learning technologists have used third-generation CHAT as a guiding theoretical framework to understand how technologies are adopted, adapted, and configured through use in complex social situations.
Informing research and practice
From the 1960s onwards, starting in the global South, and independently from the mainstream European developmental line, Leontiev's core Objective Activity concept has been used in a Social Development context. In the Organization Workshop's Large Group Capacitation-method, objective/ized activity acts as the core causal principle which postulates that, in order to change the mind-set of (large groups of) individuals, we need to start with changes to their activity – and/or to the object that "suggests" their activity. In Leontievian vein, the Organization Workshop is all about semiotically-mediated activities through which (large groups of) participants learn how to manage themselves and the organizations they create to perform tasks that require a complex division of labor.
CHAT-inspired research and practice since the 1980s
Especially over the last two decades, CHAT has offered a theoretical lens informing research and practice, in that it posits that learning takes place through collective activities that are purposefully conducted around a common object. Starting from the premise that learning is a social and cultural process that draws on historical achievements, its systems thinking-based perspectives allow insights into the real world.
Change Laboratory (CL)
Change Laboratory (CL) is a CHAT-based method for formative intervention in activity systems and for research on their developmental potential as well as processes of expansive learning, collaborative concept-formation, and transformation of practices, elaborated in the mid-nineties by the Finnish Developmental Work Research (DWR) group. The CL method relies on collaboration between the practitioners of the activity being analyzed and transformed, and academic researchers or interventionists supporting and facilitating collective developmental processes. On the basis of Engeström's theory of expansive learning, the foundation of an interventionist research approach at DWR was elaborated in the 1980s, and developed further in the 1990s as an intervention method now known as Change Laboratory. CL interventions are used both to study the conditions of change and to help those working in organizations to develop their work, drawing on participant observation, interviews, and the recording and videotaping of meetings and work practices. Initially, with the help of an external interventionist, the first stimulus that is beyond the actors' present capabilities, is produced in the Change Laboratory by collecting first-hand empirical data on problematic aspects of the activity. This data may comprise difficult client cases, descriptions of recurrent disturbances and ruptures in the process of producing the outcome. Steps in the CL process: Step 1 Questioning; Step 2 Analysis; Step 3 Modeling; Step 4 Examining; Step 5 Implementing; Step 6 Reflecting; Step 7 Consolidating. These seven action steps for increased understanding are described by Engeström as expansive learning, or phases of an outwardly expanding spiral, while multiple kinds of actions can take place at any time. The phases of the model simply allow for the identification and analysis of the dominant action type during a particular period of time. These learning actions are provoked by contradictions. CL is used by a team or work unit or by collaborating partners across the organizational boundaries, initially with the help of an interventionist-researcher. The CL method has been used in agricultural contexts, educational and media settings, health care and learning support.
Activity systems analysis (ASA)
Activity systems analysis is a CHAT-based method, discussed in Engeström 1987/Engeström 1993 and in Cole & Engeström, 1993, for understanding human activity in real-world situations with data collection, analysis, and presentation methods that address the complexities of human activity in natural settings aimed to advance both theory and practice. It is based on Vygotsky's concept of mediated action and captures human activity in a triangle model that includes the subject, tool, object, rule, community, and division of labor. Subjects are participants in an activity, motivated toward a purpose or attainment of the object. The object can be the goal of an activity, the subject's motives for participating in an activity, and the material products that subjects gain through an activity. Tools are socially shared cognitive and/or material resources that subjects can use to attain the object. Informal or formal rules regulate the subject's participation while engaging in an activity. The community is the group or organization to which subjects belong. The division of labor is the shared participation responsibilities in the activity determined by the community. Finally, the outcome is the consequences that the subject faces because of his/her actions driven by the object. These outcomes can encourage or hinder the subject's participation in future activities. In Part 2 of her video "Using Activity Theory to understand human behaviour", van der Riet 2010 shows how activity theory is applied to the problem of behavior change and HIV and AIDs (in South Africa). The video focuses on sexual activity as the activity of the system, and illustrates how an Activity System Analysis, through a historical and current account of the activity, provides a way of understanding lack of behavior change in response to HIV and AIDS. In her eponymous book "Activity Systems Analysis Methods.", Yamagata-Lynch 2010, p. 37ss describes seven ASA case studies which fall "into four distinct work clusters. These clusters include works that help (a) understand developmental work research (DWR), (b) describe real-world learning situations, (c) design human computer interaction systems, and (d) plan solutions to complicated work-based problems". Other uses of ASA: Summarizing organizational change; Identifying guidelines for designing Constructivist Learning Environments; Identifying contradictions and tensions that shape developments in educational settings; Demonstrating historical developments in organizational learning., and Evaluating K–12 school and university partnership relations.
