Cooperation, coordination and control in computer-supported work

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Citation: Rob Kling (1991) Cooperation, coordination and control in computer-supported work. Commun. ACM (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1145/125319.125396
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1145/125319.125396
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1145/125319.125396
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Cooperation, coordination and control in computer-supported work
Tagged: Computer Science (RSS) CSCW (RSS)


Kling's article provides a retrospective view of CSCW work in the first half-decade. Like several other articles published around the same time, Kling introduces CSCW and then asks why many CSCW applications have been slow to be adopted in workplaces. His article is almost an op-ed arguing for a more context-rich and sociological approach to CSCW research.

Kling states his core argument clearly when he argues that, "many CSCW articles impede our understanding of the likely use and impact of CSCW since they rely on concepts with strong positive connotations such as "coordination" and "collaboration." Kling argues that real working relationships often, and perhaps usually, include conflict, competition, and control and that CSCW has tended to ignore these other aspects of work. Kling singles out the fields ignoring control as particularly problematic.

Kling's argument is that CSCW researchers need to pay more attention to the context of computer use and group use in particular. They should look at organizational structures around the creation of new technologies and managerial policies and practices and incentives. He argues form, "a more substantial shift from technological utopianism to social realism" in CSCW.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

Kling's article was one of several articles published on CSCW a few years after the discipline has begun and as the discipline was beginning to established itself. It, along with Ellis et al.'s (1991) Groupware: Some issues and experiences and Grudin (1994)'s more retrospective Computer-supported cooperative work: History and focus aim to step back and consider the field in its nascent 5-10 years and reflect on issues and problems.

It was influential and answered by a number of CSCW researchers. For example, the work of Wanda Orlikowski (1992) in Learning from Notes: organizational issues in groupware implementation marks an influential direction for CSCW research that remains strong today.