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Dossier thématique

Understanding Human Activity on the Basis of “Lived Experience

What are the benefits brought by the articulation with other approaches?
Partir de l’« expérience vécue » pour comprendre l'activité humaine. Quels apports de l'articulation avec d'autres approches ?
Partir del estudio de la «experiencia vivida» para comprender la actividad humana. ¿Qué aportes se obtienen al articularlos con otros enfoques?
Auf „gelebte Erfahrung“ konzentrierte Ansätze zum Verständnis menschlicher Tätigkeit. Welchen Beitrag leistet die Verknüpfung mit anderen Ansätzen?
Géraldine Rix-Lièvre, Béatrice Cahour et Julien Guibourdenche
Traduction de Thibault Gallard
Cet article est une traduction de :
Partir de l’« expérience vécue » pour comprendre l’activité humaine [fr]
Autre(s) traduction(s) de cet article :
Partir del estudio de la «experiencia vivida» para comprender la actividad humana [es]
Auf „gelebte Erfahrung“ konzentrierte Ansätze zum Verständnis menschlicher Tätigkeit [de]


Cet article introductif resitue tout d’abord l’étude de l’expérience vécue dans les approches situées, incarnées et distribuées de la cognition. Il rappelle ensuite l’histoire du développement des méthodes d’investigation de l’expérience vécue mais aussi de l’articulation des perspectives intrinsèque et extrinsèque et de différents niveaux de description de l’activité. Ces positionnements permettent de présenter les différents articles de ce dossier thématique en soulignant leur contribution aux articulations « multiméthodes » et « multiniveaux ». Cette introduction montre enfin que les démarches méthodologiques articulatoires sont particulièrement pertinentes pour relever des enjeux transformatifs et investir certains objets dans une approche située, incarnée, distribuée et enactive de la cognition, en particulier les dimensions collectives et les ancrages organisationnels de l’activité mais aussi les dynamiques des connaissances.

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1This thematic issue gathers works related to cognitive anthropology, ergonomics or psycho-phenomenology and works inscribed in embodied, situated and distributed approaches to cognition. Without shattering the dominant cognitivist paradigm, the development of research inscribed within these approaches for a decade has led to unite them under a root word: the 4E cognition, Embodied, Embedded, Enacted, Extended. These research do agree on the interest of conceptualizing and studying cognition differently, yet the various theoretical integrations encourage to continue the debate about the conception of an embodied, embedded, enacted, extended cognition. This issue shall nourish these debates, using contributions focusing on lived experience.

2In doing so, it revives, within the Revue d’Anthropologie des Connaissances, the interest brought to orientations that were represented in the very first issues of the journal (Brassac, 2007; Cahour et al., 2007; Cahour & Licoppe, 2010) and yet that have hardly been used in the last 15 years, as shown by the thematic issue “Repenser la connaissance: les 10 ans de la RAC” (2017, vol. 11, n° 2) and the article by the editorial board: “Projet scientifique et pratiques éditoriales de la Revue d'anthropologie des connaissances“ (2017). The desire to reaffirm the position of these debates within the journal led first of all to a very open call for papers aimed at bringing together researchers interested in situated and embodied cognition, as well as in an approach centred on “lived experience” to study the socio-cognitive and emotional dynamics at play in various empirical situations. This call gave rise to a workshop on 9 and 10 November 2022 in Paris (CNAM- Centre National des Arts et Métiers). The presentations and discussions at the workshop helped to define the call for publications in this thematic issue.

3This introductory article begins by presenting the historical and conceptual foundations of embodied, situated and distributed approaches to cognition, as well as approaches centred on 'lived experience', followed by the development of methods for investigating the latter. Introducing this thematic issue, which examines the advantages of linking an approach centred on 'lived experience' with other approaches, also implies placing it in a scientific lineage that links intrinsic and extrinsic perspectives. These positions are then used to present the various articles in this issue, showing their contribution to “multi-method” and “multi-level” approaches. Finally, we show that articulatory methodological approaches appear to be particularly relevant for taking up certain issues and investing certain objects rooted in a situated, embodied, distributed and enactive conception of cognition.

From situated, distributed and embodied cognition to 'lived experience' approaches

4The understanding of lived experience at the heart of this thematic issue is inscribed within a perspective of cognitive anthropology and ergonomics based on situated, distributed and embodied approaches to cognition.

The emergence of non-cognitivist conceptions of cognition

5The situated, distributed and embodied approaches to cognition that emerged in the 1990s put forward new models that oppose the cognitivist paradigm (Grison, 2004; Brassac, 2007). Fighting against an ego-cephalocentric conception of knowledge (Brassac, 2007), they go against several principles of the cognitivist paradigm, according to which knowledge is codifiable, storable and possessed by an individual. These approaches do not constitute a unified model; they have developed simultaneously, confronted with different empirical questions. Grison (2004) refers to the original situated action (Suchman, 1985, 1988), which rejects the idea of planning procedures as determining action, situated learning (Cole, 1996; Lave, 1988), which shows the limits of knowledge transfers from one context to another, and distributed cognition (Hutchins, 1995), which emphasises the impossibility of reducing cognition to individual mental phenomena. We can add the enactive perspective (Varela, Thompson & Rosch, 1993) which marks a break with a cognition based on representations of a pre-determined world. These situated and distributed approaches envisage cognition as a phenomenon that is situated, embodied, instrumented, culturally inscribed, individual-social and social-individual (Theureau, 1992, 2012). The situated nature of cognition emphasises both that cognition unfolds in a particular context, an arena, and above all that studying cognition implies taking an interest in the setting, i.e. the singular interactive coupling between an actor and a context (Lave, 1988). The characters instrumented and culturally inscribed remind us that cognitive phenomena are indissociable from their material roots and that they are culturally marked. Finally, the embodied character underlines the fact that these approaches reject any separation, any mind-body dualism. They are interested in bodily engagement, since knowledge results from “a practice that takes place in a collective and not just individual context, that relies on bodies and not just brains, that is mediated by material objects and not just by discursive productions“ (Brassac, 2007, p. 4). In so doing, all the articles in the thematic issue propose the study of a particular practice in a specific socio-cultural context. They are part of the practice turn by focusing on 'what people do' (Gherardi, 2017, p. 3).

