The ecology of two theories: activity theory and distributed cognition in practice


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The ecology of two theories: activity theory and distributed cognition in practice

  1. 1. The ecology of two theories: activity theory and distributed cognition in practices HCDE 501 | Ru-ping KuoIntroduction Halverson (2002) asks: “What does CSCW1 need to DO with theories?” in herstudy. In order to answer the question, she first claims that CSCW has adopted andeven mixed many different theories, conceptual frameworks, and methods fordifferent purpose. And then she chooses two theories: activity theory and distributedcognition theory which are frequently used in CSCW studies and closely examinesthem with four requisite of a successful theory. Unfortunately, she concludes thatalthough theoretical strength of both theories could direct researchers’ focus andbenefit their analysis and communication, neither one will satisfy all needs of CSCWbecause the complexity of each theory’s conceptual framework, difficult to apply,and the lack of prediction power. Yet the status of theoretical “grab bag” in CSCWcannot be overcome with either activity theory or distributed cognition theory. Mystudy is inspired by this conclusion. Although my empirical study intend to continue Halverson’s research, I willneither derive nor invent any new theory, and nor will I promote or against anyparticular theory. Instead, my research interest is to discover the recentmovement of activity theory and distributed cognition theory in practice in CSCW. Ianticipate an ecological picture about how these two theories are used in CSCW willbe drawn by describing a deeper practical understanding of the similarities,differences, and relationships among them.Literature ReviewCognition in the wild CSCW moves the study of HCI from a focus on individual user’s desktop towardmultiuser environment, which requires a close examination of work and the contextthat such work is performed within. (Perry, 2003) The study of such systems is part ofa new multidisciplinary field (C. A. ElliS, S.J. GibbS, and G.L. Rein, 1991), and,1 Using terms such as “computer- supported cooperative work (CSCW)” and “groupware,” these systems perform functions suchas helping people collaborate on writing the same document, managing projects, keeping track of tasks, and finding, sorting, andprioritizing electronic messages. Other systems in this category help people display and manipulate information more effectivelyin face-to-face meetings and represent and share the rationales for group decisions. (THOMAS W. MALONE, & KEVINCROWSTON, 1994) 1Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  2. 2. according to Rogers (2004), it is a “turn to the social”. Sociologists, anthropologistsand others in the social sciences came into HCI while bringing new frameworks,theories and ideas about technology use and system design. Meanwhile, a new and hybrid approach of cognitive theory was developed byEdwin Hutchins and his colleagues (Roger, 1997). This approach stresses thecognition “in the wild” instead of “in the mind”. Hutchins claims that cognition isbetter understood as a distributed phenomenon compared to the traditional view ofcognition and is best explained in terms of information processing at the individuallevel (Roger, 1997). To Hutchins, a human cognitive process is the process in whichour everyday cultural practices are enacted. Culture is not any collection of things,but it is rather an adaptive process that accumulates partial solutions to frequentlyencountered problems (Hutchins, 1995). Similarly, activity theory in its original Sovietcontext was used to explain cultural practices (e.g. work, school) in thedevelopmental, cultural and historical context in which they occur (Roger, 2004). Both activity theory and distributed cognition theory are named as “post-cognitivist” theory because “they have been brought into interaction design (HCI) toremedy perceived shortcomings of cognitivist theory” (Victor Kaptelinin, & Bonnie A.Nardi, 2006). Moreover, Halverson (2002) claims two theories’ similarities are:emphasize cognition; include the social and cultural context of cognition; and share acommitment to ethnographically collected data. Although these two theories sharesome significant commonness, they also diverge in critical ways (Victor Kaptelinin, &Bonnie A. Nardi, 2006). In the following section, I will give a summarized introductionof these two theories in order to provide a better distinct understanding of them.Distributed cognition theory Distributed cognition theory dissolves the traditional divisions between theinside and outside boundary of the individuals, and focuses on the interactionsbetween the distributed structures of the phenomena (Rogers, 1997). Moreover,the symmetry between humans and nonhumans is evident characteristic ofdistributed cognition theory. In this point of view, both humans and nonhumanscan be components carrying out various processes in the system, and both can bemedia in which representational states are created or through which they arepropagated (Eric P.S. Baumer, Bill Tomlinson, 2011). According to Nardi’s (1996) study, Distributed cognition asserts as a unit ofanalysis on a cognitive system composed of individuals and the artifacts they use.Therefore, one of the main outcomes of the distributed cognition approach is anexplication of the complex interdependencies between people and artifacts in their 2Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  3. 