Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 191–197 | Cite as

Categories, disciplines, and social coordination

  • Terry Winograd


Lucy Suchman's paper, “Do categories have politics,” challenges the validity of speech act theory as a basis for computer systems for workflow support. Suchman fears that the explicitiness of the theory leads to undue discipline when it is applied in practice. Her fear is grounded in a misunderstanding of what it means to use such a theory, and this paper clarifies the difference between formal comprehensivemodels of behavior and formalstructures used in communication and recording, Explicit speech act theory, like explicit accounting procedures, enforces a kind of uniformity that is necessary in any communication situation where ambiguity and vagueness cannot be routinely resolved through direct personal contact and knowledge. The practicalities of large geographically distributed organizations makes the appropriate use of shared structuring a precondition for effective cooperation.

Key words

Speech act theory The Coordinator discipline coordination language/action perspective 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. De Michelis, G., Simone, C., and Schmidt, K. (eds.) (1993):Proceedings of the Third European Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (ECSCW'93). Milan, Italy. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  2. Medina Mora, Raul, Terry Winograd, Rodrigo Flores and Fernando Flores. (1992): The Action Workflow Approach to Workflow Management Technology, CSCW 92.Google Scholar
  3. Michael Muller and Sara Kuhn (editors). (1993): Special issue on Participatory Design, Communications of the ACM, vol. 36, no. 4Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terry Winograd
    • 1
  1. 1.Stanford University and Interval ResearchPalo Alto

Personalised recommendations