6Even if the cognitivist paradigm remains dominant, the growth of works based on these approaches, in different disciplines ranging from cognitive science to educational sciences, psychology, ergonomics and sports sciences, has led to them being brought together under the 4E framework of Embodied, Embedded, Enacted and Extended cognition. This framework, which remains unified, shows the need to conceptualise and study cognition-in-action in a different way (Menary, 2010; Carney, 2021) and invites further debate on what is understood as embodied, embedded, enacted and extended cognition. This thematic issue is not immune to the diversity of focus on one dimension or another, nor to the diversity of definitions of each of the terms. Some articles focusing on the collective reveal the central place of language or material objects in the interaction processes during which new knowledge is constructed (Beaud, Flandin & Filliettaz, this issue) or the organisational determinants of the construction of cognitive sharing within a team (Kerivel et al., this issue). While the situated and distributed nature of cognition is at the heart of these articles, others focus on the embodied and enacted nature of knowledge. Indeed, Cahour, Créno & Forzy (this issue) stress the entanglement of the bodily and cognitive dimensions of a driver's disconnection in the context of hands-off driving of a semi-autonomous vehicle. The notion of sensitivity to, as proposed by Récopé et al (this issue), is a way of theorising the embodied and situated dimensions of cognition from a radically enactive perspective. Beyond the specificities of each proposal, all the articles gathered in this issue share the need, in order to study cognitive phenomena, to start from lived experience defined as “the flow of actions, thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions that occur in a situation at a given moment” (Cahour, Salembier & Zouinar, 2016, pp. 260-261) since these are only expressed in the singularity of the actual performance of a particular activity.

The thematization of lived experience in social sciences and humanities

7In France, a number of research projects in ergonomics, anthropology, education sciences, and sport sciences, have taken up the notion of lived experience to study situated and embodied cognition from the point of view of the subject. They refer directly or indirectly to phenomenological perspectives (mainly Husserl, 1950; Merleau-Ponty, 1942; Sartre, 1943). These focus on the description and analysis of perceived phenomena; they aim to describe the meaning of an experience from the point of view of the subject's awareness of it, and the way in which these phenomena appear in sensitive experience, disregarding any judgement. Despite these ancient philosophical roots, lived experience was thematised in the scientific field of cognition almost half a century later (Varela & Shear, 1999; Vermersch, 1994, 1999a, 1999b). Subjective experience is seen as irreducible, phenomenal and characteristic of our on-going existence (Varela & Shear, 1999; Vermersch, 1999a). It is then a question of defining the largely implicit aspects that can be documented empirically.

  • 1 Dewey (1915/2010) distinguishes between “experiencing” and “living an experience”. The first expres (...)

8From this perspective, several traditions can be distinguished (Cahour, Salembier & Zouinar, 2016): (1) a psycho-phenomenology (Vermersch, 1999a, 2012) aiming to describe lived experience, including a pre-reflective consciousness; (2) a situated cognitive anthropology interested in the course of experience as the dynamic of a pre-reflexive consciousness of activity in situation (Theureau, 2006); (3) a pragmatist approach to experience, inspired by Dewey (1958), focusing on what is felt and perceived by people acting1. There are thus several definitions of lived experience as it can be empirically documented; they differ in particular in the way they theorise (or not) the modes of consciousness and the processes of becoming aware during the documentation of lived experience. While psycho-phenomenology (Vermersch, 1999a, p. 14) shows the importance of becoming aware in other words “the passage from lived experience in action to the level of the representation of lived experience”, the dynamic of pre-reflexive awareness targeted by the course of action programme (Theureau, 2006) corresponds rather to the surface coupling between a person and the context in which he or she acts. It takes account of what was significant, even implicitly, for that person at the moment in question. It does not often, or at least not systematically, describe the way these meanings are given, which would require to become aware of it. Thus, without precisely identifying strictly isolable levels, each tradition probes the lived experience by focusing on the expression of different modes of awareness: the consciousness in the flow of action, a verbalisation of a surface pre-reflexive awareness centred on the contents of meaning, an explicitation of a pre-reflective consciousness opening up the possibility of grasping what is inscribed in the action. Despite these differences, which are sometimes, as we shall see in this issue, opportunities for complementarity, the lived experience is always conceived as embedded in the singularity of a moment and relative to the coupling between a person and a particular context.

  • 2 The notion of lived experience cannot be theoretically thematised within a cognitive paradigm, in l (...)

9While the theoretical interest of approaching lived experience in order to understand embodied, situated, enacted and extended cognition has appeared necessary for certain works, the possibility of documenting it in a rigorous way has been a scientific challenge (Varela & Shear, 1999; Vermersch, 1994, 1999a, 1999b). On the one hand it was a question of overcoming the criticisms levelled at introspection (Vermersch, 1999a), and on the other of showing the limits of documenting knowledge processes by invoking only an extrinsic point of view (Varela & Shear, 1999; Vermersch, 1999a). Contrary to the dominant cognitivist paradigm2, works based on lived experience have embraced methodological questioning from the outset. This thematic issue testifies to the importance of the latter: theorising and thematising lived experience as a scientific object has presupposed, and still presupposes, proof of the rigour of its methods of investigation.

Methodological considerations relating to the verbalisation of lived experience

The question of the scientificity of verbalisations to provide information about cognitive processes

10The investigation of lived experience is based on introspection and the reflexive acts it requires, a method which has a chequered history in psychology (Vermersch, 1999a, 1999b). At the beginning of the 20th century, numerous European and American psychology researchers (e.g. Maine de Biran, Brentano, Wundt, Binet, Titchener, Külpe, Watt) used introspection, the act by which each person examines his or her thoughts, memories, emotions and other internal processes; they sought to develop systematic and experimental introspection. The proponents of behaviourism, the promoters of a behaviourist, scientific and objective psychology (e.g. Watson, Skinner) questioned the introspection approach and excluded from investigation mental processes which they considered to be a “black box”. Interest in these processes was revived in the 1950s with the theory of information and communication and then of information processing, which served as the basis for the development of cognitivism, but the use of verbalisation of cognitive acts was discussed. The main criticisms at the time concerned a subject's ability to remember and become aware of the subtle and fleeting cognitive movements that lead them to make a decision, act, feel, evaluate, etc. This was the subject of a debate in the early years of the 20th century. In the 1980s, there was a debate between Nisbett & Wilson (1977) and Ericsson & Simon (1984). The former claimed to have proved that introspective access to cognitive processes is impossible, by showing experimentally that people are not aware of what influences their judgement of other people. In contrast, Ericsson & Simon (1984) supported the validity of verbal reports of cognitive processes and the ability of subjects to produce them. To do this, they mainly used the thinking aloud method, i.e. verbalising mental processes at the same time as performing a task. The aim was to rehabilitate the interest and scientific robustness of the verbalisations of the people whose action and cognition were studied.

  • 3 The experiment consists of showing pairs of images of women's faces and asking participants to indi (...)