Human–computer interaction (HCI)
When HCI first appeared on the scene as a separate field of study in the early 1980s, HCI adopted the information processing paradigm of computer science as the model for human cognition, predicated on prevalent cognitive psychology criteria, which, it was soon realized, failed to account for individuals' interests, needs and frustrations involved, nor of the fact that the technology critically depends on complex, meaningful, social, and dynamic contexts in which it takes place. Adopting a CHAT theoretical perspective had important implications for understanding how people use interactive technologies: the realization, for example, that a computer is typically an object of activity rather than a mediating artefact means that people interact with the world through computers, rather than with computer 'objects'. A number of diverse methodologies outlining techniques for human–computer interaction design have emerged since the rise of the field in the 1980s. Most design methodologies stem from a model for how users, designers, and technical systems interact. Bonnie Nardi produced the – hitherto – most applicable collection of activity theoretical HCI literature.
Systemic-structural activity theory (SSAT)
SSAT builds on the general theory of activity to provide an effective basis for both experimental and analytic methods of studying human performance, using carefully developed units of analysis SSAT approaches cognition both as a process and as a structured system of actions or other functional information-processing units, developing a taxonomy of human activity through the use of structurally organized units of analysis. The systemic-structural approach to activity design and analysis involves identifying the available means of work, tools and objects; their relationship with possible strategies of work activity; existing constraints on activity performance; social norms and rules; possible stages of object transformation; and changes in the structure of activity during skills acquisition.This method is demonstrated by applying it to the study of a human–computer interaction task.
Evolving field of study
The strengths of CHAT are grounded both in its long historical roots and extensive contemporary use: it offers a philosophical and cross-disciplinary perspective for analyzing diverse human practices as development processes in which both individual and social levels are interlinked, as well as interactions and boundary-crossings. between activity systems More recently, the focus of studies of organizational learning has increasingly shifted away from learning within single organizations or organizational units, towards learning in multi‐organizational or inter‐organizational networks, as well as to the exploration and better understanding of interactions in their social context, multiple contexts and cultures, and the dynamics and development of particular activities. This shift has generated, among others, such concepts as "networks of learning" and "networked learning", coworking, and knotworking. Industry of late has seen strong growth in nonemployer firms (NEFs), thanks to changes in long-term employment trends and developments in mobile technology which have led to more work from remote locations, more distance collaboration, and more work organized around temporary projects. Developments such as these and new forms of social production or commons-based peer production, such as e.g. open source development and cultural production in peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, have become a key focus in Engeström's more recent work.
The rapid rise of new forms of activities characterised by web-based social and participatory practices, , phenomena such as distributed workforce and the dominance of knowledge work, prompts a rethink of the third-generation model, bringing with it the need, as suggested by Engestrōm, for a new, fourth generation activity system model. which activity theorists indeed have been working on in recent years. In fourth generation CHAT, the object(ive) will typically comprise multiple perspectives and contexts and be inherently transient; collaborations between actors, too, are likely to be temporary, with multiple boundary crossings between interrelated activities. Fourth-generation activity theorists have specifically developed activity theory to better accommodate Castells's (and others') insights into how work organization has shifted in the network society: they hence will focus less on the workings of individual activity systems (often represented by triangles) and more on the interactions across activity systems functioning in networks. The 2017 ISCAR congress (August, Quebec City) has the following theme: ''Taking a 360° view of the landscape of cultural-historical activity research:The state of our scholarship in practice.
- Activity theory
- Aleksei N. Leontiev
- Bonnie Nardi
- Community of practice
- Cultural-historical psychology
- Expansive learning
- Kharkov School of Psychology
- Knowledge sharing
- Large-group capacitation
- Legitimate peripheral participation
- Lev Vygotsky
- Organizational learning
- Organization workshop
- Social constructivism (learning theory)
- Vygotsky Circle
- Zone of proximal development
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- Lave, Jean; Wenger, Etienne (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-42374-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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- Leontiev, Aleksei N (1978). Activity, Consciousness, and Personality. Prentice-Hall – Translated by Marie J. Hall. OCLC 3770804.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Leontiev, A.N. (1979). The problem of Activity in Psychology (PDF). Armonk, NY. Sharpe.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) in: Wertsch 1981, p. 37–78
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- Leontiev, A.N. (1984). Actividad, Conciencia y Personalidad (Spanish). Cartago Ediciones, México.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Leontiev, Alexei, Nicolayevich (2009). The Development of Mind. Erythrós Press, Kettering, OH.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Luria, A.R. (1976). The Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-13731-8.
