ANALYZING COMPUTER-MEDIATEDCOMMUNICATION INPROFESSIONALENVIRONMENTS:AN ACTIVITY THEORYAPPROACHClay Spinuzzi, University of...
An illustration: Circulating  knowledgeSpinuzzi, C. (2010). Secret sauce and snake oil: Writingmonthly reports in a highly...
Challenges of studying CMC inprofessional environments CMC is not an end in itself, but a way to  accomplish cyclical wor...
Field studies   Software developers (1997)   Traffic safety workers (1998-1999)   Telecommunications workers (2000-2001...
Research questions How do Semoptco‟s workers produce monthly  reports? What tools and texts do they use? How do they sha...
Data collection methods   Site interviews (with manager, 40m and 30m)   Pre-observation interviews (20-30m)   Naturalis...
Data coding and analysismethods   Coding. Starter codes, open coding, axial coding    for all data sources.   Triangulat...
Analytical constructs   Genre ecologies   Communicative events   Sociotechnical graphs   Operations tables   Activity...
GenresSee:   Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech genres and other       late essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.       Mi...
Genre (Spinuzzi 2008, p.17)10        “not just text types”        “typified rhetorical responses to recurring         so...
Search Engine Optimization“Search engine optimization (SEO) isthe process of improving the volume orquality of traffic to ...
The central genre: Monthly reports                 20pp monthly reports                 10-12 reports per month         ...
Integrated writers“In their perception, writing isa less important andunloved part of their work,yet these writing tasks a...
Genre ecologiesSee:   Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through       organizations: A sociocultural approach to       i...
Genre ecologies   Comediated (report + annotations + IM +    BRILLIANCE + conversation + WikiAnswers +    …)   Official ...
Constant coordination &      consolidationIM:                                   Email:   Who‟s here?                     ...
Activity systemsSee:   Engeström, Y. (1990). Learning, working, and       imagining: Twelve studies in activity theory.   ...
Activity system   Based on work in activity theory: Vygotsky,    Leont‟ev, Engestrom   Understands human activity as med...
previous report, highlighting and annotations, emails to client, talks with other specialists, WikiAnswers, spreadsheet of...
previous report, highlighting and annotations, emails to client, talks                      with other specialists, WikiAn...
Activity networksSee:   Engeström, Y. (2008). From Teams to Knots: Studies of       Collaboration and Learning at Work. Ne...
Activity network   Based on Engestrom   Activities can be chained, with the output of    one activity becoming the input...
Activity network   Based on Engestrom   Activities can be chained, with the output of    one activity becoming the input...
hdo.utexas.edu
Activity network   Based on Engestrom   Activities can be chained, with the output of    one activity becoming the input...
Team              Description            Objective      Composition             Genres Project     Teams that launched and...
Activity networks   Spinuzzi, C. (2012). Working Alone, Together:    Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity.    Jou...
Analytical constructs   Genre ecologies   Communicative events   Sociotechnical graphs   Operations tables   Activity...
Challenges of studying CMC inprofessional environments   CMC is not an end in itself, but a way to    accomplish cyclical...
Publicly available online services(PAOS)   Divine, D., Hall, S., Ferro, T., & Zachry, M. (2011). Work    through the Web:...
Activity streams   Hart-Davidson, W., Zachry, M., & Spinuzzi, C.    (2012). Activity streams: Building context to    coor...
Impacts of new forms ofcollaboration   Long-term trends: outsourcing noncore    functions, including to independent contr...
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My Empirikom 2012 presentation in Aachen, Germany. I discuss my work with analytical constructs (genre ecologies, activity systems, activity networks), illustrating them with a case and showing how they might point to better understandings of computer-mediated communication in professional environments.

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  • Thanks for coming…Thanks to conference organizers …The topic…Let’s start with an illustration from a recent study.
