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Network : Theorizing Knowledge Work in Telecommunications - Clay Spinuzzi


Theorizing Knowledge Work in Telecommunications


Published: 1st August 2008
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How does a telecommunications company function when its right hand often doesn't know what its left hand is doing? How do rapidly expanding, interdisciplinary organizations hold together and perform their knowledge work? In this book, Clay Spinuzzi draws on two warring theories of work activity - activity theory and actor-network theory - to examine the networks of activity that make a telecommunications company work and thrive. In doing so, Spinuzzi calls a truce between the two theories, bringing them to the negotiating table to parley about work. Specifically, about net work: the coordinative work that connects, coordinates, and stabilizes polycontextual work activities. To develop this uneasy dialogue, Spinuzzi examines the texts, trades, and technologies at play at Telecorp, both historically and empirically. Drawing on both theories, Spinuzzi provides new insights into how net work actually works and how our theories and research methods can be extended to better understand it.

"And you thought theory was boring. Read this book to change your mind. Spinuzzi's snazzy prose is part hardcore social theory, part corporate soap opera. He takes theoretical discussion of actor-network theory and activity theory in new directions, bringing them together in a productive tension to illuminate critical issues in human-computer interaction, computer-supported collaborative work, and organizational design. The empirical substrate for the theoretical work is a tour de force ethnography of a large telecommunications company. Spinuzzi talks and listens to the little people, he delves fearlessly into the complexities (and muddles) of the big theories, and is kind and generous to all. A must read." -Bonnie Nardi, School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine "In this marvelously readable and yet theoretically challenging case study of work in a telecommunications company, Spinuzzi rethinks the (post)modern workplace-distributed, networked, spliced, improvised. He puts two of the leading explanations of such workplaces-actor-network theory and activity theory-into dialog as he follows workers and managers doing what he terms 'net work.' Through his fine-grained and always fascinating stories of their daily attempts to make sense and make do, he shows a way beyond earlier theories to a new understanding of (post)modern work and workplace learning. This is one of those rare books that is both a must-read for researchers and a good read for anyone looking for insight into how work actually gets done today." -David R. Russell, Professor, Rhetoric and Professional Communication, Iowa State University

