Abstract - The Information Society 26(4)

Cultivating Interaction Ubiquity at Work

Carsten Sørensen

This paper focuses on individual cultivation of interaction ubiquity at work, which is the ongoing changes in the relationship between a worker and the technological possibilities offered to her in order to ensure that interaction with remote individuals, groups or interactive systems best match the individual user’s personal preferences, the requirements of the situation, and other constraints. It asks the question: What is the role of technologically embedded assumptions in the cultivation of interaction ubiquity at work? In order to further this analysis, two distinctions are advanced with regard to how we conceptualize technology supported action: 1) technology offers embedded support for managing ongoing interaction relationships as opposed to a series of interaction encounters, and 2) technology offers embedded support for prioritising interactions as opposed to priorities per se. These two “dimensions” yield four possibilities, each type characterising a distinct type of embedded technological support: 1) connectors offering support for unprioritised encounters; 2) filters supporting the prioritisation of encounters; 3) mediators supporting unfiltered relationships; and 4) coordinators supporting filtered ongoing relationships. These four types of affordances are illustrated through case studies of mobile working. It is argued that successful cultivation of interaction ubiquity at work relies critically on a portfolio approach wherein the technology is seen as playing a more active role in the management of interaction beyond the simple standardised technical connection explicitly or implicitly assumed in the majority of research on the social aspects of mobile IT. Whilst the simple connections can be appropriated into complex interactive process, thinking that disregards diversity in affordances will over-emphasise the social and neglect the role of explicit technological support in the cultivation of interaction ubiquity.

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