Browsing by Subject "activity theory"

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  • Fonseca Silva, Paulo de Tarso (Helsingfors universitet, 2017)
    This masters' thesis explored the use of the body, tools, and the environment in craftwork from an embodied cognitive perspective. More specifically the activity studied was wooden boatbuilding. Activity theory was used to map the elements and the dynamics of the wooden boatbuilding activity in relation to the object of work (a wooden gunboat). The research interests (related to body, tools and environment) were positioned among the different elements of the wooden boatbuilding activity (tools, subject, object, outcome, rules, community and division of labor) by following an activity theoretical structure. Previous research has shown that the abilities of the body are quite often overshadowed by the abilities of brain alone, even though cognition is embodied due to its dependency on the characteristics of the agent's physical body. The objective of this research was to seek further understanding on the position of the body and its role in an activity of craft with the use of tools and environment. By having an embodied cognitive perspective, the research looked at the types of materials from the environment that were applied for work, and how material artefacts have contributed to the body's performance during craft. In addition, the research took into account the characteristics of the work environment that enabled the body of craftsmen to work more efficiently. Specifically, the thesis captured a two-day data collection of videos and interviews in the dockyard of Suomenlinna Fortress, based on the method of ethnography. The data collection gathered material for the analysis of the craftwork on a wooden gunboat model, during a process of craft called caulking. For the analysis, the work of five subjects (wooden boat builders) was observed closely. The method applied for analysis of data was thematic analysis, which required a selective process of data, based on relevant or reoccurring themes identified throughout video files. The most representative themes of the activity were framed in sets of images for further interpretation, and in that way enabling the validation of themes and their relevance to the research questions. As a result, the themes identified in the activity of wooden boatbuilding were (1) the abilities of the body, (2) the limitations of the body, (3) the body and the process of sensing, (4) the affordance of tools, (5) tools as mediators, and (6) the affordances or the environment. All these themes were building blocks for conceptualising the role of the body in the craft of wooden boatbuilding, the role of tools in the craft of wooden boatbuilding, and how the environment is used in the craft of wooden boatbuilding. This research concluded that, while activity theory allowed a holistic understanding of a craft activity, such as wooden boatbuilding, embodied cognition was vital for conceptualising the role of the body as a starting point in relation to all elements of the activity, including tools and environment. In addition of certifying the usefulness of this combination (embodied cognition and activity theory), perhaps the most relevant finding of this research was the so-called APDCS (area of potential development of craft skills), which could contextualise the integration among body, tools and environment in the craft of wooden boatbuilding through the development of various tasks.
  • Humaljoki, Hanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Objectives: The Finnish social and health care system is currently under transformation. The objective of this thesis was to chart the on-going concept change of the development system of Finnish social and health care and Innovillage's role in it within the theoretical framework of the third generation activity theory. Innovillage is a new national open innovation environment for developers in the field of health and welfare developed during the years 2009–2013. The research studies this issue through two research questions: (1) How the development system of Finnish social and health care's object and division of labor are changing?; (2) What does Innovillage tell about the concept change of the development system? The aim is to chart the features of the new emerging activity concept of the development system by depicting the changes in the object and the division of labor as well as to examine the development system's contradictions as manifested in Innovillage. Methods: The research questions have been analyzed through historical analysis and empirical data. The empirical data of this thesis constituted of nine individual interviews which were gathered during the summer and early fall of 2013. Six interviewees were representatives of the funding and developer organizations of Innovillage and three represented grassroots professionals involved with Innovillage. The research method was empirical and qualitative and the research process has been primarily guided by the data. The qualitative results were derived from the empirical data through content analysis. Historical analysis of this thesis was made based on the literature. The findings were interpreted with activity theoretical notions of activity concept, object, division of labor, and contradiction. Results and conclusions: The division of labor in the new emerging activity concept of the development system is, ideally, open and networked and the object of developing takes the customer or the client as well as the implementation phase of the created services or solutions into account. Currently, cross-sectorial co-operation has increased slightly especially between funders of the development system but, simultaneously, co-operation between grassroots professionals has diminished. Innovillage itself as well as its tools have supported co-operation within the development system but, according to the results, still fail to take the customer or the client into account. The current secondary contradictions between the division of labor and other elements of the development system seem to stem from the new tools that have been implemented to the development system by Innovillage.