3. work activities (Rogers, 2004). In other words, in distribution cognition theory,process(ing) is so central to the analysis that it may be less obvious to the uninitiated.Unlike activity theory there is no clear structure applied to each situation. Instead, itis built into the process of analysis, and may or may not be represented in theproducts of that analysis (Halverson, 2002). This approach of theoretical frameworkmakes distributed cognition theory’s power lies in its flexible unit of analysis (Rogers,1997; Halverson, 2002). Researchers can adopt different units of analysis, to describea range of cognitive systems, whereby some subsume others (Hutchins, 1995).Activity theory Activity theory focuses on the interaction between human activities andconsciousness within its relevant environmental context. Human activities are drivenby certain needs (objectives). Therefore, in activity theory, human activity is the baseunit of analysis. The relationship between subjects and objects of activity is mediatedby a tool. Continuous construction is going on between the components of anactivity system. Humans not only use tools, they also continuously renew anddevelop them either consciously or unconsciously. (Uden, L., Valderas, P & Pastor, O.,2008). There are different interpretations of activity theory and different facets to it (e.g.development of personality, structure of consciousness, and hierarchical structure ofactivity) (Mathew, 2010). The most cited application of activity theory is Engestrøm’s(1990) activity system model (Rogers, 2004), which includes a community, socialrules, and division of labour in the analytic framework. Rogers (2004) claims that themain role of this approach is analytic, a set of interconnected concepts which provideby activity theory that can be used to identify and explore interesting problems infield data. Activity theory is a broadly applied theory in CSCW (Halverson, 2002), someresearchers use it for meta-level analyses, some develop models to extend thetheory or to define new phenomena, and some use it to assist the design. Manyresearchers adopt activity theory because of its adaptability, Rogers (2008) describesthe advantage of a customized activity theory framework is that it can be mappedmore easily and obviously onto the problem domain, and enabling the researcher ordesigner to explicitly identify problems and solutions. Because activity theory givesa relatively specific structure into which observations are fit, it tends to led to higherlevel of analysis while distributed cognition theory led to a lower level of analysis,focusing on the ways that individual actions change the state of the cognitive system(Eric P.S. Baumer, Bill Tomlinson, 2011). 3Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  4. 4. Methodology This empirical study presents and discusses findings from a review of recentpublications (published after 2007) related to two postcogintivist theories: activitytheory and distributed cognition in practice. The publications take account of these resources: research journals, Approach conference and workshop proceedings and book sections. Based on my research goal, the selection of publications for the Focus review was search with the key words “CSCW” and “activity theory” or “CSCW” and “distributed cognition” from Group ACM digital library. CSCW is a subfield of human-computer interaction Figure 1 Research Framework (HCI). Figure1 shows a variety of (The conceptual map of CSCW research) research issues related to this Created by Kraut, 2003 topic (Kraut, 2003). There arethree dimensions in this conceptual map, and an overall introduction is given at nextparagraph. According to Kraut (2003), CSCW researchers differ in their approaches becauseof their different backgrounds and disciplines. Some researchers who “build” systemsto support small group work are typically from the computer science or engineering.Others focus on empirical “study” such as describing a social phenomenon oridentifying causal relation and influential factors; and these researchers are usuallyfrom the social science disciplines of psychology, sociology, and anthropology.Therefore, their studies often describe how applications were used and theconsequences of their use. Group size and focus are the other two dimensions. In thedimension of focus, from top to bottom are five different topics:” infrastructures,architectures, application, task, and people”. The first two usually related to systemor software building, and they are more engineering oriented. On the contrary,researchers from social science disciplines are more likely focus on topics like “people”and ”task”. Meanwhile, concern of “application” is a more neutral topic. Kraut(2003) claims that the typical size or scope of the social collective treated in mostCSCW researches is “small groups” or “teams” of members between three and adozen people. However, based on Kraut’s study, the scope of group can range from 4Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  5. 