  • In 2008, I studied work at an internet marketing firm. I was interested in how they managed their projects, so I spent three months shadowing four people, interviewing them, and examining their work. One day, I was observing two people working on the team. They shared a cubicle, with their computer monitors in two corners of the cubicle and their backs to each other. (demonstrate)At one point, Luis (on the right) had a question for Carl (on the left). But when he turned around, he noticed that Carl was wearing headphones (not pictured). He turned back to his monitor, then looked at Carl again, then turned back. Finally, he typed an instant message to Carl—who was sitting less than a meter away.Carl received the message, read it, then typed an answer.Luis read Carl’s message, then sent one back.Finally, Carl laughed, took off his headphones, and moved to Luis’ workspace, where they discussed the project on which Luis was working.
  • CMC—including social media, instant messaging, message boards, internal blogs, wikis, and others—is becoming more and more common in professional environments. But to study CMC use in professional environments, we face three empirical challenges:One is that CMC is not an end in itself. Workers don’t instant message—they use IM to ask questions, to coordinate presentations, to see whether a colleague is in the office. They don’t blog—they share new information. They don’t post status updates—they workstream. CMC is not the object of their work, it is a tool.Another is that CMC provides additional ways to communicate in professional environments that are already rich with media. In fact, as they communicate, coordinate, and collaborate with each other, these workers rely on multiple genres that interact with each other to mediate the cyclical activity. Third, CMC is part of work activity. To understand how and why people use CMC in concert with other genres in professional environments, we must understand the activities in which they mobilize these tools.Taken together, these imply that studying CMC in professional environments should entail going beyond investigating individual CMC genresstudying structural features and revisionsexamining strictly CMC genresThat is, we must see how these genres interrelate with (and sometimes substitute for) others in mediating ongoing work activity. One way to provide this contextualized understanding of work is through field studies.
  • That is the approach I’ve taken (along with others in professional communication).Over the last 15 years, I’ve studied professional work in different digitally mediated environments. In each case, these workers used a variety of genres or text types to communicate with each other and to mediate their work activities. Over the course of these studies, my colleagues and I have adopted, adapted, and developed several analytical constructs to understand how this work happens. Today, we’ll focus on the highlighted case and three of those analytical constructs that I’ve found useful for interpreting field studies in professional environments.Let’s get into some of the specifics about the case.
  • First, the research questions. As you can see, I was focused mainly on how these workers produced monthly reports, a complex process that was not well formalized. The research questions did not break out CMC as a separate category, although, as we’ll see, CMC played a large role in making this work happen. The research questions implied field methods to characterize the genre ecology being used to mediate the work.
  • The data collection methods I used are fairly standard for this sort of field study. Site interviews: pre and post study, with manager.Pre-obs interviews: Interviewed each participant about their professional biography and history with project management, collaboration, and related tools and practices.Observations: I conducted 3 1-hour observations of Daria, Luis, Carl, and Stacy in October-November 2008. I conducted clusters of observations at different times of the month. During observations, I took detailed field notes that focused on participants’ work environment, particularly texts; Interactions with others, including fellow workers and clients; Interactions with texts; and Movements from one space to another, along with any artifacts they took with them and artifacts they used in each space.Post-obs interviews: After most observations. These interviews focused on how the participants interpreted their own and others’ actions during the observation; elicited contextual insights about the texts and procedures I had observed, particularly as they related to work cycles; and confirmed or disconfirmed my understanding of key events in the observation. Artifact collection: Photos of work environments, environmental texts, documents; copies of texts.
  • Similarly, my data coding and analysis methods were fairly standard for field studies. Coding: Based on grounded theory’s coding approach. Starter codes: concerns that I brought to the study. Open coding: I inductively identified recurrent themes, defined codes based on them, then checked these codes deductively based on these definitions. Axial coding: I looked for codes that appeared together frequently, then used a single code to articulate the relationship among them, developing a specific description for that code.Triangulation: I tested relationships between codes by examining whether they were supported by multiple data sources. Triangulation helped me to avoid basing analysis on anecdotes: I compared data across data types, across participants, and across visits.Member checks: Mindful that I had an outsider’s perspective, I solicited comments from participants on a draft analysis.
