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The Concepts of Activity Theory

Lecturer: Andy Blunden

Originally Taught: Summer School 2015

6-8pm | 5 Thursdays starting 22 Jan

The course will introduce participants to the concepts of Lev Vygotsky’s Cultural-Historical Psychology and Activity Theory (CHAT). There will be an expectation that students participate in discussion during this course.

Activity Theory is a current of interdisciplinary human science developed in the Soviet Union, beginning from the foundations laid by Lev Vygotsky in the 1920s and ’30s. The course will not cover the Finnish strand of Activity Theory but includes a critical appropriation of the theory of A. N. Leontyev, consistent with Vygotsky’s legacy.

CHAT is widely used in education and child development but the theory is inherently interdisciplinary, and the course is aimed at all those interested in developing basic concepts for a critical social science or psychology.

Workshop 1: 6pm-8pm Thursday 22 January

Introductory: (1) action, behaviour and consciousness. (2) genetic method; unity and dichotomy. Reading: 1, 2, 7 & 8.

Workshop 2: 6pm-8pm Thursday 29 January

(1) analysis by units and germ cell, (2) word meaning and artefact-mediated action, dual stimulation. Reading: 1, 2, 5 & 6.

Workshop 3: 6pm-8pm Thursday 5 February

(1) perezhivanie and catharsis, social situation of development, disability/compensation, (2) concepts during childhood. Reading: 2, 3, 9 & 10.

Workshop 4: 6pm-8pm Thursday 12 February

(1) spontaneous, true and actual concepts, (2) activity: operations, actions and activities. Reading: 1, 3 & 10.

Workshop 5: 6pm-8pm Thursday 19 February

(1) object of activity in Leontyev and Vygotsky, (2) project as unit of social life. Reading:  4 & 10.

Recommended Reading

  1. - A Wikipedia of CHAT Concepts.
  2. Word Meaning is Important by Andy Blunden
  3. Vygotsky and the Development of Concepts by Andy Blunden
  4. Vygotsky and Activity Theory, by Andy Blunden
  5. The Germ Cell and the Unit of Analysis, by Andy Blunden
  6. Thinking and Speech, by Vygotsky, especially Chapter 1
  7. The Instrumental Method in Psychology, by Vygotsky
  8. Tool and Symbol in Child Development, by Vygotsky
  9. The Problem of Age, by Vygotsky
  10. An Interdisciplinary Concept of Activity, by Andy Blunden