Academic journal article Knowledge Cultures

Coding the Complexity of Activity in Video Recordings: A Proposal for Constructing Codes for Video Analysis Using Activity Theory

Academic journal article Knowledge Cultures

Coding the Complexity of Activity in Video Recordings: A Proposal for Constructing Codes for Video Analysis Using Activity Theory

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In 1996 Susanne Bodker wrote a chapter about the application of Activity Theory (AT) to video analysis. She explored how to analyze artifacts in human-computer interactions (Bodker, 1996). Bodker argued that AT allows for the structured analysis of artifacts in use, but without being too predictive and prescriptive during the analysis. By using the theoretical concepts of AT, Bodker presented a way of conducting video analyses, which foregrounds the development of activity through what she defined as breakdowns and focus shifts in human-computer interaction, while being continuously reminded about the context and history of the activities in focus. Bodker's work concentrated on examining human-computer interaction, which is a very specific focus. This opens the possibility to explore whether using AT for video analysis could be used in a broader educational context.

AT has been argued to be particularly useful as an analytical tool, to examine human interaction and the development of activity and the environment in which people conduct activities (Nardi, 1996). AT has been used to guide the analysis of educational research that has utilized video as a source of data (for example Sezen-Barrie, Tran, McDonald, & Kelly, 2013) or video for studying human-material interactions (Otrel-Cass, Khoo, & Cowie, 2014). However, the approach to use AT to frame the coding of video material has not been picked up since Bodker's work, which will be elaborated on further in this article.

This article is organized in the following way: we will start with a short introduction to the main concepts of AT and Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) to then examine Bodker's work closer and its relevance to analyzing video data. Leading to a presentation of three areas of expansion of Bodker's 1996 work to propose how CHAT can be applied to the video analysis of human interaction, using modern coding technology that has become available in recent years. Furthermore, we will unpack the basic concepts of the Activity Theory Checklist, developed by Kaptelinin, Nardi, & Macaulay (1999), since the checklists' concepts, along with the theoretical principles of CHAT, make up the theoretical foundation of the coding scheme, presented herein. Hereafter, we will review the arguments behind coding qualitative data, with emphasis on video data, which leads to a thorough review of the method behind constructing the coding scheme. Lastly, we will discuss the three areas of expansion of Bodker's work and how our coding scheme, could be used as valuable tool for coding and analyzing video data from theoretical position, without being too descriptive or prescriptive and in a variety of research fields.

2. Activity Theory, Cultural Historical Activity Theory and Video Analysis

AT has its roots in the German philosophies of Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and the significant role of human actions. Philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels elaborated the concept of activity to identify that human practice and the changes thereof occur when the conditions of life change (Marx, 1845/1967; Marx & Engels, 1978). Marx writes in the Theses on Feuerbach (1845/1967, p. 169): 'The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life.' AT developed further during the 1920's school of Soviet psychology, with key scholars including Lev Vygotsky, Alexei Leont'ev and Alexander R. Luria who started using the term 'activity' (Leont'ev, 1989). Through the interest of Scandinavian scholars, notably Yrjo Engestrom and others, AT was opened to communities outside the Soviet Union. Engestrom (1987) proposed 'Learning by expanding' and by doing so expanded on the conceptualization of AT.

At closer inspection, the articulated thinking around AT may be organized into three generations: Vygotsky's 1920's and 1930's work focused on the individual and the significance of culture in understanding activity. …

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