  • Sannino, A.; Engeström, Y. (2018)
    The article presents central ideas and future challenges of cultural-historical activity theory, focusing specifically on the work of the so-called Helsinki school of activity theory. We first introduce the revolutionary roots of the theory in the works of Marx and Vygotsky, and the evolution of the unit of analysis through different generations of activity theory. We then discuss the foundational role of historicity and dialectics in activity theory. We identify two central epistemological-methodological principles that guide activity-theoretical studies, namely the principle of double stimulation and the principle of ascending from the abstract to the concrete. These principles lead us to emphasize formative interventions as a powerful way to conduct societally impactful activity-theoretical research. We conclude by pointing out some major challenges facing activity theory in the 21st century.
  • Mickelsson, Jakob (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014)
    Economics and Society – 267
    Due to changes in technology, customers are increasingly empowered in their interactions with companies. Information is readily available, and customers can choose, learn and contribute in ways previously unimaginable. Even though marketers have acknowledged the importance of understanding the customer as an active participant in service, there have been few efforts to systematically understand and illustrate the customer’s structures of activity. Customer activity has within marketing traditionally been viewed as a response to inputs from the provider. Advertising, for example, is seen as having a persuasive function: It should result in the customer’s activity of buying. Similarly, in service research, the customer’s activities are considered to be either directed by service design or as inputs into an interaction process. This thesis presents an alternative view on customer activity: It is a perspective on service use. In contrast to earlier perspectives, the customer activity perspective incorporates service as an enabling or supporting element in the customer’s activities. The thesis defines ‘customer activity’ as a discrete sequence of behaviour that through its outcomes aims at creating or supporting some type of value in the customer’s life or business. This definition enables new types of analysis. By identifying many separate customer activities, service providers can uncover interlinked systems of activity. Customer activities are connected to each other through, for example, frequency links, functional links, resource links, temporal links, cognitive links or geographical links. The role of service is to enable customer activity and serve as an ingredient in the customer’s interlinked systems of activity. Consequently, the thesis takes a customer-dominant stance on service. Customers are seen as controlling and combining the services of different providers with each other to serve their own ends. Customer activity is presented as a focal concept for understanding this process. Moreover, customer activity is viewed as more than simply interactions with a service provider or inputs into realizing a particular service. Rather, activities are elements that customers use to organize their own lives. The thesis contains empirical examinations of the relationship between customer activity and service. These show that customers maintain different types of activity systems, and that the same service can play different roles in the life of the customer. Service providers can use this information as input for service design, communication and customer segmentation.
