Critical Social Studies - Outlines

2004:2 2005:1 2005:2 2006:1 2006:2 2007:1 2007:2 2008:1  2008:2

1999     2000     2001:1      2001:2     2002:1    2002:2     2003:1     2003:2   2004:1



Critical Social Studies - Outlines 2008:2   Full text
Morten Nissen 1 Editorial FULL TEXT
Paul Warmington 4 From 'activity' to 'labour': Commodification, labour-power and contradiction in Engeström's activity theory FULL TEXT
Nanna Mik-Meyer 20 Managing fat bodies: Identity regulation between public and private domains FULL TEXT
Thomas de Lange & Andreas Lund 36 Digital Tools and Instructional Rules: A study of how digital technologies become rooted in classroom procedures FULL TEXT
Christian W. Beck 59 Home Education and Social Integration FULL TEXT
Rikke Spjæt Salkvist & Bodil Pedersen 70 Subject subjected - Sexualised coercion, agency and the reorganisation of life strategies FULL TEXT



Critical Social Studies - Outlines 2008:1   Full text
Morten Nissen 1 Editorial FULL TEXT
Nathaniel Klemp, Ray McDermott, Jason Raley,
Matthew Thibeault, Kimberly Powell & Daniel J. Levitin
4 Plans, Takes, and Mis-takes FULL TEXT
Klaus N. Nielsen 22 Learning, Trajectories of Participation and Social Practice
May Britt Postholm 37 Cultural historical activity theory and Dewey’s idea-based social constructivism: Consequences for Educational Research FULL TEXT
Morten Nissen 49 The Place of a Positive Critique in Contemporary Critical Psychology FULL TEXT
Jaan Valsiner 67 Ornamented Worlds and Textures of Feeling: The Power of Abundance FULL TEXT


Critical Social Studies - Outlines 2007:2   Full text
Peter Musaeus 1 Editorial FULL TEXT
Fernando Luis González Rey 3 Social and individual subjectivity from an historical cultural standpoint FULL TEXT
Estrid Sørensen 15 STS goes to school: Spatial imaginaries of technology, knowledge and presence FULL TEXT
Håkan Jönson & Magnus Nilsson 28 Are Old People Merited Veterans of Society? Some Notes on a Problematic Claim FULL TEXT
Paul H. D. Stenner 44 Non-foundational criticality? On the need for a process ontology of the psychosocial FULL TEXT


Critical Social Studies - Outlines 2007:1   Full text
Mariane Hedegaard & Marilyn Fleer 1
Editorial FULL TEXT
Michaelis Kontopodis 5 Human Development as semiotic-material Ordering: Sketching a Relational Developmental Psychology? FULL TEXT
Eugene Matusov, John St. Julien, Pilar Lacasa, Maria Alburquerque Candela 21 Learning as a communal process and as a byproduct of social activism FULL TEXT
Louise Ammentorp 38 Imagining social change: Developing social consciousness in an arts-based pedagogy FULL TEXT
Joanne Hardmann 53 An Activity Theory approach to surfacing the pedagogical object in a primary school mathematics classroom FULL TEXT
Anne Edwards & Apostol Apostolov 70 A Cultural-Historical Interpretation of Resilience: the implications for practice FULL TEXT
Outlines 2006:2   Full text
Morten Nissen & Mariane Hedegaard 1
Editorial FULL TEXT
Reijo Miettinen   Pragmatism and activity theory: Is Dewey’s philosophy a philosophy of cultural retooling? FULL TEXT
Ines Langemeier & Wolf-Michael Roth   Is Cultural-Historical Activity Theory Threatened to Fall Short of its Own Principles and Possibilities as a Dialectical Social Science? FULL TEXT
Harry Daniels   Analysing institutional effects in Activity Theory: First steps in the development of a language of description FULL TEXT
Tania Zittoun   Difficult Secularity: Talmud As Symbolic Resource FULL TEXT
Rashmi Singla   Intimate Partnership Formation and Intergenerational Relationships among Ethnic Minority Youth In Denmark



Outlines 2006:1   Full text
Morten Nissen & Mariane Hedegaard 1
Editorial FULL TEXT
Sven Mørch   Learning to Become Youth. An Action Theory Approach

Peter Musaeus   A Sociocultural Approach to Recognition and Learning
Nanna Mik-Meyer   Identities and Organizations. Evaluating the Personality Traits of Clients in two Danish Rehabilitation Organizations
May Britt Postholm & Janne Madsen   The Researcher’s Role: An Ethical Dimension FULL TEXT
Jaakko Virkkunen   Hybrid Agency in Co-Configuration Work FULL TEXT


Outlines 2005:2   Full text
Andrew M. Jefferson 1
Editorial  FULL TEXT
Andrea Beckmann & Charlie Cooper 3 Nous Accusons – Revisiting Foucault’s comments on the role of the ‘specific intellectual’ in the context of increasing processes of Gleichschaltung in Britain FULL TEXT
Simon Pemberton 23 Deaths in Police Custody: The ‘acceptable’
consequences of a ‘law and order’ society?
Ragnhild Sollund 43 Obstacles and Possibilities in Police Research FULL TEXT
Anette Ballinger 65 ‘Reasonable’ Women Who Kill:
Re- interpreting and redefi ning women’s
responses to domestic violence in England
and Wales 1900-1965
Pat Carlen 83 In Praise of Critical Criminology FULL TEXT


Outlines 2005:1   Full text
Morten Nissen 1
Editorial  FULL TEXT
Thomas Lemke 3 “A Zone of Indistinction” – A Critique of Giorgio Agamben’s Con-cept of Biopolitics FULL TEXT
Monica Nilsson & Honorine Nocon 14 Practicing Invisibility: Women’s Roles in Higher Education FULL TEXT
Nikolaj Veresov 31 Marxist and non-Marxist aspects of the cultural-historical psychol-ogy of L. S. Vygotsky FULL TEXT
SungWon Hwang, Wolff-Michael Roth, & Lilian Pozzer-Ardenghi 50

Understanding Collaborative Practice: Reading between the Lines Actions  FULL TEXT

Bodil Pedersen 70

Marginalization and Power in Living with and Researching Living with HIV FULL TEXT



Outlines 2004:2 Full text

News on organization FULL TEXT
Irina Verenikina & Helen Hasan
Editorial FULL TEXT
Irina Verenikina From Theory to Practice: What does the Metaphor of Scaffolding Mean to Educators Today? FULL TEXT
Marilyn Fleer & Jill Robbins Broadening the Circumference:  A Socio-Historical Analysis of Family Enactments of Literacy and Numeracy within the Official Script of Middle Class Early Childhood Discourse FULL TEXT
Sue Gordon and Kathleen Fittler Learning By Teaching: A Cultural Historical Perspective On A Teacher’s Development  FULL TEXT
Joseph Meloche, Helen Hasan & Angelo Papakosmas

Support for Asynchronous Interaction in Group Experiential Learning  FULL TEXT

Alanah Kazlauskas and Kate Crawford

The Contribution of a Community Event to Expert Work: An Activity Theoretical Perspective FULL TEXT



Outlines 2004:1 Full text
Kristina Westerberg
Editorial FULL TEXT
Pentti Hakkarainen Narrative Learning in the Fifth Dimension FULL TEXT
Mariane Hedegaard A Cultural-historical Approach to Learning in Classrooms
Hannele Kerosuo Examining Boundaries in Health Care - Outline of a Method for Studying Organizational Boundaries in Interaction FULL TEXT
Kristina Westerberg

Workplace Development and Learning in Elder Care – The Importance of a Fertile Soil and the Trouble of Project Implementation FULL TEXT

Morten Nissen

Wild Objectification: Social Work as Object FULL TEXT




Outlines 2003:2 Full text
Ole Dreier
Editorial  FULL TEXT
Arne Prahl Formalizing Knowledge Creation in Inventive Project Groups:
The Malleability of Formal Work Methods
Rieko Sawyer Identity Formation through Brokering in Scientific Practice FULL TEXT
Carsten Østerlund Documenting Practices: The indexical centering of medical records FULL TEXT
Martin M. Nielsen

Representations at Work FULL TEXT

  List of reviewers 1999-2003



Outlines 2003:1 Full text
Morten Nissen
Editorial  FULL TEXT
David Middleton & Kyoko Murakami Collectivity and agency in remembering and reconciliation
Michael Cole Culture and Cognitive Science FULL TEXT
Lotte Huniche Studying Genetic Risk in the Conduct of Everyday Life

Erik Axel

Theoretical Deliberations on"Regulation as Productive Tool Use"  FULL TEXT

Andrew M. Jefferson Therapeutic Discipline? Reflections on the penetration of sites of control by therapeutic discourse FULL TEXT



Outlines 2002:2 Full text - whole issue as pdf
Ole Dreier
Editorial FULL TEXT
Klaus Nielsen The Concept of Tacit Knowledge - A Critique FULL TEXT
Ivar Solheim Beyond Turn-taking. Reflections on Different Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Educational Talk FULL TEXT
Morten Nissen To Be And not to Be. The Subjectivity of Drug Taking FULL TEXT
Esben Houborg Pedersen Practices of Government in Methadone Maintenance FULL TEXT
Kerstin Svensson Caring Power – Coercion as Care FULL TEXT



Outlines 2002:1 Full text
Ole Dreier
Editorial FULL TEXT
Mariana Valverde
Experience and Truthtelling: Intoxicated Autobiography and Ethical Subjectivity FULL TEXT
Jean Lave & 
Ray McDermott

Estranged Labor Learning FULL TEXT
Anne Edwards, Lin MacKenzie, Stewart Ranson, Heather Rutledge
Disruption and Disposition in Lifelong Learning FULL TEXT
Sampsa Hyysalo
Transforming the Object in Product Design FULL TEXT

Outlines 2001:2 FULL TEXT: Whole issue
Morten Nissen
Editorial FULL TEXT
Sten Ludvigsen & Annita Fjuk
New tools in Social Practice: Learning, Medical Education and 3D Environments FULL TEXT
Peter Lauritsen & Peter Elsass
Computers in Psychiatry. Notions of science and health as resources for conceptualising computer use in two psychiatric contexts FULL TEXT
Randi Markussen & Finn Olesen
Information Technology and Politics of Incorporation – The Electronic Trading Zone as coordination of Beliefs and Actions FULL TEXT
Susanne Højlund
Social Identities of Children in different Institutional Contexts FULL TEXT
Claudia L. Saucedo Ramos
”That world is not for me”: Constructing a personal sense of opposition against school obligations FULL TEXT
Outlines 2001:1 FULL TEXT: Whole issue
Morten Nissen
Editorial FULL TEXT
Ivan Leudar
Voices in History FULL TEXT
Nikolas Rose
Normality and Pathology in a Biological Age FULL TEXT
Lotte Huniche
Knowledge, responsibility, decision making and ignorance: Everyday Conduct of Life with Huntington’s Disease FULL TEXT
Hannele Kerosuo
Boundary Encountering As A Place For Learning And Development At Work FULL TEXT
Estrid Sørensen
Constituting Notions of Knowledge with Philosophy and Technology FULL TEXT
Torben Elgaard
The High Impact of Low Tech in Social Work FULL TEXT


Outlines 2000
Morten Nissen
Editorial FULL TEXT

Mervi Hasu

Blind Men and the Elephant: Implementation of a New Artifact as an Expansive Possibility FULL TEXT

Eugenie Georgaca 

Participation, Knowledge and Power in Action Research: Reflections on an Offenders’ Social Reintegration Project FULL TEXT

Line Lerche Mørck

Practice Research and Learning Resources. A Joint Venture with the Project 'Wild Learning' FULL TEXT

Bente Elkjær
The Continuity of Action and Thinking in Learning - Re-Visiting John Dewey FULL TEXT

Outlines 1999

Ole Dreier

Personal Trajectories of Participation across Contexts of Social Practice

Ritva Engeström

Imagine the World You Want to Live In: A Study of Developmental Change in Doctor-Patient Interaction
Hysse Birgitte Forchhammer
The Emergence and Role of Client Perspectives in and on Cancer Treatment

Brenda Goldberg

A Genealogy of the Ridiculous: From 'Humours' to Humour
Renke Fahl & 
Morus Markard

The Project "Analysis of Psychological Practice" or: An Attempt at Connecting Psychology Critique and Practice Research


Critical Social Studies 2008:1  


Nathaniel Klemp, Ray McDermott, Jason Raley, Matthew Thibeault, Kimberly Powell & Daniel J. Levitin: Plans, Takes, and Mis-takes

This paper analyzes what may have been a mistake by pianist Thelonious Monk playing a jazz solo in 1958. Even in a Monk composition designed for patterned mayhem, a note can sound out of pattern. We reframe the question of whether the note was a mistake and ask instead about how Monk handles the problem. Amazingly, he replayed the note into a new pattern that resituates its jarring effect in retrospect. The mistake, or better, the mis-take, was “saved” by subsequent notes. Our analysis, supported by reflections from jazz musicians and the philosopher John Dewey, encourages a reformulation of plans, takes, mis-takes as categories for the interpretation of contingency, surprise, and repair in all human activities. A final section suggests that mistakes are essential to the practical plying and playing of knowledge into performances, particularly those that highlight learning.


