Spinuzzi, Clay.  “TEXTS OF OUR INSTITUTIONAL LIVES: Accessibility Scans and Institutional Activity: An Activity Theory Analysis.” College English 10.2 (2007): 189-201. Print.

  • Spinuzzi defines “web accessibility” as “the ability for any user to read and understand a website with appropriate adaptive technology  If a user is visually imparied, for instance, she or he should still be able to ‘read’ the site by listening to a screen reader” (189).
  • That being said, Spinuzzi recognizes that web accessibility is something that can’t really be defined by a set of regulations.  In fact, it’s usually defined in practice, or in activity, or in a series of several overlapping activities.  Because of the inteference among the activities that occur in web accessibility, the term becomes quite difficult to define.
  • Because accessiblity is the result of competing overlapping activity – and because the levels of accessibility are contestable/d, Spinuzzi notes that “Accessibility is a rhetorical enterprise” (190) and as such should be taken up by rhetorical scholars.
  • Spinuzzi uses AT to “investigate accessiblity as a contested, polymotivated object(ive) of overlapping activites” (190).
  • AT states that activities are organized around an object(ive) – the object of our labor – that is preatedly achieved and cyclically maintained (190).
  • Instruments and rules are mobilized in a community in an AT system.
  • A division of labor exists that assigns actions that collectively comprise the accessibility project.  Finally, outcomes are the hoped for ends that this project undertakes.
  • The definitive AT graph occurs on 192.  I’m going to try and post into this blog post.
  • activity theory diagram
  • There are structural guidelines (ALT text for a missing picture), interpretive guidelines (what the ALT text for a missing picture says), and many other objectives.  Here’s another of Spinuzzi’s lovely graphs to describe this activity network:
  • a
  • Even if the structural components are in order, the interpretive (accessiblity as an object(ive) of user experience) isn’t as easy to achieve.  In other words, the “informational ecologies” that make up the user’s experience also play a huge role in accessibliity.  (195).
  • Contradictions in this activity system occur when accessibility is both met and not met.  Consider, for example, the embedded YouTube videos.  The tags that these videos contain are coded correctly, so they are structurally correct; however, they are not accessible in the interpretive sense because the users won’t be able to hear them and they aren’t captioned.  This isn’t UTs problem per se, but if the web pages on which the videos are embedded are on UTs servers, then accessibility is both achieved and not achieved.
  • Spinuzzi ties this activity to a rhetorician at the end of the article by noting how the seemingly beuracratic work of compliance with “procedures and rules” is actually – when traced back to their originating activities – a rhetorical act filled with the lively discussions of policy in which he can participate directly through his iimplementation of the policy (199).

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