  • Kajamaa, Anu; Kerosuo, Hannele; Engeström, Yrjö (ESADE Business School, 2011)
  • Ma, Qian (Helsingfors universitet, 2014)
    Objectives. This research addressed the problems and prospects of Lean Six Sigma (LSS), one of the world's most popular organizational development methods at present. The study enriched this method by suggesting a more sustainable way of organizational development. The previous research on LSS mainly focused on the technical tools in utilizing the production process. Drawing on the theory of Expansive Learning, this research evaluated the learning process of LSS by focusing on the practitioners. The purpose of the research was twofold. First, it analyzed the contradictions of LSS project activity in the research site. It was expected to uncover the problems that jeopardized the learning process of the practitioners. Second, it discussed the zone of proximal development (ZPD) of LSS project activity for the research site, with the purpose of shedding light on the possibilities of future development and learning. Methods. The research site was an international aircraft manufacturer in China. Eleven LSS practitioners were interviewed, including eight Green Belts, one Black Belt, one Master Black Belt and one Green Belt team member. The data were analyzed by adopting three methods: the analysis of conceptions, the Analysis of discursive manifestations of contradictions, and the analysis of action-activity transformation in expansive learning. The ZPD was sketched from two dimensions: the first one by analyzing the action-activity transformation of the practitioners; the second one by evaluating the conception of "what have expanded" in the practitioners due to the project experiences. Results and conclusions. The analysis uncovered eight contradictions in LSS project activity system. Five were scattered in the project activity itself between or within varied elements of activity. Three were between the project activity, the department-based work activity and the LSS training activity. One case in which the GB's trials in breaking the constraints in his own project resulted in collective expansive learning efforts cross projects was analyzed as the representation of action-activity transformation. In addition, some practitioners had re-conceptualized their work motivation through the project experience, seeing Lean Six Sigma as a conceptual tool for understanding strategic work planning and gaining long-term work motivation. In conclusion, two dimensions of the ZPD were suggested: first, an integrated top-down and bottom-up approaches for organizational transformation; second, transcending from LSS as the "concrete tool in individual skill appropriation" to the "conceptual tool in collective work reconceptualization". The organizations adopting the LSS method can reflect on this thesis to improve their LSS practices by paying attention to the "critical transition agent" for cross-functional processes' interaction, the employees' learning initiatives and work motivation.
  • Nurminen, Petra (Helsingfors universitet, 2016)
    The study analyzed the types and development of transformative agency of teachers in a Change Laboratory intervention in a teacher training school. Theoretical framework is based on activity theoretical research on transformative agency to which the study aims to add new knowledge. Change Laboratory is an activity theoretical method for developing work and organizations. The data for the study consists of three Change Laboratory intervention meetings conducted at the Viikki teacher training school in spring 2015. There were six meetings out of which this study focuses on the first, third and sixth meeting. The transcribed data was analyzed by using qualitative techniques, namely thematic analysis and activity theoretical framework for the identification of the types and development of transformative agency (Haapasaari, Engeström & Kerosuo, 2014). The analysis was enriched by depicting tensions in the development of transformative agency reflecting the dialectics of agency (Rainio & Hilppö, 2016). Quantification was also used to describe the data. Five types of transformative agency depicted by Haapasaari et al. (2014) were found in this data: resisting the change and initiatives, critical analysis of the current activity, explicating new possibilities in the activity, envisioning and developing new models or patterns in the activity, and committing to concrete actions. In the first meeting the most common types were resistance and critical analysis, in the third meeting there were high amount of explicating new possibilities in the activity and envisioning and developing new models or patterns in the activity, and in the sixth meeting the most common type was envisioning and developing new models or patterns in the activity. Based on the data, a new type of transformative agency was also proposed: casting faith in the joint developing. In the speaking turns representing transformative agency, the amount of collectively produced turns increased during the process being highest in the sixth meeting where the participants collectively visualized a new compass model of shared pedagogical leadership. The tensions in the speech reflected the dialectics of agency between the need of belonging and separability and between the need of autonomity and control. The compass model was interpreted to be an attempt to seek for a solution to these tensions.
