Bazerman and Russell define activity theory as “a set of related approaches that view human phenomena as dynamic, in action. Human-produced artifacts are not to be understood as objects in themselves, but within the activities that give rise and use to them” (1).
Spinuzzi offers the concept of compound mediation and genre ecologies to theorize how composing in workplace settings operate. Compound mediation refers to “the ways that people habitually coordinate sets of artifacts to mediate or carry out their activities…Each artifact—and each type of artifact—helps to shape the activity and enable people to perform their many actions. In fact, one can argue that artifacts become useful to a given set of workers only through the ways in which those workers intermediate or juxtapose other artifacts” (98). This is particularly relevant in activity theory, namely through the consideration of activity systems: the interplay of collaborators, artifacts, objective, communities, domain knowledge (habits developed for using various artifacts, work regulations, and ethical guidelines), and divisions of labor within that community. All this produces an outcome (99; see Figure 1).
In the context of genre ecologies, Spinuzzi pulls from notions of tool ecologies. Looking at, say, naval vessels: “each tool creates the environment of the others” (Hutchins 114 in Spinuzzi 100). In other words, these tools “are connected in multiple, complex, and often nonsequential ways. Furthermore, they co-evolve: changes in one lead to changes in others” (100). Tools, then, become analogous to genres: “artifact types that are cyclically developed and interpreted in ongoing activities” (101).