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University of Helsinki Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research

Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research

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Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research
Department of Education
P.O. Box 26 (Teollisuuskatu 23)
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki

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New Forms of Work and Learning

The group studies new forms of work and learning, especially potentials of expansive learning at work.

A viable theory of work-related learning needs to be founded on an analysis of the historical development of work. A new landscape of learning emerges as work is transformed from mass production and mass customization toward co-configuration of customer-intelligent products and services with long life cycles.

Co-configuration requires flexible ‘knotworking’ in which no single actor has the sole, fixed authority – the center does not hold. Co-configuration presents a twofold learning challenge to work organizations. First, co-configuration itself needs to be learned. Secondly, within co-configuration, the organization and its members need to learn constantly from interactions between the user, the product or service, and the producers. These two aspects of learning merge in practice. In co-configuration work, learning occurs in multi-organizational fields, between multiple activity systems, which represent different traditions, domains of expertise, and social languages. Learning is crucially dependent on the contribution of the clients or users. Co-configuration and knotworking represent a very demanding mode of work and production. The interpretation, negotiation and synthesizing of such information between the parties requires new, dialogical and reflective knowledge instruments.

Research Questions
The research efforts of the group are directed towards such questions as:
- How are co-configuration and knotworking related to the broader concept of networks as alternatives that may supersede hierarchies and markets as dominant principles of organizing work?
- What emerging forms of co-configuration and knotworking might be observed in such diverse sites as health care providers learning to coordinate the care of chronic patients with multiple illnesses, factories learning to function in partnership arrangements, state authorities learning to investigate economic crimes collaboratively, organic vegetable farms learning to survive in new societal conditions, or schools learning to work jointly with outside experts?
- What are the implications of co-configuration and distributed knotworking for the formation of identities, communities and power?

We want to create a conceptual framework for understanding the learning demands of co-configuration work and to produce tools for the practical mastery of these new learning demands in different work settings. As the theory of expansive learning was initially created primarily to illuminate transformative learning in single activity systems, the inter-organizational and radically distributed nature of learning in co-configuration work will also require serious further development of the theory.

Research Group
The head of the research group is professor Yrjö Engeström. The members of the research group present in the fall termin will be: Hanna Toiviainen (the coordinator of group), Merja Helle, Anna-Liisa Niemelä and Auli Pasanen (Project "New forms of expansive learning: the landscape of co-configuration"), Hannele Kerosuo and Anu Kajamaa(Project "Sustainability and diffusion of work development in health care organizations"), Jaana Pirkkalainen, Tarja Saaren-Seppälä and Heli Kaatrakoski (Project "Options of privatization and shared responsibility: organization of work and mastery of change in new hybrids of private and public sectors"), and Jonna Kangasoja, Laura Seppänen and Kari Toikka.



Selected texts of Richard Normann (Reframing business. When the map changes the Landscape, 2001); Richard Normann and Rafael Ramirez (Designing interactive strategy. From value chain to value constellation, 1994) and Bart Victor and Andrew Boynton (Invented here. Maximizing your organization¹s internal growth and profitability) and elements of co-production, co-creation and co-configuration (and
critique on) will be presented respectively by Merja, Anna-Liisa and Auli.


Hannele and Anu will present the concepts they use in their research (sustainability etc.)


Jonna Kangasoja and Jaana Pirkkalainen will present research literature on public private partnerships ja Jaana will present the research project "Options of privatization and shared responsibility: organization of work and mastery of change in new hybrids of private and public sectors".

Here are sampled some recent publications by the members of the research group

Kerosuo, H. & Engeström, Y. (2003). Boundary Crossing and Learning in Creation of New Work Practice, Journal of Workplace Learning 15(7/8): 345-351

Toiviainen, H. (2003). Learning across levels. Challenges of collaboration in a small-firm network, Academic Dissertation. University of Helsinki, Faculty of Education, Department of Education

Engeström, Y., Engeström, R. & Kerosuo, H. (2003) The discursive construction of collaborative care in Applied Linguistics, 23, 286-315. (The issue also contains Aaron Cicourel's commentary on the articles)

Kontinen, T. & Seppänen, M. (eds.). (2003). Development - concepts, policies and practices. essays in the memory of Michael Cowen. Helsinki: Finnish Society for Development Studies.

Kontinen, T. (2003). Kumppanuus oppimishaasteena. Näkökulmia suomalaisten kansalaisjärjestöjen kehitysyhteistyöhön Morogorossa, Tansaniassa. Teoksessa: Manninen, J. & Kauppi, A. & Puurula, A. & Kontiainen, S. (toim.). Aikuiskasvatus tukijoiden silmin - tutkimusta 2000-luvun taitteessa. Helsinki: Kansanvalistusseura.

Engeström, Y., Puonti, A. & Seppänen, L. (2003). Spatial and temporal expansion of the object as a challenge for reorganizing work. In D. Nicolini, S. Gherardi & D. Yanow (Eds.), Knowing in organizations: A practice-based approach. Armonk: M. E. Sharpe (pp. 151-186).

Rainio, P. (2003). Tietotyön malli koulun kehittämisessä. Muutoksen esteet, edellytykset ja mahdollisuudet opettajien puheessa. Tutkimusraportteja 7. Toiminnan teorian ja kehittävän työntutkimuksen yksikkö, Helsingin yliopisto. Painopörssi: Helsinki.

Vähäaho, T. (2002) Asiantuntijuus ja rajanylitykset, Teoksessa Pirttilä, I. & Eriksson, S. (toim.) Asiantuntijoiden Areenat. Jyväskylän yliopisto. SoPhi. 59-80.

Kangasoja, J. (2002). Complex Design Problems - An Impetus for Learning and Knotworking, in: P. Bell, R. Stevens, T. Satwicz (eds), Keeping Learning Complex: The Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on the Learning Sciences (ICLS); Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, (2002), pp.199-205

Haavisto, V. (2002). Breaking the courtroom code: client initiatives in Finnish civil hearings. International journal for the semiotics of law. Roby : Deborah Charles Publications ISSN 0952-8059. 2002 : 15, s. 399-409

Haavisto, V. (2002). Court work in transition: an activity-theoretical study of changing work practices in a Finnish district court. Academic dissertation. Department of Education [10], Helsinki University Press, 334pages.

Kerosuo, H. (2001). Boundary Encounters as a Place for Learning and Development at Work. Outlines - Critical Social Studies. Volume 3. No.1.2001. Pp. 53-65.

Helle, M. (2000) Disturbances and contradictions as tools for understanding work in the newsroom. Scandinavian Journal for information systems, 81-113.

Engeström, Y. Engeström, R. Vähäaho,T. (1999). When the Center Does Not Hold: The Importance of Knotworking In S.Chailkin, M.Hedegaard and U.Juul Jensen (eds.) Activity Theory and Social Pratice: Cultural-Historical Approaches. Aarhus University Press.

Virkkunen, J., Engeström, Y. Pihlaja, J. & Helle, M. (1999). Muutoslaboratorio - uusi tapa oppia ja kehittää työtä. Helsinki: Kansallinen työelämän kehittämisohjelma. Raportteja.

Attached Documents

    Projekteilla kehittämisestä kestävään kehittämiseen -hankesuunnitelma       PDF       92.2 KB
    Työn kehittämisen seuraamukset, kestävyys ja leviäminen terveydenhuollossa -hanke       MS Word       118 KB

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