University homepage Suomeksi På svenska In English
University of Helsinki Faculty of Behavioural Sciences

Department of Education


Contact information:

Siltavuorenpenger 20 R
P.O. Box 9
00014 University of Helsinki
Tel. +358 9 191 20555
Fax  +358 9 191 20561  

Juha Pihlaja
An Activity-Theoretical Study of the Historical Development of
Distributed Systems of Generalizing

2005; 247 pp.
Price 30 €
ISBN 952-10-1637-X (pbk)
ISBN 952-10-1638-8 (PDF)

University of Helsinki
Department of Education

Helsinki University Press

Juha Pihlaja

The current shift from industrial mass production to new forms of ICT-supported production has questioned established principles and structures of learning in and for production. The purpose of this study was to explore the current change in production-related learning and to find concepts to describe it. This was achieved by analyzing the logic behind the main forms of learning in and for production that preceded the ICT revolution. The limitations of these forms in the current situation were considered and a new principle was developed. It was assumed that forms of learning in and for production were tightly connected to the historical development of forms of production and should therefore be studied historically.

The study explored the extent to which the main theories of organizational learning on the one hand, and theories of the historical development of production on the other, could explain the historical change in learning in and for production. The analysis showed that theories of organizational learning did not provide adequate concepts for explaining the historical changes in learning, while those concerning the historical development of forms production did explain the context of the current change in learning in and for production. Moreover, they supported the idea of historical change in learning but they did not provide concepts for describing more specifically the changes taking place in the learning processes.

A genetic method involving finding the initial abstraction of the phenomenon was used to conceptualize the change of learning in and for production. On the basis of previous research carried out in the tradition of cultural-historical activity theory, the adoption, application and development of generalized operations objectified in tools and concepts were taken as this initial abstraction.

Interpreting learning as the production of production-relevant generalizations highlighted the importance of analyzing the historically varying artifacts used in production and production control. Three variants of mass production developed during the long wave of economic development based on the motorization of the economy (1941-1990): the Fordist-Taylorist model, the socio-technical model and the model of flexible mass production. Methodologically, the research focused on analyzing the development of the first installations of the se forms of learning in and for mass production as the “ancestors” of the three families of later applications of the same principle .

Electronic / PDF version >>

Publications >>