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Activity has an hierarchical structure, and can be analyzed at different levels: activities, actions and operations. (Leontiev 1974)

The structure of human activity (source: interaction-design.org)

The top level is activity itself, oriented towards its motive. At a lower level lie conscious goal-directed actions that must be undertaken to fulfill the object. Goals can be decomposed into sub-goals, and so forth, meaning actions can have a hierarchical structure of their own. At the lowest level lie automatic processes which happen subconsciously, called operations. This is how actions are eventually carried out.

I'm not entirely sure where the distinction lies between motives and goals. A motive is an object that meets a certain need of the subject, while actions are goal-directed processes that must be undertaken to fulfill the object. (Kaptelinin 2009)

It seems like as long as a certain action has some underlying higher motive it is only part of an activity, while as no higher motive can be identified it should be considered an activity instead.

  • Do you arbitrarily decide on what to define the activity, and what to define as the underlying actions?
  • How does e.g. a potential underlying motive for all actions as 'survival' fit into this picture?

Leontiev, Aleksei N. (1974). The Problem of Activity in Psychology. Soviet Psychology, 13, 4-33.
Kaptelinin, Victor & Nardi, Bonnie A. (2009). Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design. The MIT Press

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