11Distancing himself from a cognitivist paradigm, Vermersch (1999a) has rehabilitated the act of introspection, which consists in suspending one's natural attitude of judgement and turning towards what has just happened by welcoming it without any voluntary effort (the “phenomenological reduction” according to Husserl). Petitmengin et al. (2013) have shown in an experiment3 similar to that of Nisbett & Wilson (1977) that when subjects are accompanied in verbalising their lived experience, they are more aware of their cognitive processes. Petitmengin et al (2013) show that people who have been helped to verbalise their lived experience of a decision allow themselves to be manipulated significantly less when asked to explain a false choice than the group who did not take part in the interviews. They detected 80% of the substitutions, whereas the others detected only 33%. The authors conclude that spontaneous descriptions of cognitive processes are generally poor and unreliable; people rationalise and sometimes provide erroneous justifications. On the other hand, when they are guided towards appropriate introspective acts, it is possible for them to make explicit their thought processes (the how) and not just the result of their cognitive pathway (the what).

Methods for approaching lived experience

  • 4 “The second person point of view is defined firstly by the fact that the subject and the researcher (...)

12Vermersch (1999a, p. 8) points out that numerous publications show “the importance of taking account of subjective experience and ... the need to mobilise introspection”. Approaching lived experience, which is a complex flow of interwoven actions, thoughts, sensory perceptions and emotions, raises a number of questions. The trial of the illegitimacy of introspection most often points to the impossibility of splitting the subject, the destruction of the object supposedly being studied, the absence of observables attesting to the processes at work (Vermersch, 1999a, 1999b). Yet how can we “grasp the phenomenological level without collecting data at the level of what the subject can be aware of and can express”? (Vermersch, 1999a, p. 10). To do this, we need to build systems that enable us to approach the lived experience: (1) from a first- or second-person point of view4 , i.e. by giving primacy to the person who lived the moment in question, (2) without his or her rationalising, analysing and reconstructing, (3) by helping him or her to remember and describe (or make explicit) what he or she experienced and how he or she experienced it.

  • 5 The explicitation interview, l’“entretien d'explicitation” in French, has sometimes be called “elic (...)
  • 6 The similarities and differences between these two methods have been presented in Rix-Lièvre (2010) (...)

13Vermersch (1994) stresses the facilitation provided by an interviewer, and specifies the conditions and techniques for supporting the person in describing his or her lived experience: avoiding inductive questions, focusing on the how and not the why, paying attention to recollection. With this in mind, he developed an interview technique: the explicitation interview5. This technique suggests ways of asking questions, as well as observables that enable the interviewee's posture to be better characterised throughout the interview. As this thematic issue shows, most French research into lived experience and embodied and situated cognition uses either the explicitation interview (Vermersch, 1994) or the self-confrontation interview, which uses different traces of the activity, in particular video recordings, to help the actor verbalises what is significant for him or her at the moment in question (Theureau, 2010)6 . Adaptations of these two types of interview have been developed: for example, the subjective re-situ interview (Rix & Biache, 2004; Rix-Lièvre, 2010), composite interviews based on explicitation with the presentation of a video beforehand (Mouchet et al., 2011) or the explicit self-confrontation interview which integrates self-confrontation and explicitation in a psycho-phenomenological perspective (Cahour, Salembier & Zouinar, 2016; Cahour, 2022).

Ressouvenir and the levels of consciousness involved

  • 7 Vermersch borrowed this term from Husserl’s translations: ressouvenir equates to the process of rec (...)

14Overcoming the criticisms levelled at introspection means, in particular, focusing on the quality of ressouvenir7, i.e. the way in which a person can be helped to recover a vivid memory of the situation being studied, to re-immerse him or herself in a past situation. In the explicitation interview (Vermersch, 1994) or the self-confrontation interview (Theureau, 2010), the interviewer uses different strategies, with or without traces of activity, to help the interviewee reconnects with the singular moment under study (Cahour, 2022; Rix-Lièvre, 2010; Theureau, 2010). Vermersch (1994) describes in detail the cues, attitudes, types of reminder and other precautions to be taken to ensure the quality of the interviewee's ressouvenir.

15In parallel with the need for this recollection, this reconnection with a particular moment, the different theoretical orientations concerning lived experience led us to specify the nature of reflexivity, the levels of consciousness targeted and the ways in which these can be verbalised. While the distinction between consciousness in the flow of action and reflective consiousness (Vermersch, 2020) is commonly established, the dimensions of direct awareness targeted by the methods differ. For Theureau (2006, p. 48), the course of experience is “the story of the actor's pre-reflexive consciousness, or the story of that ´showable, relatable and commentable´ which accompanies his or her activity at every moment”. In other words, the self-confrontation focuses on a lived experience that is easily accessible and verbalizable by the . The aim is to help him or her describe what was important to him or her at the moment under study but which had remained implicit. This descriptive level is distinct from an analytical level that comes from the interviewee's more meta view of his or her experience; this analytical level can only be documented at a later stage. The aim of an explicitation interview (Vermersch, 1994) is to access pre-reflective consciousness (in the Piagetian sense), embedded in action but not immediately verbalizable by the actor who is not reflexively aware of it. Inspired by the Husserlian era, or phenomenological reduction, Vermersch (1994) considers that we need to turn back to the past moment to suspend our natural attitude and become aware of it. The idea is to passively allow the pre-reflective aspects of the memory to return, without limiting oneself to the aspects that have already been reflected upon and can be immediately verbalised. It is then possible to become aware of what has been done, thought and felt without knowing it during the action; this awareness opens up opportunities for transformation and development of the person in the context being studied (Depraz, Varela & Vermersch, 2003). In this way, these methods produce verbalisations that document the lived experience in different ways: they aim to make explicit different levels of awareness in relation to moments whose temporality is more or less restricted (from a few seconds to several minutes).

16The first methodological challenge of situated, embodied and distributed approaches centred on lived experience was the development of several types of interview to produce relevant verbalisations in a rigorous manner. Nevertheless, the articulation of methods and approaches has always been a major challenge in understanding action and cognition in this paradigm.

Building on lived experience and combining different perspectives

17Numerous studies concerned with understanding lived experience have sought to articulate different methods, whether to document the same object in a complementary way or to study activity through several levels of analysis. All the articles in this issue are part of this tradition, proposing multi-method and/or multi-level articulations. Multi-method articulations refer to the mobilisation of different complementary methods. Depending on the study, multi-level articulations involve an interest in physiological or biomechanical processes, observable manifestations of social interactions, collective activity configurations, extended or multi-sited spatial layout dynamics, work organisation, cultural aspects, etc.