- Miettinen, Riejo (2005). "Object of Activity and Individual Motivation". Mind, Culture, and Activity. 12: 52–69. doi:10.1207/s15327884mca1201_5. S2CID 145476624.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Morais, Clodomir, Santos de (1979). Apuntes de teoría de la organización – Notes on theory of Organization (in Spanish). Managua, Nicaragua: PNUD, OIT-NIC/79/010, COPERA Project.
- Nardi, B.A., ed. (1996). Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.USA. ISBN 978-0262140584.
Nardi, B.A. (ed.), Context andConsciousness: Activity Theory and Human-.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Nussbaumer, Doris (2012). "An Overview of cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) use in classroom research 2000 to 2009". Educational Review. 64: 37–55. doi:10.1080/00131911.2011.553947. S2CID 143592550.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Nygård, Kathrine (2010). Introduction to Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) (PDF). INTERMEDIA Univ. of Oslo.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Roth, Wolff-Michael (2004). "Activity Theory and Education: An Introduction". Mind, Culture, and Activity. 11: 1–8. doi:10.1207/s15327884mca1101_1. S2CID 144857387.
- Roth, Wolff-Michael; Lee, Yew-Lin (2007). ""Vygotsky's Neglected Legacy": Cultural-Historical Activity Theory". Review of Educational Research. 77 (2): 186–232. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.584.7175. doi:10.3102/0034654306298273. S2CID 12099538.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Roth, Wolff Michael; Radford, Luis; Lacroix, Lionel (2012). "Working With Cultural-Historical Activity Theory". Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research. 13 (2).CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Sannino, Annalisa; Daniels, Harry; Gutiérrez, Kris D. (2009). Learning and Expanding with Activity Theory (PDF). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521758109.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Soegaard, Mads & Dam; Friis, Rikke, eds. (2013). The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed. The Interaction Design Foundation, Aarhus, Denmark.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Spinuzzi, Clay (2011). Losing by Expanding:Coralling the Runaway Object. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, October 2011; vol. 25, 4: pp. 449–486.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Spinuzzi, Clay (2012). "Working Alone Together: Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity". Journal of Business and Technical Communication. 26 (4): 399–441. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.679.2427. doi:10.1177/1050651912444070. S2CID 110796881.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Spinuzzi, Clay (2014). "How Nonemployer Firms Stage-Manage Ad Hoc Collaboration: An Activity Theory Analysis". Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). 8 (2): 63–93. doi:10.1080/10572252.2013.797334. hdl:2152/28329. S2CID 143660330.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Spinuzzi, Clay (2018). "From Superhumans to Supermediators: Locating the extraordinary in CHAT". In Yasnitsky, Anton (ed.). Questioning Vygotsky's Legacy: Scientific Psychology or Heroic Cult. New York & London: Routledge. pp. 131–160. doi:10.4324/9781351060639. ISBN 9781351060639.
- Stetsenko, Anna (2005). Confronting Analytical Dilemmas for Understanding Complex Human Interactions in Design-Based Research From a Cultural–Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) Framework (PDF). Mind, Culture & Activity, 12/1. pp. 70–88.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- UNESCO, ibedata (1979). Terminology of Adult Education (trilingual en-es-fr). Paris, Fr.: UNESCO. ISBN 978-9230016838.
- van der Riet, Mary (2010). Using Activity Theory to Understand Human Behaviour – Part II. University of KwaZulu Natal. South Africa.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Virkkunen, Jaakko (2006). Dilemmas in building shared transformative agency (PDF). Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research Helsinki/ Activités revue électronique.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
- Vygotsky, Lev S. (1978). Mind in Society: the Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-67457629-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Wertsch, James (1981). The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology. M.E.Sharpe. ISBN 9780873321587.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Yamagata-Lynch, Lisa C. (2007). "Confronting Analytical Dilemmas for Understanding Complex Human Interactions in Design-Based Research from a Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) Framework". Journal of the Learning Sciences. 16 (4): 451–484. doi:10.1080/10508400701524777. S2CID 58183848.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Yamagata-Lynch, Lisa C. (2010). Activity Systems Analysis Methods. Understanding Complex Learning Environments. Springer. ISBN 978-1-4419-6320-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Yamazumi, K (17 August 2009). Expansive Agency in Multi-Activity Collaboration. in:Sannino, Daniels & Gutiérrez 2009, p. 212. ISBN 9780521760751.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Notes and references
- Or activity theory (AT), as it is also known. Kaptelinin & Nardi 2006, p. 36
- Nardi 1996, p. 7 notes that activity theory is a "a research framework and set of perspectives", not a hard and fast methodology or strongly predictive single theory.
