Activity Theory and Co-Ordination

Using the Engstrom [1] model.


Figure 1. Activity Theory Mediations — From [1]


  • The outcome may be a product to be consumed by another process or service system. As such, the outcome may impose co-ordination criteria to be met.
  • These criteria may change - it may be needed earlier, or later. The acceptance criteria may change.


  • Subject must have access to object. Such access may need to be negotiated. There may need to be co-ordination on access.
  • The service system may be a shared resource - and subject to co-ordination of which object is to be subject to attention. For example, which patient is to be seen next.


  • The subject may or may not be a party to an act of co-ordination. If they are, the are also a subject as well as an object, as they act on themselves.


  • Instruments may be instruments of co-ordination, as well as production. For example, a design is produced, but acceptance (or rejection) of the design is an act of co-ordination.
  • Co-ordination may be in real-time (e.g. meetings and joint decisions), or asynchronous. If asynchronous, some instructment of transfer of information / dialogue is required.


  • Rules may be considered fixed, to be negotiated, or to be followed or not, once willing to accept the consequences.
  • If rules are negotiable, co-ordination is required with governance structure.


  • Who is the community? - this is a pool of potential co-ordination partners.
  • What co-ordination is required with other members of the community?

Division of Labour

  • Division of labour may be decided by 1. rules, 2. convention, or 3. discussion and negotiation. Even where rules or convention define the division of labour, discourse may occur confirming this and making sure others know and accept this.

1. Engestrom, Y. 2000, 'Activity theory as a framework for analyzing and redesigning work', Eronomics, vol. 43, no. 7, pp. 960-974
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