Conversation as an Activity System: The Mediational Role of Discourse in Systems Design

  • Patrick M. Jenlink

Systems design as Banathy (1996, 2000) explains, is largely communicative in nature, and depends on design and dialogical discourse as semiotic tools for mediation within the cognitive, cultural, and creative activities essential to overcoming deep sociohistorical patterns of education that are woven into the fabric of society. The mediational role of design conversation and the use of other symbol-based systems in ideal systems design is supported by activity theory which presents a systemic view of design activity (Engström, Miettinen, & Punamäki, 1999). The semiotic nature of discourse and language within communities of design practice enables participants to transcend formal cognitive and cultural patterns that often marginalize and disadvantage voices of difference. Essential to the design of new activity systems is the ability of participants to acknowledge the dialectical contradictions that have emerged in their past or present activity system(s), while also acknowledging the importance of creating dialogical relationships toward the goal of designing new systems.


Educational System Activity Theory Design Activity Ethical Discourse Social Discourse 
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  • Patrick M. Jenlink

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