Central Queensland University

Increasing the descriptive power of CHAT with culturally advanced


Louise Hawkins

School of Management and Information Systems

Central Queensland University

Rockhampton, Queensland.

Email: l.hawkins@http://m.wendangku.net/doc/0f2315010740be1e650e9a20.html.au

Assoc Prof Greg Whymark

School of Information Systems

Central Queensland University

Rockhampton, Queensland.

Email: g.whymark@http://m.wendangku.net/doc/0f2315010740be1e650e9a20.html.au


Language is a tool, and hence directly affects the outcome of any activity undertaken. This paper describes such a tool together with the proposition that it will improve the use of the concept of contradictions as a conceptual tool within activity theory. The authors find that within their own research activity, adopting a concise but descriptive notation has greatly enhanced the quality of communication and therefore directly impinges on the quality of research outcomes. The notation is described and support provided for its adoption.


Activity Theory; contradictions; culturally advanced activities; historicity


Activity theory, in its various forms, does provide a useful conceptual framework for the study of human endeavour (Engestr?m, 1987). This is particularly so in the information systems discipline, a discipline which is concerned with how people use tools (technology) to achieve organizational and personal goals. It has proved useful in both quantitative and qualitative research, but the use of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) provides such a natural conceptual framework that it also helps the qualitative and quantitative studies to be combined, compared and extended. It provides a lens through which complex situations can be systematically analysed and can be summarized with the help of five principles.

The most obvious application of CHAT is based on Engestr?m’s activity framework and activity systems Figure 1(Engestr?m, 1999). Some reports have exhibited a simplistic application of CHAT, but have never the less contributed to our knowledge of human endeavour, human learning, the effect of community and the use of

Central Queensland University

Figure 1: The structure of a human activity system (Engestr?m, 2001, p.135)