Social and discoursive dynamics in the experiments of meaningless situation

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Title: Social and discoursive dynamics in the experiments of meaningless situation
Author: Niyazmuradova, Rano
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Institute of Behavioural Sciences
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2019
Language: en
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Aikuiskasvatustiede
Adult education
Adult education
Abstract: 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.
Subject: activity theory
double stimulation
meaningless situation
group cohesion
social dynamics

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