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Leeds University Business School Principles of Activity Theory: Relevance to Information Behaviour and Learning Mira Slavova AIMTech Research Group, LUBS.

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Presentation on theme: "Leeds University Business School Principles of Activity Theory: Relevance to Information Behaviour and Learning Mira Slavova AIMTech Research Group, LUBS."— Presentation transcript:

1 Leeds University Business School Principles of Activity Theory: Relevance to Information Behaviour and Learning Mira Slavova AIMTech Research Group, LUBS Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 12 – 1 pm

2 Variety of disciplines: HCI Nardi and Kaptelinin (1996, 2006) Cognitive Science Cole and Scribner (1974) Education Lave and Wenger (1991) Cultural Psychology Cole (1996) Management Information Systems, Developmental Work Research Engestrom (1987, 1990) Worldwide: UK & Ireland U of Bath, U of Birmingham, U of Bristol, U of Limerick USA UCSD, U of Miami Australia U of Wollongong Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark U of Helsinki, U of Umea, U of Oslo, U of Bergen, U of Aarhus Russia & Ukraine Moscow State University Kharkov National University Use of Activity Theory

3 Derived in areas involving complex systems: Collaborative uses of technology e.g. multi-agency cooperation at incident grounds Varied virtual and physical contexts e.g. use of mobile technologies Expanded set of activities Technology beyond work, at home and in everyday life Human experience in general Not only cognition but the totality of action, reflection and emotion. Value from Activity Theory

4 Activity Theory and Russian Cultural Psychology. CHAT: cultural-historical activity theory. After the revolution of 1917 demand for: Psychology taking into account the social nature of men (as opposed to bourgeois individualistic psychology) Psychology based on dialectical materialism i.e. Primacy of matter Dialectical logic Lev Vygotsky ( ) Aleksei Leontiev ( ) Origins

5 Unity of consciousness and activity The human mind is bourne in the interaction with the world. It emerges and develops in order to make interaction more successful. Evolutionary origins of the mind as an organ. Social nature and cultural determination of mind Applies to both poles of the interaction. The human subject is social, shaped by culture, influenced by language, acting with or through other people in organizations, groups communities. The world itself is social. The entities people deal with are other people and culturally produced artifacts. Interaction between human beings and the world is understood in terms of culture and society. Ideas: Russian Cultural Psychology 1920s – 1930s

6 Within a single function there are internal and external components Internalization/Externalization is redistribution of internal and external components within a function (not elimination of external/internal processes) Stages of restructuring: No mediation External mediation Internal mediation Natural psychological functions Unmediated functions such as mental ability and perception which develop as a result of practice, maturation or imitation. Common for humans and animals. Higher psychological functions Mediated processes, instrumental acts. Result from the restructuring of natural psychological functions in a cultural environment. Mediating Artifacts physical artifacts mediating external activities (e.g. art, maps, diagrams) signs intended to help people affect others or themselves (e.g. language, numeric systems, algebraic notation) Vygotsky: Internal-External

7 Internalization is the process during which phenomena external to the subject (physical or social) become individual and internal. Externalization is the process during which phenomena internal to the subject become collective and external. Individuals and collectives are two poles of a single individual-collective dimension. The two dimensions internal-external and individual- collective are independent: memorizing a map for driving (alone) memorizing music for playing in an orchestra Vygotsky: Individual-Collective

8 Historical account of the evolution of the mind as an organ, the variety of mental phenomena, the psyche. Needed a concept allowing for evolutionary explanations e.g. life. Organisms are orientated to the environment Responsiveness: respond to stimuli producing direct biological effects Sensitivity: respond to signals i.e. stimuli producing indirect biological effects Stages of problem-solving (development of mind): Sensory (fish) Perceptual (animals) Intelligence: effectiveness, fast learning, high transfer (apes, humans) The notion of activity is used to explain the transition from a pre-mental sensory responses (not mediated by a representation of objective reality), to problem-solving mediated by objective reality. Leontiev: Activity and the Development of Mind

9 Within activity mental and non-mental phenomena can be defined and differentiated. Purposeful activity is the basic unit of analysis. Need. Objectified motive. Primacy of activity over the subject and the object. Analysis of activity allows understanding both. Hierarchical Structure: Activity motive Action goal Operation instrumental constraints Structure of Activity

10 Triadic Nature of Activity Mediating artifacts. Tools. Instruments. Monistic vision. Cartesian separation is overcome. Subject Object Tool

11 Leontiev: Division of Labour When a person participates in a socially distributed activity, his actions are motivated by one object but directed to another. Eg. Hunt. Out of the context of the collective activity the actions of the bush beaters appear to have no meaning. Within socially distributed activities the distinction between motivating and directing objects is forced on the individual by the organization of activity. Individual activities can develop complex relationships between motives and goals. Division of labour dissociates motives and goals.