18However, the notion of “level” of analysis does not refer here to a simple reification of certain determinants, nor to an essentialization of certain dimensions of understanding human activity and society. This is for two reasons: (1) the integration of this issue in a situated, embodied and distributed approach to cognition, and its focus on lived experience, prohibit an overly essentialist and deterministic perspective; (2) a conception of the researcher's activity consistent with this approach, which assumes the researcher's responsibility in the construction of his or her object (e.g. Theureau, 2006; Varela, 1976, 1989). A “level” is therefore a theoretical or analytical construction of the researcher, referring back to the theoretical objects and conceptual ressources of his or her research, as well as to appropriate methods. Different theoretical objects constructed by researchers can thus shed complementary light on human activity: from practices as lived by the people, from their enacted and embodied knowledge, from the way they co-ordinate themselves in situation, or from frameworks, constraints or resources as envisaged from the actor's or researcher's point of view.

19In order to situate the proposals in this thematic issue, which focuses on the contributions of articulations between an approach centred on “lived experience” and other approaches to understanding human activity and cognition-in-action, we propose a historical digression. It shows that initiatives linking intrinsic perspectives –starting from the point of view of the actor and what organises his or her cognition and action– and extrinsic perspectives –stemming from an analysis outside the actor predate the scientific thematization of lived experience. It also highlights the theoretical issues that gave rise to these links before the current craze for mixed methods in the humanities and social sciences.

Articulation, a question prior to the thematization of lived experience: a historical digression

20The “triangulation” of methods, referred to here as “articulation”, is not a new concept. Faced with the questioning of the scientificity of verbalisations documenting lived experience, the temptation might be strong to mobilise observational data to justify the robustness of verbalisations. However, this is neither the perspective of the research that inspired the developments we wish to discuss, nor that of the articles in this issue.

The complementary nature of intrinsic and extrinsic perspectives

  • 8 The need for this dual description stems from the theory of observation in theoretical biology deve (...)

21The articulation between intrinsic and extrinsic perspectives developed from the late 1970s and early 1980s, notably at the instigation of Varela –founding enaction and neuro-phenomenology– and Theureau –developing the “course of action” research programme (Quidu & Favier-Ambrosini, 2014). It is the complementarity of these perspectives that is promoted. The idea is to describe the activity both from the point of view of the “internal dynamics of the system, and in this case the environment does not have to be taken into account” (Maturana & Varela, 1994, p. 125) but also from the point of view of the observer seeking to “establish relationships between certain features of the environment and the behaviour of the unit” (Maturana & Varela, 1994, p. 126)8 . These two perspectives refer back to the distinction-articulation between first- and third-person description which will be theorised more explicitly in the context of reflections on lived experience (Varela, 1996; Varela & Shear, 1999). The need to articulate these two perspectives is re-emphasised when Varela defends “the role played by lived experience is increasingly important (...) as more sophisticated methods of brain imaging become available” (1996, p. 341). He thus stresses the need to go into equal depth in each of the ways of describing the system. Similarly, in the 1970s and 1980s, Pinsky & Theureau (1987) and Vermersch's work on the analysis of work situations and adult training combined observations of work activity in real situations with verbalisation methods (simultaneous, interruptive). Teiger and Pinsky's study at the end of the 1970s of the data entry/coding of INSEE files was the first to use a substantial corpus of simultaneous and interruptive verbalisations to understand the activity (Theureau, 2002). More familiar with observations of work situations from an extrinsic perspective, ergonomics then adopted, as a complement, new descriptions and analyses of individual activity from an intrinsic perspective.

Different levels of description of living and social systems

  • 9 In this issue, Perrin et al. empirically test the notion of mutual star-statement structuring (or m (...)

22In addition to the need to approach living organisms or human activity from two perspectives, Maturana & Varela (1994) suggest considering different orders of structural coupling in the analysis of living and social systems. They identify different orders of historically constituted coherence between living units and their environment: the biological, the cognitive and the cultural. The distinction between these orders leads us to consider the complexity of living systems and their evolution according to different domains, and to conceptualise their mutual structuring as a star-statement9. At the same time, other authors are also beginning to theorise different 'levels' of description/explanation of work activity. Thus, Pinsky & Theureau (1987, p. 35) define the theoretical object “course of action” as

a level of description/explanation of the complex totality constituted by work activity, relatively autonomous in relation to other levels, i.e. the study of which makes it possible to produce explanations which cannot be produced at other levels. This autonomy is obviously relative, not absolute, and its relationship with other levels needs to be studied.

23These are the premises of the multi-level analyses developed later as part of the "course of action" programme (e.g. Poizat et al., 2016; Theureau, 2019).

  • 10 Filippi's work (1994), which empirically documents courses of action and interactions, led to numer (...)

24This reflection on the levels of description of living and social systems is reinforced by the growing interest in ergonomics in the conceptualisation and analysis of the longitudinal (Jourdan, 1990; Vion, 1993) or collective (Filippi, 1994) dimensions of work activity. For example, Filippi (1994), who was studying the collective construction of rail traffic regulation, combined the analysis of individual-social courses of action with an analysis of collective activity by combining verbalisations documenting intrinsic dimensions with observations of in situ social interactions. In so doing, this work initiated a dialogue between the course-of-action programme and an interactionist approach10, as well as a reflection on how to articulate different levels of documentation of collective activity. Indeed, conceptualising collective activity in relation to individual-social activity (i.e. not drowning the collective in the individual or the individual in the collective) has imposed constraints from which both methodological individualism and collectivism are logically free. Methodological situationism requires us to think dynamically about its contributions and limits, while at the same time going beyond them. This provides researchers with consequent epistemological and methodological constraints, but also opportunities for debate with other approaches to the 'common' object of study (e.g. interaction, regulation, configurations, work organisation, etc.).

25Approaches centred on “lived experience” and their links with other approaches to understanding human activity and cognition-in-action are a continuation of this history.

More articulations with “lived experience” approaches

26As we indicated earlier, the scientific thematization of lived experience presupposed, in the first place, to demonstrate the legitimacy of the verbal material used to document it. However, interest in activity and cognition-in-action has also led to the need for complementary documentation based on other methods and approaches.

Enriching the documentation of lived experience with third-person descriptions

  • 11 This enrichment is the result of a methodology quasi-reversal. Whereas the initial aim was to demon (...)
  • 12 In sport sciences, this tendency to combine documentation of lived experience and third-person anal (...)