- Daniels et al. 2010
- Kaptelinin & Nardi 2006
- Roth & Lee 2007, p. 192: "CHAT was conceived of as a concrete psychology immersed in everyday praxis": "consciousness is located in everyday practice: you are what you do" Nardi 1996, p. 7
- In the 1920s till the mid 1930s.
- Yasnitsky, A. (2018). Vygotsky: An Intellectual Biography. London and New York: Routledge BOOK PREVIEW
- Leontiev may at times also be spelled as Leontyev and Leont'ev.
- Engeström, Miettinen & Punamäki 1999
- It is well known that the Soviet philosopher of psychology S.L.Rubinshtein, independently of Vygotsky's work, developed his own variant of activity as a philosophical and psychological theory. re: V. Lektorsky in Engeström, Miettinen & Punamäki 1999, p. 66;Brushlinskii, A. V. 2004 Archived 1 September 2014 at Archive.today. Engeström would be happy to also include [in the account of A.T.] reference to Luria, Zinchenko (father, Peter, and son, Vladimir), Elkonin, Davydov and Brushlinsky (as well as to various other figures who have influenced activity-theory in the West, such as Dewey, Mead, and Wittgenstein). Bakhurst 2009, p. 201
- Political restrictions in its country of origin (Stalinist Russia) had suppressed the cultural-historical psychology – also known as the Vygotsky School – in the mid-thirties. This meant that the core "activity" concept remained confined to the field of psychology, although Blunden 2011, in "An Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity", argues that it has the potential to evolve as a genuinely interdisciplinary concept. See also Nussbaumer 2012, p. 37
- Vygotsky 1978
- Kaptelinin & Nardi 2006 Introduction
- CHAT explicitly incorporates the mediation of activities by society, which means that it can be used to link concerns normally independently examined by sociologists of education and (social) psychologists. Roth & Lee 2007 and Roth, Radford & Lacroix 2012
- Leontiev 1978
- Activity Theory in a Nutshell. Ch 3 in Kaptelinin & Nardi 2006.
- Cole 1996, p. 105
- The activity theoretical framework, as recently as the 1990s, was still referred to as "one of the best kept secrets of academia" Engeström 1993, p. 64; Roth & Lee 2007, p. 188
- Prominent among those currents are Cultural-historical psychology, in use since the 1930s, and Activity theory in use since the 1960s.
- Stetsenko 2005
- Yamagata-Lynch 2007
- In particular Goethe's romantic science Archived 3 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine ideas which were later taken up by Hegel. The meaning of "activity" in the conceptual sense is rooted in the German word Tätigkeit. Hegel is considered the first philosopher to point out that the development of humans' knowledge is not spiritually given, but developed in history from living and working in natural environments.
- Blunden, A. 2012, "The Origins of Cultural Historical Activity Theory" Archived 27 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine ; Blunden, A. Genealogy of CHAT (graph).
- Blunden 2011, p. 18
- Vygotsky 1978, p. 40
- "A human individual never reacts directly (or merely with inborn reflexes) to the environment. Consciousness and conscious action must be the central object of study for psychological science, since it is this that distinguishes humanity. The relationship between human agent and objects of environment is mediated by cultural means, tools and signs. Human action has a tripartite structure."(CRADLE 2009)
- At the beginning of and into the mid-20th century, Psychology was dominated by schools of thought that ignored real life processes in psychological functioning (e.g. Gestalt psychology, Behaviorism and Cognitivism (psychology)).
- For a history of what came to be known as the Kharkov School of Psychology re: Yasnitsky & Ferrari, 2008 in: History of Psychology Vol. 11, No. 2, 101–121.
