Review of Collaborative Projects: An Interdisciplinary Study

By Seppänen, Laura | Outlines : Critical Practice Studies, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Review of Collaborative Projects: An Interdisciplinary Study


Seppänen, Laura, Outlines : Critical Practice Studies


Review of Collaborative Projects: an interdisciplinary study. Book edited by Andy Blunden

In contrast to Andy Blunden's two previous books, An Interdisciplinary Study of Activity (Brill, 2010) and Concepts. A Critical Approach (Brill, 2012), Collaborative Projects, An Interdisciplinary Study is an edited book. The 26 writers include Igor Ariewitch, William Blanton, Michael Cole, Manfred Holodynski, Vera John-Steiner, Anna Stetsenko, and Helena Worthen. The book can be read in at least two ways. Firstly, it can be taken as a collection of research contributions that all are linked with but not limited to cultural historical psychology and the activity theory. I found this collection very inspiring and successful. The second option is to read the book with a focus on the concept of a 'project' as a tool for interdisciplinary human sciences. The editor Andy Blunden particularly emphasizes this perspective in the introduction and conclusion. Below, I will separately discuss these two ways of reading the book.

The main part of the book consists of 12 chapters, the authors of which report research in their own areas of expertise. They cover the micro-, meso- and macro-levels of human sciences, and the topics range from education, psychotherapy and social work to project management, social movement studies and political science. Innovation studies are lacking although, I think, the research of innovative developments in ordinary institutions (see e.g. Miettinen 2012) may have similarities with the investigations of activist projects. The first chapter by Kravtsov and Kravtsova, about the projective method in the Golden Key Schools in Russia, is one of the pearls of the book. The authors describe the experimental-genetic method of instruction, which aims to theoretically model children's developmental processes. The development work is aimed at the whole environment of children and adults' life, rather than at the individual child or group of children. The children first acquire contextual knowledge. Conceptual knowledge comes at a later stage of their development, which leads to the conception of human life as a project. Morten Nissen presents his valuable theoretical approach with an example from social work with young drug users where, by collectives of artistic video-making, stigmatizing disease-orientation turns toward 'user-driven standards' of new identity narratives. Simultaneously, in Leontiev's terms, sense is developed into meaning. Nissen discusses this practice and collective as a collaborative project, with topics of power, recognition and hope. The chapter by Anna Stetsenko and Igor Arievitch present how Vygotsky's theory evolved in line with its practical, political and civic engagement and commitment to social justice and change. They offer an alternative view to how Vygotsky's project goes beyond the mentalistically understood enterprise of science. Lynn Beaton and Andy Blunden examine the long historical process during which asbestos, a substance with useful properties in the manufacture of many products and construction, was finally banned in Australia. The anti-asbestos movement evolved above all as collaboration between two existing projects - the trade union movement and the institutions of medical science - which together were strong enough to oppose the asbestos industry (p. 276). The legacy of this movement is the new concept of asbestos, which is objectified in new laws and regulations, work skills and knowledge. These are just examples of the many interesting chapters.

The chapters are then followed by 12 brief reflections. These were written mainly by the same authors after all 12 chapters were circulated to them and they were asked to submit short reflections on either individual chapters, or the concept as a whole. This seems to be a good way to deepen discussion in an edited book. (However, this deepening does not explicitly focus on the concept of 'project'). Some new contributors were also invited to write reflections. …

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