  • Finally, I applied three analytical constructs that colleagues and I have been using for analyzing field studies (highlighted). (These are three out of several constructs that my colleagues and I have adopted or developed; I’ve listed others here too.)This is the piece we’ll be particularly examining today. So let’s take these one at a time.
  • Let’s start with genres and genre ecologies. Carl and Luis work at “Semoptco,” a small internet marketing firm that I studied over three months in 2008. At that time, it employed about 40 account managers and specialists, 6 of which were search engine optimization specialists.Search engine optimization is a rapidly changing, highly contingent field, and Semoptco’s SEO specialists had to write monthly reports for each client. To accomplish this, they drew on a great many types of information, which we’ll understand in terms of genre. So let me first explain what I mean by genre.
  • Writing is the most flexible tool we have, and in a highly literate society, when we encounter a problem, we tend to reach for a textual solution. When we encounter a recurrent problem or situation, we tend to reuse the textual solution we used for the previous version of the problem. Over time, these responses become typified. That is, we face a familiar problem, and we reach for or create the text that offers a familiar solution.The more typified these texts are, the easier it is to share them with others who face similar problems. Over time, some of these genres develop and become more defined, more rigid, and more controlled. As an instantiated solution, they also embed a particular viewpoint and logic.Importantly, genres are also “tools-in-use.” That is, genres are interpreted by their authors and their audience – and sometimes those interpretations are very different. We can’t understand genre just from looking at the form of a text.These characteristics help genres to weave together different types of work, since they provide regular ways for people to solve information problems. Used well, genres can bridge between familiar and unfamiliar activities, allowing people from different backgrounds to share and transform information properly. But genres also have weaknesses, since they involve different logics and worldviews. What’s more, people add more genres all the time – and these genres don’t necessarily share the assumptions of other genres in use, causing disruptions.With that in mind, let’s return to the case study.
  • Yet they wrote constantly. In fact, one of the most visible products of their job was a monthly report. Each handled about 10-12 clients, which means that they wrote 10-12 reports per month, each of which was about 20 pages long. This work happened in the first 10 business days of each month.(I know that a monthly report is not CMC—don’t worry, we will circle back to it.)As Eva-Maria Jakobs and I wrote recently,
  • (read). Even though the report was the most visible exponent of their work, it was unloved, but vital. Here is where they reminded clients of their long-term and short-term objectives; described the methods they had used to reach these objectives and the contingencies that had affected them; reported the raw numbers that resulted from these methods and contingencies; and set further short-term objectives.To do that work, the report had several stable sections. In fact, each report served as the template for the next month’s report; thus the report genre evolved each month as the specialists both followed its logic and extended that logic to address new contingencies.
  • More than that, it coevolved within an ecosystem of other genres. And these genres came from very different places. We can see these genres—materially, developmentally—as they relate to each other.
  • Here is a genre ecology model of the work at Semoptco. As you’ll see here, it maps out several different genres involved in the monthly cycle, based on two observations. The genre ecology model provides a way to map out these relationships—including recurring problems that people have with specific genres and their relations.The arrows indicate the paths by which information flows through the entire system. We can track how different kinds of information—including dialogue-based computer-mediated communication such as instant messages and email, as well as the notes in their in-house system (BRILLIANCE)—are pulled in, combined, and turned into customized reports. (The interaction between Carl and Luis involved instant messages, conversation, and BRILLIANCE notes.)More importantly, it allows us to see how dialogue-based CMC genres impact one of the most interesting things about Semoptco: In this highly contingent environment, these genres evolve constantly. Particularly the report, but many others as well.One more thing. Note that this is a snapshot of the genres involved at Semoptco—this work was changing so rapidly that specialists might pull in other genres during each cycle. In other observations, I saw workers use Twitter, internal blogs and wikis, conference calls, search logs, press releases, and one specialist even suggested calling a relative for advice.