27In continuity with the first works articulating intrinsic and extrinsic perspectives, the scientific thematization of lived experience has also led to conceptualising, distinguishing and articulating descriptions of an activity and of cognition-in-action in first, second and third person. Thus, verbalisations from 're-situating' interviews (Cahour, Salembier & Zouinar, 2016) are most often enriched with observational material to understand situated cognition11 . Verbalizations make it possible to approach the point of view that the person may have on their own experience and to which they can testify by expressing it; generating a first- or second-person description (see note 4). Third-person description adopts an external point of view: on the basis of notes, video and/or audio recordings, physiological data or data from movement sensors, the researcher identifies various aspects which, from his or her point of view, enable a better understanding of the activity, cognition or interaction being studied. This tendency to combine documentation of lived experience and third-person analysis is a long-standing feature of many studies, whether in ergonomics (e.g. Bationo-Tillon, 2006; Barbier, 2009), neuro-phenomenology (Petitmengin, 2006), psycho-ergonomics (e.g. Créno & Cahour 2015; Cahour et al., 2007), or education sciences (e.g. Ria et al., 2004; Veyrunes, 2004) or in sports sciences (e.g. Récopé et al., 2019; Sève et al., 2007). Articulation seems to be a major methodological issue when cognition is considered as situated, embodied and distributed. Indeed, even if, as we have mentioned, numerous methodological precautions have been taken, restricting the investigation to the ex post production of verbalisations could obscure the actual activity as the primary and authentic manifestation of this cognition12 .

28One of the challenges of linking these heterogeneous data is to establish a network of “mutual generative constraints” (Quidu & Favier-Ambrosini, 2014). Indeed, the discovery of a regularity from certain materials can, for example, generate a methodological refinement in the production of other data. For example, the article by Récopé et al. in this issue highlights that the comparison between observable regularities and others derived from the analysis of verbalisations sometimes leads to the refinement of observation categories. From another perspective, Kérivel et al. (this issue) refine their methodology by analysing semi-structured interviews in the light of the findings established from the documentation of lived experience. Multi-method articulations also open up the possibility of discovering new regularities and thus producing specific knowledge impossible to obtain otherwise (Quidu & Favier-Ambrosini, 2014). From this point of view, Cahour et al. (2007) demonstrate the value of observational data that may seem to “contradict” experiential data from interviews, since this contradiction makes it possible to discover, for example, co-occurring affects or a camouflage phenomenon.

Going beyond lived experience by drawing on complementary theoretical frameworks

  • 13 The study of the appropriation of energy management systems in several households over a 3-year per (...)
  • 14 The study of interactions between a coxswain and his crew in rowing, or between a teacher and pupil (...)

29While approaches centred on “lived experience” are necessarily concerned with individual activity at a particular moment in time, certain objects of study, following on from the work mentioned above, involve articulating different levels of analysis. This is particularly the case for research into the longitudinal (e.g. Guibourdenche, 2020; Secheppet & Leblanc, 2021)13 or collective (e.g. Saury, Nordez, Sève, 2010; Veyrunes, 2004)14 aspects of human activity. These multi-level links often overcome the intrinsic limitations of each research programme and open up the possibility of mobilising complementary theoretical frameworks (Quidu & Favier-Ambrosini, 2014). Theureau (2006) develops the links between the 'course of action' programme and various cognitive anthropology frameworks, Bourbousson & Fortes (2012) and Guibourdenche (2020) with the theory of dynamic systems and complex systems. Thatcher, Guibourdenche & Cahour (2019) discuss the possibilities for cross-fertilisation between sustainable systems theory (Thatcher & Yeow, 2016) and a cognition-in-action approach to address the challenge of broadening the perspective that ergonomists encounter when seeking to address the issue of sustainable development. The articles by Kerivel et al. and Julienne et al. also draw on frameworks that complement those that enable them to approach lived experience in order to question more organisational dimensions: Engeström & Sannino's 'activity theory' (2021) and the sustainable systems approach (Thatcher & Yeow, 2016) for the former, and the CMO, context, mechanism, outcome configurations (Nielsen & Miraglia, 2017) for the latter. In this way, certain objects in particular give rise to multi-level articulations which in turn suggest further theoretical investigations in order to show the compatibility and complementarity of different notions.

30This particularly fertile dynamic is based on an interdisciplinary circulation of methodological questions and analytical roots. For example, the 'cours d'action' research programme developed in ergonomics has been used by several researchers in sport sciences and education sciences. This circulation has been beneficial both to sport sciences research and to the “course of action” research programme (Sève et al., 2012) and, more generally, to the development of links between approaches centred on “lived experience” and other perspectives (Quidu & Favier-Ambrosini, 2014; Sève et al., 2012). This movement has continued since the 2000s between ergonomics (Bationo-Tillon, 2006; Guibourdenche, 2013; Poret, 2015), sports sciences and education sciences. Some studies are increasingly moving in the direction of management (e.g. De Bisschop, 2019; Poret, 2015) or politics (Theureau, 2019). This thematic issue of the Revue d'Anthropologie des Connaissances continues this interdisciplinary dynamic.

A lasting and renewed interest regarding articulations: the contributions of this thematic issue

31Thus, approaches concerned with lived experience and cognition-in-action have not escaped the craze, or even the fashion, for mixit methods. Bringing together various articles from this perspective, this issue proposes methodological positions to better characterise the reasons why –and the way in which– these works centred on lived experience have recourse to other approaches. Without claiming to elaborate a general theory of the multi-method and multi-level articulations that mobilise approaches centred on “lived experience” for the analysis of activity and the study of embodied, situated and distributed cognition, the aim is, on the basis of the articles in this issue, to suggest a few avenues. With this in mind, we present the various contributions in this section.

Lived experience and multi-method approaches to activity

32Several articles in this thematic issue continue to question the way in which the documentation of lived experience on the basis of verbalisations from explicitation or self-confrontation interviews can be enriched by, or adds to, other materials in order to study cognition-in-action. In three articles (Beaud, Flandin & Filliettaz; Cahour, Créno & Forzy; Récopé et al.), the studies focuse on a particular moment: a few minutes of driving, the moment of meeting and installation of co-drivers, the activity of players during a defence in volleyball or a defensive transition in football, a moment of co-intervention in a museum. Despite their different fields and objects, these studies aim to characterise the embodied cognition of an actor in an ecological context. Certain aspects of cognition-in-action are documented on the basis of behavioural or conversational observables that are part of the activity or result from it, such as the speed of the vehicle or its trajectory. Other aspects are documented on the basis of the analysis and interpretation of the interview material: the feelings, sensations and meanings that characterise the activity and the cognition-in-action. Béatrice Cahour, Lisa Créno & Jean-François Forzy are particularly interested in the ways in which these two modes of investigation are articulated: a fine articulation versus a juxtaposed articulation. The aim is to show the respective contributions of each to understanding the cognition in action of drivers or co-drivers. From a methodological point of view, this article suggests that juxtaposed articulation, i.e. separate processing of the materials before comparing the results, is better suited to studies where the aim is to gain a relatively global understanding; in contrast, fine articulation produces a detailed understanding of cognition in action at a particular moment. The articles by Léa Beaud, Simon Flandin & Laurent Filliettaz, as well as Michel Récopé, Stéphane Héros, Simon Boyer, Simon Flandin & Géraldine Rix-Lièvre, each in their own way constitute fine articulations, since the different materials constructed –verbatims documenting lived experience and observations of behaviour– are used to understand the activity of one or more actors in the same moment. These proposals show that this type of articulation makes it possible to study very different objects. Both are interested in the lived experience and individual-social activity of a small number of actors, as in the case of the co-drivers developed by Cahour, Créno & Forzy. However, they depart from this in very different directions. Récopé et al. set out to understand, beyond a particular moment, the coherence of the activity of high-level sportsmen and women in high-stakes circumstances, whereas Beaud, Flandin & Filliettaz articulate the materials to identify the emergence of potentially formative configurations in the course of a co-intervention.