Klaus Nørgaard Nielsen: Learning, Trajctories of Participation, and Social Practice

This article argues that personal meaning should be considered important when addressing issues of learning. It is claimed that meaningful learning is not primarily intra-psychological, as suggested by humanistic psychologists and parts of cognitive psychology, but is an integrated part of the pesron’s participation in various social practices. Inspired by critical psychology and situated learning, it is suggested that in order to comprehend what people in everyday life experience as meaningful, we have to understand the concerns subjects pursue across different contextual settings and the kind of conduct of everyday life they try to realise. A case example from an ongoing research project about how baker apprentices learn their trade is outlined in order to exemplify some of the theoretical considerations. Two baker apprentices, Peter and Charlotte, are presented to illustrate how they orientate their learning activities in the bakeries according to their future participation in the baking trade and in relation to the conduct of everyday life they wish to pursue.


May Britt Postholm: Cultural historical activity theory and Dewey’s idea-based social constructivism: Consequences for Educational Research

Background: Our theoretical perspectives direct our research processes. The article contributes to the debate on Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and Dewey’s idea-based social constructivism, and to the debate on methodology and how the researcher’s theoretical stance guides the researcher in his or her work.
Purpose: The article presents fundamental ideas within CHAT and Dewey’s idea-based social constructivism. The purpose of the text is to discuss and examine how ideas in these two theories guide educational research conducted within the framework of these two approaches. Furthermore, the article aims to contribute to the discussion on CHAT and Dewey’s theory.
Sources of evidence: Ideas based on Vygotsky’s theories, represented mainly by James Wertsch, Michael Cole, Barbara Rogoff and Yrjö Engeström, and Dewey’s ideas, are examined and discussed in relation to educational research. Furthermore, statements made by Mietinnen, Garrison and Rorty are taken into account in the discussion on the two outlined theories.
Main argument: When CHAT and Dewey’s theory guide researchers in their work, they have to take the context or situation into consideration. Artefacts are treated as part of this context, and therefore have to be a focal point of the research. In educational research the classroom and the teacher are also central parts of the learning environment or context. The teacher is the one to form the learning environment in which the pupils think and act, and therefore, the teacher’s role in the classroom is important. If researchers are to manage to focus on pupils’ learning, they must direct their research focus both on the teacher as an organizer of the activities and on the collaborating and supporting processes between the teacher and the pupils, and between the pupils. This means that the research focus has to include both activity and dialogue, which includes processes in all their complexity.
Conclusions: Mediating artefacts play a central role both in CHAT and Dewey’s theory. If the researcher is to ascertain what the pupils learn when using specific artefacts, he or she will have to study the activities or processes within which these learning aids are used. This indicates that the researcher has to study learning processes in progress. Garrison states that Dewey’s approach is a philosophy of cultural development. Miettinen finds that Dewey’s theory does not serve as the foundation for both historical and cultural analyses of action. I disagree with Rorty and Mietinnen, and rather follow Garrison’s lead. In both theories, social, cultural and historical factors are, in my opinion, viewed as decisive factors intertwined in what happens here and now. Therefore the setting that frames the activity with its social, cultural and historical aspects also has to be brought into focus in one’s research activity.


Morten Nissen: The Place of a Positive Critique in Contemporary Critical Psychology

The essay attempts to contextualize the German-Scandinavian tradition of Critical Psychology (GSCP) that bases on Cultural-Historical Activity Theory in today's critical psychologies. It is argued that adding to a psychology and ideology critique the positive dimension of ”foundational” theory is important to counteract the currently prevailing “negative” ideology of liberalism. It is also claimed that an ”instrumental” version of critical psychology, which takes up elements from psychology for tactical purposes will remain dependent on the given discipline of psychology and unable to reflect on its own subject position. GSCP is then rendered as developing the Marxist ontology of social practice (rather than its utopianism) toward a concept of a subjectivity constituted in social practice but with the criteria of action potency and productive needs on the part of the individual. It is suggested that this approach solves important problems in contemporary critical psychology. Finally, it is described how GSCP, too, might grow from the encounter, by developing a theory of collective subjectivity to include – us.


Jaan Valsiner: Ornamented worlds and textures of feeling: The power of abundance

Human development takes place in an ornamented—redundantly patterned and highly repetitive-- world. The emergence of knowledge takes the form of episodic unpredictable synthetic events at the intersection of the fields of internal and external cultural meaning systems—through the mutually linked processes of constructive internalization and externalization. Patterns of decorations—ornaments—are relevant as redundant “inputs” into the internalization/externalization processes. Ornaments can be viewed not merely as “aesthetic accessories” to human activity contexts but as holistic devices of cultural guidance of human conduct that acts through the subjectivity of personal feelings. This guidance is peripheral in its nature—surrounding the ordinary life activities with affectively oriented textures of cultural meanings



Critical Social Studies 2007:2  


Fernando Luis González Rey: Social and individual subjectivity from an historical cultural standpoint

This paper discusses theoretical issues concerning the topic of subjectivity as it has been recently developed within a cultural – historical framework. This provides a new theoretical and epistemological basis to this issue that does not lead to the misinterpretations of subjectivity found in the modern philosophical approaches to theorizing consciousness. This paper builds on interpretations related to Vygotsky’s theory of consciousness that do not follow the current dominant interpretations in Western Psychology. The analyses take departure in the concept of ‘sense’ introduced by Vygotsky at the end of his work and proceeds to propose the concept of subjective sense as the corner stone for the study of subjectivity. The concept of subjective configuration is discussed and finally, the concept of social subjectivity is introduced understood as those symbolic processes and subjective senses that characterize social scenarios and institutions.


Estrid Sørensen: STS goes to school: Spatial imaginaries of technology, knowledge and presence

The following text presents a revised and extended version of the public defence of my Ph.D. thesis, which I presented at the Faculty of Social Sciences on 18th November 2005, Copenhagen University. The thesis applies and develops theoretical perspectives from Science and Technology Studies – especially Actor-Network Theory – on the empirical field of primary education. This field has not prior been approached by these theories. Based on ethnographic field studies the thesis presents and compares what I call spatial imaginaries of interactions of humans and learning materials in a traditional classroom and in a computer lab. The study describes and discusses the forms of knowledge and the forms of presence performed through these socio-material interactions. The study thus contributes a definition of materialities that takes the understanding of technology in education beyond the dominant humanist approach to schooling.


Håkan Jönson & Magnus Nilsson: Are Old People Merited Veterans of Society? Some Notes on a Problematic Claim

The article shows how merit has been used to highlight pensioners as a special population in the claims-making activities of the senior rights movement in Sweden, as well as in debates about issues concerning old age. Simply put, merit refers to the claim that pensioners have built the society and they are entitled to special treatment – for instance welfare, reverence – for this reason. Merit is concluded to be a rhetorical tool with the potential of countering images of older people as a burden to the young. It portrays seniors as a population worthy of welfare and reverence. Social movements that emphasize merit among seniors will however risk isolation, since such claims to some extent have become associated with populist attacks on immigrants, politicians and other groups labeled as non-merited.

Paul H. D. Stenner: Non-foundational criticality? On the need for a process ontology of the psychosocial

The articulation of critical dialects of psychology has typically involved a questioning of the foundational assumptions of the so-called mainstream. This has included critiques in the name of more adequate scientific foundations, but more recently these have been accompanied by critiques in the name of an absence of foundations altogether, and critiques that suggest a rethinking of the concept of foundation. These latter versions are usually influenced by the great 20th Century non-foundational philosophies of figures such as Bergson, Whitehead, Wittgenstein and Heidegger, or by related thinkers such as Deleuze, Serres, Luhmann, Butler and Stengers. In foregrounding themes of process and multiplicity such thinkers provide potent tools for critically rethinking psychological questions. Less positive has been a tendency amongst critical psychologists to polarise natural and social scientific issues and to associate the former with negative images (all that is static, mechanistic, essentialist and conservative). This can lead to a formulaic criticality in which arguments for nature are bad, and those for culture are good. Deconstruction comes to appear simply as an assertion of ‘the discursive construction of’ whatever phenomenon is under scrutiny. To counteract this trend, the proposed paper will discuss a process approach to ontology that welcomes contributions from the natural sciences as well as the humanities and social sciences.


Critical Social Studies 2007:1


Michalis Kontopodis: Human Development as semiotic-material Ordering: Sketching a Relational Developmental Psychology

The paper presented here is an attempt at casting human development as a semiotic-material phenomenon which reflects power relations and includes uncertainty. On the ground of post-structuralist approaches, development is considered here as a performative concept, which does not represent but creates realities. Emphasis is put on the notions of ‘mediation’, ‘translation’ and ‘materiality’ in everyday practices of students and teachers in a concrete school setting, where I conducted ethnographical research for one school year. The analysis of discursive research material of teachers’ discussions and interviews with students proves the developmental discourse to be interrelated to teachers’ and students’ positioning in the school; the developmental discourse orders ongoing interaction and enables students and teachers to perform the past and witness the future in a way which corresponds with dominant values and state social/educational policies. By translating a variety of events into a line moving from the past to the future as well as by materializing this line as diagrams and other semiotic-material objects, development becomes a technology of the self of (late) modernity which implies power relations and supports the maintenance of the modern order. On these grounds, a relational approach to development is suggested, which raises methodological and political issues.


Eugene Matusov, John St. Julien, Pilar Lacasa, Maria Alburquerque Candela: Learning as a communal process and as a byproduct of social activism

The purpose of this paper is to draw out the consequences of the communal character of learning approach promoted by a sociocultural framework. This approach has both descriptive-analytical and prescriptive-guiding power: it helps to analyze existing practices be they traditional, exclusive, or innovative but, what is, probably, even more important, it also helps to guide practitioners in the design of more inclusive educational practices. In the first part of the paper, we will provide a framework for analyzing the case of a shift from a traditional institutionalized perspective that understands learning as an individual process located in the head of the learner to the institutionalization of learning as a communal process — a regime which helps avoid constructing children in terms of a deficit model, disability, and academic failure. In the second part of the paper, we will discuss how treating learning as a communal process can guide an educational practitioner to develop a new pedagogical regime of a learning community of social activists that leads to inclusive pedagogy and eliminate “zones of teacher-student disability.”

