Activity theory For interface design Professor Dr. L. Uden. Objectives Discuss the principles of activity theory Discuss the implications of activity for CSCW Describe uses of AT in CSCW & HCI Discuss activity checklist. Principles of activity theory (after Kaptelinin)
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For interface design
Professor Dr. L. Uden
Principles of activity theory
Internalization and externalization
human activity is to be understood as continuously developing object-oriented individual and collective processes or actions that transform the object of activity into a desired outcome.
refers to the need to focus on the ‘object’ of activity when trying to understand human practices, since “transforming the ‘object’ into an outcome motivates the existence of an activity” (Kuutti, 1996).
The motive of human activity is reflected through the ‘object’ or ‘objective’ of that
‘object’ in this thesis is used in the sense of the ‘objective’ so as to reflect and emphasise the purposeful nature of human activity.
implies that human beings always have a motive for engaging in activity.
Whilst participating in an activity, individuals tend to have various and differing motives for getting involved in activity.
It presents the view that human beings develop and use tools to help them achieve targeted objectives.
tools are used by human to mediate’ their interactions with objects of the environment during activity.
Tools therefore, have a mediating role in human activity.
‘tools’ as mediators of human activity is used in the literature to refer to both physical and psychological tools
activity develops and re-develops as a result of social and cultural changes that occur in the community where it is performed.
As a result of this transformation, human activity accumulates a history of its development.
It is necessary to understand the evolutionary aspects of human activity from a social and cultural point of view.
This understanding could be accomplished analysing the historical development of activity so as to establish the reasons why activity is carried out in a particular way.
This could offer insight into the reasons for
introducing the kind of tools being used in that activity.
Understanding the historical development and use of tools that mediate activity demands the need to study activity in a particular context so as to understand how people use already existing tools within that cultural setting.
Internalisation and externalisation
human mental processes develop and redevelop as a result of external activity during which time humans internalise cultural knowledge about an activity.
The existence of the ‘external’ and the internal’ implies that a transformation process occurs in the human mental perceptions of the activity.
In HCI, this internalisation process is the means by which computer tool users form metaphors or internal mental representations of both the activity that they are engaged in, and also the usage patterns for the computer tool employed to mediate that activity.
the kind of knowledge absorbed during the internalisation process could reveal the historical methods of carrying out that activity.
it could also unveil vital information as to why that activity takes place, including the
development and use of tools to mediate that activity.
Once this information is sorted and absorbed ‘inside’ the individual’s head, human beings then externalise (put outside the head) this knowledge by actually carrying out that activity for real using physical tools (e.g. a hammer).
These could relate to how to represent the individual’s conceptualised world into a
‘real’ world that can be shared collectively with others involved in that activity.
Effective representation of the conceptual world into a real world would require the development and use of appropriate tools both physical and psychological (e.g. computer tools, mental models, language) to help users to collectively create and share the conceptual world.
“A person’s internal activity assimilates the experience of humanity in the form in which it manifests itself in the corresponding external activity… It means that a person’s mental processes acquire a structure necessarily linked to socio-historically formed means and modes, which are transmitted to him by other people through teamwork and social intercourse” (Kuutti in Nardi, 1996, page 33, quoting from Leont’ev, 1974).
is associated with the emotional aspects and awareness of human intentions when studying activity.
The notion of consciousness therefore reflects the principle unit of human mind and activity.
Implies that human mind can only be understood within the context of meaningful goal oriented and socially determined actions.
reflects the situatedness or contextual aspect of human activity.
Activity Theory argues that human activity is better understood when analysed in the context of the community in which it is performed.
Activity is usually carried out not in isolation but in collaboration with others within the community.
Even in situations whereby an individual performs certain activities alone, they tend to carry out these in a context or a situation where there are rules and conditions that determine the way activity is performed.
Key points from Activity Theory that are crucial to HCI are:
The motives of those involved in activity
• Relationships that exist amongst those involved in activity
• The historical development of an activity
• Implicit and explicit social practices of the context in which activity is carried out
• The operational structure of an activity
• Issues surrounding the development and use of tools to support activity.