“The Inter-Life Project: Inter-cultural Spaces for Young People to Use Creative Practices and Research to Assist with Life Changes and Transition.” (Lally and Sclater, 2012)
This paper considers the experiences of two groups of young people from quite constrasting backgrounds in their use of the online virtual world ‘Inter-life’ in which you take the name and form of an avator and role play through a game, or through reconstructions of real life. The authors, over a three year period, consider how the virtual world, mirrors, mimics, supports and even prepares the participants for the real world.
My fascination and interest is more than simply someone curious about the effectivess of such enterprises – at a web agency in 2000 these were conversations we had when and where budgets, a fraction of what was required, were made available to thinkabout, mockup and trial immersive, role-playing games in language learnign and for ‘youth awareness’ (well being, career decissions, life choices).
Fig. 1. Val Desire. My Avatar. Leaving her to be safeguard by my more able 13 year old son he decided it was perfectly OK to sell her clothes to raise some cash!!!
As a parent with two teenagers it has been a constant, tangential observation of their use of computers, games and the internet.
Born in 1996 and 1998 they have been on my knee or in front of their own screens before they could talk and have been able to touch type since they were 4/6. Until recently, the day long bable, interaction, negotiation and sharing of roles in various games has been the background to my own efforts to work online – until the age of 14 we kept computers in a communal space – a reasonable effort at parental supervision.
Is my son mentor or pupil, leader or lead in the real world as in the virtual, where he may tutor friends through battle and football scenarios, or on other occasions be the learner – with people I’ve heard, from amongst others, Germany and North America. The conversations do sometimes sound exactly as if these young people are on an exchange visit – between the ‘action’ sharing insights on language, rephrasing jokes and surely gaining insights and life-skills that they can and must apply in the real world.
Both worlds are of course ‘real’. Both are having an affect.
Were it measured activity would be recognised in the brain. Memories are being formed.
They are changed by these experiences. The mind translater or transmogrifies what goes on … even translates or superimposes virtual experiences into the real, just as one superimposes the unconscious. (I need to add a psychology degree to the others at some stage).
To understand how Activity Theory (AT) is used I personally need to see the diagrams, each separate activity system and the interaction in the ‘third generation’.
I find annotated notes at each of the nodes (see above) , or explaining problems within the activity system enlightening.
I may try and recreate the above from your paper, either on a scroll of wallpaper backing paper, or with chess pieces on a very large (door sized) piece of MDF with some marker pens. Ideally I might even want to see an Activity System in an historic form, so have five or six in an animation ‘movie’ to show that it is a ‘snap shot’, a kind of audit of a moment in a live, shifting, potentially volatile scenario. This can reveal itself in video and transcripts of meetings.
I’ve toyed with Engestrom’s imagery (OU Student Blog Post) of this all being some kind of living organism a lichen – Mycorrhizea – but assume that to be a metaphor.
Diagrams for me start to bring the model out of the abstract.
To see tools, object, subject and division of labour etc: as people, concepts, guidelines, artefacts and so on. I find case studies that use Activity Theory very readable, so enjoy ‘From Teams to Knots’ (Engestrom, 2007) for descriptions of AT used in management consultancy like scenarios. Where there is a fit I would certainly see myself using AT for the reasons given in this paper.
In H809 are currently questioning the validity of words. What about graphs, charts and diagrams?
There is often bias, even a cultural position on these. For example, I’m curious to understand ‘our’ obsession with triangle and pyramids. I’ve tried other shapes with AT, putting the triangle on its side, even visualising it in 3d … and, as Web 2.0 is doing it, deconstructing the model and adding additional points of interaction … as Web 2.0 is allowing interaction of all nodes with each other, not simply via each other. i.e. the complex is winning.
Is there a case for research to provide a substantial part of the research finding for others to work on?
Or would it have to be redacted? Or are there practical, ethical and legal reasons why such data isn’t offered? i.e. the research team say, this is what we did, this is what we found, here are our conclusions … and if you’d like to analyse all the original data yourself … here it is.
I’ve followed up one or two further links, alternatives to AT.
Bardram looks interesting and I will be reading more from the likes of Kuutti and Nardi.
I have applied AT, most recently in understanding the flow of activity between the Institute of Swimming and a large, 1,000 member, swimming club, in relation to e-learning provision/accommodation for swimmers or coaches with disabilities. (ECA for H810)
I can think of many situations where I would apply AT from a consultancy perspective in order to better understand what is going on.
- Between e-learning, web agency, L&D department of multinational and learners.
- Across the GP Clinic, Local Hospital and Regional Hospital
- In Swimming, to include the IoS and ASA, and regional organisations, large as well as small and niche swimming clubs and the various players – online tools, tutors, amateur teachers, local authorities and leisure centres.
- On a film set, or in live TV.
Having the time/budget to ‘indulge’ AT would be an theory worth using with any of the corporate L&D projects I have worked on recently.
Turn round is quick, budgets tight and whilst they want you to think about the issues they don’t want me to come along and ‘over think it’.
I liked this quote in relation to the value of and use of theories.
‘From this point of view, theories are more like a pair of dark glasses. We put them on and the world is tinted. The change brings some objects into sharper contrast, while others fade into obscurity’. Halverson (2002)
Wilks, Y (2010) (ed)Close Engagements with Artificial Companions. Volume 8. Key social, psychological, ethical and design issues. Natural Language Processing. John Benjamins Publishing Company. Amsterdam/Philadelphia.
Bardram, J. (1998): Designing for the Dynamics of Cooperative Work Activities. Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, Seattle,WA, ACM.
Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.
Halverson, CA (2002), ‘Activity Theory and Distributed Cognition: Or What Does CSCW Need to DO with Theories?’,Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 11, 1/2, pp. 243-267, British Library Document Supply Centre Inside Serials & Conference Proceedings, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 February 2013.
Lally, V and Sclater, M (2012). “The Inter-Life Project: Inter-cultural Spaces for Young People to Use Creative Practices and Research to Assist with Life Changes and Transition.” Research in Comparative and International Education 7, no. 4 (2012): doi:10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.480
- OLD MOOC 2013 – Why Activity Theory needs to be seen, not itemised, to have any chance of being understood (mymindbursts.com)
- Who would you invite to an e-learning dinner party? (mymindbursts.com)
- The Gutenberg Galaxy – first thoughts, from the first pages (mymindbursts.com)
- I Have An Affliction – Models and Relationships (interactioncultureclass.wordpress.com)
- Reddit (2ndselves.wordpress.com)
- Analyzing Computer-Mediated Communication in Professional Environments: An Activity Theory Approach (tc.eserver.org)