Louise Ammentorp: Imagining social change: Developing social consciousness in an arts-based pedagogy

This paper is a study of a social-justice, arts-based literacy curriculum in a low income, working-class, predominately African-American school district in Newark, New Jersey. Participating students studied photography and poetry of established artists and took and developed their own photographs accompanied by written narratives. As a part of the curriculum students also wrote poetry and analytical essays. I present my findings within the context of a Vygotskian pedagogical approach that takes social consciousness and metaphor as its central concepts. The paper lays out this conceptual apparatus and deploys it to analyze the curriculum and student work. The paper argues for curriculum that develops social consciousness as the most effective for preparing students to create and participate in democratic societies. The research and analysis show that an arts based curriculum, in addition to successfully teaching literacy, is one of the most effective ways of bringing students’ life experience into the classroom for analysis and discussion, making activity at school relevant for students lives, especially those whose daily activities regularly confronts issues of life and death.


Louise Hardman: An Activity Theory approach to surfacing the pedagogical object in a primary school mathematics classroom

This paper develops a methodology for using Activity Theory (AT) to investigate pedagogical practices in primary school mathematics classrooms by selecting object-oriented pedagogical activity as the unit of analysis. While an understanding of object-oriented activity is central to Activity Theory (AT), the notion of object is a frequently debated and often misunderstood one. The conceptual confusion surrounding the object arises both from difficulties related to translating the original Russian conceptualisation of object-oriented activity into English as well as from the different interpretations of the object currently in use within two contemporary approaches in activity theory. This paper seeks to clarify understandings of the object by exploring notions of object oriented activity. To this end, the paper traces the historical development of the object through Leontiev (1978; 1981) and Engeström’s (1987; 1999) expansion of Vygotsky’s original triadic understanding of object oriented activity. Drawing on Basil Bernstein’s (1996) notion of evaluative criteria as those rules that transmit the criteria for the production of a legitimate text, the paper goes on to elaborate a methodology for using AT to analyse observational data by developing the notion of “evaluative episodes” as pedagogical moments in which the pedagogical object is made visible. Findings indicate that an evaluative episode can serve as an analytical space in which the dynamism of an activity system is momentarily frozen, enabling one to model human activity in the system under investigation and, hence, in this study, to understand pedagogy in context.


Anne Edwards & Apostol Apostolov: A Cultural-Historical Interpretation of Resilience: the
implications for practice

Recent attempts at preventing the social exclusion of vulnerable children in England have been driven by notions of resilience which centre primarily on changing children so that they may be better able to cope with adversity. Drawing on the concepts of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), we suggest that the idea of resilience should be expanded to include developing a capacity to act on and reshape the social conditions of one’s development. We use evidence from two studies of practices in recent re-configurations of children’s services in England to examine whether practitioners are seeing resilience in these terms. We present examples of work which embody these views but suggest that they are not easily incorporated into practices where expertise is centred on care and clear communication. The care and communication model of practice reflects the emphases given to evolutionary notions of child development while a CHAT view of resilience reflects Vygotsky’s concerns with a dialectic between individuals and the social situations of their development.


Outlines 2006:2


Reijo Miettinen:  Pragmatism and activity theory: Is Dewey’s philosophy a philosophy of cultural retooling?

A philosopher of education, Jim Garrison, has suggested that John Dewey's philosophy is a philosophy of cultural retooling and that Dewey adopted both his conception of work and the idea of tool as "a middle term between subject and object” from Hegel. This interpretation raises the question of what the relationship of the idea of cultural retooling in Dewey’s work is to his naturalism and to his allegiance to Darwinian biological functionalism. To deal with this problem, this paper analyzes how the idea of cultural retooling is elaborated in Dewey’s logic and in his theory of reflective thinking and compares it to the concept of retooling in Vygotsky and activity theory. Dewey does recognize the significance of tools in human practice and the role of language in the formation of meaning. However, in his theory of thinking and problem solving, he primarily resorts to the biological or ecological language of the organism–environment, in which the concepts of habit and situation play a central role. It is argued that this language does not deal with the functions and relationships of different kinds of tools and artifacts in changes of activity nor supply satisfactory means of analyzing the historical, institutionalized and cultural dimensions of human activity.


Ines Langemeyer & Wolff-Michael Roth: Is Cultural-Historical Activity Theory Threatened to Fall Short of its Own Principles and Possibilities as a Dialectical Social Science?

In recent years, many researchers engaged in diverse areas and approaches of “cultural-historical activity theory” (CHAT) realized an increasing international interest in Lev S. Vygotsky’s, A. N. Leont’ev’s, and A. Luria’s work and its continuations. Not so long ago, Yrjö Engeström noted that the activity approach was still “the best-held secret of academia” (p. 64) and highlighted the “impressive dimension of theorizing behind” it. Certainly, this remark reflects a time when CHAT was off the beaten tracks. But if this situation begins to change today, in which direction will CHAT be heading? Will it continue to be one of those projects “unique for its practical, political, and civic engagement” committed “to ideals of social justice, equality, and social change” as it was in the beginning (Stetsenko & Arievitch, 2004, p. 58)? Although a positive future of CHAT seems to lie ahead, we consider in this article some of the problematics that may challenge all those who want to pass the “impressive dimensions of theorizing” from “insider” circles to a larger audience and from one generation to another as well as encourage newcomers to become part of this tradition through critical engagement in its theory and practice. A key to these engagements, we suggest, is not only the comprehensive empirical and philosophical basis, but also the role of dialectics as both topic and method. Therefore, the challenge for newcomers (as well as for “old-timers”) to take on the tradition of CHAT is not a small one indeed. We assume that a major reason for the increasing interest in CHAT lies in its potential to provide a non-reductionist approach to human development, which is due to its affinity to dialectics; however, the close interrelation to a tradition that reaches back to the theories of Georg W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx, among others, is not the easiest to master.

In consideration of these difficulties, the purpose of this article is to investigate how contemporary approaches within CHAT can continue to provide a dialectical framework to preserve and renew the critical intention of this tradition, and how we run the risk of losing this sting. Thereby, we sensitize researchers to the problem of developing a cultural-historical approach within a historical situation that confronts us with new, unanswered questions. In this light, we also problematize the use of scientific language, for it may lead us to speak and argue un-dialectically when in fact we intend or ought to think dialectically.

This article seeks to convey insights and arguments of how we can relate our theoretical approaches to a tradition of dialectical thinking and in what ways this is paramount for a critical engagement in theory and practice. In the first part, we therefore discuss not only some major theorems in Hegel’s and Marx’s work but also, and above all, Vygotsky’s way of developing the cultural-historical approach of psychology. Second, we argue that the contemporary, widely known version of CHAT, related to Yrjö Engeström’s theoretical and empirical work, neglects different aspects of dialectical thinking and consequently narrows its potential to a socio-critical approach to societal practice and human development. A crucial question of this scrutiny will be the notion of contradictions and how development is supposed to be achieved. In general, our intention is not only to clarify the role of dialectics as a method for activity theory but also to problematize the role of the subjects of research in CHAT and to confront ourselves with the problems of practicing and developing a critical science in face of a complex and challenging societal world.


Harry Daniels: Analysing institutional effects in Activity Theory: First steps in the development of a language of description

This paper explores the benefits that might arise from an appropriate fusion of the version of Activity Theory being developed by Yrjo Engestrom and the sociology of the late Basil Bernstein. It explores the common roots of the two traditions and on the basis of empirical work carried out in British special schools formulates an approach to the development of a language of description which would extend the analytical power of Activity Theory.

Tania Zittoun: Difficult Secularity: Talmud As Symbolic Resource

Religious systems are organised semiotic structures providing people with values and rules, identities, regularity, and meaning. Consequently, a person moving out of a religious system might be exposed to meaning-ruptures. The paper presents the situation of young people who have been in Yeshiva, a rabbinic high-school, and who have to join secular university life. It analyses the changes to which they are exposed. On the bases of this case study, the paper examines the following questions: can the religious symbolic system internalised by a person in a religious sphere of experience be mobilised as a symbolic resource once the person moves to a secular environment? If yes, how do religious symbolic resources facilitate the transition to a secular life? And if not, what other symbolic and social resources might facilitate such transitions?


Rashmi Singla: Intimate Partnership Formation and Intergenerational Relationships
among Ethnic Minority Youth In Denmark

This article is based on a research project drawing upon in-depth qualitative interviews (N=61) and data from a survey (N=628) of young people and parents belonging to the five largest ethnic minority groups in Denmark. The theoretical framework combines conceptualisations about conflict and the family with theories about modernisation/individualisation and discrimination effects. The dominating tendencies in the inter-generational relationships between young people and their parents on the subject of the young people’s intimate partnership formation are analysed and discussed. The ethic minority youth and parents’ reflections on the ethnic majority partnership formation patterns are delineated. The analyses indicate that relationships between young people and parents on the issue of intimate partnership formation can be cooperative or in opposition. This is contrary to the widespread discourse about serious conflicts between generations. Thus the article criticises the reductionistic conception of partnership formation being a question of either-or processes, i.e. own choice or parental choice, and appeals for broad concepts which include both-and processes, i.e. own choice and parental accept.  



Outlines 2006:1


Sven Mørch: Learning to become youth. An action theory approach

Youth is a historical construction and an answer to a specific challenge of individualisation in biography. And, as a historical and social construction, youth has to be learned. This article focuses on youth development from an action or activity theory perspective and as a learning process. It demonstrates how different youth problems and forms of youth differentiation follow forms of youth learning. Moreover, it shows how late modern development creates the demand for a new non-formal learning perspective to secure the development of new forms of competence. Based on Danish research concerning peer learning as a non-formal learning context, some perspectives of peer-learning competence are discussed.


Peter Musaeus: A Sociocultural Approach to Recognition and Learning

This is a case study of goldsmith craft apprenticeship learning and recognition. The study includes 13 participants in a goldsmith's workshop. The theoretical approach to recognition and learning is inspired by sociocultural theory. In this article recognition is defined with reference to Hegel’s understanding of the concept as a transformed struggle of granting acknowledgement to another person plus receiving acknowledgement as a person. It is argued that the notion of recognition can enhance sociocultural notions of learning. In analysing the case study of apprenticeship learning, the article suggests that recognition is expressed in the act of participants staking their lives to prove their autonomy, in work activity in terms of the role of artefacts and in the form of abstract and concrete recognition. Finally recognition is discussed in relation to learning and development. The study concludes that recognition is an important category not only to explain apprenticeship learning but also to give a sociocultural explanation of learning in general.


Nanna Mik-Meyer: Identities and Organizations. Evaluating the Personality Traits of Clients in two Danish Rehabilitation Organizations

This article explores how the guidelines for personality assessments in two Danish rehabilitation organizations influence the actual evaluation of clients. The analysis shows how staff members produce institutional identities corresponding to organizational categories, which very often have little or no relevance for the clients evaluated. The goal of the article is to demonstrate how the institutional complex that frames the work of the organizations produces the client types pertaining to that organization. The rehabilitation organizations’ local history, legislation, along with the structural features of the labour market and social work result in a number of contradictions that make it difficult to deliver client-centred care. According to the staff, this is one of the most important aims of “good” social work.


May Britt Postholm & Janne Madsen: The Researcher’s Role: An Ethical Dimension

Different paradigms or perspectives function as the point of departure and framework for research. In this article ethical issues in the positivist and constructivist paradigms are presented. The article points out that more or less the same ethical codes are used in these paradigms, but with some nuanced interpretations. CHAT (cultural historical activity theory) is presented as a third paradigm. While conducting research, one intention within this paradigm is to change and improve practice. This means that the researcher and the research participants during the research process together set the goals for the work and try to change practice en route to these goals. The relation between the researcher and the research participants is different than in the other two presented paradigms. This means that research in the CHAT paradigm also needs to be guided by different ethical codes. The purpose of this article is to show how some of the traditional ethical codes which direct research both in the positivist and constructivist paradigm change and are also inadequate in the CHAT paradigm. The article presents and discusses ethical codes that challenge the researchers’ communicative, social and knowledge competence.  


