This article traces the historical and conceptual development of what is known as activity theory, from Vygotsky and Luria, to A. N. Leont'ev, to Engeström, in order to illustrate what I see as two problems with the activity theoretic approach, especially as manifest in the work of Leont'ev and Engeström: what I call the boundary and/or focus problem and the unit-of-analysis problem. In the second half of the article, I explore the social semiotic of an everyday artifact, the "speed bump," and introduce a discovery heuristic for examining how this artifact functions mediationally in human activity. In so doing, I have tried to discover activity through principled analysis, rather than assuming activity or activity system a priori.
Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
- Activity theory
- Mediational means
- Writing research