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Using Activity Theory to Understand How People Negotiate the Conditions of Work

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Title: Using Activity Theory to Understand How People Negotiate the Conditions of Work
Author(s): Worthen, Helena
Subject(s): sociocultural activity theory workplace knowledge Vygotsky learning
Abstract: In a typical workplace in the U.S., two knowledge producing activity systems are in motion. Each produces knowledge about how to do the work of that workplace, but they are differently motivated: one towards productivity, the other towards earning a living. The conflict between these two systems is addressed through the process of negotiation. A.N. Leont'ev's insight on the power of motive to shape an activity system through which consciousness is constructed provides direction for exploring how people learn to negotiate their conditions of work. Observations and interviews conducted in the course of my work as a union-based and then a university-based labor educator suggest that negotiating knowledge, which I refer to as NK, is similar to work process knowledge in that it is useful for the work that is being done, has a theoretical dimension, and is generated by problem-solving. However, because it is generated through the second activity system, it differs from work process knowledge in its perspective. Characterizing NK makes it easier to recognize and enables research into its creation which in turn can inform the practice of labor education. Examples considered in this paper include a grocery warehouse, steel mill, cleaning company, federal office, an apartment building, public school, and musical instrument factory.
Issue Date: 2008-10-17
Publisher: Routledge
Citation Info: Worthen, Helena(2008)'Using Activity Theory to Understand How People Learn to Negotiate the Conditions of Work',Mind, Culture, and Activity,15:4,322 — 338
Series/Report: Mind, Culture, and Activity
Type: Text
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/12186
Publication Status: published or submitted for publication
Peer Reviewed: is peer reviewed
Rights Information: This article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
Date Available in IDEALS: 2009-06-12
 

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