Engestrom, Yrjo.  “Development, Movement and Agency: Breaking Away into Mycorrhizae Activities.” In K. Yamazumi (Ed.) Building activity theory in practice: Toward the next generation.  Osaka: Center for Human Activity Theory, Kansai University (CHAT Technical Reports #1). 2006.

  • E. begins by arguing that development has too many paternalistic or deterministic biases; as such, he wants to reconceptualize the term as breaking away.  To do this, he intends to use Vygotsky’s idea of double stimulation; additionally, he notes that as work practices move toward “networked, hybrid, and weakly bounded forms of organization”, or mycorrhizae activities, opportunities emerge for new forms of agency and movement (development) (1).
  • From Causality to Agency:  Causal research argues that we cannot directly observe causation – only the “regularities” that arise in the relationships between events.  Process research argues that causation can be observed and reconstructed by utilizing historical and narrative evidence as well as close observation and recording of chains of events.  Put differently, process research posits the existence of an interpretive layer (as opposed to a determinative layer) of causality.  There is also a contradictory layer of human causality that notes the contradictions in motives of activity that lead to unpredictable or “irrational” action (4).  Finally, E. claims that process research should also recognize the agentive layer or a layer that allows for the agency of human beings to make intentional, transformative action by creating artifacts to control action (5).  This is extremely important for an AT understanding of events: the human’s psychological & material activity is mediated through tool use, changing the field of thought and allowing the subject to exert agency.  Need an example of all three of these layers?  Here you are:

  • E. recaps interesting work by Powell (1990) on the changing structure of coordination in the NEI.  He argues that organizations are typically hierarchical (vertically integrated corporations/bureaucracies that use mass production and “control and command” management), market (very flexible/agile but limited by excessive competitiveness that excludes collaboration and reciprocity – characterized as “resist and defend” in order to “take advantage and maximize gain”) and networked (rhizomatically organized, collaborative and premised on the notion of “connect and reciprocate”) (6).
  • E. looks to the open source movement as a place where “knotworking” occurs most frequently and notes that these sites are the places where distributed agency in knotworking occur the most often.
  • Why mycorrhizae?  These are the symbiotic associations between a fungus and the roots or rhizoids of a plant.  What’s the connection to knotworking?  Knotworking requires mycorrhizae formations – they are living, expanding processes built on bundles of developing connections while also remaining relatively durable, stabilized structures.
  • E. notes that p2p networks are examples of knotworking mycorrhize.  P2P networks have a strong object and use-value orientation and tend to resist thorough commercialization.  They operate on gift economics.  But, if p2p networks are characterized by mycorrhizeal activity, can they be considered in terms of Activity Theory orientations?  YES – horizontal and invisible mycorrhizae do not elimnate visible, erect, bounded and institutionalized activity systems – they merely supplement/complement them (13-14).
  • Vygotsky’s Idea of Double Stimulation:  a subject is put into a structured situation where a problem exists (…) and the subject is provided with active guidance towards the construction of a new means to the end of a solution to the problem” (16).
  • Quote by Vygotsky on the relationship between man and objects:  “The person, using the power of things or stimuli, controls his own behavior through them, grouping them, putting them together, sorting them.  In other words, the great uniqueness of the will consists of man having no power over his own behavior other than the power that things have over his behavior.  But man subjects to himself the power of things over behavior, makes them serve his own purposes and controls that power as he wants.  He changes the environment with the external activity and in this way affects his own behavior, subjecting it to his own authority” (Vygotsky, 1997 212).[1. An important quote, to be sure.  Here you have the object-oriented approach working in close and explicit concert with a correlationist ontology to provide a description of human agency – agency that is iteratively constituted by the interaction among man-world.  This seems particuarly important when  you’re constructing your introduction to the method of chapter 4 – provide this quote, unpack for the reader, and argue why this is superior to strict, anti-correlationist OOO.]
  • E. notes that Vygotsky’s famous principle on higher psychological functions states that all moves toward agency are effected in memory: first interpsychologically through moments of collaborative action and second intrapsychologically as internalizations by the individual (18).
  • E. defines development as “formation of qualitatively new ‘functional systems’, relatively stable patterns of conduct, within and between individuals or collective activity systems . . . [it] is a broader and more inclusive mastery over the environment and the self” (20).  This notion includes not only the predetermined “development” in educational metrics but also the ways that individuals and collected discover unexpected things and subjects change their lives on account.
  • E.’s argument in this article:

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