Jaakko Virkkunen: Hybrid agency in co-configuration work

 This article maintains that a new wave in the development of the productive forces of society triggered by the revolution in information and communication technologies is taking place. Production carried out by single organizations is increasingly replaced by forms of production that are based on close long-term collaboration between specialized firms. This transition reflects the increasing importance of research and development as well as collective learning in business competition. New information and communication technologies enable new forms of distributed and collaborative knowledge creation and learning. The article explores an emerging new form of innovation-oriented inter-firm collaboration called co-configuration and the new kind of dualistic agency it seems to be calling for. In this form of collaboration the traditional boundary between producer and provider as well as the boundaries between product development, sales and maintenance within the provider organization become blurred. The article presents a case of the development of co-configuration work in the provision of optimization software for pulp production. The case shows some of the contradictions involved in this new form of collaboration and the development of a new kind of object-oriented collaborative agency mediated through a real-time information and communication technological platform and uniting two processes of continuous development.




Outlines 2005:2


Andrea Beckmann and Charlie Cooper: Nous accusons – Revisiting Foucault’s comments on the role of the ‘specific intellectual’ in the context of increasing processes of Gleichschaltung in Britain

In the late nineteenth century, Emile Zola felt the urge and intellectual responsibility to challenge the unethical, unjust and oppressive operation of the French Republic, and wrote an open letter to the President of the Republic entitled ‘J’accuse’. The publication of this open letter led to the formulation of the Manifeste des intellectuals (1897) that demands a non-party space for the expression of an ethically guided politics. ‘J’accuse’ has become a generic symbol for the voicing of resistance against governmental forms of oppression. On the basis of a re-reading of Foucault’s understanding of the ‘specific intellectual’ (Foucault, 1977 and 1980), this article suggests that we need a non-party space for the public expression of ethically governed politics. The article explores some parallels that can be drawn between the historical phenomenon of Gleichschaltung in Nazi Germany and contemporary politics in Britain. While it is aknowledged that the ultimate goals and the ‘legitimating’ ideological frameworks operating in both regimes are very different, various elements of the processes involved in the establishment, maintenance and extension of control over the populace as well as the increasing muting of resistance show remarkable similarities. Paying particular attention to policy and practice in relation to housing, education and “crime control,” contemporary Britain is revealed as characterized by  processes that have so far resulted in opportunistic conformity being the reigning norm of a societal life in which former notions of freedom, civil rights and self-government have become increasingly undermined.

Simon Pemberton: Deaths in Police Custody: The ‘acceptable’ consequences of a ‘law and order’ society?

This article seeks to explain the acceptance of the rising numbers of police custody deaths in England and Wales over the last 20 years. It argues that these deaths are a consequence of the transformation in the U.K., from a social democratic to an increasingly neo-liberal mode of social organisation. The article links the characteristics of the authoritarian state, which emerged at this point in time, to the current profile of police custody deaths. Then, by using interview material with those who have investigated these cases, the article seeks to understand the narratives which are mobilised to legitimate these deaths as the ‘acceptable’ consequences of a ‘law and order’ society.

Ragnhild Sollund: Obstacles and possibilities in police research

Drawing on a Norwegian research project investigating the possible existence of police racism, this article explores challenges related to conducting research in such sensitive sites as the police with reference to methodological and institutional obstacles. The project featured participant observation, in-depth interviews with ethnic minority men, and in-depth interviews with police officers and lays the basis for a discussion of the diverging perspectives on police racism held by the police and by members of ethnic minorities. The degree to which research on the police can reveal the  ‘truth’ of policing and thereby contribute to changing police practice is problematised and questions are asked about the extent to which research can contribute to facilitating change within the police that might be of benefit to the relationship between the police and ethnic minorities. A key question raised is whether the existence of a specific police culture, featuring loyalty, a hierarchical organisational structure and the use of discretion may prevent such research methods from revealing ‘true’ data, as well as organisational change. A discussion of problem-oriented policing illustrates some  of the obstacles to implementing changes. The article concludes that the police in Oslo do not demonstrate evidence of institutional racism though there is evidence of derogatory language use and stereotyping where ethnic minorities are stereotyped in homologous ways to other marginalised groups who come into contact with the police such as drug users.


Anette Ballinger: ‘Reasonable’ Women Who Kill: Re-Interpreting and Re-defining Women’s Responses to Domestic Violence in England and Wales 1900-1965

This article makes a contribution to current debates about gender and punishment by providing an historical analysis of the judicial fate of female domestic abuse victims who eventually killed their male abusers between 1900-1965 in England and Wales. Utilising case-studies of women who stood trial for the murder of their abusive partner during this period when murder was still punishable by hanging – I argue that what at first glance appears to be a ‘lenient’ sentence, in fact came at a heavy price for which all women ultimately paid and still pay. That is the maintenance of a gender order which denied women the status of full citizenship. ‘Lenient’ sentencing is shown to be based on stereotypical images of femininity and while it may have appeared to benefit individual women it did nothing to improve the legal situation of battered women generally. These historical case-studies helpwiden our understanding of current debates about gender and punishment by re-interpreting the women’s act of violence. The paper seeks to shift the focus away from provocation, diminished responsibility and irrationality to issues of rationality and agency – without losing sight of the specific circumstances in which the killing took place, and therefore without inviting harsher punishment.

Pat Carlen: In Praise of Critical Criminology

This short essay examines the relationship between academic research and policy with particular emphasis on the question of whether a critical criminology can engage in academic critique at the same time as engaging in policy oriented research. Recognising that critical criminology falls between theory and politics criminologists are urged to adopt pragmatic, strategic positions as they negotiate their role in contentious debates and practical minefields. It is concluded that a critical criminology must try not only to think the unthinkable about crime, but also to speak the unspeakable about the conditions in which and by which it is known.




Outlines 2005:1


Thomas Lemke: “A Zone of Indistinction” – A Critique of Giorgio Agamben’s Con-cept of Biopolitics

This article reconstructs Giorgio Agamben’s concept of biopolitics and discusses his claim that the camp is the “matrix of modernity”. While this thesis is more plausible than many of his critics do admit, his work is still characterised by diverse theoretical problems. My critique will concentrate on the legalistic concept of biopolitics that Agamben endorses and on his formalistic idea of the state. This reading of Agamben leads to a surprising result. By focussing on the repressive dimen-sions of the state and the sovereign border between life and death, Agamben’s work remains com-mitted to exactly that juridical perspective that he so vividly criticizes.

Monica Nilsson & Honorine Nocon: Practicing Invisibility: Women’s Roles in Higher Education

In this article, two female academics confront their role in producing their own invisibility and ir-relevance in the practice of higher education. Drawing on feminist standpoint theory, the authors interrogate their participation in articulation work that helped male colleagues to assume roles of higher status. Based on an analysis of personal narratives and the text of an international e-mail exchange that resulted in a successful grant proposal, the authors argue that the hierarchical and patriarchal cultural history of the academy as well as the intrusion of gendered relations from contexts beyond the institution of higher education undermine the democratic intentions of aca-demics, both male and female, who espouse horizontal collaborative relations between academics. This case study illustrates the contradiction between egalitarian institutional rhetoric and value systems of individuals and the hierarchical and gendered power relations that play out in everyday life in the academy. The authors conclude that while both male and female academics must work to change the gendered text of higher education, women in the academy must build both critical mass and mentoring networks in consciously acting to change the institution’s cultural history.

Nikolaj Veresov: Marxist and non-Marxist aspects of the cultural-historical psychology of L. S. Vygotsky
It was not only Marxism which influenced Vygotsky. He was a child of the Silver Age of Russian culture and philosophy and the influence of this should not be underestimated. Some traits in Vygotsky’s theory, traditionally considered as Marxist – such as the concept of the social origins of mind or sign as psychological tool have deeper and wider roots in works of Shpet, Blonsky, Sorokin and Meierhold. As for Marxism as such, it must be mentioned that during all three periods of his creative evolution Vygotsky had different approaches to what was true Marxist psychology and how it should be built. These are items this paper is focused on.


SungWon Hwang, Wolff-Michael Roth, & Lilian Pozzer-Ardenghi: Understanding Collaborative Practice: Reading between the Lines Actions

Collaboration is the central aspect of human practice; without it and the associated division of labor human society as we know it today would not exist. Successful collaboration enables a collective subject to produce more than the sum of what its members can do individually. But which conditions enable successful collaboration and how does it come about? In a case study of artifact designing in a class of sixth- and seventh-grade students, we articulate how the social interaction produces and reproduces the prerequisite and required intersubjectivity for successful collaboration and thereby constitutes a configuration of successful collaboration at two dominant modes of design practice. In face-to-face communication, human bodies produce a variation of available social and material resources and thereby concretely realize the generalized possibilities of making individual subjectivity available to others. This, we show, produces and reproduces intersubjectivity. During cooperative action, human bodies take up different parts of the collective labor and thereby achieve a division of labor, but the different contributions are accomplished into a collective one through human bodies in action, which constitutes a form of communication. We conclude that evaluating collaboration requires reading the productive value from communication and the communicative value from the division of labor, which, in dialectical unfolding of collaborative interactions, articulates itself in and as of creating new action possibilities (room to maneuver) through acting human bodies and therefore requires reading between the actions.

Bodil Pedersen: Marginalization and Power in Living with and Researching Living with HIV

This article takes its point of departure in a research project studying the psychosocial problems of living with HIV. The project was intended to participate in changing practices dealing with these problems. It became a project including many differently situated and intersecting personal and generalized perspectives. The article researches the development of the HIV project as a contribution to discussions related to Participatory Action Research and Practice Research. In mainstream approaches methodological indications are often presented as rules to follow in order to ensure the quality of the obtained knowledge. But situated historical and societal processes are involved in the effectuation of the HIV project, like they are in any other project. Researching the project heightens the awareness of the necessity of reflecting on situated and historical issues of power and margi-nalization and on the positions of the researcher in a given field of research. Methodological flexi-bility may also be necessary in order to encompass different perspectives. Such reflections and strategies are necessary precisely to ensure the development of knowledge and practice alike.



Outlines 2004:2


Irina Verenikina: From Theory to Practice: What does the Metaphor of Scaffolding Mean to Educators Today?

The current emphasis on rising educational standards in Australian society (eg A Commonwealth Government Quality Teacher Initiative, 2000) has stimulated a growing interest in Vygotsky's socio-cultural theory widely renowned for its profound understanding of teaching and learning. The metaphor of scaffolding commonly viewed as underpinned by socio-cultural theory and the zone of proximal development in particular, has become increasingly popular among educators in Australia (Hammond, 2002). Teachers find the metaphor appealing as it "offers what is lacking in much literature on education - an effective conceptual metaphor for the quality of teacher intervention in learning" (Hammond, 2002, p.2). However, there is no consensus of opinion among educators on the specific characteristics that constitute successful scaffolding. On the contrary, the current interpretation of scaffolding seems to have been drifting away from the Vygotskian view of teaching and learning and appears to have become an umbrella term for any kind of teacher support (Jacobs, 2001) and therefore, cannot serve the purpose of justifying the quality of teacher intervention. Furthermore, when taken out of its theoretical context, scaffolding tends to be interpreted as a form of direct instruction (Donovan & Smolkin, 2002), which invalidates the Vygotskian idea of teaching as co-construction of knowledge within student-centred activities. Such an interpretation of the metaphor of scaffolding is an unfortunate step back to a traditional, pre-Piagetian way of teaching which is adult-driven in nature and often results in "the imposition of a structure on the student" (Searle, 1984, in Stone, 1998, p. 349). In spite of a number of limitations of the metaphor, that have been discussed by socio-cultural theorists (e. g., Stone, 2001), it remains highly popular among educators. To fulfil teachers' expectations of scaffolding as being an effective teaching tool, it needs to be understood within the framework of its underlying theory. This project aims to analyse understanding of the concept of scaffolding by educational researchers and practitioners in its connection to the Vygotskian view of the role of instruction in nurturing children as active learners.