  • Niyazmuradova, Rano (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    Understanding social dynamics and interactions between people in uncertain situations is vital for all organizations that seek new solutions to complex situations in rapidly changing environments. This phenomenon is fundamental to modern Cultural Historical Activity Theory that intertwines all elements of collective activity system and chains them towards new expansive paths of development. This study aims at investigating how background social interactions and characteristics of groups play a role in subsequent social dynamics and discourse in meaningless situations. Meaningless situations are created in double stimulation experiments run on groups of individuals in the University of Helsinki during 2012-2013. In these experiment, groups of 2-4 people are left uniformed in a room for 30 minutes, while their interactions are observed and recorded by investigators. The concentration of this analysis is on Finnish nationalities with shared activity. Such sample selection allows for better isolation of the dynamics in question from other confounding factors such nationalities and types of activities. In this study, I explore how: 1) differences in the discourse in the experiments; 2) differences in social dynamics before and during the experiments; as well as 3) interaction between social dynamics and discourse, affect groups’ decisions to break out of meaningless situations. I draw my conclusions from thematic analysis of experimental data, and additional information retrieved from subsequent interviews. Analysis of the data shows that social interactions between groups’ participants before the experiments had a decisive impact on the discourse, further social dynamics, and ultimate decisions to break out of meaningless situations in the experiments. The more affiliated the participants of the groups were before the experiments, the less group dynamics and co-constructive discourse there were in the experiment, and the more likely they were to leave the experiments prematurely. Accordingly, highly cohesive groups of co-workers, who had obviously completed major stages of group dynamics before the experiments, eventually broke out of meaningless situations in the experiments. These groups were devoid of the necessity to undergo further group dynamics through co-constructive discourse. On the other end of the spectrum are the groups of students who were acquainted before the experiments superficially at most. In these groups, we could observe further group formation, and unifying themes in the discourses that they led during the experiments. The groups of students did not break out of meaningless situations in the experiments, even though the initial stages of the break-out-process in these groups were more intense than it was the case in the groups of co-workers. The findings in this study should have repercussions for Cultural Historical Activity Theory in general, and its practical formative interventionist approach - Change Laboratory, in particular. The observations made in this study are in line with major claims in contemporary Cultural Historical Activity Theory that a search for new object-oriented activity is perpetual and mapped from the complex of social interactions chained in historical processes. Moreover, they touch upon an additional important dimension – discourse within groups in uncertain situations, that is to be explored further in future research.
  • Rantavuori, Juhana (Helsingfors universitet, 2010)
    Objectives. In this research I analyzed the learning process of teacher students in a planning meeting using the expansive learning cycle and types of interaction approaches. In activity theory framework the expansive learning cycle has been applied widely in analyzing learning processes taking several years. However, few studies exist utilizing expansive cycles in analyzing short single meetings. In the activity theory framework talk and interaction have been analyzed using following types of interaction: coordination, cooperation and communication. In these studies single interaction situations have been analyzed, in which the status and power positions of participants has been very different. Interactions of self-directed teams, in which the participants are equal, have been examined very little. I am not aware of any studies, in which both learning actions of the expansive cycle and types of interaction by analyzing the same data would have been utilized. The aim of my study was to describe the process of collaborative innovative learning in a situation where the student group tries to accomplish a broad and ill-defined learning task. I aim to describe, how this planning process proceeds through different phases of learning actions of the expansive cycle. My goal is to understand and describe the transformations in the quality of interaction and transitions which are related to it. Another goal of this study is to specify the possible similarities and differences between expansive learning and types of interactions. Methods. Data of this study consisted of videotaped meetings, which were part of the study module for class teacher degree. The first meeting of the study module was chosen to be the primary research material. Five students were present in the group meeting. Transcription of the conversation was analyzed by classifying the turns of conversation following phases of the expansive cycle. After that the material was categorized again by using types of interaction. Results and conclusions. As a result of this study I was able to trace all the phases of the expansive cycle except one. Also, I was able to identify all interaction types. When I compared the two modes of analysis side by side I was able to find connecting main phases. Thus I was able to identify the interdependence between the two ways of analysis on a higher level, although I was not able to notice correlation on the level of individual phases. Based on this, I conclude that learning of the group was simultaneously specification and formulation of the object at the different phases of expansive learning and transformation of the quality of the interaction while searching for the common object.