- Veer and Valsiner, 1991
- When Stalin succeeded Lenin in 1924, the Soviet Union gradually turned into a dictatorship. This led to 30 years of stagnation during which intellectuals and academics who deviated from the Stalinist ideology were politically attacked for their work and eventually eliminated. Vygotsky's colleagues had to flee to Ukraine for safety. Sannino & Sutter, 2011 p. 563. Stalin died in 1953 and restrictions were subsequently gradually relaxed.
- Fraser, J.; Yasnitsky, A. (2015). "Deconstructing Vygotsky's Victimization Narrative: A Re-Examination of the "Stalinist Suppression" of Vygotskian Theory" (PDF). History of the Human Sciences. 28: 128–153. doi:10.1177/0952695114560200. S2CID 4934828.
- Wertsch 1981
- In the late 1970s, an entire generation of Soviet psychologists died: Luria and Meshcheryakov died in 1977, Leontiev and Ilienkov in 1979. (Ilienkov by his own hand. – see: Blunden, 2009 "Soviet Cultural Psychology" Archived 8 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine).
- e.g.: Luria's "The Making of Mind" translated by Cole.
- Blunden, 2009 Archived 8 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
- The earliest books translated into English are Lev Vygotsky's "Thought and Language"(1962), Luria's "Cognitive Development" (1976), Leontiev's Activity, Consciousness, and Personality (1978) and Wertsch's "The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology" (1981).
- "Historians may come to identify in Michael Cole the single most influential person for acquainting Western scholars to this tradition, both through his writings and through the mediating role of his Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition (LCHC) at the University of California, San Diego" (Roth & Lee 2007, p. 190).
- Other notable CHAT specialists: Jaan Valsiner (Estonian – Clark University), René van der Veer (Dutch – Leiden University) and Dorothy (Dot) Robbins Archived 10 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine (German– University of Central Missouri)
- Other CHAT-based centers of research and learning: Oxford Center for Sociocultural and Activity Theory Research Archived 5 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine (OSAT), International Society o Cultural and Activity Research(ISCAR), LCSD: Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition (LCHC), Kansai University (Japan) CHAT: Center for Activity Theory Archived 28 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine. BERA British Educational Research Association[permanent dead link] (CHAT Special Interest Group).
- History of ISCRAT Archived 12 January 2005 at the Wayback Machine(International Standing Conference for Research, on Activity Theory)
- Carl Shames, 1989 "On a significant meeting in West Berlin"
- now known as CRADLE, after the merger with the Centre for Research on Networked Learning and Knowledge Building at Helsinki
- (Selective) list of other CHAT-related research groups and centers: ATUL Archived 14 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine (Activity Theory Usability Laboratory at the University of Wollongong Australia – "Organisations and communities of the Knowledge Age"). ; CHAT Archived 28 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine (Center for Human Activity Theory, Kansai University, Japan – "Links with Helsinki, Bath and California"). ; OSAT Archived 5 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine (Oxford Centre for Sociocultural and Activity Theory Research at Oxford University UK. – "Learning across the age range".) ; LIW (Learning in and for Interagency Working at the University of Bath, UK – "Effective multiagency working".
- For other scholars/practitioners involved with CHAT see: "People in Cultural-Historical Activity Theory".
- Engeström 1987
- 'Generations' does not imply a 'better-worse' value judgment. Each illustrates a different aspect and exists in its own right.
- Engeström 2009b
- Yamagata-Lynch 2010
- Nussbaumer 2012
- Engeström 1999a
- Bakhurst 2009, p. 199
- An activity system is a collective in which one or more human actors labor to cyclically transform an object (a raw material or problem) in order to repeatedly achieve an outcome (a desired result). Spinuzzi 2012, p. 5
- Yamagata-Lynch, Lisa C.; Haudenschild, Michael T. (2009). "Using activity systems analysis to identify inner contradictions in teacher professional development". Teaching and Teacher Education. 25 (3): 507–517. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2008.09.014.; Engeström, 2008, "The Future of Activity Theory" p. 6.
- Akkerman & Bakker 2011
- Vygotsky saw the past and present as fused within the individual, that the "present is seen in the light of history" (Vygotsky 1978).
- These artifacts, which can be physical tools, such as hammers, ovens, or computers; cultural artifacts, including language; or theoretical artifacts, like algebra or feminist standpoint theory, are created and/or transformed in the course of an activity, which, in the first generation framework, happens at the individual level.
- Wells, G (2007). "Semiotic Mediation, Dialogue and Construction of Knowledge" (PDF). Human Development. 50 (5): 244–274. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.506.7763. doi:10.1159/000106414. S2CID 15984672.