Marilyn Fleer & Jill Robbins: Broadening the Circumference:  A Socio-Historical Analysis of Family Enactments of Literacy and Numeracy within the Official Script of Middle Class Early Childhood Discourse

Informed by s socio-historical theory, this paper will report on a study that sought to document the literacy and numeracy outcomes for children living in low socio-economic circumstances in a region south-east of Melbourne, Australia.  The research focused on children in preschool and child care centres in the year prior to beginning school, and was designed to map literacy and numeracy experiences of children in the home and in the early childhood centre. In this paper an analysis of the cultural tools that families were intentionally developing in the context of their homes and communities is featured.  A socio-historical analysis of the data revealed children’s active engagement in the funds of knowledge (Moll and Greenberg 1990, Moll, 1990, and Moll, 2000) available within the community, the situated nature of learning (Lave and Wenger, 1991) within their communities, and the challenge for families transcending the constraints of ‘everyday learning’ to engage with ‘schooled learning’ (Hedegaard, 1998).  The study also revealed the institutional barriers to learning the landscape of schooling  (Greeno, 1991) and the deficit positioning evident for children and their families within the official script of middle class early childhood discourse (Fleer, 2003).

Sue Gordon and Kathleen Fittler: Learning By Teaching: A Cultural Historical Perspective On A Teacher’s Development 

How can teacher development be characterised? In this paper we offer a conceptualisation of teacher development as the enhancement of knowledge and capabilities to function in the activity of a teacher and illustrate with a case study. Our analytic focus is on the development of a science teacher, David, as he engaged in an innovative, collaborative project on learning photonics at a metropolitan secondary school in Australia. Three dimensions of development emerged: technical confidence and competence, pedagogical development and personal agency. We explore the transformative effects of intrapersonal tensions within the teacher’s constitution of his role in the emerging community of enquiry — positioning him in turn as learner, instructor and facilitator. We view the context for David’s actions as a complex and dynamic system and interpret David’s development as arising from his responses to the differences in his emerging roles in the project.

Joseph Meloche, Helen Hasan & Angelo Papakosmas: Support for Asynchronous Interaction in Group Experiential Learning 

To be relevant to the constantly changing work patterns of the real world, effective learning in universities often occurs in small groups facilitated by collaborative environments where participants are dynamically involved in purposeful activities.  The research described in this paper is an investigation of purposeful group work devised for experiential learning where a variety of socio-technical tools were used to support asynchronous tasks and communication among the learners.  In order to explore the complexity of this collaborative activity a distinctive inductive research approach has been adopted using reflective developmental methods.  The data collection and the analysis part of the research involved the reflection of participants on their activity being requested as reports within their course work.  Student reports were subject to content analysis using a computer-based tool that creates a conceptual map of collections of documents comparing the ratings and relationships of concepts among different sets of participants.  The study was enhanced by the use of Q-methodology that allows the participants to outline their views and to make individual decisions on the relative importance that they place upon the available views of the larger group. Concepts from Activity Theory allowed the researchers to take a holistic contextual approach both to the design of the research and the interpretation of the findings to make some sense of the complexity of the dynamic work-learning dialectic in a socio-technical collaborative setting. 

Alanah Kazlauskas and Kate Crawford: The Contribution of a Community Event to Expert Work: An Activity Theoretical Perspective

Becoming an expert in any knowledge domain takes time and a great deal of learning, both theoretical and experiential.  The individual’s knowledge is often supplemented through knowledge exchanges with other experts.  Such exchanges are facilitated by events such as conferences or meetings. For two years we have been investigating the high profile work of scientists who work in the accredited anti-doping laboratories that are located in various countries around the world. These scientists work to curb doping in sport by conducting urinary analyses which detect athletes’ use of performance enhancing substances. These international experts, in the field of anti-doping science, work in a complex socio-technical context comprising both scientific and general anti-doping practitioners such as the staff of anti-doping agencies, sporting federations, sports physicians, coaches, athletes and the media.

In order to maintain the high level of expertise necessary for this work, anti-doping scientists continuously search for and integrate new knowledge into everyday laboratory practice. To facilitate this process anti-doping scientists have developed working relationships and networks with other scientists working in the area. A major enabler of this process is the annual Manfred Donike Workshop on Dope Analysis. This paper describes the contribution of this event to the work of these expert scientists from an Activity Theory perspective.


Outlines 2004:1


Pentti Hakkarainen: Narrative Learning in the Fifth Dimension
The article describes an extension of the original idea of the fifth dimension model to pre-school age. We found out that small schildren are not able to use in their activity the tasks formulated by the adults. Learning tasks inbedded in different narratives were used in 5D environments. Experimental research lead to a hypothesis on the status of narrative learning as ”transitory activity system” between play and school learning. The hypothesis is presented and a transitory model sketched. Examples on children’s sense making and narrative learning in problem situations are are offered at the end of the article.


Mariane Hedegaard: A Cultural-Historical Approach to Learning in Classrooms
The basic conception of this paper is to conceptualise learning as a change in relation between a person and the world through change in his/her capacity for tool use and interpretation of artefacts. Further this relation has to be defined within a context (state, societal field, institutional practice and person’s activity). Both context and tool/artefact have to be seen as objectification of human needs and intentions already invested with cognitive and affective content.


Hannele Kerosuo: Examining Boundaries In Health Care - Outline Of A Method For Studying Organizational Boundaries In Interaction
The care of patients with many illnesses often appears fragmented by many boundaries in the health care system when the care is provided in several locations of primary and secondary care. In the article, boundaries are examined in an interaction between patients and multiple providers in an effort to develop collaboration in inter-organizational provision in a Change Laboratory intervention. Firstly, it will be traced how the boundaries are expressed in the interaction. Secondly, it will be studied how the boundaries expressed in the interaction relate to health care organizations and patient care practices. Thirdly, the practical activity that was embedded in the interaction between patients and providers will be focused on at the laboratory. The expression of boundaries was examined in activity theoretical terms as discursive actions. In discursive actions the ‘lived past’ becomes involved in the situational actions that orient towards future activity. The findings suggest that expressing boundaries uses various linguistic means and it seems relevant to propose that boundaries cannot be studied in a formal way; the analysis needs to be related to the organizational context of the specific study. However, the linguistic means may serve as useful “landmarks” or “pointers” of boundaries that are often expressed implicitly in the interaction. The laboratory session provides an opportunity to study boundaries “on the spot”, or “in their own right”. The realization of the emergent inter-organizational care at the session created challenges for the provision while contradicting some elements of the prevailing provision. During these kinds of interaction, the boundaries between providers became obvious. Furthermore, challenging the boundaries in the normal flow of interaction may be a potential for boundary crossing and even further, a re-constitution of boundaries. Consequently, a boundary crossing represents an interesting unit of analysis for future studies of boundaries and boundary crossing in interaction and discourse. At the laboratory setting was displayed the ability to control others through an indirect use of power that may reflect a simultaneous value system supported by the prevailing hierarchies. In the studies to come, it will be important to pay attention to these implicit power linkages when monitoring the boundaries in horizontal collaborations.


Kristina Westerberg: Workplace development and learning in elder care – the importance of a fertile soil and the trouble of project implementation
Workplace learning and competence development in work are frequently used concepts. A wide spread notion is that societal, institutional, and organizational changes require the development of knowledge, methods and strategies for learning at workplaces, in both public and private enterprises. In research on learning and competence development at work, the organizational learning and development as well as individual accomplishments are investigated from various perspectives and in different contexts. The theoretical base for research projects can, accordingly, be focused at a number of organizational and system levels. This paper describes a research project called "Workplace development and learning in elder care" in which learning and knowledge were key issues and where Activity Theory was used as the theoretical base. The project was joint project between two research and development field units. These were UFFE, a municipal social services’ field research unit, and Äldrecentrum Västerbotten, a county council field research unit which aims to serve the interests of the elderly. The project was launched in the fall of 2000 and ended in the summer of 2003. I was employed part-time as a research leader at the municipal research unit and became the research leader for this particular project. A number of students, as well as employees from the county council geriatric care services and the municipal elder care participated in the project. The general aims of the project were to: a) investigate the prerequisites for development and learning; b) test and evaluate interventions at a workgroup level; and c) identify the need for new knowledge. The results were expected to be useful for the field research units as well as for the municipal and county eldercare services in their research and development work.
I start with a presentation of the theoretical concepts and apply them in order to form a tentative hypothesis on the status of learning and knowledge in elder care. The next section contains a short description of the different parts of the project and the main results are presented. Finally, the results are discussed and related to the conditions and impact of workplace interventions.


Morten Nissen: Wild Objectification: Social Work as Object
The paper is about objectification in and of social work. Drawing on a decade-long cooperation with a Copenhagen social workers network focused in the organization Wild Learning, and starting from an Internet essay this organization has provided, the problems with objectifying social work are discussed. Viewed as basically a wholistic subjectification, social work cannot easily be endowed with objectivity in the form of scientific standards, and the objects representing it are often like novels, uniqueness mass-produced; they can be said to ideologically confirm rather than scientifically model its activities and communities. The approach to objectification must dig a level deeper. It is considered how objectifications in social work – and the Internet essay is taken as example – can be approached critically as ideological objectifications and at the same time, in the cultural-historical tradition, as prototypes with some scope of relevance.


Outlines 2003:2


Arne Prahl: Formalizing Knowledge Creation in Inventive Project Groups. The Malleability of Formal Work Methods
This paper investigates how participants in cross-functional project groups use a formal work method in their sense making when dealing with the complexity of innovative work, especially in its inventive phase. The empirical basis of the paper is a prospective case study in which three project groups in three different companies are followed as they try to frame and solve their innovation tasks consisting in problems of a relatively general and vague character. The data are analyzed by means of a modified version of the principles of grounded theory. This means that the lessons drawn from the empirical data are guided by a relational sense making perspective in which the formal method used by the participants is seen as a technological artifact. Among the lessons learned by using this frame of reference are that a formal method may be seen as an entity with a meaning depending on the relations it is embedded in; as an enacted cue for interpretation and action; and as a non-human actor. Compared to the tradition of organizational development, these lessons represent an alternative conception of the implementation of a work method and illuminate prevailing notions about the importance of improvisation in innovation.

Rieko Sawyer: Identity Formation through Brokering in Scientific Practice
Abstract: Inspired by recent theorization by Dreier and Lave concerning situated perspectives on learning, I illuminate learning of international graduate students in a science lab in Japan as trajectories of participation in multi-layered activities and various mutually constituted occasions, and as crossing of multiple communities of practice. By doing so, I describe trajectories of participation as unique and multiple ways characteristic of individual participants instead of as a linear process from newcomer to old-timer or from peripheral to full participation in a community of practice. Identity formation is also reformulated as discovering and constituting one’s unique self through crossing multiple communities of practice rather than merely as becoming a member in a community of practice. Further, I show that identity formation may be regarded not merely as adjusting the relationship among multiple communities within individuals, but as the practice of organizing new linkages among communities and of reconstituting communities of practice.

