Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 307-339

First online:

Boundary Negotiating Artifacts: Unbinding the Routine of Boundary Objects and Embracing Chaos in Collaborative Work

  • Charlotte P. LeeAffiliated withCalifornia Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, University of California Irvine Email author 

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Empirical studies of material artifacts in practice continue to be a rich source of theoretical concepts for CSCW. This paper explores the foundational concept of boundary objects and questions the conception that all objects that move between communities of practice are boundary objects. This research presents the results of a year-long ethnographic study of collaborative work, specifically the multidisciplinary collaborative design of a museum exhibition. I suggest that artifacts can serve to establish and destabilize protocols themselves and that artifacts can be used to push boundaries rather than merely sailing across them. Artifacts used for collaboration do not necessarily exist within a web of standardized processes and disorderly processes should not be treated as “special cases”.


articulation work artifacts artefacts boundary negotiating artifacts boundary objects collaborative work communities of practice Computer Supported Cooperative Work design ethnography museums theory