Activity theory has become an increasingly important theoretical framework for practitioners and researchers in a wide variety of fields. Offering a set of tools for exploring and theorizing everyday practice, activity theory has proven to be a useful lens for exploring how various artifacts and genres mediate social practices. This article systematically analyzes the use of activity theory by researchers publishing work in the ACM SIGDOC proceedings between 2001 and 2011. By paying attention to the cultural-historical situatedness of a given author, his or her terminology, and the ostensible function of activity theory within each piece, a more comprehensive understanding of the adaptive nature of activity theoretical approaches to design of communication emerges. And as activity theory continues to be used within disciplines relevant to design of communication, a framework for understanding both the previous and potential roles of activity theory in the scholarly literature is needed and is provided, in part, by our analysis.