Grounding the flying triangle: activity theory and the production of space

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Presentation at EGOS - European Organization Studies Conference

Space is a fundamental issue in organizing yet remains unexplored by cultural historical activity theory. The growing interest for this theory in organization studies asks for reflecting on the role of space in activity. The activity system model — a triangle-shaped diagram that is often used to study organizations within this theory — is evaluated against the issue of the production of space. The episodic experience of the author in applying the model to study the design of a new healthcare facility is presented for reflection. The facility was supposed to produce a boundary crossing activity; however, the production of this shared space made contradictions emerge beyond the reach of the activity system model. Some possibilities are considered to ground the model with the dialectics of the production of space, including the triad of representations of space, space of representations, and spatial practices.

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Grounding the flying triangle: activity theory and the production of space

  1. 1. 1 Grounding the flying triangle: 
 activity theory and the production of space Frederick van Amstel, PhD Researcher Construction Management & Engineering Dept. Co-authors: Hartmann, T; Voort, M. van der; Dewulf, G.P.M.R.
  2. 2. The materiality of visual representations 11Drawing by Valérie (6 years old) http://valeriezsc.blogspot.nl
  3. 3. The materiality of visual representations 11Drawing by Valérie (6 years old) http://valeriezsc.blogspot.nl My dear, where is the shadow under the person? Is she flying?
  4. 4. Is this triangle flying? 11 Subject Rules Community Division of Labor Object Instruments Outcome The activity system model. Redrawn from Engeström (1987)
  5. 5. Activities like that can happen anywhere in the world 11Blood donor association in Italy (Ivaldi, Ripamonti & Scaratti, 2014)
  6. 6. Is the triangle becoming a symbol of change instead of a tool for change? 11US Great Seal and one of the symbols of French Revolution
  7. 7. For revolutions to succeed they need to create a new space. 17
  8. 8. Medical imaging center case 10 Medical imaging center Southeast Hospital Northwest Hospital
  9. 9. Different activities occupying the same space 10
  10. 10. How to categorize space? 11 Subject Rules Community Division of Labor Object Instruments Outcome The activity system model. Redrawn from Engeström (1987)
  11. 11. Space as an instrument 11 Designers Retrofitted building Construction site Users ??? ??? ??? ??? Medical imaging center
  12. 12. Space as a shared object 11 Designers Space to be built Drawing Space to be used Users Sketch Medical imaging center
  13. 13. Sketch 1 – space as a baseline for activities 16 Radiology education Medical imaging research Technology develop. Imaging diagnosis Medical imaging center Design Project University of Twente Inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1991)
  14. 14. Sketch 2 – space as contradictions in activity 16 Subject Rules Community Division of Labor Object Instrument Outcome Space Inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1991)
  15. 15. Sketch 3 – (social) space as community 16 Subject Rules Space Division of Labor Object Instruments Outcome Inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1991)
  16. 16. Space as the first outcome of any activity 11 Subject Rules Community Division of Labor Object Instruments Space Coexistence, Simultaneity, Order Inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1991)
  17. 17. Space as intrinsic to activity 11 Space of the subject Space of the rules Space of the community Space of the division of labor Space of the object Space of the instruments Space of the outcome Inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1991)
  18. 18. 21 My Research Interests ▪ Participatory Design ▪ Activity Theory ▪ Frederick van Amstel f.vanamstel@utwente.nl ▪ Twitter @fredvanamstel ▪ http://fredvanamstel.com

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