Abstract - The Information Society 11(3)

Working with "constant interruption": CSCW and the small office

Mark Rouncefield, Stephen Viller, John A. Hughes and Tom Rodden

Ethnographic studies of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) have often seemed to involve the investigation of relatively large-scale and highly specific systems, consequently ignoring the small office within which many people spend much of their working lives and which is a major site for the introduction and implementation of information technology (IT). The process of work in a small office and its recurrent features - notably, the massive volume of paperwork, the importance of local knowledge in the accomplishment of work, and the phenomenon of constant interruption - are outlined as generic features of office work. It is suggested that despite the obvious contrasts with work settings analyzed in other ethnographic studies, similar features of cooperative work can be observed in the small office, and the issues of cooperation and the sociality of work cannot be forgotten even in small-scale system design.

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