The Reflection Object: An Activity-Theory Informed Concept for Designing for Reflection

Viktoria Pammer-Schindler*, Michael Prilla

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A substantial body of human-computer interaction literature investigates tools that are intended to support reflection, e.g. under the header of quantified self or in computer-mediated learning. These works describe the issues that are reflected on by users in terms of examples, such as reflecting on financial expenditures, lifestyle, professional growth, etc. A coherent concept is missing. In this paper, the reflection object is developed based on activity theory, reflection theory and related design-oriented research. The reflection object is both what is reflected on and what is changed through reflection. It constitutes the link between reflection and other activities in which the reflecting person participates. By combining these two aspects-what is reflected on and what is changed-into a coherent conceptual unit, the concept of the reflection object provides a frame to focus on how to support learning, change and transformation, which is a major challenge when designing technologies for reflection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-310
Number of pages16
JournalInteracting with Computers
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


  • activity theory
  • computer-mediated reflection
  • design theory
  • reflection
  • reflective informatics
  • reflective learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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