Activity Theory and System Design: A View from the Trenches
An activity theory model and a mediatingartifacts hierarchy were employed to helpidentify the needs for tools for customersupport engineers who documented solutions tocustomer problems, a knowledge authoring activity. This activity also involves customersupport engineers who assist Hewlett-Packardsoftware product users. The particular toolsto be designed were knowledge-authoring toolsembedded in the customer support trackingapplication suite, SupportTracker. The researchanalyzed the role of tensions between theelements of Engeström's activity theorymodel. The research also explored the benefitsof specific interpretations of Engeström'srefinement of Wartofsky's mediating artifactshierarchy. The hierarchy contributed to theidentification of desired characteristics ofmediating artifacts, particularly tools. Thefindings included an interpretation of the``where-to'' artifact concept as supporting anunderstanding of the entire activity system asan evolving entity. Specific interventionswere used to achieve a positive impact on theevolution of the activity system.