  • In such genre ecologies, genres comediate the activity: That is, they interact to support activities that a single genre could not support. Not only does each genre play a role, their combinations can also play roles. (Note that this is an ecological perspective that is simply not available when examining an individual genre or text in detail.)Genre ecologies can be constituted with official and unofficial genres. Official genres, such as report components and external emails, represented the voice of the organization and were thus regulated; unofficial genres such as annotations and IMs, were not: they tended to be very loose and idiosyncratic in their conventions. Official genres tend to lend stability to work, while unofficial genres lend flexibility.Finally, these genres tend to develop in one activity, then be imported into another. For instance, aspects of Semoptco’s reports reflect the more general activity of reporting; the report was not invented wholesale. Similarly, when Luis chose to track his tasks on sticky notes, and Carl chose to track his tasks in a text editor, they learned these unofficial genres elsewhere and imported them into the activity. This sometimes means that these genres don’t share the same assumptions or logics.But let’s get back to the CMC. In Carl and Luis’ case, instant messaging helped to coordinate their work.
  • Indeed, CMC genres such as IM, blogs, email, and notes in BRILLIANCE functioned in a variety of ways, sometimes together, to help people coordinate their work and consolidate their knowledge in this fast-changing, contingent industry.(go throughlist)So we get a state of constant, mutual adjustment—which is common in small, project-based organizations—that is enabled partially by the mass of different CMC media, partially by other communication media and practices. To understand why this is the case, let’s look at the system of activity in which these people work.
  • The activity system is a way of systematically examining the overall activity at a research site. Why do people do what they do? How has the site developed to meet its objectives and outcomes? What are the motivations, desires, and values that shape and drive this work?Activity systems are based in activity theory, which developed throughout the 20th century, based on the initial work by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky on individual tool mediation. His student A.N. Leont’ev expanded the concept of mediation to the level of the group or collective. Later, YrjoEngestrom expanded the concept further, introducing the notion of contradictions as the engine of innovation in activities—and introducing what he calls the activity system. Activity theory understandshuman activity as mediated, collective, oriented to a cyclical objective, motivated, developmental. The activity system is the basic unit of this activity, anchored by the objective that the activity cyclically tries to accomplish. Let’s see how this works in Luis and Carl’s work environment.
  • Here, we see the activity system I observed at Semoptco. As you can see, the activity is oriented toward the client’s search engine ranking, which they cyclically labored to improve month after month, with the hope of improving the client’s transactions. At the top, we see a very incomplete list of the tools or mediators that they used to perform this work—that is, the genre ecology. We start to see something else. SEO is performed within a fast-changing environment, one in which it must bring value to various stakeholders in the process: the clients themselves (who want their search rankings to be higher), the clients’ customers (who want accurate, useful results), and search engines themselves (who want relevant results—not “snake oil” results). Part of what makes SEO so contingent is that these stakeholders’ interests, although they seem to align on the surface, do not always align reliably.
  • Indeed, this constant change introduces several contradictions in the system, that is, tensions within and between parts of the system. As you can see, contradictions exist among the stakeholders, between the ever-changing rules and the objective, among the tools, and in the desired outcome. (Discuss)Part of the way Semoptco handled this ever-changing contingency was through the division of labor. It developed teams—lots of them—each of which was comprised of some of the same people, each of which was oriented to a different objective that contributed to the larger objective. That is, the overall cyclical activity we see here was realized through multiple other activities taking part in the same space. A network of activities, if you will.
  • And this brings us to our third analytical construct, activity networks.
  • As we saw, the activity system is a way of systematically examining the overall activity in an organization. But activities interact. They interrelate. They don’t necessarily conflict, but they do exert tensions on each other, since they are distinct activity systems that often have different actors, tools, rules, communities, and divisions of labor, working to achieve different outcomes.
  • Sometimes activity networks are chained.
  • For instance, some software company developed the instant messaging software used at Semoptco; it was that company’s object, which it continues to cyclically develop. But Semoptco has adopted that software as a tool, and in doing so, has fit it into their genre ecology. Similarly, universities cyclically produce graduates, some of which then become actors in Semoptco’s activity system.
  • But sometimes activity systems also overlap, working in concert to achieve a shared objective. And that’s what we see happening with Semoptco’s division of labor.
