Moving with the Times: IT Research and the Boundaries of CSCW


The field of CSCW research emerged with the development of distributed computing systems and attempts to understand the socially organized (‘collaborative’ or ‘cooperative’) nature of work in order to embed such systems in the workplace. As a field of interdisciplinary inquiry CSCW was motivated by technological developments and the need to understand the particular contexts within which those developments were intended to resonate. In other words, it is no mere accident that CSCW took work as its topic and resource – the historical nature of IT research from which the field emerged meant that for all practical purposes it could not be otherwise. Yet times change. IT research moves on. Today mobile, ambient, pervasive, ubiquitous, mixed reality and wearable computing, et cetera, are of fundamental concern to the contemporary computing research community. Furthermore, these developments are accompanied by a movement away from the workplace to focus on diverse settings in everyday life: homes, games, museums, photography, tourism, performances, indeed diverse bodies of people and pursuits that generally fall under the conceptual rubric of the ‘ludic’. Accompanying this shift away from work is a call for new approaches and concepts that will enable researchers to better understand the ludic and inform design appropriately. In this paper we seek to address the boundaries of CSCW and the ability of CSCW to respond to contemporary research agendas. We present an ethnomethodological study of a location-based mixed reality game to demonstrate the continued relevance of CSCW approaches and concepts to contemporary agendas in IT research.

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Correspondence to Andy Crabtree.

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Crabtree, A., Rodden, T. & Benford, S. Moving with the Times: IT Research and the Boundaries of CSCW. Comput Supported Coop Work 14, 217–251 (2005).

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  • CSCW
  • ethnomethodology
  • IT research
  • ludic pursuits
  • mixed reality game