July 27, 2008

Breakthrough or BS?

The basis of my PhD is a structural framework to synthesise all the various bits of literature I’ve come across (I’ve been using stuff from all over the place – computer-mediated communication, robotics, theatre studies, serious gaming, anthropology, psychology, sociology and education) and bit by bit put the separate things into categories, mediated presence, identity, learning activities, characteristics of the environment, characteristics of the learner and errm that’s it.

What I didn’t have was an overview of how these might interact with each other. And then I discovered activity theory. Or rather a colleague lent me a paper on it, since I’d mentioned I’d had it explained to me and not understood it. This one made it clear to me (I think I’d thought it was more complicated than it was). Most of the categories I’d got mapped to the categories in activity theory, but I was missing two – the community (although I’d been aware that that was missing from the model) and the division of roles and effort (guess I’ve not read enough Marx).

Two categories left over were the idea of mediated presence, the way different forms of presence are constructed within a mediated environment, and identity, since identity can be formed and reformed within a mediated environment (at the drag of a mouse it seems).

Activity theory is represented as a set of six points forming four triangles on a plane like this:


adding a point above and below forms two tetrahedra with points on like this mermatv1

Not cool though, since it emphasises one point over another. What you’ve got in essence though is a tetrahedron with a tetrahedron stuck to each face. Moving the vertices around so that they’re the same distance apart creates this:

MERMAT with diagonal connections

Which is actually nothing more complicated than a cube. Now does that like it could be useful or have I just lost the plot with all these diagrams?

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