  • At Semoptco, each SEO specialist was the member of six separate teams, each oriented to a different objective functioning as an aspect of the organization’s overall objective. Each team had a different mission, composition, and set of support genres, including IM, email, blogs, and other CMC genres. By separating out these teams, we get a better idea of how the overall activity was pursued through different teams, different component objectives, and different genres, including CMC.(discuss): The teams overlapped, and thus everyone in the organization had a direct or close indirect link to everyone else. This set of teams fostered weak ties throughout the organization.In this case, the different objectives pointed to the larger objective that Semoptco’s activity system had to achieve; the activity network formed within the organization to ultimately develop its single objective. But In other cases, the different objectives might involve completely separate organizations, completely separate activity systems.
  • Here are two recent case studies of activity networks that span several organizations. Unfortunately we don’t have the time to explore these cases today. But in both studies, people similarly use a large ecology of genres, including but not limited to CMC genres, to align their objectives and make sure the activities can continue to relate productively.
  • So we’ve taken a look at three analytical constructs for understanding CMC ecologically within networks of developing human activity. In the case we’ve discussed,
  • I’ve reiterated that CMC is not an end in itselfCMC provides additional ways to communicate in professional environments that are already rich with mediaTo understand how and why people use CMC in concert with other genres in professional environments, we must understand the activities in which they mobilize these tools.With those precepts in mind, let me briefly touch on two strands of research into how CMCs are used in professional environments—research that draws on what I’ve discussed here, but goes beyond it in very productive ways.
  • First, my colleague Mark Zachry at the University of Washington has been leading a research group in investigating how businesses use publicly available online services (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Google Calendar, Basecamp) to supplement their own communication. This work is based on genre ecologies, using the analytical tool as grounding for developing typologies and examining broad adoption of online services. Social media are broadly available now, integrated into people’s lives, accessible via the phones we all seem to carry in our pockets. Increasingly, organizations are using social media both informally and formally as an additional communication layer. Zachry and his research group expect these services to continue being widely adopted in the near future.
  • In a related strand of research, my colleague William Hart-Davidson has been leading research into how activity streams—which are common in social media such as Facebook and Twitter—can be used to better build context to coordinate writing activity in professional environments. Activity streams are common in social networking tools, allowing people to broadcast their status to others. Now, they are becoming increasingly more common in professional environments as well. For instance, Google Docs shows basic information about collaborative activity on shared documents. But Hart-Davidson’s team is developing a system that generates more precise, targeted descriptions of actions that workers take in these documents—descriptions that can provide instant context and archiving for others who must coordinate with these writers. In other words, this system is oriented toward the cyclical activities in which writers take part. As we have seen in these cases, coordination is often an important focus of CMC use in professional environments, but it is often handled through ad hoc means.Hart-Davidson’s team plans to develop other means, better tuned to CMC.
  • Finally, a word about how new forms of collaboration are starting to impact CMC in professional environments.The term “professional environments” itself is becoming difficult to define. Over the last thirty years, companies have steadily outsourced noncore functions. For instance, in the early 1980s, corporations tended to consolidate most functions in-house, even ancillary functions such as graphic design and technical documentation. But since that time, companies have tended to outsource work that is outside their core expertise: a company in 2012 is likely to hire an independent firm—perhaps an individual freelancer—to handle graphic design and technical documentation work. And the independent contractor market can handle this new arrangement because most or all of the work can be done via inexpensive consumer devices. In terms of infrastructure, a laptop, mobile phone, and broadband connection are all that these contractors need.In such arrangements, work is no longer organized around departments, but rather, around projects. (This realignment is called projectification.) Workers are responsible for contributing to the project, and are given considerable latitude and flexibility to make those contributions. That is, they are paid based on what they complete, not on their seniority or the amount of time they clock. Increasingly, they work in results-only work environments (ROWE). Furthermore, people are working and collaborating at a distance: working from home offices, coworking spaces, and coffee shops. Since these workers are not colocated, may not work the same hours, and do not have a strict place in the institutional hierarchy, they seek other ways to communicate with each other—new avenues for mutual adjustment. In response to this increasing tendency toward the organizational and spatial distribution of work, workers are increasingly turning to CMC genres as additional communication layers. CMC genres range from broadcast (Twitter) to pinpoint (IM). They also tend to be low-cost: for instance, one spatially distributed group told me that they coordinate by starting Skype up at the beginning of the day, then leaving it on all day—simulating a colocated office environment. My most recent studies have explored how independents, working outside institutional hierarchies and office environments, structure their collaboration and coordination work. As you might imagine, CMC plays a large role in this work—but again, CMC and non-CMC genres are put into relation with each other to comediate the work.
