Activity Theory. A framework for understanding the interrelations between users and workplace design.
Book chapter, 2021

Activity theory (AT) is a conceptual framework for the study of human activity. From this theoretical perspective, an activity system is the primary unit of analysis and is broken into three analytical components: (i) the subject - the person, group or organisation being studied, (ii) the mediating tools by which the activity is carried out, and (iii) the object that the provides the meaning and purpose for which subjects engage in activities. As the concept of tool mediation is central to the theory, its application in workplace studies has enabled an understanding of the interaction between employees as users, their activities and workplaces as mediating tools. AT has been applied in workplace studies to examine the implications of relocating to flexible offices, offering a holistic and contextual method of discovery that has informed use(r)-centred workplace design. Qualitative and interpretative research is recommended for examining the components of activities and their interdependencies. To this end, contextual inquiries are recommended, with a triangulation of methods such as interviews, observations and walkthroughs to ensure a comprehensive understanding of activity systems. The chapter concludes with a step-by-step guide for conducting workplace studies, using AT as an analytical framework.


Maral Babapour Chafi

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Design and Human Factors

Antonio Cobaleda Cordero

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Design and Human Factors

Marianne Karlsson

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Design and Human Factors

A Handbook of Theories on Designing Alignment between People and the Office Environment

9781003128830 (ISBN)

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