- Vygotsky 1978, p. 40: this original diagram – (in which "X" stands for 'mediation') – has subsequently been reformulated by, among others, the original triangle being inverted.
- Engeström 2001, p. 134. Vygotsky's triangular representation of mediated action attempts to explain human consciousness development in a manner that did not rely on dualistic stimulus–response (S-R) associations.
- "the dialectic relationship between subject and object as a fundamental unit of analysis for all human endeavour" Hasan 2007, p. 3.
- For Vygotsky's idea of a "complex, mediated act" commonly expressed as a triad of subject, object and mediating artifact, see Vygotsky 1978, p. 40.
- Vygotsky makes the point that "man himself determines his behavior with the help of an artificially created stimulus means." (as cited by Norris Minick in Vol I of "The Collected Works of L.S. Vygotsky", 1987, PLENUM – New York/London, p.21);
- Mediation is perhaps the key theoretical idea behind activity: we don't just use tools and symbol systems; instead, our everyday lived experience is significantly mediated and intermediated by our use of tools and symbols systems. Activity theory helps frame, therefore, our understanding of such mediation.
- In Vygotskyan psychology internalization is a theoretical concept that explains how individuals process what they learned through mediated action in the development of individual consciousness.
- Vygotsky 1978, p. 86 – Restated, ZPD is the theoretical range of what a performer can do with competent peers and assistance, as compared with what can be accomplished on one's own(Andersson 2013, p. 21; DeVane & Squire in Jonassen & Land 2012, p. 245).
- see for example Collaborative learning.
- Leontiev, (variously spelled Leont'ev/Leontyev) was, with Alexander Luria, one of Vygotsky's pupils in the late 1920s and 1930s. After Vygotsky's death, Leontyev became the principal theoretical contributor within the Vygotskian social-historical school.
- Leontiev's breakthrough was twofold: first he theorized activity as resulting from the confluence of a human subject, the object of his/her activity (predmet/Предмет(Russian) "the target or content of a thought or action" (Kaptelinin, 2005, p. 6), and the tools (including symbol systems) that mediate the object(ive); second, he saw activity as essentially tripartite in structure, being composed of unconscious operations on/with tools, conscious but finite actions which are goal-directed, and higher level activities which are object-oriented and driven by motives (Leontiev, at times, seems to conflate object and motive, which is potentially problematic).
- Engeström 1987 first popularized the triangular representation of the activity system in chapter 2.
- While the unit of analysis, for Vygotsky, is "individual activity" and, for Leontiev, the "collective activity system", for Jean Lave and others working around situated cognition the unit of analysis is "practice", "community of practice", and "participation". Other scholars analyze "the relationships between the individual's psychological development and the development of social systems". re: Minick in Cole, Engeström & Vasquez 1997, p. 125; Lave & Wenger 1991
- Leontiev 1979, p. 163;Engeström 1999, p. 30
- Hardman 2007
- In the second generation diagram, activity is positioned in the middle, mediation at the top, adding rules, community and division of labor at the bottom. The minimum components of an activity system are: the subject; the object; outcome; mediating instruments/tools/artifacts; rules and signs; community and division of labor.
- Leontiev 1981, p. 210–213
- Kuutti, K. in Nardi 1996, p. 30; Roth & Lee 2007; Hardman 2007; Bozalek 2014, p. 15.
- Leontiev 2009, p. 400–405 ; Blunden 2011, p. 201; Nussbaumer 2012, p. 39; DeVane & Squire in Jonassen & Land 2012, p. 247
- Engeström in Engeström, Miettinen & Punamäki 1999, p. 19
- "[Activity Theory] is not only used in Russia, where it originated, but also in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, the United States and other countries.". (Kaptelinin & Nardi 2006, p. 6)
- "Activities do not exist in isolation, they are part of a broader system of relations in which they have meaning." (Lave & Wenger 1991, p. 53.)
- Engeström 2001
- Engeström 2009a
- Roth & Lee 2007, p. 210
- See "Activity Systems Analysis" (ASA) section below.
- Blunden 2011, p. 3
- Engeström 2001, p. 137.
- Nygård 2010
- Jonassen & Land 2012, p. 242
- Hardman 2007 Introduction: "A flurry of recent publications indicates that Activity Theory is proving a useful tool for studying work setting" She mentions, among others, Product design, Collaborative activity, Studies in creativity, Educational interventions. Although not as widely known in the US, Kirsten Foot mentions use of CHAT in Educational curricula development, Mental health care, Organizational processes and Public policy.