12 Engestrom Formulated an interpretation of activity theory for use in education and developmental work research. Main influences: Theories on signs and semiotic mediation (from Pierce to Popper) Theories of intersubjectivity (from Mead to Trevarthen) Russian cultural-historical psychology (from Vygotsky to Leontiev). Human activity is: Pictured in its simplest, genetically original structural form. The smallest unit that preserves the essential unity and quality behind any complex activity. Analyzable in its dynamics and transformations, in its evolution and historical change. No static or eternal models will do. Analyzable as a contextual or ecological phenomenon. Models have to concentrate on systemic relations between the individual and the outside world. Analyzable as culturally mediated phenomenon. No dyadic organism-environment models will suffice. Culturally mediated, triadic or triangular structure of human activity.

13 Engestrom Extends Leontievs analysis to the supra-individual level. Introduces community as a third component of activity Norms and division of labour as additional mediations. Norms mediate between the subject and the community. Division of labour mediates between the object and the community. Structure of activity in transition from animal to man:

14 Engestrom Structure of human activity: E.g. Hunt: bush beaters, hunters (S); animal (O); hunting (production); dividing shares (distribution); communication (exchange); eating, surviving (consumption).

15 Development & Disturbances An activity system is constantly in a state of flux induced by its internal tensions. a virtual disturbance- and innovation-producing machine, Engestrom, Y. (1987) changes occurring in the system trace its history and development. Disturbances deviations from the standardized habitual scripts of the activity. gaps, overlaps and disco-ordinations disrupting the normal flow of work. manifestations of internal tensions with the activity system. indicate that the activity system has reached a significant phase and it is on the cusp of developmental change.

16 Contradictions Contradictions: long-term frictions within the activity system which are obviated by the disturbances. The primary contradiction is the double nature of the activity. It is contained within each of the constituents of the activity system. E.g. primary contradiction within the subject. Secondary contradictions exist between the elements constituting the activity. Working relationships between these elements are conflicted or rearranged. E.g. Division of labour lagging behind possibilities offered by advanced instruments. Tertiary contradictions are reactive in nature. They emerge as a result of the introduction of culturally more advanced forms of the activity. E.g. pupil goes to school to play with his friends but parents and teachers try to make him study seriously. Quaternary contradictions between activity systems

17 Principles of Activity Theory Object-orientedness Objectives give meaning to what people do. Hierarchical structure Conscious actions Automatic operations Internalization-Externalization Internal/mental vs. external/physical individual/intrapsychological vs. collective/interpsychological Mediation Development

18 Information behaviour/practices: socially and culturally constituted ways to identify, seek, assess, use and share information Paradigms for studying information behaviour/ practice: Behavioural/ Behaviourist (Wilson) Cognitive (Dervin, Kuhlthau) Social (Chapman, Savolainen) Similar to the variety of approaches in HCI, ranging from cognitive science to ethnomethodology. Why Activity Theory? Rich enough and practical Post-cognitivist theory of interaction Information Behaviour/ Practice

19 PAMIS Research Questions Explore the relationship between policing tasks, relevant information resources, and the technological delivery mechanism. How do newly introduced mobile technologies affect the system of policing activity: Dynamically change the hierarchical structure of activity Influence underlying motivations, goals and operational constraints Impact the task-related community Affect individual roles and division of labour within police teams Challenge existing work norms

20 Contributions PAMIS aims to contribute to the existing theoretical literature on information behaviour by introducing a social constructivist approach with a strong cognitive basis (Activity Theory). Context and situation. Activity system. Technology. Mediation. Affective Response. Unity of cognition and emotion, reflection and action. Design. Implications for HCI.

