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Activity Theory, 7.5 Credits

Swedish name: Aktivitetsteori

This syllabus is valid: 2018-01-01 and until further notice

Course code: 2IN100

Credit points: 7.5

Education level: Second cycle

Main Field of Study and progress level: Informatics: Second cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements

Grading scale: VG Pass with distinction, G Pass, U Fail

Responsible department: Department of Informatics

Revised by: Head of Department of Informatics, 2017-09-08


The course introduces the students to activity theory, a leading post-cognitivist theory in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). The main themes covered within the course include the basic concepts and principles of activity theory, applications of activity theory in HCI and related areas (including interaction design, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, and technology-enhanced learning), and the relationship between activity theory and other post-cognitivist theories. Special attention will be placed on analytical tools for design and evaluation informed by activity theory, developments in activity-centric computing, and application of the concepts studied within the course, in concrete research projects.

Expected learning outcomes

After having completed the course the student should be able to:
• present and explain the basic concepts and principles of activity theory,
• discuss the relationship between activity theory and other HCI theories,
• describe the main existing applications of activity theory in HCI and related areas,
• demonstrate knowledge of at least one analytical tool for design and evaluation, informed by activity theory,
• explain the key issues in activity-centric computing,
• discuss how activity theory can be applied to real world problems of design and evaluation of interactive technologies.

Required Knowledge

Prerequisites for the course are 90 ECTS in informatics, anthropology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology or any other cognitive science subject or equivalent.

English proficiency equivalent to English A from Swedish Upper secondary education. (IELTS (Academic) with minimum score 5.5 and no individual score below 5.0. TOEFL (Paper based with minimum score 530 and minimum TWE 4). TOEFL (Internet based with minimum score 72 and minimum Written 17)).

Where the language of instruction is Swedish, applicants must prove proficiency in Swedish to the level required for basic eligibility for higher studies.

Form of instruction

Teaching is given mainly in the form of lectures and tutorials in connection with self-instruction and when performing obligatory computer laboratory assignments or other assignments. Some parts of the course can require obligatory attendance. Teaching can be done in English. All necessary computer applications to be used by the students on their own are introduced and maintained during the course. Some assistance is provided when using these applications. Good knowledge in performing written presentations and the English language are important in order to be able to complete the course. During the course the student will have round the clock access to several of the departments computer laboratories, except when these have been booked for other courses.

Examination modes

Examination is given in the form of both individual assignments and a group assignment. Final grades are pass with distinction, pass or fail. For students who fail the first exam a second exam is normally given soon afterwards. Students who do not pass the exam after these two attempts have the possibility to take the exam three more times when the exam is given. To be able to do so requires that the student be registered for the course during the term the exam is given. Additional attempts to take the exam require permission of the director of studies or the student counselor.
A student who has failed twice on a course, or part of a course, is entitled to have another examiner, unless there are special reasons against it. Requests for new examiners are made to the director of studies.

If special reasons exist, the examiner has the right to decide on another examination form.

Transfer of credits
An application for credit transfer of previous studies can be sent to Student Services/Degree Evaluation Office, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå.


Valid from: 2018 week 1

Acting with technology: activity theory and interaction design
Kaptelinin Victor, Nardi Bonnie
Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press. : 2009 :

Additional reading assignments may include journal articles and conference papers, which will be provided to the students during the course.