Social Science, Technical Systems, and Cooperative Work: Beyond the Great Divide

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This book is the first to directly address the question of how to bridge what has been termed the "great divide" between the approaches of systems developers and those of social scientists to computer supported cooperative work--a question that has been vigorously debated in the systems development literature. Traditionally, developers have been trained in formal methods and oriented to engineering and formal theoretical problems; many social scientists in the CSCW field come from humanistic traditions in which results are reported in a narrative mode. In spite of their differences in style, the two groups have been cooperating more and more in the last decade, as the "people problems" associated with computing become increasingly evident to everyone.

The authors have been encouraged to examine, rigorously and in depth, the theoretical basis of CSCW. With contributions from field leaders in the United Kingdom, France, Scandinavia, Mexico, and the United States, this volume offers an exciting overview of the cutting edge of research and theory. It constitutes a solid foundation for the rapidly coalescing field of social informatics.

Divided into three parts, this volume covers social theory, design theory, and the sociotechnical system with respect to CSCW. The first set of chapters looks at ways of rethinking basic social categories with the development of distributed collaborative computing technology--concepts of the group, technology, information, user, and text. The next section concentrates more on the lessons that can be learned at the design stage given that one wants to build a CSCW system incorporating these insights--what kind of work does one need to do and how is understanding of design affected? The final part looks at the integration of social and technical in the operation of working sociotechnical systems. Collectively the contributors make the argument that the social and technical are irremediably linked in practice and so the "great divide" not only should be a thing of the past, it should never have existed in the first place.

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Table of Contents

Contents: G.C. Bowker, S.L. Star, W. Turner, L. Gasser, General Introduction. Part I:Social Theory and CSCW. S.L. Star, Introduction: Social Theory and CSCW. M. Lea, R. Giordano, Representations of the Group and Group Processes in CSCW Research: A Case of Premature Closure? J.A. Goguen, Towards a Social, Ethical Theory of Information. Y. Rogers, Reconfiguring the Social Scientist: Shifting From Telling Designers What to do to Getting More Involved. W. Sharrock, G. Button, Engineering Investigations: Practical Sociological Reasoning in the Work of Engineers. J. Yoneyama, Computer Systems as Text and Space: Towards a Phenomenological Hermeneutics of Development and Use. Part II:Design Theory and CSCW. L. Gasser, Introduction: Design Theory and CSCW. P.E. Agre, Toward a Critical Technical Practice: Lessons Learned in Trying to Reform AI. E. Axel, According Tools With Meaning Within the Organization of Concrete Work Situations. J. Blomberg, L. Suchman, R. Trigg, Relating Work Practice and System Design: Two Cases From a Law Firm. S. Bødker, E. Christiansen, Scenarios as Springboards in CSCW Design. J-P. Poitou, Building a Collective Knowledge Management System: Knowledge Editing Versus Knowledge Eliciting Techniques. M. Robinson, "As Real As It Gets..." -- Taming Models and Reconstructing Procedures. C.A. Macias-Chapula, An Approach to Identifying the Role of "Information" In a Health Care System Implications for the Quality of Health. Part III:The Sociotechnical System and CSCW. W. Turner, Introduction: The Sociotechnical System and CSCW. M. Berg, Formal Tools and Medical Practices: Getting Computer-Based Decision Techniques to Work. I.A. Monarch, S.L. Konda, S.N. Levy, Y. Reich, E. Subrahmanian, C. Ulrich, Mapping Sociotechnical Networks in the Making. L. Bannon, Dwelling in the "Great Divide": The Case of HCI and CSCW. J. Taylor, G. Gurd, T. Bardini, The Worldviews of Cooperative Work. I. Wagner, On Multidisciplinary Grounds: Interpretation Versus Design Work. K. Keller, Understanding of Work and Explanation of Systems.
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