Using activity theory to conceptualize online community and using online community to conceptualize activity theory

Sasha Barab, Steve Schatz, Rebecca Scheckler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

75 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this article we describe the evolving structure of the Inquiry Learning Forum (ILF), a sociotechnical interaction network (STIN) designed to support a Web-based community of in-service and preservice mathematics and science teachers sharing, improving, and creating inquiry-based pedagogical practices. Specifically, we apply activity theory as an analytical lens for characterizing the process of designing and supporting the implementation of this online community. Our findings lend support for three implications. First, activity theory can provide a useful analytical tool for characterizing design activity, especially in terms of illuminating the challenges of designing something like community. Second, as one moves toward trying to design a community, particularly one in which the members will be expected to engage in new practices that challenge their current culture, many tensions emerge. Third, consideration of the ILF as a STIN was a necessary conceptual step in our understanding of the ILF and the transactional nature of people and tools. It is our conception that activity theory and STIN are synergistic theoretical frameworks that, when taken together, can provide a richer view of design activity and community functioning than either can offer in isolation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-47
Number of pages23
JournalMind, Culture, and Activity
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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