Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design
First Monday

Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design by Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie Nardi

Thanks to MIT Press, Victor Kaptelinin, and Bonnie Nardi, First Monday is pleased to present excerpts from Victor and Bonnie’s latest book Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design. This book describes how activity theory helps us understand our relationships with technology. As such, it is the first book to describe the fundamentals of activity theory.

The table of contents for Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design follows with links to the Chapter 1: Introduction, Chapter 9: Postcognitivist Theories in Interaction Design, and Chapter 10: Artifacts, Agency, and (A)symmetry.

More details about this work can be found on the MIT Press Web site at


List of Figures     vii
List of Tables     ix
Acknowledgments     xi

I   Activity Theory in Interaction Design     1

1   Introduction     3

2   Do We Need Theory in Interaction Design?     15

3   Activity Theory in a Nutshell     29

4   Interaction Design Informed by Activity Theory     73

5   A Design Application of Activity Theory: The UMEA System     117

II   Advanced Issues in Activity Theory     135

6   Objectively Speaking     137

7   Objects of Desire     153

8   Historical Currents in the Development of Activity Theory     173

III   Theory in Interaction Design     193

9   Postcognitivist Theories in Interaction Design     195

10   Artifacts, Agency, and (A)symmetry     237

11   Looking Forward     253

Appendix A: The Activity Checklist     269
Appendix B: Online Resources on Activity Theory     279
Notes     283
References     293
Index     325



We would like to thank the following people for helpful comments on earlier drafts of chapters and for discussions about activity theory: Michael Cole, Paul Dourish, Yrjo Engestrom, Martha Feldman, Kirsten Foot, Victor Gonzalez, Jonny Holmstrom, Kristo Ivanov, Gloria Mark, Kenneth Nilsson, David Shaffer, Clay Spinuzzi, Kaushik Sunder Rajan, and Phillip White. We profited from the thoughtful comments of three anonymous reviewers and appreciate their input. Bob Prior and Valerie Geary at MIT Press provided excellent advice and support. The fall 2004 ICS 230 course at the University of California, Irvine, offered useful advice on an early version of chapter 3. Victor Kaptelinin is indebted to Aleksey Nikolaevich Leontiev and Vladimir Petrovich Zinchenko for introducing him to activity theory. He would like to thank the Department of Informatics at Umea University for constant support. During work on the book Victor Kaptelinin was partly supported by VINNOVA, Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems. Bonnie Nardi would like to thank her employer, the University of California, Irvine, for valued colleagues and a hospitable environment in which to write. We would both like to thank our families for their patience as significant mindshare was at times taken up by the book.


Contents Index

Copyright ©2007, First Monday.

Copyright ©2007, Victor Kaptelinin, Bonnie Nardi, and MIT Press.

Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design by Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie Nardi
First Monday, volume 12, number 4 (April 2007),

A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

© First Monday, 1995-2017. ISSN 1396-0466.