Delphine Szymczak

Delphine Szymczak

My interest in socio-cultural-historical psychology directly stems from human-computer interaction. My background is clearly technical. I have mainly studied computer science. When getting into the design of interactive systems, aiming specifically at fulfilling human needs, I found myself in the position of missing a theoretical background concerning the human side of the interaction.

I also had an early interest for the functioning of the human thoughts and the human brain. The first domain in which I could find some explanations of its functioning was cognitive science. The notion of mediating tool, tool-in-use or tool in focus introduced me to the notion of mediated action.

To solve this unbalanced background, I then acquired an overview of some theories in humanities, and came across Activity Theory. This theory, encompassing the human and its motive, the

environment and the other human relationships, seemed to be adequate in explaining the interaction with a device within a more complex activity.

In the context of the licentiate thesis I am presenting in december 2011, I used activity theory to inform the design and evaluation of an audio-tactile tourist guide, including navigation through vibrations. Several concepts of the socio-cultural-historical psychology tradition, through the formulation of activity theory have proven beneficial during this work.

My previous knowledge of socio-cultural-historical psychology is for the moment limited to the work described in Kaptelinin and Nardi’s work (2006). I am planning on deepening my knowledge during the spring to use better this perspective in my current research. The strong focus of this school on the work of Vygotsky and the impact his research made on education will certainly benefit the planned study in the HIPP project, related to the use of a digital drawing program for visually-impaired students. I will first bring in this ISCAR school another view on the pedagogical situation, from my technical background. I will also benefit from this school by taking back relevant knowledge and reflexions into the analysis of the situation in schools within the HIPP project.

I also want to bring my experience in using Vygotsky’s historical perspective on activity, Leont’ev’s hierarchical structure of activity, Engeström’s and Hedvall’s models of activity in a specific case study to the school. I hope that my domain of application, that is neither of the domain of learning nor Computer Supported Cooperative Work, but related to audio-haptic augmented reality, will bring a different perspective to the possibilities of this theory.

In a more general consideration, I want to mention my clear interest for socio-cultural-historical psychology, even though this is not my field of origin. My interests have been more technical in the past, but I feel that a multi-disciplinary view is needed when it comes to human-computer interaction. I expect to both develop my understanding of the broader socio-cultural-historical research tradition, and to discuss how its application can be conducted, with which limits, possibilities and complementarities, particularly within the perspective of my field of research.

Presentation “Shaping the mediating technology in humans’ (with visual impairment) activities”
Download presentation of the speech (PDF, 2.13MB)