Talking Work: Language-games, Organisations and Computer Supported Cooperative Work


This paper asks the question: how might CSCW system design obtain and be informed by an adequate real-world, real-time understanding of work and organisation on any occasion of work-oriented design? The problem is not a new one but foundational within contemporary research and development communities. Building on established, albeit contentious, sociological reasoning within CSCW, this paper proposes that existing approaches may be complemented through a methodological or procedural attention to the relationship between language, work and the local production of organisation. As such, this paper outlines a practical strategy or approach towards producing real-world understandings of work and organisation within the constraints of design. The approach is derived from work and lessons learnt in conducting ethnographic studies in the course of accomplishing the Dragon Project; an interdisciplinary project involved in the development of a production version prototype of a global customer service system supporting the commercial activities of a large geographically distributed shipping company.

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Crabtree, A. Talking Work: Language-games, Organisations and Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) 9, 215–237 (2000).

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  • distributed organisations
  • ethnography
  • instances
  • language-game
  • mapping grammar
  • problem-solution space for design