Sunday, November 24, 2013

Reading :: Innovation, Human Capabilities, and Democracy

Innovation, Human Capabilities, and Democracy: Towards an Enabling Welfare State
By Reijo Miettinen

Reijo Miettinen is a professor of adult education at the University of Helsinki, where he works alongside and often collaborates with several other activity theorists (such as Engestrom and Sannino). His work has typically involved case studies of scientific and technical innovations, case studies in which he has applied activity theory. In this book, however, he's less interested in contextualized case studies, instead focusing on the question of why Finland has excelled at innovation in educational and business contexts. That is, this book is focused on policy, using activity theory as a framework for understanding how Finland's educational policies have worked.

Interestingly, in Chapter 2, Miettinen applies rhetoric to the question of policy making, drawing on Burke and Perelman. This move allows him to examine policy and its drivers, setting the stage for an historical analysis of stakeholders and shifts in how those stakeholders have interpreted policy terms and concepts. He also examines the educational system, innnovation and technology policy, and capability-cultivating services. The result is a deeply textured examination of the unique mix at play in Finland.

I'll be honest: I'm not terribly interested in policy. But Miettinen conducts a solid, detailed analysis and does his best to enliven what is inherently a dry topic. I am interested in activity theory, but it is applied here rather than extended; you won't see new insights into AT here, just a model application of it.

If you're interested in policies, innovation, and education, or an application of AT to these topics, pick up this book. If you're not, consider picking it up anyway, but take it slow.

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