5. “dyads” to “organizations”, communities and the “society”. Kraut’s conceptual map provides a throughout and integrated view of CSCWresearch and practice; I adopt it as my study and analysis framework to help meanalysis and categorize the finding. By reviewing with the systematical framework,this empirical study could discover patterns from all publications and possiblyillustrate the ecology of these two theories in practice.Finding The publications’ select and review process is conducted in following steps: 1. First, review all publications that meet my key words requirements; screen and withhold repeated and unrelated articles. A total of 25 articles are sustained after this step. 2. Secondly, look over every article and identify each paper’s approach, focus, and group size based on the definition of the research framework. Through this analysis and coding process, I discover that a research paper may study a phenomenon and then use the finding to improve or create a design. Similarly, a study could have more than one focus and several types of subject. Thus, I choose to count the frequency and compute the ratio to portray my finding in discussion section. 3. Moreover, a “selected coding” process is used in my study, too. 25 publications are coded and categorized with three additional labels: application field, creation or output, study and data collect methods which are not defined in the research framework but related to my research goals. And Table 1 (pp. 6-7) is the summary of my finding.DiscussionOverview As show in table 1, 25 publications are selected in this empirical study. Table 2 isthe summary of every year’s number of publications based on researchers’background. Table 2 the summary of number of publications (by year and by disciplines) After 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 Total Activity Socio- 4 0 1 0 3 8 Theory Engine. 3 1 0 2 0 6 Distributed Socio- 4 0 1 2 2 9 Cognition Engine. 1 1 0 0 0 2 5Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  6. 6. Table 1 Summary of empirical studies on Dcog and AT (2007~)Year Type* Researchers Theory Application Creation Methods (Data collect) Focus Group size education2012 C Michael Yacci, & Evelyn P. Rozanski DCog (Google effect on reviews current research findings experiment (qualitative & people individual &offers societal implications quantitative) task learning) Syavash Nobarany, Mona Haraty, & engineering/HCI applying Dcog to the design of case studies (qualitative & people2012 C Brian Fisher Dcog (system design) CSCW systems quantitative) task small group application education empirical papers review & case individual2011 J B.R. Belland Dcog (computer-based scaffold a conceptual framework studies (qualitative) application organization design) Zachary O. Toups, Andruid Kerne, education & training experiment (qualitative & people2011 C William A. Hamilton, & Nabeel Dcog (system design) a reusable simulation games quantitative) task small group Shahzad application social / culture a framework for the description and observation & interview people individual2011 C Roger Haigh Mills Dcog (music technology & analysis of networked intercultural (qualitative) task small group improvisation) improvisation improve the understanding of PLEs Ilona Buchem, Graham Attwell, & personal Learning by providing an overview of key people individual2011 C Ricardo Torres AT Environments issues addressed in selected literatures review (qualitative) application organization publications architecture society medical/ hospital people individual2011 C Jakob Bardram, & Afsaneh Doryab AT (activity-based present a method “Activity Analysis” Ethnomethodology (qualitative) task dyad computing for medical & design guidelines work) architecture small group emergency services- people individual2011 C Mishra, J. L., Allen, D. K., & Pearman, AT Silver Commanders a methodological and analytical observation & interview task dyad A. D. framework (qualitative) small group (system evaluation) application organization Benbunan-Fich, R., Adler, R. & engineering/HCI interview & log analysis people2011 J Mavlanova, T. AT (IT usage analysis) Activity-Based Metrics (qualitative & quantitative) task individual application2011 C Laha, A AT engineering/HCI a software-agent based architecture interactive design infrastructure small group (system design) for knowledge based computing architecture organization social open-ended questionnaires, people2011 C Ray Kekwaletswe, & Thuli Bobela AT (knowledge management why and how employees resist the interviews and direct observations task individual adoption and use of KM system organization system usage) (qualitative) application2011 C Pooya Jaferian, AT engineering/HCI develop and evaluate a new set of experts assessment/heuristics application organization (system design) heuristics (ITSM tools) (qualitative) Ahmed Kharrufa, David Leat, & education design guidelines for tabletop observation & interactive design people individual2010 C Patrick Olivier Dcog (collaborative learning collaborative learning applications (qualitative) task small group application) application 6Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  7. 