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Unpacking a Timesheet: Formalisation and Representation

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Alan Blackwell.

We will be discussing: Barry Brown (2001). Unpacking a Timesheet: Formalisation and Representation. Computer Supported Cooperative Work 10, 293-315.

Available online (from University network) at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/th276131064jr514/fulltext.pdf Let me know if you cannot access this, and I’ll get a copy for you.

Original Abstract: While the use of formal systems has been an important topic within CSCW , their use as representations has been relatively neglected. This paper, using ethnographic data from a British oil company, investigates how representations are used. In the company studied an electronic timesheet system was implemented to be used by staff to account for their work. Looking at this system in use provides insights on what changes when processes are computerised. In particular, the computerised system used inflexible computerised rules to enforce a division of labour between the accountants who ran the system, and those who filled in their timesheets. However, this rigidity was not a purely negative feature; it helped the accountants who ran the system to do “representational work”, and establish the accuracy of the timesheet system. Looking into the politics of this system in use illustrates the danger of generalising the relationship between formalisation and power.

Rubric for the reading group: Everyone attending is expected to read the paper in advance. Please bring a copy with you, preferably annotated with interesting reflections. The format of discussion will be a brief invited introduction/critique by two members of the group, followed by general discussion and informal mixing.

This talk is part of the Crucible/Microsoft HCI Reading Group series.

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