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Visible Objects of Concern: issues and challenges for workplace ethnographies in complex environments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-597
Number of pages20
Issue number4
Early online date21 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


King's Authors


Over the past few decades we have witnessed the widespread deployment of technologies that enable real-time interaction between co-located and remote participants. These technologies and their accompanying organisational arrangements have created new forms of cooperation and collaboration. These technologies and the settings in which they are deployed present challenges for ethnographers seeking to understand the practices, the ‘lived work’ of the participants. In particular they demand a concern with the physical, the material and the embodied, in other words with what has been termed multi-modality. We argue that it is through detailed analysis of specific instances, the circumstances of their use, that we can begin to discover the competencies, skills, the ‘know how’, that enables practice. In this paper, we consider one particular setting that is both distinctive because of its scale but also characteristic of many technology-saturated contemporary workplaces. We aim to show, how in this case, as in others, the interactional and the sequential is an inextricable aspect of practice. To uncover these practices requires particular attention to the multi-modal but that this presents challenges for ethnographies, even those that draw on complex arrays of resources such as video-recordings. We suggest that this resonates with recent debates regarding how we conceive of materiality, the roles of technologies and practice.

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