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Acting with Technology

Books published in the Acting With Technology Series are concerned with the study of meaningful human activity as it is mediated by tools and technologies. The Series has a broad interdisciplinary scope. While grounded in science and technology studies, human-computer interaction, and computer-supported collaborative work, the series aims to bring together and mutually inform conceptual developments and empirical explorations of the technological mediation of human activity in these and other fields such as sociology, communication, education, and organizational studies. Acting With Technology volumes encompass a diversity of theoretical frameworks including activity theory, actor network theory, distributed cognition, and other practice-based theories developed through ethnomethodological and grounded theory approaches. The books investigate tool-mediated processes of working, organizing, playing, and learning in and across a wide variety of social settings, with a special focus on significant contemporary issues related to emerging technology-related trends in culture and society.

Why Occupations Differ in Their Embrace of New Technology

Why do people who perform largely the same type of work make different technology choices in the workplace? An automotive design engineer working in India, for example, finds advanced information and communication technologies essential, allowing him to work with far-flung colleagues; a structural engineer in California relies more on paper-based technologies for her everyday work; and a software engineer in Silicon Valley operates on multiple digital levels simultaneously all day, continuing after hours on a company-supplied home computer and network connection.

Lessons about Simulation Technology and Organizational Change from Automotive Design

Every workday we wrestle with cumbersome and unintuitive technologies. Our response is usually “That’s just the way it is.” Even technology designers and workplace managers believe that certain technological changes are inevitable and that they will bring specific, unavoidable organizational changes. In this book, Paul Leonardi offers a new conceptual framework for understanding why technologies and organizations change as they do and why people think those changes had to occur as they did.

Software Practice in a South American City

Software development would seem to be a quintessential example of today’s Internet-enabled “knowledge work”--a global profession not bound by the constraints of geography. In Coding Places, Yuri Takhteyev looks at the work of software developers who inhabit two contexts: a geographical area--in this case, greater Rio de Janeiro--and a “world of practice,” a global system of activities linked by shared meanings and joint practice. The work of the Brazilian developers, Takhteyev discovers, reveals a paradox of the world of software: it is both diffuse and sharply centralized.

Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries

In the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, employees of Internet startups took risks--left well-paying jobs for the chance of striking it rich through stock options (only to end up unemployed a year later), relocated to areas that were epicenters of a booming industry (that shortly went bust), chose the opportunity to be creative over the stability of a set schedule. In Venture Labor, Gina Neff investigates choices like these made by high-tech workers in New York City’s “Silicon Alley” in the 1990s.

Youth in the Internet Cafés of Urban Ghana

The urban youth frequenting the Internet cafés of Accra, Ghana, who are decidedly not members of their country’s elite, use the Internet largely as a way to orchestrate encounters across distance and amass foreign ties--activities once limited to the wealthy, university-educated classes. The Internet, accessed on second-hand computers (castoffs from the United States and Europe), has become for these youths a means of enacting a more cosmopolitan self.

Activism in the Internet Age

Much attention has been paid in recent years to the emergence of “Internet activism,” but scholars and pundits disagree about whether online political activity is different in kind from more traditional forms of activism. Does the global reach and blazing speed of the Internet affect the essential character or dynamics of online political protest? In Digitally Enabled Social Change, Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport examine key characteristics of web activism and investigate their impacts on organizing and participation.

Modern science is increasingly collaborative, as signaled by rising numbers of coauthored papers, papers with international coauthors, and multi-investigator grants. Historically, scientific collaborations were carried out by scientists in the same physical location—the Manhattan Project of the 1940s, for example, involved thousands of scientists gathered on a remote plateau in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Today, information and communication technologies allow cooperation among scientists from far-flung institutions and different disciplines.

The use of the Web in U.S. political campaigns has developed dramatically over the course of the last several election seasons. In Web Campaigning, Kirsten Foot and Steven Schneider examine the evolution of campaigns' Web practices, based on hundreds of campaign Web sites produced by a range of political actors during the U.S. elections of 2000, 2002, and 2004.

Activity Theory and Interaction Design

Activity theory holds that the human mind is the product of our interaction with people and artifacts in the context of everyday activity. Acting with Technology makes the case for activity theory as a basis for understanding our relationship with technology. Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie Nardi describe activity theory's principles, history, relationship to other theoretical approaches, and application to the analysis and design of technologies. The book provides the first systematic entry-level introduction to the major principles of activity theory.

Computer Support for Building Collaborative Knowledge

Innovative uses of global and local networks of linked computers make new ways of collaborative working, learning, and acting possible. In Group Cognition Gerry Stahl explores the technological and social reconfigurations that are needed to achieve computer-supported collaborative knowledge building--group cognition that transcends the limits of individual cognition.

In The Semiotic Engineering of Human-Computer Interaction, Clarisse Sieckenius de Souza proposes an account of HCI that draws on concepts from semiotics and computer science to investigate the relationship between user and designer. Semiotics is the study of signs, and the essence of semiotic engineering is the communication between designers and users at interaction time; designers must somehow be present in the interface to tell users how to use the signs that make up a system or program.

An Ecological Approach to Designing Smart Tools and Usable Systems

The shift in the practice of human-computer interaction (HCI) Design from user-centered to context-based design marks a significant change in focus. With context-based design, designers start not with a preconceived idea of what users should do, but with an understanding of what users actually do. Context-based design focuses on the situation in which the technology will be used -- the activities relating to it and their social contexts.

A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design

In Tracing Genres through Organizations, Clay Spinuzzi examines the everyday improvisations by workers who deal with designed information and shows how understanding this impromptu creation can improve information design. He argues that the traditional user-centered approach to design does not take into consideration the unofficial genres that spring up as workers write notes, jot down ideas, and read aloud from an officially designed text. These often ephemeral innovations in information design are vital components in a genre ecology (the complex of artifacts mediating a given activity).