33As Cahour, Créno & Forzy point out, the proposed distinction only partly qualifies the ways in which 'lived experience'-centred methods are articulated with others. This characterisation needs to be pursued by looking in particular at the ways in which materials relating to the moments investigated are processed. For example, Beaud, Flandin & Filliettaz mobilise observation materials to identify participation configurations, for example, “helping a colleague to speak”; at the same time, they process observation and interview materials to determine activity configurations according to the way in which each participant's course of action is articulated. In this way, each notion mobilised requires a specific analysis; it is the interpretations produced on the basis of each analysis that are then put into perspective. Conversely, Récopé et al. use the materials together to gradually identify, on the basis of regularities, the sensitivity to that guides and structures each player's activity in high-stakes circumstances. Different types of material are used to document the same object. At a time when the articulation of methods is becoming an important point, methodological questions need to be explored in greater depth in order to better situate the added value of different articulations with regard to scientific objects integrating the documentation of lived experience. From this point of view, the blind spot of this thematic issue lies in the absence of a contribution articulating more physiological or biomechanical data to understand the embodied aspects –not always conscientizable– of activity in a particular moment. The figure 1 hereunder tries to summarize the studied dimension in addition to the lived experience in this issue and those which are not, whether they are or not already thematized in other articles. Thus, it is not a question of reducing the debate on multi-method approaches to the articulation between interview and observation materials, nor indeed of limiting this debate to work that remains focused on a particular moment. In fact, the other three articles in the issue, which take a more longitudinal perspective, also use several methods: diaries, accounts of interventions, comprehensive interviews, observations, etc.

Figure 1 : Projection of multi-method and multi-level articulations

Figure 1 : Projection of multi-method and multi-level articulations

Text (black)  Dimensions documented by one or several articles of the thematic issue
Text (grey)   Dimensions not documented in the articles of the thematic issue
Dimensions which are not thematized yet

Lived experience and multi-level approaches to activity

34More or less explicitly and more or less critically, the articles by Thibault Kerivel, Julien Guibourdenche, Magali Prost & Cyril Bossard, Nicolas Perrin, Artemis Drakos, Gaëlle Martin & David Piot, and Camille Julienne, Fabien Coutarel, Gabin Gindro & Géraldine Rix-Lièvre add to the debate on so-called multi-level approaches that incorporate documentation of lived experience. Indeed, Kerivel et al. question the determinants of the evolution of cognitive sharing within a team of footballers in a training centre in relation to changes at the level of the club, the training centre or the coaching staff. Perrin et al. document the activity of students enrolled in a hybrid training programme using different scales: the here and now, the configuration of collective activity and the training history. Julienne et al. study the activity of ergonomists throughout an intervention, the determinants of the reconfigurations that punctuate it and the way in which these are experienced by the participants.

35These three articles start from lived experience and focus on activity “by addressing the spatio-temporal and organisational complexity of the situations studied” (Perrin et al., §15). This orientation also leads Perrin et al. to question the relevance of the notion of “level” which, in their view, tends to reify different types of determinant from an extrinsic point of view. Preferring to retain the primacy given to the intrinsic point of view and to lived experience, they propose replacing the notion of “level” with that of “scale”. This proposal, as well as putting the three articles into perspective, opens up a number of questions about the articulation of materials aimed at approaching the spatio-temporal and organisational complexity of actors' activity and the place of lived experience in it. Reading the three articles invites us to distinguish and specify the methodological approaches according to an initial question: which level(s) or scale(s) is (are) at the heart of the study? Kerivel et al. set out to gain a better understanding of the evolution of cognitive sharing within a group; they call on other determinants to support this understanding. Perrin et al. are interested in the transformation of knowledge at different scales. Julienne et al. develop a system designed to approach the knowledge and values of a practitioner on the basis of his or her experience when the intervention project is modified and reconfigured in relation to the initial intervention proposal. Here, different levels are used to define the moments at which the lived experience will be studied, whereas Kerivel et al. propose the opposite: to study variations in the analysis of the lived experience in order to investigate other determinants that might explain it. This more explanatory orientation leads us to introduce another distinction which could also be enlightening in order to better situate the 'multi-level' approaches: how do the authors conceptualise the relationships between the levels? Are they cause-and-effect relationships? Are they more iterative processes? Are they interlocking, suggesting reciprocal framing effects? It would seem that a deeper understanding of the methodological positions of so-called 'multi-level' approaches requires an epistemological response to these questions. Finally, the third line of distinction that suggested by the three articles concerns the primacy given to the intrinsic or the extrinsic, both theoretically, methodologically and in the production of the interpretation, a question that often arises, as Cahour, Créno & Forzy point out, as soon as several methods are called upon to complement the materials documenting the lived experience. Julienne et al. start from an extrinsic point of view in order to describe the actual course of an intervention project and identify the reconfigurations of the latter in order to approach the lived experience during these moments. Extrinsic analysis arises first but the interpretation is based on an intrinsic point of view. Perrin et al. focus on the intrinsic point of view and start from what is significant for the students in order to define and document the different scales. Kerivel et al. start from an analysis of the intrinsic to characterise the cognitive sharing with the players and then go on to produce a more extrinsic interpretation of the variations by mobilising materials other than those concerning the lived experience.

36The articles in this issue show both the need to pursue methodological developments in order to deepen the theorisation of lived experience and the specification of knowledge at work in different contexts, and the interest in refining the relative positioning of work on lived experience using different approaches. Several dialectics need to be considered: singular/generic, situated/trend, individual/collective/organisational/trans-institutional, complex and holistic vision/need to reduce objects to avoid superficiality, etc. This thematic issue invites us to pursue the conceptualisation of these dialectics on an interdisciplinary scale in order to gain a better understanding of situated, embodied and distributed cognitive phenomena.