  • I know we’ve covered a lot of ground. May I answer questions?
  • Conf 2012-empirikom3

    1. 1. ANALYZING COMPUTER-MEDIATEDCOMMUNICATION INPROFESSIONALENVIRONMENTS:AN ACTIVITY THEORYAPPROACHClay Spinuzzi, University of Texas at Austin
    2. 2. An illustration: Circulating knowledgeSpinuzzi, C. (2010). Secret sauce and snake oil: Writingmonthly reports in a highly contingent environment. WrittenCommunication, 27(4), 363–409.
    3. 3. Challenges of studying CMC inprofessional environments CMC is not an end in itself, but a way to accomplish cyclical work objectives CMC genres are part of an ecology of genres, providing additional ways to communicate, ways that interact with other genres To understand how these ecologies of genres work in professional environments, we must understand the activities they mediateTo investigate, I (and many others inprofessional communication) have turned to fieldstudies.
    4. 4. Field studies Software developers (1997) Traffic safety workers (1998-1999) Telecommunications workers (2000-2001) Proposal writers (2005) Office workers (2006) Search marketing firm (2008) Coworking (2009-2011) Nonemployer firms (2009-2011)
    5. 5. Research questions How do Semoptco‟s workers produce monthly reports? What tools and texts do they use? How do they share information and procedures as they produce reports? How do they ensure that the reports address critical rhetorical concerns such as audience analysis and ethos?These research questions implied a fieldmethods to characterize the ecology of genresbeing used to mediate the work.
    6. 6. Data collection methods Site interviews (with manager, 40m and 30m) Pre-observation interviews (20-30m) Naturalistic observations (3 1-hour observations of each participant) Post-observational interviews (semistructured, about 30m, after each observation) Artifact collection (documents, photos of work environment and texts)
    7. 7. Data coding and analysismethods Coding. Starter codes, open coding, axial coding for all data sources. Triangulation. Compared data:  Across data types, same incident. Examined how the same incident was represented in two or more data types.  Across participants. Examined how the same phenomenon was represented in two or more participants‟ data.  Across visits. Examined how different actions were taken at different points of the work cycle. Member checks. Solicited comments from participants on a draft analysis.
    8. 8. Analytical constructs Genre ecologies Communicative events Sociotechnical graphs Operations tables Activity systems Activity networks CDB tables
    9. 9. GenresSee: Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech genres and other late essays. Austin: University of Texas Press. Miller, C. R. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70(2), 151–167. Russell, D. R. (1997). Rethinking genre in school and society: An activity theory analysis. Written Communication, 14(4), 504–554.
    10. 10. Genre (Spinuzzi 2008, p.17)10  “not just text types”  “typified rhetorical responses to recurring social situations”  “tools-in-use”  “a behavioral descriptor rather than a formal one”  Through their use, genres “weave together” different kinds of work
    11. 11. Search Engine Optimization“Search engine optimization (SEO) isthe process of improving the volume orquality of traffic to a web site or a webpage (such as a blog) from searchengines via „natural‟ or un-paid(„organic‟ or „algorithmic‟) searchresults ...” Wikipedia, “search engine optimization”
    12. 12. The central genre: Monthly reports  20pp monthly reports  10-12 reports per month per specialist  Written in the first 10 business days  = approx 20-24pp/day
    13. 13. Integrated writers“In their perception, writing isa less important andunloved part of their work,yet these writing tasks areoften vital.”hdo.utexas.edu
    14. 14. Genre ecologiesSee: Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: A sociocultural approach to information design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Spinuzzi, C. (2008). Network: Theorizing knowledge work in telecommunications. New York: Cambridge University Press.
