Activity Theory Summer School (This will now be rescheduled to run in the next academic year)

Date(s) - 09/06/2020 - 12/06/2020 All Day

University of Leeds


Open to Doctoral Students and Early Career Researchers.

In the Activity Theory Summer School, PhD students and Early Career Researchers will learn to apply activity theory to undertake research and conduct interventions in the contexts of organisations and communities. Our instructors, each of whom have developed considerable expertise in the theory, will lead participants in exploring both core concepts and emergent views on activity theory. This will allow participants to access specialist advanced training, support the establishment of new research networks between institutions and strengthen existing networks.

The Summer School will take place over a four-day period during which the participants will have the opportunity to present their work and attend lectures, seminars and panel discussions on the application and use of activity theory for research.

Activity theory is a theoretical and methodological approach for understanding how people live and work together. Developed in the Soviet Union based on the works of Vygotsky and Leontiev, it was taken up in the West in the 1980s, where it has become important in disciplines and fields as diverse as cultural psychology, education, human-computer interaction, information systems, management and organization, and writing studies. In these fields and others, activity theory anchors interventionist studies in which researchers and participants come together to identify tensions in work activities and communities, then consensually design solutions.

An intensive Summer School on Activity Theory has been organized in the Center for Research on Activity, Development and Learning (CRADLE) in the University of Helsinki on an annual basis for several years. CRADLE is a hub of academics and practitioners pursuing ground-breaking interventionist research based on cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT). Activity Theory cuts across disciplinary boundaries and focuses on transformations in collective activity systems, including educational institutions, work organizations, public-sector agencies, communities and social movements – and their coalitions.  In June 2019 the Summer School took place in University West, Trollhättan in Sweden and will in future years will take place on an annual basis in different locations.  In 2019 it attracted students and ECRs from China, North and South America and Europe (France, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and the UK).  In June 2020 we would like to host the workshop in Leeds University Business School (LUBS) supported by staff from the AIMTech Research Centre.

The AIMTech Research Centre in LUBS is an interdisciplinary research center interested in the inter-relationship between new technologies, information systems, innovation, information management and organizational change. It is a center of excellence in the use of Activity Theory within the field of Information Systems and Information Management.


Yrjö Engeström is Professor Emeritus of Adult Education at University of Helsinki and Professor Emeritus of Communication at University of California, San Diego. He is Director of the Center for Research on Activity, Development and Learning (CRADLE), and serves as Visiting Professor at Rhodes University in South Africa and at University West in Sweden. In his work Engeström applies and develops cultural-historical activity theory as a framework for the study of transformations in organizations, communities and work activities. He is known for his theory of expansive learning and for the methodology of formative interventions, including the Change Laboratory method. Engeström’s most recent books are From Teams to Knots: Activity-Theoretical Studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work (2008), Learning by Expanding: An Activity-Theoretical Approach to Developmental Research, 2nd Edition (2015), Studies in Expansive Learning: Learning What Is Not Yet There (2016), and Expertise in Transition: Expansive Learning in Medical Work (2018).

Clay Spinuzzi is Professor of Rhetoric and Writing at University of Texas at Austin. Spinuzzi’s interests include research methods and methodology, workplace research, and computer-mediated activity. He has written four books: Tracing Genres through Organizations (MIT Press, 2003); Network (Cambridge University Press, 2008); Topsight (via Amazon CreateSpace, 2013; second edition Urso Press, 2018); and All Edge (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Clay teaches graduate courses at the University of Texas in the Department of English, the School of Information, and the Human Dimensions of Organizations MA program.

Annalisa Sannino is Professor of Education at Tampere University. She holds visiting professorships at Rhodes University, South Africa and at University West, Sweden. In her work she combines resources from cultural-historical activity theory, pragmatic analyses of discourse and the methodology of formative interventions to explore the critical role scholarship on learning and organizing can play to support transformative agency for equity and sustainability. As well as authoring numerous journal articles, she has served as the leading editor of several special issues and edited volumes in management, education and psychology.

Stan Karanasios is an Associate Professor at the University of Queensland. He has published in leading information systems and management journals including MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Journal, European Journal on Information Systems and Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Stan is known for his work on Activity Theory in Information Systems research.

Professor David Allen is a Professor of Information Management in the Leeds University Business School and Director and Founder of the AIMTech Research Centre (  He has spent most of his academic life exploring information management practices and the influence of technology on organisational work. This has been facilitated by over 50 externally funded projects conducted with colleagues in the AIMTech Research Group. David acted as PI on over 43 of these projects. During this period he has explored the use of Activity Theory to design systems, theorise change and influence practice. He has worked with colleagues to produce frameworks to support the effective evaluation and implementation of information systems. His work has been published in leading information systems and management journals including the Management Information Systems Quarterly, the European Journal of Information Systems, the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, the Information Systems Journal, and Information Research Journal, Information Research and elsewhere.

Please read the event flyer carefully and submit your completed application form by no later than Friday 14th February 2020

Event flyer