Do I get what AT is?

I have tried to come up with something from our blog fodder this week. I use “something” instead of the truth, “nothing” , to avoid being beat by a hockey stick, although the “something” is a mess.

Activity Theory is object-oriented. People work with a tool to achieve the goal in a social context. There is an arguable point Dave addressed in class: not every activity has a goal. We might buy and use a design without any thoughts.  Designers would have difficulties in observing and inducing a behavior pattern or a specific goal because the goal of using the design is dynamic, various and instinct.  Therefore, it is possible that users would have different actions and operations when using the design. Even worse, they would face different breakdowns. These increase problems need to be concerned during design process.

Another reflection I have about AT is a question to “the social context” discussed in AT. To me, the social context seems to limit to mention a group of people with a same goal. People in the group are like robots. They use tools and behave to achieve “the goal.” I did not see “human beings” in AT. I only saw the analysis of activities and tools. I believe these information will benefit designers when they are doing their work. However, are there something more? Maybe I do not get the whole picture of AT. I really wonder if the experiences, lifeworlds, horizons and the relationship and interaction between people are also the factors should be considered when exploring activities and tools.

 When Dourish explored where the action is, he studied what behinds the action. The motives, values people have when they percept, interpret and react to the world. It seems to me that AT focus on the external thing although the theory does include the discussion of internalisation and externalisation.

1 Comment

  1. jeffreybardzell

    Yenning–I like the distinction you are drawing between “social context” understood as a complex socio-cultural context in which we are immersed, and which is too complex to model, and the “context” talked about in AT, which seems to focus on a relatively easy to describe work context (i.e, “the following 5 employees are working on X”). That is a limitation of the AT model and you have offered a good criticism.

    The question I will turn back to you (and everyone else) is this: What is the SIGNIFICANCE of AT’s rather narrow notion of “context”? How does that help AT? How does that hurt AT?


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