Carsten S. Østerlund: Documenting Practices: The indexical centering of medical records
This paper explores how organizational members use documents to share their knowledge within and across work settings. I suggest that organizational studies of distributed knowledge sharing and information systems would greatly benefit from the linguistic analysis of communicative practices. Specifically, the paper highlights the notion of indexical centering as formulated by the linguistic anthropologist William Hanks and demonstrates its analytical power in studying documenting as a communicative practice. Drawing on a 15-month, multi-sited ethnographic study in several pediatric healthcare settings, the paper focuses on how two doctors compose and use two medical histories found in two distinct medical information systems. The analysis suggests that the doctors use documents to index the temporal, spatial, and participatory dimensions of their knowledge sharing. They do so by indexing, on the one hand, the participants, times and places for their communicative practices and, on the other hand, the participants, times and places of their general care practices. The indexical analysis allows us to perceive documents, as more than mere vessels for knowledge transfer among organizational members, but as an integrated part of how people structure their work practices and situate their knowledge sharing in complex distributed organizational settings.

Martin M. Nielsen: Representations at Work
This paper argues that “distributed cognition” facilitates a framework for studying aspects of organizations as socio-technical systems. An approach studying tool use and workflows is laid out and utilized in an analysis of information processing at a post office. Finally, some implications are presented – for organizational as well as cognitive studies. Research on performative representations is called for and, consequently, a widening of the cognition-as-computation framework is suggested.


Outlines 2003:1


David Middleton & Kyoko Murakami: Collectivity and Agency in Remembering and Reconciliation
This paper examines how British war veterans fold together war time and post war experiences in practices of remembering and reconciliation. We examine these practices as networks of association between British ex-servicemen (veterans) and the people, places and circumstances associated with their experiences as prisoners in Japan during WW2. We focus on the experience of World War 2 British ex-servicemen (veterans) who were prisoners of war in Far East. During their period of captivity they worked to build Thai-Burma Railway before transfer to a copper mine in Japan. Some 50 years later they participated in a "reconciliation trip" to Japan. We discuss two related issues. First, how and in what ways are the post war lives and war time experiences of these veterans gathered up in the emergent collectivity of such practices? In other words in what ways do these practices emerge and sustain themselves as a process of collection and dispersion of circulating reference in networks of association between people places and things. Second, we examine how accounts of redemption (claims to the consequences of experience as being other than you would expect them to be) create the basis for emergent forms of agency and settlement in expanding networks of remembering and reconciliation.

Michael Cole: Culture and Cognitive Science
The purpose of this paper is to review the way in which cultural contributions to human nature have been treated within the field of  cognitive science. I was initially motivated to write about this topic when invited to give a talk to a Cognitive Science department at a sister university in California a few years ago. My goal, on that occasion, was to convince my audience, none of whom were predisposed to considering culture an integral part of cognitive science, that they would indeed benefit from recognizing some affinities between the ideas of some of the founders of cognitive science and ideas about culture emanating from the Soviet (now Russian) cultural-historical school. My task in presenting this argument to the readers of  Outlines is most likely the mirror image of that earlier effort. On the one hand, the ideas of the cultural-historical school are well known to this readership and you do not need to be lectured on the topic by an American whose knowledge of the topic is no greater than your own. At best, the ways in which I have appropriated those ideas and put them to work might provide an opportunity to reflect on the strange fate of ideas when they move between national traditions of thought. On the other hand, owing to a double twist of fate (after all, what was an American doing in Moscow in 1962 doing post-doctoral work in psychology) I was also present during the discussions leading to the founding of Cognitive Science in the early 1970’s and subsequently became a member of the Cognitive Science Program at UCSD in the early 1980’s, arguably one of the pioneering efforts to institutionalize this new discipline.
My hope is this unusual confluence of experiences, and the ideas that they have generated, will be of some use to those who see value in a dialogue between these different intellectual projects. With this goal in mind, I will begin by providing my own brief history of key ideas associated with the origins of cognitive science. My presentation will of necessity be highly selective – it is the relevance of the inclusion of culture in cognitive science that is my major focus. I will then summarize some major milestones in the development of cognitive science at UCSD before turning to describe my own fusion of ideas from cultural-historical psychology and cognitive science as a kind of existence proof of the potential value of inter-disciplinary dialogue.

Lotte Huniche: Studying Genetic Risk in the Conduct of Everyday Life
This article is a revised version of a talk given in lieu of the Ph.D. dissertation: "Huntington´s Disease in Everyday Life. Knowledge, Ignorance and Genetic Risk". The dissertation evolves around the analysis of modern living with risk for a late onset genetic disorder. Here, three aspects of everyday lives faced with Huntington´s Disease (HD) are discussed. First, HD is one aspect of everyday living along with a variety of other aspects. The importance of risk is analysed as personal and changing in changing circumstances. Second, genetic knowledge and technology are not solid universals, but situated and changing, and of varying importance in lives at risk. Last, the ethical rationalities of everyday living, research and clinical practice concerned with a hereditary condition are discussed as complex and contradictory in and across structures of social practice.

Erik Axel: Theoretical Deliberations on "Regulation as Productive Tool Use"
This paper is discusses some central points in a dissertation for the degree of dr. phil., "Regulation as Productive Tool Use - a Participatory Observation in the Control Room of a District Heating System." An earlier version of the paper was presented by the author as part of the defense of the dissertation at Roskilde University Center June 14 2002. As suggested by the title, the dissertation was an empirical study of regulation in a control room. The object of the authors participatory observation was how the operators in the control room followed rules when they regulated a highly automated plant. When I was shown the plant I was told that the technology ran smoothly and without error. Its control structures are based on formal logic and mechanical principles, all the same human beings are required in the control room to take care of anomalies. Among other things, the observations provide an opportunity to discuss the limitations of psychologies that study human beings on the basis of formal principles. The present paper focuses on two characteristic aspects of this discussion in the dissertation. First, it takes its point of departure in some practical problems of the control structures of the control room. It will demonstrate that the practical problems are problems of principle, and that formal principles are not adequate to study the object of human sciences, namely, human beings. Second, it sketches out what is required of a conception of human beings. As human beings are trusted to handle anomalies, we must explain how they are able to act on an incomplete understanding of the situation. And since they are able to identify what is wrong, we must explain how they develop new knowledge. The paper presented at the defense summarized the main arguments of the dissertation and alluded to an expansion of the main point using a particular instance. Here the weight is shifted to the latter expansion.

Andrew M. Jefferson: Therapeutic Discipline? Reflections on the Penetration of Sites of Control by Therapeutic Discourse
This article addresses the way in which therapeutic practice in an English prison creates conditions whereby both prisoners and prison officers are caught up in networks and relationships of power that contribute to the constitution of particular subjects. The development of therapeutic practice, in relation to prisons and probation, is described and contextualised. Subsequently, the practices of group therapy in operation at Grendon prison - a rather unique institution built on principles of therapeutic community – are analysed with a focus on five ”practices of moulding,” namely, naming, confession, assessment and surveillance, tolerance and participation. The argument that psychotherapy, under conditions of imprisonment, is a form of repression or social control is discussed and dismissed as too simple a model to account for the relations of power and constitutive practices that effect all participants, not only prisoners. Members of staff, as well as prisoners, are shown to be caught up in the disciplinary web. Discipline, as opposed to control, is advocated as a more appropriate concept for understanding therapeutic practices in prison. The work of Thomas Mathiesen, on the concept of synoptic power, is introduced to help illustrate these dynamics. The article represents a shift in my own thinking, from scepticism to a pragmatic idealist position, that creates space for institutions like Grendon to be imagined as potential least worst options for people convicted of offences and obliged to serve “time”. It is my hope, argued for in the article, that Grendon can be conceived of as a “visionary space” with emancipatory potential.



Outlines 2002:2


Klaus Nielsen: The Concept of Tacit Knowledge - A Critique
This article questions the concept of tacit knowledge as the basis for our conceptual understanding of practice. The first part of the article is a critical introduction to the concept of tacit knowledge. It is emphasized that this concept is situated in various academic practices and not defined and homogeneously but in accordance with issues and intentions significant for these practices. The second part of the article outlines some consequences of conceptualizing practice as basically a matter of tacit knowledge. It is argued that tacit knowledge should be seen in relation to the growth of professions in modern society and to the need to legitimate them. It is further claimed that as a legitimating concept tacit knowledge may bring about various problems leading to a marginalization of specific experiences, to social uniformity, to the reappearance of individualism and to the maintenance of a dualistic view of knowledge.

Ivar Solheim: Beyond Turn-taking. Reflections on Different Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Educational Talk
The article discusses several epistemological and methodological issues related to the analysis of discourse in general and of educational talk in particular. The theoretical framework provided by conversation analysis (CA) is applied and critically discussed in the analysis of an empirical example of educational talk. Several questions seem pertinent: Can we – as analysts – have direct access to talk "as it actually occurs", independent of any kind of theorizing and predefined categorization? What is the epistemological status of the conversation analytic categories? What are the limitations of applying turn-taking as an analytical category in the study of talk? To what extent can we presume the knowledgeability of the interlocutors as a premise in our analysis? On the background of my own attempts at applying CA in the analysis of educational discourse, I argue for a widening of the perspective from a narrow, empiricist focus on conversational turn-takings and sequential organization of talk, for example in the handling of issues like silences and absences in talk. On the other hand, I also warn against the pitfalls of historicist, abstract social theory; here exemplified with some texts from theorists applying abstract philosophical categories from dialectical and historical materialism like "the law of contradiction" as explanatory tools in the study of situated action. In the study of educational meaning making we should avoid empiricist as well as historicist approaches and explanations.

Morten Nissen: To Be And Not to Be. The Subjectivity of Drug Taking
The paper encircles the subjectivity of drug taking as one form of contemporary practice in which fundamental theoretical issues are dealt with. In particular, following Mariana Valverde’s genealogy of alcohol regulation, the question of the free will, and the paradox of the simultaneous being and non-being of the autonomous subject, are viewed as present in various approaches to drugs. The current neo-pragmatist wave substitutes low-key practical notions of habits for a dichotomy of free will or determinism. The concept of objectification promises to overcome that dichotomy by externalizing it; in terms of this concept, we can distinguish the abstract-imagined ‘fix’ from a genuinely transforming realization, and suggest that ours is the age of the fix, of instrumental commodities that change us in ways we do not intend. But, it is claimed, an inescapable issue of the self-dissolution of the subject remains; perhaps in the definitive shape of a suicide, or in the minor shapes of fixes such as a tactics of feigned surrender, New Age Higher Powers, or imagined communities. Determined to realize the idea of a benevolent surrender of the subject, the paper ends in an attempt to contribute to the coming to an understanding of herself and with herself of a person who finds herself at the troublesome intersection of Narcotics Anonymous and a social work development network of Copenhagen City called Wild Learning.

Esben Houborg Pedersen: Practices of Government. in Methadone Maintenance
Addiction is a central issue in a liberal society of autonomous citizens, as the nodal point of addiction is self-control – or rather the lack of it. By looking at different ways of problematizing and working upon addiction, one might also get some idea of different ways of conceptualizing and practicing freedom. The point of departure for my paper is practices of methadone maintenance in different regimes of drug treatment. The article illustrates how treatment practices produce different forms of subjectification of drug addicts, depending on the discourses and technologies these practices articulate, and by implication, how they constitute different ways of problematizing freedom as something to be worked upon. My argument is based on interviews with managers of the drug treatment system in Copenhagen, documents concerning drug policy and drug treatment on a local and national level as well as addiction research. My analyses in this paper are tentative and a first report from a study currently under way.