- More recently, Engeström has acknowledged that the third-generation model limited to analysing 'reasonably well-bounded' systems and that, in view of new, often web-based participatory practices a rethink is needed. (See "Fourth Generation" below.)
- Erik Axel
- From the original Предметная деятельность(Russian) (predmetnaja-dejatelnost) and Gegenständliche Tätigkeit(German), commonly translated as "Actividad Objetivada"(Spanish) – see: Leontiev 1984, p. 66, and as Objective Activity in English: e.g. Chapter 3 of Leontiev 1978, p. 50ss, Wertsch 1981, p. 46ss and Miettinen 2005 Abstract:'Leontiev's concept of practice or Objective Activity'. (For "Objectivis/zed", see e.g.: Leontiev 1978, p. 116: "Activity's secondary objectivised existence" and Leontiev 1977, p. 404: "the mental image objectivised in its product"). "Objectivized Activity" is perceived to be closer to both the letter and the spirit of dynamic, interactive, dialectical weighting of Leontiev's original predmetnaya dyaetel'nost.
- "Laboratories on Objectivized Activity" in: Labra & Labra 2012; Labra 1992: "Actividad Objetivada"(Spanish) p. 53; "de Morais' antecedent thought on Objectivised Activity" in Andersson 2004, p. 221 ss; Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 118 & note No. 2.
- Andersson 2013, p. 5ss (Pre booklaunch chapter from "Unbounded Organization: Embracing the Societal Enterprise").
- Many of whom, historically, unemployed or underemployed persons with 'Lower Levels of Literacy' (LLLs)
- Andersson 2013, p. 31
- Mutizwa Mukute, M.& Lotz-Sisitka, H. 2012 "Working With Cultural-Historical Activity Theory and Critical Realism to Investigate and Expand Farmer Learning in Southern Africa". Rhodes University. SA.
- Foot 2014
- In 1997, according to Santally et al., 2014, p. 3
- Sannino, 2008 "From Talk to Action: Experiencing Interlocution in Developmental Interventions" Sannino sees in Yves Clot's Vygotsky-inspired Clinic of Activity (Clinique de l'Activité) a potentially complementary – (to CL, that is) – intervention method. (See also Clot, Yves, 2009 Clinic of Activity: The Dialogue as Instrument in Sannino, Daniels & Gutiérrez 2009).
- Which became CRADLE in 2008.
- Engeström 2005a
- Expansive learning is described by Engeström 2009a, p. 130 as a process which "begins with individual subjects questioning accepted practices, and it gradually expands into a collective movement or institution. – The theory enables a "longitudinal and rich analysis of inter-organizational learning  by using observational as well as interventionist designs in studies of work and organization". (Engeström & Kerosuo, 2007)
- Engeström & Virkkunen 1996
- CRADLE 2009
- Virkkunen, Makinen & Lintula in Daniels et al. 2010, p. 15
- Engeström & Sannino 2009
- Engeström. Y. in: Engeström, Miettinen & Punamäki 1999, p. 384
- Contradictions are not simply conflicts or problems, but are "historically accumulating structural tensions within and between activity systems" (Engeström 2001, p. 137).
- e.g. Mukute, M., 2009 Archived 28 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine
- Teräs, M., 2007
- Kerosuo, H., 2006
- Engeström, 2011
- Santally et al., 2014
- Other examples, among others, in Daniels et al. 2010
- Which uses Activity Theory concepts such as mediated action, goal-directed activity and dialectical relationship between the organism and the environment.
- Cole, M., & Engeström, Y. (1993). "A cultural–historical approach to distributed cognition" in: Salomon, G (Ed), 1993.
- Yamagata "Activity Systems Analysis Methods
- Engeström 1993
- Jonassen, David H.; Rohrer-Murphy, Lucia (1999). "Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments". Educational Technology Research and Development. 47 (1): 61–79. doi:10.1007/BF02299477. S2CID 62209169.
- Yamagata-Lynch, Lisa C. (2003). "Using Activity Theory as an Analytic Lens for Examining Technology Professional Development in Schools". Mind, Culture, and Activity. 10 (2): 100–119. doi:10.1207/S1532-7884MCA1002_2. S2CID 143340720.
