‘Hinged’ activity systems: Expanding the utility of activity theory


  • Lewis Hughes Enviro-sys Pty Ltd Deakin University




activity theory, activity system, conversation, partnership, vocational education and training, scholarly


As a derivative from Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), where gaining insight into the circumstances of an activity is among its applications, this article presents an approach to initiating and structuring activity system guided conversation where the intent is to strengthen stakeholder empathy and partnership in action. Whilst this paper is not, in-itself, an outcome of so-focused research, it is a sharing of insights accruing from ethnographic research largely in the vocational education and training (VET) arena and, in particular, ongoing exploration of the circumstances aiding and inhibiting Australian VET teachers including researching and drawing upon the research of others as part of their professional practice.

In essence, this article posits that activity system – as derived from CHAT – guided conversation has much utility in achieving empathetic partnerships between stakeholders in an activity where their respective interests might otherwise be in conflict. Accordingly, the notion of the ‘Hinge’ is offered as a device to expand the utility of Activity Theory. The ‘Hinge’ being constructed by conversation agreeing the ‘Object’, which is the most influencing of ‘Rule’, ‘Community’ or ‘Division of Labour’ and then the nature of enabling ‘Tool’.

Author Biography

Lewis Hughes, Enviro-sys Pty Ltd Deakin University

Director, Enviro-sys Pty Ltd, and Honorary Fellow, Deakin University


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How to Cite

Hughes, L. (2018). ‘Hinged’ activity systems: Expanding the utility of activity theory. Nordic Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 7(2), 104–127. https://doi.org/10.3384/njvet.2242-458X.1772104