7. (Continue)Year Type* Researchers Theory Application Creation Methods (Data collect) Focus Group size examine the current state of architecture2010 C Jeffrey Guenther, Fred Volk, & Mark AT engineering (network visualization techniques and identify Ethnomethodology (qualitative) application Organization Shaneck security analysts) some key limitations task psychology (methodology A theoretical framework for data people individual2009 B James D. Hollan & Edwin L. Hutchins Dcog development) analysis (human behavior) five case studies (qualitative) task small group application organization2009 C Slattery S.P. AT CSCW/HCI the socio-technological case study (qualitative) task organization (system analysis) infrastructure of Wikipedia application explore the possibilities for future Aleksandra Sarcevic, Ivan Marsic, CSCW/HCI design and development of ethnographic study (qualitative & people2008 C Michael E. Lesk, & Randall S. Burd Dcog (group-decision support technological support for trauma quantitative) task small group system) teams application social/ culture provides several insights for future Long-termed ethnographic study people2008 C Ellie Harmon, & Nancy J. Nersessian Dcog (daily technology design (qualitative) task individual practices in the lab) engineering/HCI architecture2008 J Uden, L., Valderas, P & Pastor, O. AT (web application requirements engineering activities observation & case study application organization extend traditional task analysis (qualitative) requirement gathering) task Stephen Voida, Elizabeth D. Mynatt, CSCW/HCI (system activity-based model architecture2008 C & W. Keith Edwards AT analysis & design) high-level system requirements prototype (qualitative) application organization Terence Blackburn, Paul Swatman,& CSCW/HCI a conceptual framework (Cognitive people2007 J Rudi Vernik Dcog (human communication Dust) observation (qualitative) task small group in small work groups) application Nallini Selvaraj, Bob Fields, & Paola CSCW/HCI a model (a work process determine observation, note-taking, and people2007 C Amaldi-Trillo Dcog (decision making system) the association of people, tasks, and semi-structured interviews task small group actions) (qualitative) individual2007 C Sherlock L.M. AT social/CHI Game FAQ and Message boards case study (qualitative) people small group (system analysis) design application organization social/CHI (system design a practical framework for guiding2007 C Ashok, A., & Beck, C. AT & evaluation) future HCI-design case study (qualitative) application society Christina Brodersen, Susanne CSCW/HCI develop concepts to understand and people2007 C Bødker, & Clemens Nylandsted AT (system design) design for learning in ubiquitous case study (qualitative) task individual Klokmose settings application Type*: C: Conference proceeding J: Journal article B: book section 7Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  8. 8. Researchers who have sociology background conduct more CSCW studies withdistributed cognition theory than researchers who have computer science orengineering background. However, the difference is smaller for studies usingactivity theory. And overall, there are more CSCW research papers using activitytheory than distributed cognition theory between 2007 and today, especially afteryear 2011. As I describe in methodology section, Kraut’s conceptual map of CSCW is usedas a research framework in my study. Table 3 gives a clear picture of how are thesetwo theories used in practice. Activity theory has been applied to a wide variety ofsettings in HCI research and design (Eric P.S. Baumer, Bill Tomlinson, 2011). My studyresult supports this assumption. Compared to distributed cognition theory, activitytheory applied to all topics and all scope of groups. In addition, about 88% ofdistributed cognition studies concentrate on either individuals or small groups. Andthey also focus on topics like people and task mostly. 40% of activity theory studiesfocus on organization. Table 3 the summary of two theories in practice (based on research framework) Distributed Cognition Activity Theory study 46.2% 47.1% Approach build 53.8% 52.9% Infrastructure 0.0% 2.9% Architecture 0.0% 14.7% Engineering/ application 7.4% 14.7% Focus Social / application 18.5% 23.5% Task 37.0% 23.5% people 37.0% 20.6% Individual 41.2% 28.0% dyad 0.0% 8.0% Group size Small group/team 47.1% 16.0% organization 11.8% 40.0% society 0.0% 8.0% Although researchers with computer science and engineering background tendto focus their studies on topics like infrastructure, architecture, and application(Kraut, 2003), my finding shows differently (e.g. Syavash Nobarany, Mona Haraty, &Brian Fisher, 2012; Jeffrey Guenther, Fred Volk, & Mark Shaneck, 2010; Uden, L.,Valderas, P & Pastor, O., 2008) 8Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  9. 