Different fields, shared challenges, privileged objects

37After a period when approaches centred on “lived experience” had to defend the need to consider the “invisible elephant” that is lived experience (Cesari Lusso & Snoeckx, 2015), in order to approach the intelligibility of practices, their deployment in different disciplines has shown their relevance in different fields. This diversity is also represented in this thematic issue, which brings together: two studies in ergonomics –focusing on questions of design and use (Cahour, Créno & Forzy) or understanding ergonomic intervention (Julienne et al.)–, two studies in education sciences –one on the construction of knowledge during hybrid training at university (Perrin et al.), the other on potentially formative configurations in a context of co-intervention (Beaud, Flandin & Filliettaz)–, two in sports sciences –one on the determinants of the evolution of cognitive sharing within a football team (Kérivel et al.), the other on the identification of the sensitivity to high-level players, a sensitivity that structures their activity in high-stakes circumstances (Récopé et al.). The aim of the contributors to this issue is not necessarily to found a science of lived experience. Rather, they combine an approach centred on “lived experience” with other approaches to better study certain objects and to identify a certain number of societal issues related to training, the design of services or new technologies or performance.

Societal issues and transformative aims

38Climate change, professional, territorial and political transformations linked to the digital revolution, and the importance of lifelong learning are leading society to challenge researchers. Dealing with these issues implies taking a holistic view of knowledge and considering activity in the context of organisational, cultural and social systems, etc. The temptation may then be strong to abandon the understanding of cognition as situated, embodied and distributed. As this thematic issue suggests, we believe it is relevant to “hold both ends”: to start from lived experience and link it with other approaches that shed light on other dimensions. Whatever the scale in time or space, or the number of actors or organisations involved in the phenomenon under study, it seems that the researchers' attachment not only to epistemic aims but also to transformative ones leads to and finds added value in linking different approaches (Quidu & Favier-Ambrosini, 2014).

39This transformative dimension is visible in all the works presented in this issue. They all ◊ integrate the understanding of cognition in a praxeology, with design, training and intervention perspectives more or less at the forefront. This is the case in the article by Perrin et al. which develops an understanding of the construction of knowledge in order to design and adjust a hybrid training system. They are central to compare the activity of drivers of semi-autonomous vehicles to decide whether driving without hands on the wheel (hands off) can be authorised without risk, or to improve a car-sharing service (Cahour, Créno & Forzy). The studies by Beaud, Flandin & Filliettaz and Récopé et al. stem from their concerns as teachers. The work of Julienne et al. is a support for professional development through the discussion of ergonomic intervention practices. The results of Kerivel et al. showing the “top-down” influence of “higher” levels (club, training centre or staff) on the cognitive sharing of the team suggest opportunities for co-designing training in order to enhance the team's autonomy. This dual purpose of the research –epistemic and transformative– seems to be a real incentive to mobilise different methods or approaches, as it seems necessary to take different dimensions into account in order to bring about positive change.

Collective configurations and organisational dimension of activity

40Articulatory approaches also appear to be particularly relevant to certain objects, notably collective activity. In an embedded, embodied, extended and enacted conception of cognition, starting from lived experience enables us to understand the actor-situation coupling in its individual and social dimensions. From this point of view, considering collectives, whether large or small, also implies considering how they function according to their own principles (Poizat & San Martin, 2020; Theureau, 2006) and raises questions about the way in which they are investigated. In this way, scientific objects that integrate and go beyond individual-social activity give rise, as we have already emphasised, to articulatory methodological questions. Some of the articles in this issue bear witness to this trend. Beaud, Flandin & Filliettaz directly study configurations which refer to the collective activity and designate the way in which the actors coordinate themselves in a common activity. They propose to document configurations by integrating two aspects: activity configurations, which are based on an understanding of what is significant for each actor hic et nunc, and participation configurations, which highlight “the rights and obligations mutually contracted by the participants in the interaction, according to the ways in which they engage in the joint activities that bring them together” (Filliettaz et al., 2021, p. 28). In so doing, they show the interest and the need to mobilise two approaches in order to circumscribe potentially formative configurations and provide benchmarks for their conditions of emergence.

41This articulatory methodological approach is also used, beyond the collective, to understand the way in which the activity is embedded in a context, not only physical and human but also more broadly organisational and cultural. The documentation of this organisational dimension and its usefulness are particularly well highlighted in the article by Kérivel et al., which points how organisational changes at club level, such as the recruitment of a new head coach for the main team, influence the policy of its training centre, which in turn modifies the practices of the staff, which in turn have an impact on the cognitive sharing of the players in a team. The authors show how different levels of organisation influence the cognitive phenomena that make up a team's activity. Julienne et al. document in their work certain organisational aspects that structure the conduct of an ergonomic intervention project, in particular by focusing on the instructions. Investigating this dimension makes it possible to understand how the intervention project unfolds in three phases –diagnosis, design, transformation– and to characterise each stage of the intervention in relation to its context –the company, the people involved– and also its projected or actual results. By comparing all these elements with actual experience, it is possible to understand the ergonomist's activity and the knowledge at work throughout the intervention.

42In short, these works demonstrate that without being determined by supra-structures that are external and superior to the practice context, the organization of the activity is built within interlocked frameworks which must be documented in order to understand the situated and enacted cognition.

Knowledge dynamics

43As it has been developed, the paradigm of embedded, embodied, enacted and extended cognition has led us to take seriously the singularity of activity in a particular context. Thus, the articles in this issue document the knowledge that constitutes the dynamics of hic & nunc activity. In this sense, Cahour, Créno & Forzy provide information on the way in which the passenger gradually and with difficulty constructs an understanding of the singular situation –in particular who is going to travel, where to set up and what the links are between the passengers. This construction is partly organised by a certain number of expectations built up during previous carpooling experiences and concerning the modes of interaction in this context. So, if cognition is situated and distributed, it is not pure emergence in the sense of appearing without being rooted in the history of previous interactions and couplings. The study of cognition has to be part of a wider temporality in order to understand the dynamics of knowledge. This is what two articles in this issue propose, highlighting the added value of articulatory approaches in meeting the scientific challenge of studying knowledge in its situated and dynamic yet referential and dispositional character. By studying the 'course of life' relating to a training practice, Perrin et al. highlight the way in which knowledge of the here and now is put to work and puts to work knowledge at the intermediate level, that of the task giving rise to a configuration of collective activity, and that the same is true between this intermediate level and the higher level, that of the history of the training. In so doing, they show the dynamics of knowledge construction, how students' ways of learning are transformed and their dispositions to act in a hybrid training context. Thus, Perrin et al. start from the study of lived experience and situated cognition, but go beyond it by focusing on the dispositions that guide it.

