Research & Consulting: Digital Learning and Work

Theorizing effective use of digital technology with activity theory
April 16, 2021

Theorizing effective use of digital technology with activity theory

This article deployed activity theory to conceptualise four sub-systems of digitally mediated action. Eschewing techno-logical determinism, humans are positioned as active agents capable of identifying, taking up, modifying and even sub-verting established technology uses in pursuit of meaningful objectives. At the same time, attention is given to contextual conditions shaping activity systems. Having theorised effective technology uses through the lens of an activity sys-tem, the nature of activity theory as a conceptual apparatus is discussed. This study demonstrates the vitality of activity theory for conceptually expanding technology-competency research and incorporating a sociocultural dimension into empirical studies.

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Blayone, T. J. B. (2019). Theorizing effective use of digital technology with activity theory. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 28(4), 447-462. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2019.1645728

Abstract

Effective uses of digital technologies are vital to full inclusion in a network society. Digital-abilities researchers have produced several major frameworks, but these have generally not incorporated sociocontextual perspectives. To explore this lacuna, and engage in a reflective act of theorisation, activity theory is used to conceptualise four sub-systems of digitally mediated action. Eschewing technological determinism, humans are positioned as active agents capable of identifying, taking up, modifying and even subverting established technology uses in pursuit of meaningful objectives. At the same time, attention is given to contextual conditions shaping diverse activity systems supported by assemblages of humans and machines. Having theorised effective digital-technology uses through the lens of activity theory, the author reflects on this conceptual apparatus itself. In so doing, activity theory is characterised as a fertile, if complex and contested, future-oriented tradition that challenges individual-social dichotomies and addresses both humans and machines as mediators of activity, development and learning.

Keywords

digital competencies; activity theory; effective technology use

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