In this video Professor Yrjö Engeström responds to Anna Zarkh’s question on the reasons to use the term generations to approach cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT). The piece is an excerpt from the seminar “From CHAT to Critical CHAT,” organized by Professor Kris Gutierrez and Edward Rivero at University of California Berkeley (Spring 2020). The course was attended by roughly 50 scholars from various parts of the US and Europe.
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Fernanda, I think Yjro identifes the problem in his response: the original intention was simply the succession of generations as children and their cohorts took up the work of their parents and their cohorts. According to this reading, the 101 different approaches to Vygotsky’s original legacy are all part of the “4th generation.” But the term is never used that way. So it has come to mean his own take on CHAT and DWR, to the exclusion of everyone else. I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to fix that problem with the term. But I can understand how the problem came about.
I have some concerns about calling it 4th Generation of Activity Theory. Professor Yrjö Engeström was the first to use the term Activity Theory, which is a bit different from the original Cultural Historical Theory, and has a different objective, method and unit of analysis.
If we want to reaaly call generations, what some scholars are proposing today would be the SECOND GENERATION OF ACTIVITY THEORY, but not the 4th Generation of Cultural Historical Theory.
Anyone would add something to this?
I suspect these circumstances exemplify some of the issues Aaro referred to with respect to a “uni-directional” activity theory (see concepts thread). If the Gal’perin-related research encompassed agents’ ability to reorganise their own activity, then the shift in work practices could actually exemplify such capabilities rather than ostensibly render the research redundant.
The emphasis would necessarily include how the objects of activity arise within the agents’ cognition and how they are differently construed and organised, rather than how ‘social objects’ (perhaps assumed to be the same for everyone) have wider and wider factors that influence them.