Making work visible: ethnographically grounded case studies of work practice


Szymanski, M. H.; Whalen, J., editors. Making work visible: ethnographically grounded case studies of work practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2011.


In the 1970s, Xerox pioneered the involvement of social science researchers in technology design and in developing better ways of working at PARC, its internal research center at the time (now an independent wholly owned subsidiary). The PARC legacy resulting from this work is a hybrid methodology that combines an ethnographic interest in direct observation in settings of interest with an ethno-methodological concern to make the study of interactional work an empirical, investigatory matter. This edited volume is an overview of PARC and Xerox’s social science tradition. It uses detailed case studies showing how the client engagement was conducted over time and how the findings were consequential for business impact. Case studies in retail, production, office, and home settings cover four topics: practices around documents, the customer front, learning and knowledge-sharing, and competency transfer. The impetus for this book was a 2003 initiative at Xerox to transfer knowledge about conducting ethnographically grounded work practice studies to its consultants so that they may generate the kinds of knowledge generated by the researchers themselves.

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