Artefactual Multiplicity: A Study of Emergency-Department Whiteboards

  • Pernille BjørnEmail author
  • Morten Hertzum


Whiteboards are highly important to the work in emergency departments (EDs). As a collaborative technology ED whiteboards are usually placed in the dynamic centre of the ED, and all ED staff will approach the whiteboard regularly to organize their individual yet interdependent work. Currently, digital whiteboards are replacing the ordinary dry-erase whiteboards in EDs, which bring the design and use of whiteboards in ED to our attention. Previous studies have applied the theoretical lenses of common information spaces, coordination, and awareness to the investigation of whiteboard use and design. Based on an ethnographic study of the work practices involving two differently designed ED whiteboards, we found these concepts insufficient to explain one essential characteristic of these heterogeneous artefacts. In this paper, we suggest an additional theoretical concept describing this characteristic of heterogeneous artefacts; namely artefactual multiplicity. Artefactual multiplicity identifies not only the multiple functions of heterogeneous artefacts but also the intricate relations between these multiple functionalities.

Key words

whiteboard emergency department work practice design artefactual multiplicity 



This study is a part of the research project ACTION for Health, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Grant #512-2003-1017, titled ‘The role of technology in the production, consumption and use of health information: Implications for policy and practice’ with contributions from Simon Fraser University and Vancouver General Hospital.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IT University of Copenhagen, Technologies in PracticeCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Roskilde University, Computer ScienceRoskildeDenmark

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