21 Fieldwork Across activities: Investigation: Detective Teams Community Policing: Stop and Search Traffic Policing: Traffic Violations Supervision: Sergeants, Divisional Commanders Across Police Forces: Hampshire Lancashire Leicester Kent Metropolitan West Yorkshire

22 Stop Tools: Communication skills Examination skills PO MP Rules: Search guidelines Community: Assisting officers, CC Division of Labour: PO searches, MP co-operates Outcome: Grounds for arrest (Y/N)

23 Check Tools: PDA or Standard radio and Communication skills PO Equivocal information Rules: Requirements of IT system Community: IT support officers, CC Division of Labour: PO provides input, CC accesses PNC, IT supports systems Outcome: Grounds for Search (Y/N)

24 Search (Optional) Tools: Communication skills Examination skills PO MP Rules: Search guidelines Community: Assisting officers, CC Division of Labour: PO searches, MP co-operates Outcome: Grounds for arrest (Y/N)

25 Record Tools: PDA and printer or pen and paper form, writing skills PO Stop and Search event Rules: Required fields, presentation quality Community: PO, MP Division of Labour: PO gives reason, produces receipt, MP self-identifies Outcome: Stop and Search record

26 Follow-up Tools: Analytical tools Supervisor Stop and Search record Rules: Access to records Community: PO, Support staff Division of Labour: PO provides account, staff provide record, supervisor analyses record Outcome: Intelligence, policy, action

27 Leeds University Business School Electronic and Mobile Learning in the UK Emergency Services Mira Slavova and Alistair Norman AIMTech Research Group, LUBS Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 12 – 1 pm

28 Engestrom: Learning Activity Learning begins in the form of learning operations and learning actions embedded in other activities, above all in work. Learning activity has a systemic structure of its own: Prerequisites are school-going, work, and science/art. In the network of human activities, learning activity mediates between science/art on the one hand and work or other central productive practice on the other hand. The essence of learning activity is production of objectively, societally new activity structures (including new objects, instruments, etc.) out of actions manifesting the inner contradictions of the preceding form of the activity in question. Learning activity is mastery of expansion from actions to a new activity. While traditional school-going is essentially a subject-producing activity and traditional science is essentially an instrument-producing activity, learning activity is an activity-producing activity.

29 Mobile Learning in UK Emergency Services Distinct from mobile decision support Gain additional benefit from existing mobile systems 20,000 plus mobile devices – primarily in car terminals (6k) and handhelds (14k) Handhelds are mostly Blackberries

30 Use of Mobile Devices Access to intranet resources (e.g. points to prove) Access to Force Control Centre Homepage as a portal to Force and wider resources Word documents on in-car Mobile Data Terminals and handhelds

31 Immediate Learning Aspirations Organisational learning Capture information on successes and failures. Learning from best practice. Electronic portfolios for promotion Collect evidence of vocational skill and experience. Support for promotion exams Distribute questions on revision topics.

32 Longer Term Aspirations: A problem Lots of people fail promotions: Not because they cant do it but Because things (e.g. emergencies!) get in the way of attendance and learning Training is a blunt instrument: Same course for officers lots of experience and others with no real experience in an area Temporal disconnect between the course, the experience and the exam. Cost of £500 in fees before the start of the programme, additional costs of attendance etc.

33 Longer Term Aspirations: A Solution Mobility Access to learning materials outside of the classroom setting Access To help and support – trainers, peers, experts, web links, Centrex (central police training organization) Resources which allow officers to explore further learning New types of material Multimedia scenarios – more than just text and buttons Personalization Diagnostics before a module – tailor class and other support to the person Revision questions sent to them after a class session (and maybe as primers before as well) – tailored to their strengths and weaknesses Revision questions in the run up to exams Feedback Feedback to managers, trainers and the training department Integration within the overall programme

34 Mobile Learning Issues Learning is an activity system in its own right but: It is subordinate to other systems (policing, emergency response etc) It is connected to many other activities It uses tools which are developed for other primary uses (PDAs, MDT, GPRS, Tetra) Threatens established norms and the division of labour especially the training role Motivations are many and varied Definitions of success, benefit and value are many and varied

35 Activity: Police Briefing Motive: need to hold up-to-date information about criminal activity within an area Subject: board sergeant, intelligence unit Object: (delivering) the brief Tools: SMARTboard, paper, pen, Mobile Data Terminals, standard police information systems, intranet, handheld devices

36 SMARTBoards

37 Briefing

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