44Similarly, Récopé et al. articulate the singular and regular dimensions of cognition in their article. Their starting point is the experience and singular activity of volleyball or football players in contexts considered from the outside to be similar. Their analyses then consist in identifying regularities in behaviour and in lived experience. In so doing, they document the regular aspects of a cognition that is always situated and embodied. The notion they propose of sensitivity to refers to a norm of activity that orients an actor's activity in the socio-cultural context under consideration. In their view, sensitivity to is of the order of experience itself. In this way, they put the definitions and relationships between experience, lived experience and experience proper back into debate and into perspective. These works demonstrate that cognition must be studied and understood in its situated and singular dynamics that are inseparable from its trend and referential integrations; these propositions explain thus the embodied, situated and enacted characteristics of cognition.

45At the end of this introduction, we must make it clear that the issues and subjects discussed in no way exclude others which could be conducive to and benefit from the articulation between the study of lived experience and other approaches. Those listed here help to put the contributions to this issue into perspective and encourage us to explore them. Furthermore, while we have discussed the articles in terms of 'multi-method' and 'multi-level' articulations, we feel it is important to emphasise that the distinctions and overlaps between these two types of articulation are still under debate. Thus, the interdisciplinary scientific community that focuses on lived experience in an embedded, embodied, extended and enacted conception of cognition needs to be challenged in order to boost the methodological, theoretical and epistemological discussions that pervade the work that focuses on it.

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1 Dewey (1915/2010) distinguishes between “experiencing” and “living an experience”. The first expression relates to what is felt in situ. In the second, experience takes on a distinctive character for the subject, a particular meaning that gives it a posteriori its unity; it is part of a dynamic of continuous reconstitution. The first meaning is close to Vermersch's proposals on lived experience and Theureau's on the course of experience; the second, more reflective and tendentious, would be less consensual and subject to debate.

2 The notion of lived experience cannot be theoretically thematised within a cognitive paradigm, in light of its linear and sequential model of cognition, of its conception of knowledge as an iconic representation of the world itself. Indeed, lived experience syncretically integrates perceptions, emotions, actions, and supposes to consider phenomena as they are grasped and felt according to the actor, hic & nunc. Despite the presence of different objects, to establish the scientific legitimacy of research works outside this dominant paradigm requires a substantive methodological work.

3 The experiment consists of showing pairs of images of women's faces and asking participants to indicate which face in each pair they think is the most attractive. Immediately after certain choices, the experimenter shows the chosen face and asks the participants to state the reasons behind their choice. Unbeknownst to the participants, in some trials the experimenter secretly changes the card, shows the face that was not chosen and asks the participants to explain their choice.

4 “The second person point of view is defined firstly by the fact that the subject and the researcher are not the same person, and consequently the researcher only has access to the other person's experience through their verbalisations. This second-person point of view can be envisaged in the empathic mode” (Vermersch, 1999a, p. 10). The inherent “first-person” point of view thus corresponds to a self-description of its own experience lived by the researcher (I am living this), the inherent second person point of view corresponds to the point of view of a subject interrogated and analysed by the researcher (you are telling me that you are living this). The third person analysis is inherent since it corresponds to an analysis of the researcher’s external point of view while observing the subject (I infer that HE is living this) and not to a subjective point of view. Usually, we tend to associate the first and second person under the expression “inherent point of view” or subjective, and we often gather them under the expression “first person” (even during an interview, the subject uses I).

5 The explicitation interview, l’“entretien d'explicitation” in French, has sometimes be called “elicitation interview” and is close to micro-phenomenological interview.

6 The similarities and differences between these two methods have been presented in Rix-Lièvre (2010) and Cahour Salembier & Zouinar (2016).

7 Vermersch borrowed this term from Husserl’s translations: ressouvenir equates to the process of recalling.

8 The need for this dual description stems from the theory of observation in theoretical biology developed by Varela (1976, 1989). He constructs it in relation to the embodiment of the act of distinguishing (chopping) a unit within an environment. These two chopping processes (Varela, 1976) must be distinguished and articulated (Varela, 1989): a description from the point of view of the dynamics of the system, and a description from the point of view of the researcher in action, who then fixes his “observables” and establishes “relationships”.

9 In this issue, Perrin et al. empirically test the notion of mutual star-statement structuring (or mutual constitution) to understand the construction of knowledge on the scale of a hybrid university course.

10 Filippi's work (1994), which empirically documents courses of action and interactions, led to numerous exchanges with interactionists such as Christian Heath, Michèle Lacoste and Michèle Grosjean. As the contributions in this issue by Beaud, Flandin & Filliettaz, and Cahour, Créno & Forzy show, this dialogue continues to flourish.

11 This enrichment is the result of a methodology quasi-reversal. Whereas the initial aim was to demonstrate the relevance of verbalisations and their robustness in documenting lived experience, the study of activity and embodied cognition is now complemented and enriched by observational material, with the emphasis on the intrinsic.

12 In sport sciences, this tendency to combine documentation of lived experience and third-person analysis is probably more important, since in sport, the actual activity is not only a performance in the sense of what is done, but also directly what is the subject of social appreciation/evaluation. Moreover, the bodily dimension of sporting performances reinforces the interest and the possibilities of constructing behavioural observables.

13 The study of the appropriation of energy management systems in several households over a 3-year period led Guibourdenche (2020) to propose a multi-level approach, while Secheppet & Leblanc (2021) used it to understand how different training tools and moments contribute to the construction of professional techniques for driving an equestrian carriage.

14 The study of interactions between a coxswain and his crew in rowing, or between a teacher and pupils, has led Saury, Nordez, Sève (2010) and Veyrunes (2004) respectively to develop a multi-level approach to go beyond the study of individual activities.

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Titre Figure 1 : Projection of multi-method and multi-level articulations
Légende Text (black)  Dimensions documented by one or several articles of the thematic issue Text (grey)   Dimensions not documented in the articles of the thematic issue….                Dimensions which are not thematized yet
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Géraldine Rix-Lièvre, Béatrice Cahour et Julien Guibourdenche, « Understanding Human Activity on the Basis of “Lived Experience »Revue d’anthropologie des connaissances [En ligne], 18-1 | 2024, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2024, consulté le 27 mai 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Géraldine Rix-Lièvre

Full professor in STAPS at the University of Clermont Auvergne, her work is part of the ACTé research center. Rooted in a situated cognitive anthropology, her work focuses on knowledge-in-action in dynamic and uncertain contexts with multiple issues at stake. From the point of view of the actor, it examines especially the normative foundations of bodily practices and decision-making processes in an ecological context. Aimed at supporting performance, they are part of the 'Science with and for society' movement.

Address: Université Clermont Auvergne, Laboratoire ACTé, FR-63000 Clermont-Ferrand (France).
Email : geraldine.rix[at]

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Thibault Gallard


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