9. Application The purpose of CSCW is to build tools that will help groups of people do theirwork more efficiently. Therefore, one important goal of CSCW researches is todevelop technology that would allow distributed teams to work as if they werecollocated (Kraut, 2003). Based on my analysis, large amount of researches agreethat either activity theory or distributed cognition theory could bring advantages toCSCW related design as well as evaluation. And as Table 1 shows, there are veryboard applications for these two theories. They are included but not limited to thefollowing. 1. Education and training, from creating personal learning environment (e.g. Ilona Buchem, Graham Attwell, &Ricardo Torres, 2011), collaborative learning application (e.g. Ahmed Kharrufa, David Leat, & Patrick Olivier, 2010), to Google effect on learning (e.g. Michael Yacci, & Evelyn P. Rozanski, 2012). 2. Medical, hospital, and research lab. For example, activity-based computing(e.g. Jakob Bardram, & Afsaneh Doryab, 2011), emergency services (e.t. Mishra, J. L., Allen, D. K., & Pearman,A. D., 2011), daily technology practices in the lab (e.g. Ellie Harmon, & Nancy J. Nersessian, 2008). 3. Group works, virtual teams, and management. For example, decision making system (e.g. Nallini Selvaraj, Bob Fields, & Paola, Amaldi-Trillo, 2007), network security analysis (e.g. Jeffrey Guenther, Fred Volk, & Mark Shaneck, 2010), and knowledge management system (e.g. Ray Kekwaletswe, & Thuli Bobela, 2011). 4. Web development, such as web application requirement gathering (e.g. Uden, L., Valderas, P., & Pastor, O., 2008), and FAQ and message board design (e.g. Sherlock, 2007)Creation & outputs According to Kraut’s conceptual map, there are two approaches of CSCWresearches: “build” and “study”. My study discovers that these two approaches arenot necessarily isolated. Butler, Esposito, & Herbon (1999) describe the twoobjectives of analysis: to understand the current situation and to producerequirements for improvement. I also notice that these two objectives sometime aresequent or interactive with each other when I review the publications.Furthermore, by applying either one of these two poscognitivist theories in studies,researchers can gain valuable insights or create various outputs. The benefits rangefrom abstract concepts to concrete prototypes or products. For example, conceptualframeworks (e.g. BR Belland, 2011; Terence Blackburn, Paul Swatman,& Rudi Vernik, 9Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  10. 10. 2007), analysis frameworks (e.g. Roger Haigh Mills, 2011; Mishra, J. L., Allen, D. K., &Pearman, A. D., 2011; James D. Hollan & Edwin L. Hutchins, 2009), practicalframeworks (e.g. Ashok, A., & Beck, C., 2007), models (e.g. Nallini Selvaraj, Bob Fields,& Paola Amaldi-Trillo, 2007), and design guidelines (e.g. Jakob Bardram, & AfsanehDoryab, 2011; Ahmed Kharrufa, David Leat, & Patrick Olivier, 2010) or heuristics (e.g.Pooya Jaferian,, 2011). Generally speaking, if we just Table 4 ratio of two approaches based on the creationscompare creations (outputs) among Build Studythese publications, researchers use Dcog 8 67% 4 33%both theories to “build something” AT 11 69% 5 31%more than to “study something”.And the Table 4 shows the ratios of two theories are both about 70% to 30%.Data collection and analysis methods Although anthropography is a significant approach to both activity theory anddistributed cognition theory in practice, there are multiple research methods usedamong these 25 publications (show as table 5). Some of the studies collect bothqualitative and quantitative data (e.g. Michael Yacci, & Evelyn P. Rozanski, 2012;Syavash Nobarany, Mona Haraty, & Brian Fisher, 2012; Benbunan-Fich, R., Adler, R. &Mavlanova, T., 2011) no matter which theory is used in the studies. There aretotally 5 papers collecting both quantitative and qualitative data compared to theother 20 papers which are only collected qualitative data. However, there is notany study relying on quantitative data only. Table 5 ratio of research methods used among publications Moreover, the variety of Dcog AT totalresearch methods is different Ethnomethodology 2 13% 2 11% 4between studies using activity Observation 4 27% 3 11% 7theory and studies using Interview 2 13% 3 16% 5distributed cognition theory. For Questionnaire 0 1 5% 1the researchers who apply activity Experiment 2 13% 0 2theory in their studies, they tend to Case study 3 20% 5 26% 8use multiple methods to collect literature review 1 7% 1 5% 2data, and they also use some Log analysis 0 1 5% 1design methods like interactive Expert assessment 0 1 5% 1design, expert review and Interactive design 1 7% 1 5% 2prototype in order to satisfy their prototype 0 1 5% 1study purposes. In contrast withstudies using activity theory, the experiment method is only used in the studies that 10Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  11. 