From change to development - expanding the concept of intervention Jaakko Virkkunen Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research Marika Schaupp Finnish Institute of Occupational Health ISCAR 2008
Introduction: our hypotheses • Currently, the development of work activities is largely carried out through short-term change projects, in which industry ‘best practices’ are implemented • In methodological discussion formative interventions in work activities are also often depicted as stand-alone, one-time actions without paying attention to more sustaining relationships between activities. • In the new societal conditions of the global “high tech” capitalism and “information society” a mastery of complex societal activity systems calls increasingly for • theoretical-genetic thinking and generalizations (as opposed to abstract-empirical generalizations concerning ‘best practices’) • long term interaction between research and practice • Therefore also new applications of the basic theoretical insights of the Cultural Historical Activity Theory are needed
Our presentation • We will first discuss shortly three key concepts of activity theory from the point of view of linkages between specialized activity systems • the zone of proximal development • the method of double stimulation as a prototype of cultural remediation and formative intervention • forms of generalization • Then we will describe a case concerning the development of an individual’s activity and her learning of theoretical-genetic generalization in work development • Finally we use the case to explain our idea of extended intervention
The zone of proximal development Vygotsky’s concept of anindividual’s ZPD: social support that leads to independent use of a cultural artifact. del Rio & Alvarez: ZPD is not only about provisional support but also about the establishment of new permanent connections in the functional design of cultural systems. Engeström’s concept of the ZPD of an activity: recurrent double-bind situations in individuals’ daily actions in an activity can be overcome by collaboratively creating a historically new form of the activity that has become culturally possible Two questions: How to understand the development of individual actions into a new form of collective activity? What is the role of inter-activity connections in the ZPD of an individual and an activity system?
Vygotsky’s method of double stimulationas a prototype of remediation and of formative intervention First stimulus: a problem that the subject cannot solve with the help of the previously learned concepts and methods. Second stimulus: a neutral artifact that the subject can make into an instrument for organizing the problematic situation and working out a solution. The process of remediation in which the subject makes a cultural artifact into an instrument in his/her the action In real life work activities the “problematic first stimulus” is often related the need of a customer. The second stimulus can be provided by a tool providing activity. Intervention can be understood as a special form of social support for the process of remediation: for encountering a challenge (first stimulus), for finding a cultural artifact (second stimulus), and for making the artifact into an instrument for the action in order to meet the challenge.
The process of remediation in an activity system: practitioners’ learning activity The collaborative creation of a historically new form of activity can take place in practitioners’ joint learning activity, which means a change of focus from individuals’ actions to the structure of the joint activity. Learning activity calls for instruments to carry out genetic-theoretical analysis of the local activity system and to model its developmental contradictions: Developmental Work Research methodology and the Change Laboratory method based on it are such instruments, but they are demanding and cannot be used without support Engeström 1987: The structure of learning activity
A chain of cycles of expansive development andinterventionsThe “first stimulus” emerges in the activity through client contacts and the “second stimulus” and support through contacts with members of a methodological community.
Conclusion The development of a new kind of activity that is based on a demanding methodology calls for a sustained relationship between the specialists of the methodology and the practitioners making it into an instrument in their activity. Such a sustained relationship makes it possible for the specialists to use the emerging challenges in the practitioners’ activity as the basis for a chain of interventions, in which the practitioners make the methodology step by step more comprehensively into an instrumentality in their activity.