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Do categories have politics?

The language/action perspective reconsidered


Drawing on writings within the CSCW community and on recent social theory, this paper proposes that the adoption of speech act theory as a foundation for system design carries with it an agenda of discipline and control over organization members' actions. I begin with a brief review of the language/action perspective introduced by Winograd, Flores and their colleagues, focusing in particular on the categorization of speakers' intent. I then turn to some observations on the politics of categorization and, with that framework as back-ground, consider the attempt, throughthe coordinator, to implement a technological system for intention-accounting within organizations. Finally, I suggest the implications of the analysis presented in the paper for the politics of CSCW systems design.

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Suchman, L. Do categories have politics?. Comput Supported Coop Work 2, 177–190 (1993).

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Key words

  • Coordination technologies
  • organizational communications
  • speech act theory
  • systems design