    15. 15. Genre ecologies Comediated (report + annotations + IM + BRILLIANCE + conversation + WikiAnswers + …) Official and unofficial genres (report vs. annotations; external emails vs. IMs; BRILLIANCE vs. task lists) Genres develop in one activity, but are often imported into another
    16. 16. Constant coordination & consolidationIM: Email: Who‟s here?  Can the client adjust/add Can you answer my quick content to the website? question? Can we plan for this  Does the client know how this meeting? new development will affect Can you meet me face to face? their SEO?Internal Blogs:  Does the client trust me? What have I discovered about BRILLIANCE (info system): SEO?  What actions have we taken on What are the best practices for this project? this service (e.g., YouTube)?  What results came from those actions?
    17. 17. Activity systemsSee: Engeström, Y. (1990). Learning, working, and imagining: Twelve studies in activity theory. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit Oy. Russell, D. R. (1997). Writing and genre in higher education and workplaces. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 4(4), 224–237. Spinuzzi, C. (2011). Losing by Expanding: Corralling the Runaway Object. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 25(4), 449 – 486.
    18. 18. Activity system Based on work in activity theory: Vygotsky, Leont‟ev, Engestrom Understands human activity as mediated, collective, oriented to a cyclical objective, motivated, developmental Serves to provide top-level context for specific (conscious) actions and underlying (unconscious) operations Serves to expose systematic contradictions: sources of tensions, disruptions, innovation
    19. 19. previous report, highlighting and annotations, emails to client, talks with other specialists, WikiAnswers, spreadsheet of projects, BRILLIANCE notes, Word template, draft report, emails and talks with account manager, final report, cover email to client, presentation to client, IMs, blogs { 3. Tools (How do they transform the 4. Actors objective?) 1. Objective 2. Outcome (Who transforms (What does the (Why do they the objective?) work cyclically transform the { transform?) objective?) { { SEO specialists, account Activity systems are managers - Strategic Clients search Improved client - Long-term engine ranking transactions - Objective-oriented 6. Rules - Cyclical (What rules do they use?) 7. Division of Labor { (How are duties spread out?) { 5. Community specialists: write reports, set goals, find Report components, no Stakeholders (Who else is new ways to improve SEO.deceptive or irrelevant results involved in the account manager: clarify reports, explain wider circle?) when results are poor, interface with { client. Clients, clients customers, search engineshdo.utexas.edu
    20. 20. previous report, highlighting and annotations, emails to client, talks with other specialists, WikiAnswers, spreadsheet of projects, BRILLIANCE notes, Word template, draft report, emails and talks with account manager, final report, cover email to client, presentation to client, IMs, blogs Report template must be changed { to keep up with SEO changes; project tracking methods are not optimized for complex projects. 3. Tools 4. Actors 1. Objective 2. Outcome { { { SEO specialists, account Clients search Improved client managers engine ranking transactions Search engines often Competitors change algorithms. compete for SEO rankings. 6. Rules 7. Division of Labor { { Report components, no specialists: write reports, set goals, find deceptive or irrelevant results 5. Community new ways to improve SEO. Stakeholders account manager: clarify reports, explain Rules keep changing { when results are poor, interface with because search engines Clients, clients customers, client.keep changing algorithms. search engines Clients dont always understand their part in improving SEO; search engines react to other hdo.utexas.edu contingencies.
    21. 21. Activity networksSee: Engeström, Y. (2008). From Teams to Knots: Studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. New York: Cambridge University Press. Gygi, K., & Zachry, M. (2010). Productive tensions and the regulatory work of genres in the development of an engineering communication workshop in a transnational corporation. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 24(3), 358–381. Spinuzzi, C. (2011). Losing by Expanding: Corralling the Runaway Object. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 25(4), 449 – 486.
