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Activity and Actor Network Theory Explicatory Essay

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Updated: Dec 23rd, 2019

Activity Theory: History

Activity theory derives from cultural-historical psychology with its origin in Russia in 1920-1930. It found its way to the West around the 50’s and 60’s and its use in HCI and interaction design begun in the 90’s.

Activity theory shows by interaction design whereby one moves from the understanding of computer technology as a focus of interest to understanding technology as part of human activities.

The understanding attempts to incorporate human activity with interaction design, which results in the ideas of activity centered, computing and activity management.

The use of activity theory helps in linking insights for the need of a broader perception and requires specific tools for thought. This theory fits in the place for study interaction and activity is essential for the development of interactional design (Kaptelinin & Nardi, 2006).

Notion of Activity

Acting technology helps in the development of understanding how activity theory operates within historical, application and principle relationships within an interactional design. Activity theory is a foundation of human-computer relationship unified by common objectives, presented by consciousness, and context.

Interaction design used in human computer interaction and computer supported collaborative work complement each other. This broad term varies depending on the community. Therefore, interaction designs are efforts creating understand of the interactions humans have with technology.

This allows for the creation of useful artifacts, which complete the online learning process. Online learning requires the synchronization of human capabilities and technology tools.

This promotes effective learning embraced through technology medium with adequate cognitive presence through provision of access to defining concepts for the enhancement of online learning needs.

Humans act with technology in activity theory. Tools and humans relate in activity theory since tools meditate between the world and people. There is a positive effect on education, and this technology can support purposeful actions of human actors, used every day in education practices.

The interaction between object and the subject continues until the subject fulfills its goals. There should be an extension of tasks to contexts, which are more meaningful for the accomplishment of subjects’ interaction with the world within social contexts.

The user interface does not limit the objective world and that shows the importance of real life study in a normal classroom and use of technology as a part of relating human communication with the real world. It becomes a part of education as most institutions embrace instructional technology in learning.

Activity actor influences computer support for collaborative learning (CSCL) in a number of ways. This theory has supported distinction between group and individual learning. The author asks fundamental questions on the means and manner of using technology to promote and change education in school.

Latour states that technology is a mediator for human activity. There is a criterion formulated so that technology should be appropriate for school education. These criteria are to support authentic activities, support for artefacts and support communities.

Video conferencing is one criterion to use in learning and accomplishment of a number of responsibilities (Latour, 2005).


Humans can help, support, oppose or resist as representatives of organizations (Kaptelinin & Nardi, 2006). Human beings are social entities, composing of complex networks of activity systems. The relationship between human and things is a functional organ between nodes in actor-network.

Human beings and things brought closer by a functional organ. Delegation flows from humans to other kinds of agents because humans act like entities of processing information, this ability gives them agency lacking in objects and presents asymmetry of objects and beings.

The object material and subjects can manifest properties under varying condition. The property of interest shows when the whole context of activity is oriented by human defined object.


Actor network theory and distributive cognition act within network systems having symmetrical modes that can be non-human or human. Heterogeneous networks and actors can be people, things or machines. Actor network theory can accommodate both people and things, which cannot do without agents with intentions.

Systems, tools, and people are the media and they act in adjudication and dependability of redundant systems for the production of results in accordance to distributive cognition, which demands completion of activities once started.

Distributive cognition constructs a network, which can analyze across a variety of media without prejudice to the type of media. Distributive cognition influences human cognition and emphasizes the cognitive aspect of human performance Activity theory and distributive cognition have a distinct relationship.

This is because tools cannot work alone, and need humans while humans cannot perform certain functions alone, without the support of tools.

The theory and distributive cognition integrate by considering the individuals as part of system. It challenges traditional accounts, which limited agency to humans. The basic principles and definitions of the theory propose the formulation, which builds an actor network.

It is important to improve designs of technology tools to incorporate cognitive assessment capabilities to encourage the appreciation of the value of the tool in understanding the effects of learning through online means.

Cognitive presence enhances the learning environment and facilitates intellectual acquisition through emotional and personal connection necessary in a leaning environment making it just as necessary in virtual classrooms as it is in traditional classrooms.


Kaptelinin, V., & Nardi, B. A. (2006). Acting with technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social-an introduction to actor-network-theory. London: Oxford University Press.

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