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2 چارچوب نظری: تئوری فعالیت: | 2 Theoretical Framework: Activity Theory:

2 Theoretical Framework: Activity Theory:

This section describes activity theory as the theoretical framework for this study.

First, we will outline the introduction of activity theory in Human-Computer Inter- action (HCI) research.

Next, we will discuss the importance of context in activity theory.

Finally, we will explain several concepts of the activity system.

2-1 Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction:

Activity theory has its foundations in Russian cultural-historical psychology, since it was developed by Vygotsky and Leontiev [4, 23, 24, 28].

Bødker [5, 6] introduced activity theory as a theoretical framework in HCI research which inspired many academics, e.g.[25, 31, 36].

Since then, Information Systems researchers have adopted this theory as well, e.g.[14].During the 80s/90s, activity theory had been introduced in HCI research in response to some flaws of cognitive psychology which considered users to be passive information processing subjects whose actions seemed to be isolated from contextual influences.

In contrast with this former cognitive psychology perspective, activity theory stresses the importance of considering technologies as mediating artifacts that should be examined within the meaningful context of use.

However, this does not imply that activity theory rejects cognitive psychology, but that it should be regarded as an expansion of existing knowledge.

Gay and Hembrooke [19] consider the following aspects to be central to activity theory: “The emphasis on meaning through action, the connection between the individual and the social, and the role of mediating tools provide the kernel around which activity theory has developed” (p.2).

Activity, which puts a meaning on our actions, has been defined as follows: “Activity (...) is understood as a purposeful interaction of the subject with the world.

The very concept of activity includes its orientation toward an object, an object that both motivates and directs the activity” [23].

These quotes stress that the meaning of users’ actions result from a meaningful interaction between the motifs/goals/intentions of users, the context and behavior.

Mediation is considered to be one of the most important concepts within activity theory, as users’ purposeful interaction with the world is mediated by artifacts.

The concept of mediation is not limited to physical artifacts, as for instance a language is considered to be an artifact as well [2, 21].

Users are looked upon as active, intentional subjects that act within specific contexts and utilize artifacts that mediate their actions with the environment [23].

For instance, P2P file-sharing networks should be considered as mediating artifacts with which users try to achieve certain goals and gratify specific needs.

Although we focus on the use of P2P systems, these P2P networks are not the only mediating artifacts in the activity, as e.g.: bandwidth is needed to be able to exchange files; users must have e.g.media players or an iPod to consume the content; etc.[10].

It should be noted that activity theory is not an explanatory theory, but it pro- vides conceptual tools that allow researchers to study the complex context in which artifacts are used so as to be able to reflect, compare and discuss results [31].

Besides the strengths of activity theory, it has some flaws as well.

One of the major drawbacks of this theory is that it has not been made fully operational in HCI research [21].

Although several authors have attempted to generate methods based on activity theory, there is still much work to be done.

For a comparative analysis of these methods we refer to [33].

Finally, we have to mention that, whereas most papers about activity theory in HCI are related to designing new systems and interfaces, we will focus on evaluation of the use of P2P systems as we want to examine existing practices of the use of P2P systems.