Kerstin Svensson Caring Power – Coercion as Care
The article analyses the compulsory care of drug misusers in Sweden. An historical analysis of this field of work as a part of the Swedish welfare state highlights historically changing legislations, institutions, understandings and practices. Following Foucault, it is argued that it is impossible to distinguish between power and care and that confusion about coercive care is a result of not acknowledging power. Empirical studies of current social work point to the significance of different institutional settings. The author’s study of the Swedish probation service shows that social workers and clients may adopt different positions in relation to each other and that their experiences of the practice of social work depend on the congruence or disparity between these positions. The problematic role of motivation in coercive care is highlighted. While some scholars claim that motivation is not possible in coercive institutions, the author relates motivation to the caring power arguing that social work is always aimed at normality and that care is exercised to achieve normality. The promise of an improved life situation may make people in need of help adapt to the demands of the helper, and the caring power can be seen as a way to provide help for individuals who do not realize that they are in need of care.


Outlines 2002:1


Mariana Valverde: Experience and Truthtelling: Intoxicated Autobiography and Ethical Subjectivity
This is a Foucault-inspired, postmodern study of ethical subjectivity. Technologies of life, personal truths and relations between truth telling and intoxication are highlighted in drug autobiographies and in materials from a study of Alcoholics Anonymous. Here other notions of the self are at play than the concept of the unified, autonomous, authentic self. These materials also offer an understanding of addiction as a dysfunction or disorganisation of temporality in everyday life.

Jean Lave & Ray McDermott: Estranged Labor Learning
This article is in praise of the labor of reading profound and rich texts, in this case the essay on ‘estranged  labor’ by Karl Marx. Comparing in detail what Marx wrote on estranged labor with current social practices of learning and education leads us to comprehensive ideas about learning – including the social practices of alienated learning. We then emphasize the importance of distribution in the institutionalized production of alienated learning. And we end this article with critical reflections on the importance of alienation for the relationship between teaching and learning in the social practice of scholars.

Anne Edwards, Lin MacKenzie, Stewart Ranson and Heather Rutledge: Disruption and Disposition in Lifelong Learning
UK government policies for social inclusion through engaging with the learning society aim at repositioning people as capable participants in their social worlds. These policies at first sight appear to be aimed at a sophisticated restructuring of social contexts as well as at an enhancing of individual learning. However there is a degree of conceptual confusion within these policies. In this paper we explore some of the tensions evident in a study of a family learning centre in an English city. In the exploration we examine the extent to which the tools offered by sociocultural and activity theory (SAT) can assist in resolving that conceptual confusion and how SAT itself might need to develop in order to analyse complex and sustained forms of intervention.

Sampsa Hyysalo: Transforming the Object in Product Design
Product design is a process in which multiple understandings of technology and society are transformed into characteristics of a product, into skills found in the design team, and finally, into scripts that prefigure the use of the technology. Because of its particular concern with mutual transformations of objects, social collectives and subjects, activity theory seems a potentially powerful framework for analyzing the complexity of product design work. I utilize the concepts of motive and object of activity to analyze an innovation process in a small high-tech company. This analysis shows that engagement with the novel objects in the design process led to a significant transformation in the expertise, organization of work and dominant motive of the work community. In theoretical terms, the analysis suggests an alternative to the idea that an activity has one objectified motive which is instantiated in an object in the material world. It may be sensible to analyze product design as poly-motivated and its motives as instantiated in a number of different project-objects.

Outlines 2001:2


Sten Ludvigsen & Annita Fjuk: New tools in Social Practice: Learning, Medical Education and 3D Environments 
Learning with different kinds of ICT-based tools is an important issue in today’s society. In this article we focus on how design of technology rich environments based on state of the art learning principles can give us new insights about how learning occur, and how we can develop new types of learning environments. Medical education constitutes the subject domain. There has been a considerable effort to develop 3D technologies in this field, and the article provides a careful review of how these technologies are applied. There is, however, a substantial gap between these advances and the use of technologies in medical education. Related work proposes individualistic assumptions or metaphors that do not focus explicitly on learning and technology mediation. Based on theoretical analysis of previous literature in the field we argue that there is a need for a new unit of analysis that includes the relationship between individual and collective activity and the role of technology herein. The socio-cultural and especially activity theory is taken as the perspective which gives the possibility to develop the argumentation about the unit of analysis. The unit of analysis also has implications for design of 3D environments. The design principles are elaborated upon and examples are given in relation to an application called Matador (Medical Advanced Training in an Artificial Distributed Environment). Matador is aimed at developing a simulation environment for training in emergency medicine.

Peter Lauritsen & Peter Elsass: Computers in Psychiatry. Notions of science and health as resources for conceptualising computer use in two psychiatric contexts
Within psychiatric research, the field of ‘technotherapy’ has been centred primarily on attempts to assess the computer as a treatment tool. The situation of daily clinical usage is, however, often ignored within such research, as for instance in controlled clinical trials. Our empirical study illustrates how health professionals and clients use different concepts of science and health in the attempts of formulating standards for using computers in psychiatric practice. The psychiatrists at a major psychiatric hospital decided and justified clients’ use of computers on the basis of a ‘techno-medical’ quality assurance. At the same hospital the occupational therapists stressed the improvement of social relations as a treatment goal. And, at a psychiatric outside clinic the clients used concepts of ‘normality’ for articulating quality in computer use. Our study exemplifies how the use of computers is a multifaceted ‘performance’. What is called for is a kind of research not limited by artificial borders of ‘the context’ and the ‘user-perspective’. In much humanistic research as well as in action research concepts of ‘context’ and ‘user-perspective’ imply a somehow romantic view on practice as pure and uncontaminated by the outside world contrasted to a ‘general’ or an ‘objective’ way of knowing the world. These sharp distinctions were however difficult to maintain in our study, where health professionals and clients took local contingencies into account when they interpreted computer use, while they simultaneously drew on a socio-historical reservoir of resources.

Randi Markussen & Finn Olesen: Information Technology and Politics of Incorporation – The Electronic Trading Zone as coordination of Beliefs and Actions
Information technologies (IT) have become a politically important issue over the last ten years. Governmental reports promote the idea of a new information society, or network society, where ITs are a prerequisite for the economic and social development. The discourse and the rhetoric about technology and its relation to society are dominated by modern, rational and macrosocial understandings of technology. In this paper we challenge dominant rational discourses on technology and present alternative views to bring new perspectives to the subject in order to complicate and enrich our understanding of technology and how it relates to society. Our aim is to develop a theoretical framework that can account for a dynamic and microsocial approach to studying the implementation of an Electronic Patient Record (EPR) at a Danish hospital. The key notions in the framework are ‘trading zone’, ‘cooperation’ and ‘technological translations’. 

Susanne Højlund: Social Identities of Children in different Institutional Contexts
 Based on an ethnographic fieldwork the article analyses the experiences of 8-10 year old children in three different institutions. It is shown how the children create and maintain different social landscapes in each setting. This means that children’s experiences are related to the position they have in the landscape. The notion social identity is used to discuss and explain these findings. With this notion identity is explained as an interplay between internal and external factors: between group-identification and categorisation. Children’s different identities in different settings are not created by children themselves, but must bee seen in relation to the categorisation used by the adults to classify children. The professional categorisations of children are a central part of the social space in relation to which children act, talk, and play. 

Claudia L. Saucedo Ramos: ”That world is not for me”: Constructing a personal sense of opposition against school obligations
This study contributes to the contemporary discussion on school drop-out. Based on ethnographic materials I analyze the life contexts of working-class families in Mexico. Two case-stories from these materials on school drop-outs are presented and analyzed here. These two young people constructed narrative self-understandings and orientations about their lives and school drop-out in which they describe their experiences of school as a way to participate in “multiple worlds” across different social contexts in search of more rewarding life options than school. Confronted with collective cultural meanings about school, children and teenagers are able to construct a personal sense legitimating or resisting these collective meanings. This is occurring in a situation where important changes are taking place across generations concerning the meaning of school resulting from historical, economical and national changes and from the ways in which people use and enact collective cultural meanings about school. I argue for a re-evaluation of the forms of participation of working class families and children in school. And I conclude that we need to replace the predominant disconnected understanding of the value of school learning and school knowledge with an understanding of the meaning of school in children’s and teenagers’ participation across different contexts with different relations to others. 

Outlines 2001:1


Ivan Leudar: Voices in History.   Experiences of “hearing voices” nowadays usually count as verbal hallucinations and they indicate serious mental illness. Some are first rank symptoms of schizophrenia, and the mass media, at least in Britain, tend to present them as antecedents of impulsive violence. They are, however, also found in other psychiatric conditions and epidemiological surveys reveal that even individuals with no need of psychiatric help can hear voices, sometimes following bereavement or abuse, but sometimes for no discernible reason. So do these experiences necessarily mean insanity and violence, and must they be thought of as pathogenic hallucinations; or are there other ways to understand them and live with them, and with what consequences?  One way to make our thinking more flexible is to turn to history. We find that hearing voices was always an enigmatic experience, and the people who had it were rare. The gallery of voice hearers is, though, distinguished and it includes Galileo, Bunyan and St Teresa. Socrates heard a daemon who guided his actions, but in his time this did not signify madness, nor was it described as a hallucination. Yet in 19th century French psychological medicine the daemon became a hallucination and Socrates was retrospectively diagnosed as mentally ill. This paper examines the controversies which surrounded the experience at different points in history as well as  the practice of retrospective psychiatry. The conclusion reached on the basis of the historical materials is that the experience and the ontological status it is ascribed are not trans-cultural or trans-historic but situated both in history and in the contemporary conflicts.

Nikolas Rose: Normality and Pathology in a Biological Age. The article is the text of a lecture given at the Faculty of the Humanities, March 2001. It argues that one implication of recent advances in the sciences of life may be that the binary opposition of the normal and the pathological is put to question. Canguilheim's distinction between vital and social norms is challenged and superseded by a Foucauldian  genealogical approach to programs for the government of individuals, and the norm of life that emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are argued to be fundamentally social. Viewing genetics, biopsychiatry, and the commercialisation of drug development and biomedicine, the author argues that the logic of normalisation is loosing its hold, and being replaced by strategies for the continuous molecular management of variation, the modulation of susceptibilities, and the capitalisation of life itself.

Lotte Huniche: Knowledge, responsibility, decision making and ignorance: Everyday Conduct of Life with Huntington’s Disease.   This article is concerned with the question of how to argue about morality and ethics in relation to a severe and deadly hereditary disease. It is inspired by the uneasiness I have felt on a number of occasions when “right and wrong” is being discussed by persons at risk, professionals and in particular when discussed by outsiders. This task is not an easy one and the article tries to lay out more groundwork than it arrives at conclusions. Below follows a brief introduction to my framework and some of the concepts that are important for my way of outlining the arguments that follow. Then I take a closer look at genetic knowledge, responsibility and decision making, because these seem to be important issues in my field of study. I have added ignorance to the list in order to discuss a further aspect of dealing with hereditary disease. Interestingly, ignorance (understood both as being ignorant of and ignoring) seems to be commonly applicable to describing persons living at risk for Huntington's Disease (HD). So what does the everyday conduct of life look like from an “ignorance” perspective? And how can we discuss and argue about morality and ethics taking these seemingly diverse ways of living at risk into account? Posing this question, I hope to contribute to new reflections on possibilities and constraints in peoples lives with HD as well as in research on these matters and to open up new ways of discussing “right and wrong”.

Hannele Kerosuo: Boundary Encountering As A Place For Learning And Development At Work.   Care for patients with multiple illnesses is often provided by several professionals from different parts of the health care system. In these cases,  there seem to arise new demands for the communication and the cooperation between different professionals in the primary and the specialized care. In this paper, I shall describe how these challenges are met in an encounter which is a part of interventions called “Implementation Laboratories".  In these encounters, a new tool (care agreement) and a new practice (care negotiation) are introduced and elaborated in internal-medicine patient care. I conceptualized the Implementation Laboratories as “border zones“ where the learning processes between different communities are intensified. Learning in the Implementation Laboratories resembles learning at the Boundary Crossing Laboratory described by Engeström, Engeström & Vähäaho (1999a; 1999b). It is interwoven into the process of analyzing problems, planning and testing of solutions in order to improve the medical patient care.  Learning appears as collisions between the different perspectives of the patient and professionals of different organizations, and may sometimes lead to reconstruction of boundaries. 

