Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Boundaries: objects & organisations

In Bechy's 2003 paper she describes "how task boundaries are maintained and challenged" in an organisation with significant and interdependent specialisation. That sounds similar to an IT project that involves users, contractors, developers and consultants. The artefacts she considers are engineering drawings and machines. In my earliest case studies the artefacts I have available include project opening and closing documents. She demonstrates the knowledge, authority and legitimacy that the artifacts (drawings) gave certain groups of workers in her research of engineers, technicians and assemblers. But I don't see the same impacts on the work places of my case studies.

O'Mahony & Bechky write on boundary objects & their use in boundary organisations. They give an example of how social movements & professional organisations collaborated to distribute the Thalidomide drug safely. The actors involved were patients, physicians, regulators, victims, manufacturers, and pharmacists, who negotiated from their interests. This plethora of actors I can compare with the plethora of actors involved in an IT project.

They conducted an ethnographic study of the practices of communities and firms. I want an ethnographic approach, but I'm looking at individuals that engage with each other and with a project. Collaboration is about organisations working together. So there's a difference.

I've more thinking yet to do

What's an artefact (artifact)? a product of human art and workmanship. It comes from the Latin for art and facere meaning to make. Synonyms include: product, object, article, thing, chef d' oeuvre, piece, brain-child. but I think an artefact is concrete.

Bechky, B. A. (2003) 'Object Lessons: Workplace Artifacts as Representations of Occupational Jurisdiction', American Journal of Sociology, 109 (3), pp. 720-752. 1100
O'Mahony, S. n. and Bechky, B. A. (2008) 'Boundary Organizations: Enabling Collaboration among Unexpected Allies', Administrative Science Quarterly, 53 (3), pp. 422-459. 1089

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