    22. 22. Activity network Based on Engestrom Activities can be chained, with the output of one activity becoming the input of another (ex: software) Activities can be overlapping, sharing one or more point Activity networks put activity systems into relation, allowing us to see how inter-activity contradictions drive the development of activities in tandem
    23. 23. Activity network Based on Engestrom Activities can be chained, with the output of one activity becoming the input of another (ex: software) Activities can be overlapping, sharing one or more point Activity networks put activity systems into relation, allowing us to see how inter-activity contradictions drive the development of activities in tandem
    24. 24. hdo.utexas.edu
    25. 25. Activity network Based on Engestrom Activities can be chained, with the output of one activity becoming the input of another (ex: software) Activities can be overlapping, sharing one or more point Activity networks put activity systems into relation, allowing us to see how inter-activity contradictions drive the development of activities in tandem
    26. 26. Team Description Objective Composition Genres Project Teams that launched and The account Account manager, 1- Instant maintained campaigns. Team 2 specialists. messaging (IM), members were in separate Assigned by CEO. email, meetings, physical spaces. conference calls, drop-in visits…Apprentic Colocated buddy/ mentoring The Account Managers; Informal e-ship teams. In SEO, gave way to apprentice pairs of specialists conversations in support teams during the study. workspace, IM Support Colocated, formal three-person Oversight, Senior specialist, 2 Drop-in visits, IM, teams to determine load and awareness specialists email, status of accounts. of service BRILLIANCE notes, meetings.Functional Teams encompassing entire The All department Reporting departments: SEO, paid departments members parties; lunches; search, etc. function IM; email; internal blogs… Values Cross-boundary teams, The cultural Self-chosen from Values team initiated during the study, that value across the company. meetings; email. worked on enacting core valuesTaco club Pairs who shared breakfast Cross- Self-chosen pairs of Taco club tacos on Wednesday departmental workers from meetings; email.
    27. 27. Activity networks Spinuzzi, C. (2012). Working Alone, Together: Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity. Journal of Business And Technical Communication, 26(4). Spinuzzi, C. (2013, accepted). How Nonemployer Firms Stage-Manage Ad-Hoc Collaboration: An Activity Theory Analysis. Technical Communication Quarterly.
    28. 28. Analytical constructs Genre ecologies Communicative events Sociotechnical graphs Operations tables Activity systems Activity networks CDB tableshdo.utexas.edu
    29. 29. Challenges of studying CMC inprofessional environments CMC is not an end in itself, but a way to accomplish cyclical work objectives CMC genres are part of an ecology of genres, providing additional ways to communicate, ways that interact with other genres To understand how these ecologies of genres work in professional environments, we must understand the activities they mediate
    30. 30. Publicly available online services(PAOS) Divine, D., Hall, S., Ferro, T., & Zachry, M. (2011). Work through the Web: A Typology of Web 2.0 Services. In A. Protopsaltis, N. Spyratos, C. J. Costa, & C. Meghini (Eds.), SIGDOC’11 (pp. 121–127). New York: ACM. Divine, D., Morgan, J. T., Ourada, J., & Zachry, M. (2010). Designing Qbox: A Tool for Sorting Things Out in Digital Spaces. GROUP’10 (pp. 311–312). New York: ACM. Ferro, T., Hall, S., Derthick, K., Morgan, J. T., Searle, E., & Zachry, M. (2009). Understanding How People Use Publicly Available Online Services for Work. SIGDOC ’09 (pp. 311–312). New York: ACM.
    31. 31. Activity streams Hart-Davidson, W., Zachry, M., & Spinuzzi, C. (2012). Activity streams: Building context to coordinate writing activity in collaborative teams. SIGDOC’12: Proceedings of the 30th Annual ACM International Conference on Design of Communication. New York: ACM. 279-287. McCarthy, J. E., Grabill, J. T., Hart-Davidson, W., & McLeod, M. (2011). Content Management in the Workplace: Community, Context, and a New Way to Organize Writing. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 25(4).
    32. 32. Impacts of new forms ofcollaboration Long-term trends: outsourcing noncore functions, including to independent contractors More projectification Results-only work environments (ROWEs) More distance work (from home offices, coworking spaces, coffee shops) More ways to communicate/more layers of CMC communication
    33. 33. Questions?

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