Estrid Sørensen: Constituting Notions of Knowledge with Philosophy and Technology.  Academic discussion about knowledge give rise to new notions of knowledge, which again inspire new discussions that give rise to new notions etc. This never-ending evolution of notions of knowledge is an important part of the conduct of philosophy and academia. Inspired by actor-network theory, the article argues that a notion of knowledge is not only discursively formed within philosophy. Also technology is involved in the performances of different notions of knowledge. Two parallel stories are presented. One about the philosophic discussions about notions of knowledge and the other about the role of different technologies in the performance of knowledge, exemplified by the use of technologies in continuing or transmitting knowledge from generation to generation. The article argues that the technology involved in performing knowledge is intimately involved in constituting the notion of knowledge, concluding that performing knowledge and recommending the performance of knowledge with other technologies than print may be just as strong an ‘argument’ in the constitution and change of notions of knowledge, as printed texts about notions of knowledge. 

Torben Elgaard: The High Impact of Low Tech in Social Work.  Drawing on actor-network theory, this paper challenges the traditional analytical separation of the so-called social and the so-called technical. First, observational data of an interactional event between a social worker and a client is introduced. Second, the techno-social heterogeneity of the event is elucidated through an analysis based on the concept of translation. Third, the precarious and temporary natures of the techno-social hybrids are discussed through the concept of performance. Finally, the techno-social is proposed as a new object for social science. 

Outlines 2000


Mervi Hasu: Blind Men and the Elephant: Implementation of a New Artifact as an Expansive Possibility.   I suggest that the transformation of an artifact from an introductory-type instrument into a viable, collectively used tool cannot be understood solely in terms of gradual adaptation of the technology and user environment, but also as a qualitatively broader integration process in which an expansion takes place. The case illustrated a constrained shift of an artifact from its first adopter, an individual pioneer user, to a more collective user in institutional medicine. The artifact, a neuromagnetometer instrument for brain research and diagnostics, brings together physicists, neuroscientists, physicians as well as various practitioners from the medical imaging industry. I applied an activity-theoretical framework for analysing the adoption of the neuromagnetometer from the pioneer phase of implementation into the more established use. The case showed that the anticipated transformation of the artifact constituted a major challenge for the user organization and its practitioners. It is suggested that an expansion of the object into a shared object of implementation among the separate practitioner groups is indispensable. This expansion of the object involves for the practitioners to recognize both the different objects and requirements of the pioneer phase of the implementation and the new phase of introduction into medical practice. It is shown that this recognition does not, however, come as given, spontaneously born in the transition. The emerging new object may remain only partially shared if not made visible by deliberate effort among the practitioners. The expansion requires collective visualization of the work and reflective dialogue on it. Employing analytical tools, such as the activity-theoretical concepts used here, is one possible way of facilitating such an effort. 

Eugenie Georgaca: Participation, Knowledge and Power in ‘New’ Forms of Action Research: Reflections on an Offenders’ Social Reintegration Project.  The paper uses the Offenders’ Social Reintegration Project, run between 1988 and 1998 by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, to discuss the characteristics of new forms of action research and to reflect on the main debates within action research literature. Firstly, new forms of action research dealing with community issues tend to take place within complex systems, aiming to bring potential partners together and to facilitate the development of networks of organisations. Networking presupposes a more open-ended mode of research and opens the question of participation of the social groups concerned. The varying and changing degrees of participation within the Project are described with reference to the role of the researchers and the discrepancy between formal and informal partnerships. Secondly, the relation between research and action is dealt with via a discussion of the different types of knowledge produced in the course of the Project and their appropriateness for informing and evaluating practice. The implications of these arguments for the scientific status of action research and the paradigm within which it can be located are also addressed. Thirdly, the paper discusses the role of the various institutional contexts in shaping and constraining possible types of research and action. Finally, the type of change pursued by action research projects is considered with reference to the ongoing debate within action research literature on the role of politics, leading to the acknowledgement of the inevitable implication of political negotiations and power in any initiative towards social change. 

Line Lerche Mørck: Practice Research and Learning Resources.  A joint venture with the initiative 'Wild Learning'.  In this article I describe Practice Research (PR) as a collective, contextualized project. First I will introduce 'PR as practice' by presenting the construction of 'Learning Resources in the community of Wild Learning' constructed among others by  'Wild Learning' and my self. Then I will discuss 'Practice research in theory and methodology' comprising three main features: First the relation between theory and practice is characterized as a joint venture. Second I stress that doing PR means not only having a joint venture with the professionals in a specific practice - it also means to analyze the specific practice from ‘the outside’, e.g. by relating it to how it is part of different participants' everyday life. I call this feature decentered analysis. The third important feature of PR is critical analysis; analyzing practice as both action contexts and discourse. Finally I present some critical reflections on the ideals, problems and dilemmas when working with PR.

Bente Elkjær: The Continuity of Action and Thinking in Learning: Re-visiting John Dewey. In recent years, there have been many attempts at defining learning as a social phenomenon as opposed to an individual and primarily psychological matter. The move towards understanding learning as social processes has also altered the concept of knowledge as a well–defined element stored in books, brains, CD–Roms, disks, videos or on the Internet. Instead, knowledge has been perceived as a social and context related construction. The roots of the social angle within theories on learning and knowledge are much older than the current literature suggests. This paper illustrates how these theories can be traced back to pragmatism as a philosophy and foundation for an educational approach introduced by the American, John Dewey, more than one hundred years ago. The paper also suggests that Dewey avoids some pitfalls that have come with the new theories, particularly the strong division between individual vs. social and school vs. everyday life learning. 

Outlines 1999


Ole Dreier: Personal Trajectories of Participation across Contexts of Social PracticeIn discussions about basic theoretical approaches in a non-Cartesian psychology several candidates for a key concept were proposed, such as action, activity, relation, dialogue and discourse. None of these concepts, however, sufficiently ground psychological theories of individual subjectivity in social practice. To accomplish this we need to conceptualize subjects as participants in structures of ongoing social practice. In this paper I argue why and address issues of subjectivity as encountered by persons in their participation in complex structures of social practice. I introduce the concepts of personal conduct of life and life-trajectory as elaborations of my theory. And I discuss this theoretical approach and show what is at stake in developing it by comparing it to similar approaches in the current literature on the person, self, and identity. 

Ritva Engeström: Imagine the World You Want to Live In: A Study of Developmental Change in Doctor-Patient Interaction
The article focuses on talk and cognition in terms of action. It outlines methodological alternatives for approaches addressing meaning construction and the accounts people give of their actions. There are studies, rooted especially in phenomenology and ethnomethodology, that manifest the idea of intersubjective reality seen as achievements of situated actions. In this framework, conversation and communication are seen per se as significant forms of social action. Instead of intersubjective reality, often brought about with an inductive research method, the article argues for instrumental reality as the context for understanding talk and cognition in terms of action. The aim is a method that studies multivoicedness of activity in terms of situated actions. The method integrates situational features in dialogue with the cultural-historical process of meaning construction. It is based on the theoretical notion of activity as a system that emerges and changes in time and place through internal contradictions. In the context of instrumentality, dialogical processes are also considered historically emerging and internally conflicting processes of rationality. I discuss this method with data on conversations between a patient and a doctor at a primary health care consultation. The study considers medical knowledge less as a substance than as a historically produced perspective through which the rationality of problem solving is accomplished by doctor and patient. The study aims to break away from the epistemological dualism of conflicting domains of meaning: the one of medicine that is objective and the one of experience that is subjective. The context of instrumentality includes a working hypothesis of a zone of proximal development of the doctor-patient relationship.

Hysse Birgitte Forchhammer: The Emergence and Role of Client Perspectives in and on Cancer Treatment.
This paper is divided into two parts: in part one I give some examples from a study of how patient or client perspectives on treatment and life with cancer are "discovered," addressed, included and shaped within cancer research and treatment after World War 2. In this first part I draw on analyses from my Ph.D. thesis about the concept of quality of life and psycho-social research on cancer, in which I focused on the developments and interrelationships between (1) welfare state forms of governance, (2) the practice of cancer treatment and its relation to research, and (3) clients’ relations to treatment regimes and a life with cancer. I argue that the client’s perspective is represented in medical practice in many different, and often problematic, ways. A core problem is that this perspective is often represented from a third-person point of view, not from a direct first-person point of view. I find a number of reasons for this. The lack of first-person involvement is not isolated to medical practice but is also obvious in the psycho-social practice that evolves in relation to medical treatment and research in the last part of this century. The conflict around this is reflected in psychological theories about illness and disease that are formulated in this period. In the second part of the article I discuss the directions in which psychological theory has to develop in order to contribute to the recognition and involvement of first-person perspectives in medical treatment and research. The aim of this discussion is not limited to understanding life with a specific disease such as cancer, but is, in a broader sense, to understand how we as subjects handle everyday life with biological changes of bodily function.

Brenda Goldberg: A Genealogy of the Ridiculous: From 'Humours' to Humour
We tend to take the phenomenon of humour for granted, seeing it for the most part as something innately and fundamentally human. However, we might go even further than this, and say that the phenomenon of humour is perceived as an essential part of what makes us human. In this respect, philosophers and theorists as wide apart as Aristotle and the French, feminist Julia Kristeva (1980; also see Goldberg, 1999a) have regarded a baby’s ability to laugh as one of the earliest signs of the separation of ‘self’ from ‘other’, a reciprocal process deemed to be crucial to the formation of a separate identity. However, although the general importance of humour might be agreed amongst researchers, what theoretical position one takes will have a profound effect on how one approaches and analyses humour. In much psychological research the focus tends to be on how humour works, i.e., syntax, semantic categories, sex differences, personality types, etc., and one finds a frustrating neglect of what is actually meant by the term ‘humour’ in terms of its history and emergence. Consequently, an important question tends to go unchallenged: Is humour some unproblematic innate human ability, or, a socially defined concept that has changed and mutated alongside our understanding of what it means to be person? In an attempt to grapple with this question, the following genealogical account is less concerned with fathoming out how humour works than with relating it to notions of human subjectivity, or how theories of humour have informed and reflected social constructs of what it means to be a ‘subject’.

Renke Fahl & Morus Markard: The Project "Analysis of Psychological Practice" or: An Attempt at Connecting Psychology Critique and Practice Research 

Using interviews and group discussions, researchers and students from the Free University of Berlin and psychological practioners work together in a project called ‘The Analysis of psychological Practice’, theoretically based on ‘Critical Psychology’2. The aim is to find out whether and how practitioners deal with the contradiction between the experimental-statistical orientation of traditional academic psychology and the single-case-orientation of psychological practice. Can practitioners relate to ‘scientific’ psychology at all? How do they deal with the contradiction that psychological practioners are expected to cure psychological problems without having the possibility to change the objective conditions with reference to which alone psychological problems are understandable? How are ‘official’ academic or clinical theories and individual or team-related experiences combined? What can we learn from the explication and development of a ‘social-subjective knowledge of the context and contradictions‘ of professional practitioners of psychology? We discuss theoretical foundations and problems in the empirical development of the project, and present – from our workshop – three examples or dimensions of our work: life problems and their transformation into psychological research problems, problems of and alternatives to traditional diagnostics, and common sense normative ideas in the guise of psychological theories.



Department of Psychology Webeditor: Morten Nissen
University of Copenhagen
Linnésgade 22, DK-1361 Copenhagen S
Telephone:  (+45) 35 32 48 35 Revised February 19th, 2008