11. apply distributed cognition theory. Three three most frequently used methodsamong these 25 publications are case study, observation, and interview.Motivations behind the theory in practice Every researcher justify why they use one theory over another. Therefore, I willsummarize the motivations which I learned from the 25 publications. I also believethat we can gain some insights of the practical issues of theories chosen bycomparing these reasons to two theories’ advantages or disadvantages. Why distributed cognition theory? 1. Inspiration of belief, anthropology approach, or related studies’ successful experiences (e.g. Nallini Selvaraj, Bob Fields, & Paola Amaldi-Trillo, 2007; Michael Yacci, Evelyn P. Rozanski, 2012; Ellie Harmon, Nancy J. Nersessian, 2008; James D. Hollan, Edwin L. Hutchins, 2009 ) 2. “A mind in the world”. The need to analyze working environments and describe cognitive processes spreading among mutual interactions of humans and artifacts over time (e.g. Michael Yacci, Evelyn P. Rozanski, 2012; Syavash Nobarany, Mona Haraty, Brian Fisher, 2012; Zachary O. Toups, Andruid Kerne, William A. Hamilton, Nabeel Shahzad, 2011; Terence Blackburn, Paul Swatman and Rudi Vernik, 2007; Ellie Harmon, Nancy J. Nersessian, 2008) 3. Contextual oriented, task relevant information is stored in multiple forms: mental models, embedded in the environment (including culture), and derived via formulae (e.g. Zachary O. Toups, Andruid Kerne, William A. Hamilton, Nabeel Shahzad, 2011; Mills, 2011) 4. Team cognition gets distributed across individuals, artifacts, and the setting. It is used to design a system that can help users reduce cognitive effort needed. (e.g. Aleksandra Sarcevic, Ivan Marsic, Michael E. Lesk, Randall S. Burd, 2008) 5. Provide situated support for human activities analysis framework (e.g. Ellie Harmon, Nancy J. Nersessian, 2008; Terence Blackburn, Paul Swatman and Rudi Vernik, 2007) Why activity theory? 1. Activity Theory is a descriptive and analysis tool, and it provides a framework of six interrelated components: subject, object, tools, rules, community and division of labor. (e.g. Ilona Buchem, Graham Attwell, & Ricardo Torres, 2011; Mishra, J. L., Allen, D. K., & Pearman, A. D., 2011; Jeffrey Guenther, Fred Volk, & Mark Shaneck, 2010) 2. Activity Theory is a theoretical framework which can be used to study, 11Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
  12. 12. analyze, describe, and understand or predict human activity, including collaborative activities and the use of technology (e.g. Jakob Bardram, & Afsaneh Doryab, 2011; Uden, L., Valderas, P & Pastor, O., 2008; Jakob Bardram, & Afsaneh Doryab, 2011; Ashok, A., & Beck, C., 2007; Laha, 2011) 3. Activity theory focus on activities and goals rather than digital artifacts (Ashok, A., & Beck, C., 2007) 4. Activity theory provides a broad theoretical framework for describing the structure, development and context of human activities (e.g. Uden, L., Valderas, P & Pastor, O., 2008; Uden, L., Valderas, P & Pastor, O., 2008; Ashok, A., & Beck, C., 2007; Laha, 2011; Sherlock, 2007)Summary Conforming to my anticipation, by carefully review and analysis 25 publicationswith Kraut‘s (2003) conceptual map, I portray an ecological picture of these twopostcognitivist theories in practice. My empirical findings also vary some attributes ofKraut’s model. For example, in the approach dimension, “build” and “study” are notnecessary exclusive, moreover, the relationship between researchers’ disciplines andthe research focus are not as clear and absolute as Kraut’s suggestion. However, the differences between activity theory and distributed cognitiontheory in practice are perceptible from prior discussion. Baumer, & Tomlinson (2011)claims that “The choice of evaluation methodology – if any – must arise from and beappropriate for the actual problem or research question under consideration”.Although it seems that activity theory can adopted in broader setting, such as topicsof focus, type of group size, and the research and data collect methods, my studycannot provide true explanations about it. Regarding the vantages of the twotheories, motivations that proposed by these 25 studies’ researchers reflect thepromise of the two theories. The diversity of activity theory and distributedcognition theory’s theoretical framework are also distinct from the findings of thesepublications. For example, just like Rogers suggest (2008), most of papers thatusing activity theory will create their own research or analysis frameworks based onmodifications on Engestrøm’s (1990) activity system model. At last, because of the research time and resource limitation, my study onlyreview publications published between 2007 and 2012 which can be found in ACMdigital library with two set of key words “CSCW” and “activity theory” or “CSCW” and“distributed cognition theory”. Therefore, I believe that the pattern of these twotheories in practice will be more fertile and clear if the research scope and timeframecan be expanded. 12Ru-ping Kuo, 2012/3/13
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