Compare and Contrast

Our final task on this issue is to publish our concept map so that it can be compared with the on you developed on the concept page of this blog. Since this map was meant for us to compare the theories no attempt was made to have a single set of common elements. Instead these are shown in yellow in each theory on the map.   Click on the image below to view the full map.

It is only natural for us to try to understand how the theories compare to each other since they all address the same thing in different ways. The table below is an attempt to show how they stack up against each other.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ACTIVITY THEORY, SITUATED ACTION MODELS, AND DISTRIBUTED COGNITION
  ACTIVITY THEORY SITUATED ACTION DISTRIBUTED COGNITION
The unit of analysis an activity the activity of persons acting in setting a cognitive system composed of individuals and the artifacts they use
Key the subject the experience system goal
Establishes Object goals at the beginning after the activity at the beginning
The activity is determined before in situ before
Objects partially determines activity yes no yes
Has behaviouristic qualities no yes no
Distinctly identifies one activity from another yes no Yes
Persistent structures are a central focus yes in special cases most seriously
Considers historical development of activity yes no yes
Artifacts mediate activities yes no yes
Is routine and predictable yes no no
Is emergent, contingent, improvisatory no yes no
Emphasizes  motive and consciousness yes no no
Treats people and things as conceptually equivalent no no yes
       

 DECIDING AMONG THE THREE APPROACHES (Nardi 1995)

THE ACTIVITY THEORY

The activity theory and distributed cognition are very close in spirit has the richest framework for studies of context in its comprehensiveness and engagement with difficult issues of consciousness, intentionality, and history.

SITUATED ACTION

Situated action provided a much-needed corrective to the rationalistic accounts of human behavior from traditional cognitive science make it difficult to go beyond the particularities of the immediate situation for purposes of generalization and comparison have two key problems:

  1. they do not account very well for observed regularities and durable, stable phenomena that span individual situations,
  2. they ignore the subjective.

DISTRIBUTED COGNITION

Distributed cognition has shown how detailed analyses that combine the formal and cognitive properties of artifacts with observations on how artifacts are used can lead to understandings useful for design.

Reference

Nardi, B. A. (1995) Studying Context: A comparison of activity theory, situated action models, and distrubuted cognition. In B. A. Nardi (Ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 35-52). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Available online at: http://www.ics.uci.edu/~corps/phaseii/nardi-ch4.pdf

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