  • Mäkinen, Kalle (Helsingfors universitet, 2000)
    This study examines supervisors' emerging new role in a technical customer service and home customers division of a large Finnish telecommunications corporation. Data of the study comes from a second-generation knowledge management project, an intervention research, which was conducted for supervisors of the division. The study exemplifies how supervision work is transforming in high technology organization characterized with high speed of change in technologies, products, and in grass root work practices. The intervention research was conducted in the division during spring 2000. Primary analyzed data consists of six two-hour videorecorded intervention sessions. Unit of analysis has been collective learning actions. Researcher has first written conversation transcripts out of the video-recorded meetings and then analyzed this qualitative data using analytical schema based on collective learning actions. Supervisors' role is conceptualized as an actor of a collective and dynamic activity system, based on the ideas from cultural historical activity theory. On knowledge management researcher has taken a second-generation knowledge management viewpoint, following ideas from cultural historical activity theory and developmental work research. Second-generation knowledge management considers knowledge embedded and constructed in collective practices, such as innovation networks or communities of practice (supervisors' work community), which have the capacity to create new knowledge. Analysis and illustration of supervisors' emerging new role is conceptualized in this framework using methodological ideas derived from activity theory and developmental work research. Major findings of the study show that supervisors' emerging new role in a high technology telecommunication organization characterized with high speed of discontinuous change in technologies, products, and in grass-root practices cannot be defined or characterized using a normative management role/model. Their role is expanding two-dimensionally, (1) socially and (2) in new knowledge, and work practices. The expansion in organization and inter-organizational network (social expansion) causes pressures to manage a network of co-operation partners and subordinates. On the other hand, the faster speed of change in technological solutions, new products, and novel customer wants (expansion in knowledge) causes pressures for supervisors to innovate quickly new work practices to manage this change.
  • Galuppo, Laura; Kajamaa, Anu; Ivaldi, Silvia; Scaratti, Giuseppe (2019)
    In recent years, the number of new organizations aiming to accomplish principles of sustainability has rapidly grown, leading analysts and scholars to announce almost a new industrial revolution. An example of this is the proliferation of the so-called fabrication laboratories (FabLabs) that nowadays are perceived as being forerunners in innovative and sustainable high-tech production through peer-to-peer collaborative practices and sharing. However, the challenges managers face in translating these promotional aims into organizational action is vastly understudied. To address this research gap, we have studied the management of two FabLabs, in Italy and Finland. In this study, we draw from a psycho-sociological framework applying cultural-historical activity theory, and especially from the concepts of activity system and contradiction. According to this perspective, a sustainable organization is based on promotion, enrichment, regeneration, and flexible change efforts, and it is related to the managerial and ability to bring internal and external stakeholders together to recognize and solve tensions and contradictions collectively. Through our case studies, we have provided new research knowledge on how managers make an effort to translate sustainability into action in the complex context of FabLabs, involving multiple, often competing stakeholders and activity systems. Our analysis reveals multiple tensions in the collective activity, stemming from system level contradictions, which represent a challenge for the daily work of the FabLab managers. In the paper we also suggest how an engaged management orientation towards sustainably can be promoted, and we discuss future research topics.
  • Roos, Annikki (Hanken School of Economics, 2016)
    Economics and Society – 298
    Information practices are human activities that are related to seeking, managing, giving, using, and producing information in context. This thesis concentrates on the information practices of the researchers in the scientific domain of biomedicine. The object of this study has been to understand the special nature of the information related work and practices as a part of the biomedical research work. It is argued that to be able to build efficient tools and advantageous information services for researchers in the biomedical domain, these efforts should be based on the understanding of knowledge creation processes and work practices in this domain. The domain analytical approach forms an alternative view to those models, which try to identify similarities in patterns of seeking and use of information across the research domains. In this study, this approach has been used as an alternative to the generalizing model. The findings of the thesis support the arguments, which oppose the general view of information needs and uses. In information science, the study of information practices is quite a new research orientation. There are no previous studies, where the domain of biomedicine would have been in focus. Another important contribution of this study is the use of the activity theory as a theoretical research frame in the study of information practices. The activity theory appeared to be very helpful in setting information practices in the context. When implementing the activity theoretical research framework, information practices are comprehended as one mediating tool in the activity system of the research work. It aids the researcher to achieve the objectives of the research work.