Islands of Togetherness : Rewriting Context Analysis

Sammanfattning: A continuing debate within Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research is how to elucidate, improve, and optimize the relationship between social context and technology use. Social context is conventionally understood as immediate use context while an understanding informed by social science suggests a wider scope, involving actors and structures. The focus of this thesis is the use of a communication environment using audio and video, established to span and connect three geographically distant call-centre workplaces in the Stockholm archipelago, Sweden. The research was carried out as intermittent fieldwork, spanning unevenly over a period of three years. The fieldwork was carried out at two sites: the premises of the Swedish Police Contact Centre in the archipelago and within the research project Community at a Distance. Methods included participant observation, interviews, and the analysis of documents, everyday talk, and images. This thesis offers a broad analysis of the socio-cultural context of technology use investigating the question how a sense of togetherness is promoted and negotiated at the Swedish Police Contact Centre and around and across the communication environment. The technology served as a means of overcoming the distance between the sites and making everyday encounters between the dispersed staff members possible. The sense of togetherness—fellowship and belonging, caring for each other, fostering a sense of solidarity, and achieving consensus in everyday practices—had an impact on the uses (and non-uses) of the technology. The use of the communication environment reflects the values and arrangements of the workplace and reproduces its conventions. The discussion is explorative, outlining an analytical approach to the socio-cultural context of technology use informed by interpretive social science, and provides a partial analysis of the organizational culture of the Contact Centre and its technology use. The argument is that analysis should aim at exploring the relationship between individual actors and social structures. Rewriting context allows us to understand the socio-cultural embeddedness of technology. While the analytic framework is not comprehensive for the purpose of detailed design implications in HCI research, it does provide a reconsidered terminology that links individual practices to socio-cultural context.