Plan and Situated Action as a Function of Activity Category
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Plans do not serve the particular circumstances of a given situation, but rather serve as abstract descriptions of some future activities. The relationship between plans, which are abstract, and actions, which are concrete, is referred to as the relationship between plans and situated actions. This relationship can be formulated in the following questions: 1) How do individuals conceive of future activities? 2) How does an individual who is acting upon a plan adjust when facing contingencies? The relationship between plans and situated actions has remained a source of intense academic discussions (e.g., Bardram, 1997; Bardram & Hensen, 2010; Leudar & Costall, 1996; Ng, 2002; Schmidt, 1997; Suchman, 1987). Despite the ample research on the relationship between plans and situated actions, a review of the literature indicates that the problem has not been adequately addressed (Randall et al., 2007; Suchman 2003), which has compelled this researcher to create a theoretical model that integrates the disparate nature of plans and line of actions. Drawing on research on cognition and categorization theory, this thesis proposes a theoretical framework that conceptualizes the relationship between plans and situated actions in terms of activity categories. Specifically, the theoretical framework draws on the prototype and basic-level category theories of categorization, both of which were developed primarily by Rosch (1978), as well as the field theory developed by Lewin (1936). Categorization theories are used to address plans’ abstractness as they capture typifications of human experience. Field theory is used to address the concreteness of action as it captures dynamic properties of the situation in the here and now. The basic premise of the theoretical framework is that individuals conceive (have a knowledge) of plans and their attributes as future activity categories with a range of possibilities. These possibilities are structurally graded, ranging from highly typical to atypical. Plans are believed to be formed based on what is typical for the activity. The theoretical framework argues that an association exists between an individual’s knowledge of typical adjustment relevant to the activity and actual adjustment the individual makes while performing the activity. With this in mind, the theoretical framework considers the actor’s perspective to be central to the investigation. Based on the theoretical framework, several hypotheses are formularized and tested. An in-depth case study conducted in a ready-mix concrete company was used to examine aspects of the theoretical framework empirically. The results of the case study provide a wide range of independent evidence supporting the framework. In addition, an experimental methodology was developed for quantitative testing in the laboratory aspects of the theoretical framework not attainable in the case study. Theoretical and practical implications of the proposed framework and empirical findings are examined. Future research directions are discussed.