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Networks, Genres, and Four Little Disruptionsp. 1
Networksp. 4
Anita Thinks Geraldine Is Slackingp. 8
Darrel Thinks Gil Is Being Unreasonablep. 12
Net Workingp. 16
Genresp. 17
Abraham Threatens to Fire Workersp. 18
Jeannie Talks Past Local Provisionersp. 23
The Book's Trajectoryp. 28
What Is a Network?p. 31
One Dog's Deathp. 32
Two Ways to Build a Networkp. 33
Three Aspects of Telecorp's Networkp. 36
Telecorp's Technological Networkp. 36
Telecorp's (Spliced) Actor-Networkp. 39
Telecorp's (Woven) Activity Networkp. 42
Four Characteristics of Networksp. 46
Heterogeneousp. 46
Multiply Linkedp. 47
Transformativep. 48
Black-Boxedp. 49
Five Eventsp. 51
The Cordon Sanitairep. 54
The Uniform Regimenp. 54
Garrisoning the Passes and Interrogating the Localsp. 58
Conclusion: What Is a Network?p. 60
How Are Networks Theorized?p. 62
The First Strokep. 64
Weaving a Network: Activity Theory's Accountp. 67
An Engelsian View: The Science of Interconnectionsp. 68
Mediationp. 69
Structure of Activityp. 70
Contradictionsp. 72
Activity Networksp. 74
Summing Upp. 80
Splicing a Network: Actor-Network Theory's Accountp. 81
A Machiavellian View; Or, Sympathy for the Devilp. 81
Actor-Networksp. 84
Mediationp. 86
Translationp. 88
Compositionp. 90
Reversible Black-Boxingp. 90
Delegationp. 92
Summing Upp. 92
Genuine Differencesp. 93
Common Groundp. 94
How Are Networks Historicized?p. 96
The Case of Universal Servicep. 96
Universal Service as the Principle of Interconnectionp. 98
Universal Service as Total Market Penetrationp. 103
Universal Service as Universally Obtainable Slates of Servicesp. 107
Local Articulations: Universal Service in Texasp. 110
Even More Local Articulations: Universal Service at Telecorpp. 116
Weaving Universal Service: An Activity Theory Analysisp. 118
Exclusivity or Interconnection?p. 118
Business or Public Utility?p. 119
Competition or Public Good?p. 122
Summary: What Do We Learn from a History of Contradictions?p. 122
Splicing Universal Service: An Actor-Network Theory Analysisp. 123
From Disunity to Unityp. 124
From Unity to Universalityp. 127
From Universality to the Rising Tidep. 129
Summary: What Do We Learn from a History of Translations?p. 130
Weaving and Splicing Telecorpp. 131
Conclusionp. 134
How Are Networks Enacted?p. 135
Modular Workp. 136
Net Workp. 137
Net Work and Informational Capitalismp. 138
Net Work and the Information Agep. 140
Net Work and the Informatics of Dominationp. 141
Three Senses of Textsp. 144
Inscriptionsp. 145
Genresp. 146
Boundary Objectsp. 147
Four Cases of Net Workp. 149
Following an Orderp. 149
There Was No "Order"p. 151
There Was No Transportation without Transformationp. 152
There Was a Surplus of Information for Supporting Workers' Discretionp. 153
There Was No Single Genrep. 153
Summary: Following an Orderp. 155
Following the Moneyp. 156
Following the Money in Cash Postingp. 156
Following the Money in Credit and Collectionsp. 158
Summary: Following the Moneyp. 163
Following the Substitutionsp. 163
Summary: Following the Substitutionsp. 167
Following the Workersp. 168
Summary: Following the Workersp. 171
Conclusionp. 171
Is Our Network Learning?p. 173
Learning Net Work: The Problem of Discontinuityp. 174
How Learning Was Handled at Telecorp: Some Techniquesp. 177
Apprenticeship: "You Never Ever Do a Partial Connection"p. 177
Formal Telecorp Training Sessions: "Nine Times out of Ten..."p. 180
Corporate Training Outside Telecorp: "Nobody Had Time to Learn from Her"p. 182
Documentation: "I Need to Do It from This Day Forward"p. 182
Computer-Based Training: "Basically It's Just a Crash Course"p. 184
Trial-and-Error: "Willing to Get Your Hands Dirty"p. 184
Stories: "There Was Nothing About a Dog on the Ticket"p. 185
Summary: Making Sense of Learning Measures at Telecorpp. 185
Theorizing Learning for Net Work: Activity Theory's Contributionp. 186
Problems with Activity Theory's Developmental Accountp. 190
Theorizing Training for Net Work: Actor-Network Theory's Contributionp. 190
Net Work, Net Learningp. 192
Heterogeneousp. 192
Multiply Linkedp. 193
Black-Boxedp. 193
Transformativep. 195
Conclusionp. 195
Conclusion: How Does Net Work Work?p. 197
What Do We Know About Net Work?p. 198
Heterogeneousp. 198
Multiply Linkedp. 198
Transformativep. 199
Black-Boxedp. 199
What Do We Do About Net Work?p. 200
Implications for Workersp. 200
Implications for Managersp. 202
Implications for Researchersp. 204
How Do We Develop Activity Theory for Net Work?p. 205
How Do We Cope with Net Work?p. 207
Notes on Methodologyp. 209
Data Collectionp. 209
Data Analysisp. 210
Works Citedp. 213
Indexp. 227
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780521895040
ISBN-10: 0521895049
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 242
Published: 1st August 2008
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.88  x 1.91
Weight (kg): 0.48