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Managing Work at Several Places: Understanding Nomadic Practices in Student Groups
KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Human - Computer Interaction, MDI. (The Human-Computer Interaction Group)
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Within Swedish universities students are often required to work in groups to collaborate on projects or to write essays. A salient feature characterizing this type of work is the lack of a stable and fixed location wherein project- related activities can be carried out and accomplished. Thus, by regarding students as instances of nomadic workers, this thesis investigates the nomadic practices in the context of their group work, with particular attention to issues related to collaborative and coordinative aspects. Although the lack of a stable office has, somehow, always characterized students’ activities, the spread of mobile technologies raises relevant analytical issues concerning the relationships between individuals’ practices, the use of particular technologies and the physical environments in which interactions may occur. In this regard, this thesis provides an example of how a philosophical conceptualization of place as the product of human experience can assist in exploring: (a) the relationships between students’ activities, the locales they work at, and the situated use of specific technological artifacts; (b) how students occupy and experience places, by investing them with activities, meanings and values; (c) how different physical environments constrain and shape the way activities are performed. The data were collected by means of ethnographically-informed methods during two different field studies for which two design courses, held at a technical university, had been chosen as settings. Within both of them, the participants were to develop a prototype of novel IT technologies, and to account for the evolution of their projects by means of a report. The two studies aimed at understanding: (a) how students organize their activities at a number of locations, and how it reflects on the activities they engage with; (b) the strategies they adopt and the technologies they use to overcome problems deriving from the lack of a stable workplace, (c) the different ways a workplace is practically created, how it emerges from students’ interactions with the environment they inhabit, and how it is mediated by the technology they use (place-making). Observations, field-notes, video-recordings, semi-structured interviews were used during the phase of data collection. Some participants were also asked to fill in a diary and to take pictures of the different sites used for their project activities. In addition, a workshop, organized as a focus group, was arranged in order to unpack issues concerning students’ usage of various technologies, with respect to number of people involved, ongoing activities and the related chosen locations. The data analysis suggests that taking into account the way a place is disassembled and the way nomadic workers manage to move out of it is central to an understanding of their work practices. Moreover, it shows that the participants experienced planning the division of work as essential in order to manage coordination and collaboration within the groups, to organize collaborative and individual activities, and to allocate them to differing physical places. Furthermore, this thesis outlines in what way a focus on place may assist designers in reflecting on the design of educational environments, and of technological artifacts enabling students to share and integrate heterogeneous sources of information.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2009. , 220 p.
Trita-CSC-A, ISSN 1653-5723 ; 2008:19
Keyword [en]
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, Mobility, Space and Place, Field Studies, Design Process
National Category
Agricultural Science Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9827ISBN: 978-91-7415-214-2OAI: diva2:133466
Public defence
2009-01-30, F3, KTH, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
QC 20100806Available from: 2009-01-13 Created: 2009-01-12 Last updated: 2010-08-06Bibliographically approved

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