- Yamagata-Lynch, Lisa C.; Smaldino, Sharon (2007). "Using activity theory to evaluate and improve K-12 school and university partnerships". Evaluation and Program Planning. 30 (4): 364–380. doi:10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2007.08.003. PMID 17881055. – For ASA and (computer-based) mathematics education see e.g. Hardman 2007
- Human-Computer Interaction – the study, planning, design and uses of the interfaces between people (users) and computers.
- Kuutti in Nardi 1996, p. 17
- Kaptelinin & Nardi 2006, p. 15
- Kaptelinin, Victor "Activity Theory" in Soegaard & Friis 2013
- Bødker, S. "A Human Activity approach to User Interfaces" in: Human-Computer Interaction, 1989, Volume 4, pp.171–195
- Nardi 1996
- Bedny, G.; Karwowski, W. (2003). "A Systemic-Structural Activity Approach to the Design of Human–Computer Interaction Tasks". International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. 16 (2): 235–260. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.151.8384. doi:10.1207/s15327590ijhc1602_06. S2CID 16212346.
- Bedny, Karwowski & Bedny 2014; Bedny, I. S.; Karwowski, W.; Bedny, G. Z. (2010). "A Method of Human Reliability Assessment Based on Systemic-Structural Activity Theory". International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. 26 (4): 377–402. doi:10.1080/10447310903575507. S2CID 32705523.; Bedny & Karwowski 2006;
- Crossing boundaries involves "encountering difference, entering into  unfamiliar territory, requiring cognitive retooling". Tuomi-Grōhn & Engeström, 2003, "New Perspectives on Transfer and Boundary Crossing" p.4.
- Engeström 1999c
- Kuutti, N. Ch 2 in Nardi 1996
- Miettinen in Engeström, Miettinen & Punamäki 1999, p. 325 "Transcending traditional school learning: Teachers' work and networks of learning."
- Wikipedia, launched in 2001, is one of the most successful instances of networked learning to date.
- Engeström & Keresuo 2007
- Sannino, Daniels & Gutiérrez 2009
- Engeström 2004
- Spinuzzi 2011; Spinuzzi 2012
- see e.g. Castells 2001
- Spinuzzi 2014
- Software, the source code of which is available for modification or enhancement by anyone.
- Social production processes are simultaneous, multi-directional and often reciprocal. The density and complexity of these processes blur distinctions between process and structure. The object of the activity is unstable, resists control and standardization, and requires rapid integration of expertise from various locations and traditions. (Engeström in Sannino, Daniels & Gutiérrez 2009, p. 309)
- see e.g. Engeström in: Hughes, Jewson & Unwin, 2007 Ch. 4.
- see e.g. Spinuzzi, 2010: shift from bureaucracies (1970s), to adhocracies (1990s), to all-edge adhocracies (2010s), in: "All Edge: Understanding the New Workplace Networks".
- By 2008, Engeström's examples become 'less bounded': runaway objects – or 'partially shared large-scale objects in complex, distributed multi-activity fields'-, wildfire, and mycorrhizae-like activities, are examples of this shift. (Engeström 2009b; Engeström in Sannino, Daniels & Gutiérrez 2009, p. 310; Spinuzzi 2011).
- aka "4GAT" e.g. Spinuzzi 2014
- Sannino, Daniels & Gutiérrez 2009, p. 310 Ch. 19 "The Future of Activity Theory: A rough draft."
- Fourth-Generation (4GAT) analysis should allow better examination of how activity networks interact and interpenetrate, and, at times, contradict each other. People "working alone together" may illuminate other examples of distributed, interorganizational, collaborative knowledge work.Spinuzzi 2014
- Yamazumi 2009
- For an example of a fourth generation analytical diagram see Spinuzzi 2014, p. 104
- Blunden, A. The Origins of CHAT.
- Blunden, A. Concepts of CHAT Action, Behaviour and Consciousness (ppts).
- Blunden, A. Genealogy of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (chart)
- Boardman, D. Activity Theory
- CRADLE Helsinki
- Interview with Professor Yrjö Engeström: part 1
- Interview with Professor Yrjö Engeström: part 2
- Introduction to Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) Nygård
- Leontiev works in English
- Robertson, I. An Introduction to Activity Theory
- Spinuzzi, Clay "All Edge: Understanding the New Workplace Networks" (Powerpoint Presentation)
- The Future of Activity Theory
- van der Riet Part I Introduction to Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT)
- van der Riet Part II Using Activity to Understand Human Behaviour
- Vygotsky archive
- Yamagata "Activity Systems Analysis in Design Research". (Powerpoint Presentation)
- What is Activity Theory?