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Activity theory

July 7, 2017

Extract from Ruijer, E., Grimmelikhuijsen, S., & Meijer, A. (2017). Open data for democracy: Developing a theoretical framework for open data use. Government Information Quarterly, 34(1), 45-52.

Activity Theory has been used as a framework for human computer interaction research (Kuuti, 1996). Activity theory focuses on the activities that people engage in, who is engaging in that activity and what their goals and intentions are, what objects or products result from the activity, the rules and norms that circumscribe the activity and the community in which the activity occurs (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999, p. 62). An activity is a collective form of doing directed to and driven by an object (Engeström, 2008 ; Kuuti, 1996). Activities are open systems (Engeström, 2001). They are continuously changing and developing (Nardi, 1996 ; Kuuti, 1996). […]

a) subject: the individual or group of actors engaged in the activity (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999);

b) object: the physical or mental entity towards which the activity is oriented, that motivates the activity (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999);

c) tools: mediate and alter the activity and that can in turn be altered by the activity (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999);

d) community: consists of all actors directly involved in an activity, sharing the object with the subject (Ojo et al., 2011);

e) rules: the explicit and implicit norms, conventions and social relations of a community (Kuuti, 1996 ; Ojo et al., 2011) that guide the actions or activities acceptable by the community (e.g. legal framework) (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999);

f) division of labour: roles (Ojo et al., 2011) that prescribe the task specialization by individual members of the group within the community (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999);

g) outcome: the transformation of the object into an outcome motivates the existence of an activity (Kuuti, 1996).

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