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Literate Activity

Literate activity

Literate activity is a way to describe the complex activity involved in people producing and using texts across spaces and times, in ways that are shaped by our histories, tools, social interactions, resources, bodies, emotions, and relationships with the world. When we talk about literate activity, we include reading, writing, listening, speaking, thinking, and feeling–all social practices that influence how we make meaning and communicate.

Literate activity research

Literate activity research is the practice of investigating how literate activity works in the world. We use literate activity research to identify and trace what complex literate activity people do everyday, and to analyze and describe how we accomplish goals through our literate activity.

Literate activity research methods

Literate activity research methods are the specific methods we use when we are doing literate activity research. We might call our methods tools or kind of activity, but whatever term we use, we want to describe what we’re doing when we do this kind of research: through tracing, mapping, memory work, interviewing, self assessment, and more.


CHAT refers to cultural-historical activity theory, which we use as a way of understanding how people participate in the activity of writing over time with various tools, producing particular kinds of texts for particular goals in particular writing situations. Because our writing activity is so complicated, we use CHAT as one way to investigate, break down, and describe what’s really happening when we’re participating in complex writing activity.


P-CHAT refers to pedagogical cultural-historical activity theory, a term we use in our program specifically to describe how we use CHAT as a framework and tool for teaching writing. Lots of people use CHAT across various disciplines, but we have modified CHAT to create P-CHAT as a specific framework for teaching writing through a sociocultural approach to learning.

Production (P-CHAT)

Production is a P-CHAT term we use to investigate how a text gets produced. We use production to consider tools (laptop, paper), practices (typing, handwriting), and the genres (speeches, TedTalks, job applications) and structures (boxes on forms, video creating platforms) that influence how we produce texts.

Representation (P-CHAT)

Representation is a P-CHAT term we use to investigate how people conceptualize and plan to produce a text. We use representation to consider how writers think and talk about producing a text at any point and the activities and materials that shape how we think about texts.

Distribution (P-CHAT)

Distribution is a P-CHAT term we use to investigate where texts go in the world so that people might interact with them. We use distribution to consider the tools and methods we use to send texts into the world (social media platforms, journal publication, email, website publishing) and how texts move to and do things in places that writers may or may not have intended them to go.

Reception (P-CHAT)

Reception is a P-CHAT term we use to investigate how people take up and use a text they’ve interacted with. We use reception to consider who engages with all or part of a text and how people might use, adapt, or repurpose a text in ways that writers may or may not have anticipated or intended.

Socialization (P-CHAT)

Socialization is a P-CHAT term we use to investigate how people and institutions interact as texts are produced, distributed, and used. We use socialization to consider how people represent and transform social and cultural practices as we interact with texts, whether we do so intentionally or not.

Activity (P-CHAT)

Activity is a P-CHAT term we use to investigate all of the complex practices people do as writers create texts. We use activity to consider not just the commonplace cultural examples of what writing looks like (sitting down to type or handwrite), but also the expanded kinds of activity we actually do when we participate in writing activity (making lists, talking to people, taking a walk).

Ecology (P-CHAT)

Ecology is a P-CHAT term we use to investigate the broader environmental factors that shape and interact with writers producing and distributing texts. We use ecology to consider the physical and biological forces, both internal and external to writers, that may seem like they exist beyond the boundaries of the texts we’re creating.

Activity system

An activity system refers to a group of people or community working toward shared goals over time. When we talk about activity systems, we include the people in the system, the tools people use to accomplish shared goals, the rules surrounding their activity, and how people go about doing work in the system.

Semiotic resources

Semiotic resources are all the resources people use to organize how we understand the world and to make meaning for ourselves and in communication with others.


Trajectory is a way to understand how literate activity changes across places, times, people, and artifacts. When we talk about trajectory, we might refer to how texts move through the world and change as people adapt and take them up, how writers change over time and across writing situations, and how our learning also transforms as our motivations, goals, and identities change too.

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