JCSCW Vol. 27 (2018)

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  • Journal Article
    Studying Infrastructuring Ethnographically
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 2, 43191) Karasti, Helena; Blomberg, Jeanette
    This paper is motivated by a methodological interest in how to investigate information infrastructures as an empirical, real-world phenomenon. We argue that research on information infrastructures should not be captive to the prevalent method choice of small-scale and short-term studies. Instead research should address the challenges of empirically studying the heterogeneous, extended and complex phenomena of infrastructuring with an emphasis on the necessarily emerging and open-ended processual qualities of information infrastructures. While existing literature identifies issues that make the study of infrastructuring demanding, few propose ways of addressing these challenges. In this paper we review characteristics of information infrastructures identified in the literature that present challenges for their empirical study. We look to current research in the social sciences, particularly anthropology and science and technology studies (STS) that focus on how to study complex and extended phenomena ethnographically, to provide insight into the study of infrastructuring. Specifically, we reflect on infrastructuring as an object of ethnographic inquiry by building on the notion of “constructing the field.” Recent developments in how to conceptualize the ethnographic field are tied both to longstanding traditions and novel developments in anthropology and STS for studying extended and complex phenomena. Through a discussion of how dimensions of information infrastructures have been addressed practically, methodologically, and theoretically we aim to link the notion of constructing the ethnographic field with views on infrastructuring as a particular kind of object of inquiry. Thus we aim to provide an ethnographically sensitive and methodologically oriented “opening” for an alternative ontology for studying infrastructuring ethnographically.
  • Journal Article
    Bottom-up Infrastructures: Aligning Politics and Technology in building a Wireless Community Network
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 2, 43191) Crabu, Stefano; Magaudda, Paolo
    Contemporary innovation in infrastructures is increasingly characterized by a close relationship between experts and lay people. This phenomenon has attracted the attention from a wide range of disciplines, including computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), science and technology studies (S&TS), organization studies and participatory design (PD). Connecting to this broad area of research, the article presents a qualitative case study concerning the building and maintenance of a grassroots, bottom-up information infrastructure in Italy, defined as wireless community network (WCN). Methodologically, the research is based on qualitative interviews with participants to the WCN, ethnographic observations and document analysis. The aim of the article is to understand the alignment between the technical work implied in building this bottom-up infrastructure and the political and cultural frameworks that move people to participate to this project. Relying on the field of science & technology studies, and in particular on the notions of ‘inverse infrastructure’ and ‘research in the wild’, we disclose the WCN’s peculiar innovation trajectory, localized outside conventional spaces of research and development. Overall, the presentation of the qualitative and ethnographic data allows to point out a more general reflection on bottom-up infrastructures and to enrich the academic debate concerning bottom-up infrastructuring work and other similar typologies of collaborative design projects in the domain of infrastructures.
  • Journal Article
    Imaginaries and Crystallization Processes in Bitcoin Infrastructuring
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 2, 43191) Kow, Yong Ming; Lustig, Caitlin
    Imaginaries is a concept from Neumann and Star that signifies ‘points of understanding’ of the various stakeholder visions of an infrastructuring project. Stakeholders use imaginaries to negotiate their differences and identify shared visions. The ways in which these stakeholders negotiate these differences to agree on concrete artifacts and practices is known as crystallization. However, the CSCW literature has not studied crystallization in detail. Our case study examines imaginaries and crystallization within the infrastructuring of Bitcoin, an open source digital currency and payment platform that is the first of emerging forms of peer-to-peer computer networks facilitating digital transactions. We conducted participant observation of two Bitcoin conferences held in December 2015. Each conference lasted between two to three days, amounting to 40 hours of observation. In these conferences, we examined Bitcoin infrastructuring taking place across different contexts, including open source development and startup communities. Each of these contexts contains pre-existing infrastructures along with powerful gatekeepers (e.g., software committers and financial regulators) who maintain its system of practices and artifacts. The Bitcoin actors, including open source developers and entrepreneurs, make use of imaginaries to identify differences among them, negotiate, and reach points of crystallization in order to integrate with these infrastructures. Based on these findings, we contribute the concept of imaginaries branching and discuss roles of imaginaries in an expansive infrastructuring work interacting with multiple installed bases, some of which also introduce practical limits to the imagined information system.
  • Journal Article
    Infrastructuring as Ambiguous Repair: A Case Study of a Surveillance Infrastructure Project
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 2, 2018) Mikalsen, Marius; Farshchian, Babak A.; Dahl, Yngve
    Health and welfare organisations are under increased scrutiny regarding their ability to make innovations in and increase the productivity of their services by digitising and automating them. Our empirical case study focuses on the implementation of a new health and welfare surveillance infrastructure project in a large Norwegian municipality. The infrastructure project led to significant challenges for various reasons, such as coordinating with vendors and subvendors, balancing governmentally defined purchase and implementation processes with local work practices, tailoring packaged solutions, and the differing concerns of many actors across different municipal departments. moves through ongoing cycles project moves through ongoing cycles of breakdown and repair in order to implement a working infrastructure. Key to our analysis is the way repair plays out as the infrastructure project deals with the ambiguity resulting from uncertainties in relation to both how technology works in practice and how the project will be organised. We empirically analyse three collaborative repair mechanisms: value-network repair, process repair, and participation repair. Our study enriches the understanding of infrastructuring by discussing the collaborative repair mechanisms necessary for mobilising and adapting the practices, systems, and processes that coexist in infrastructure projects. Additionally, the concept of ambiguous repair suggests that tensions cannot be permanently resolved but rather should be considered an ongoing and necessary part of practical infrastructuring.
  • Journal Article
    Towards Evolutionary Named Group Recommendations
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 3-6, 43435) Bartel, Jacob W.; Dewan, Prasun
    When sharing information, a common tactic for reducing the cost of choosing recipients is to form named groups of users. These groups are then selected as recipients in lieu of or in addition to users. However, keeping named groups up to date is a difficult and error-prone task when conducted manually. Past schemes automating this task make different tradeoffs and can be distinguished based on several factors including the types of named groups they consider, whether they evolve a specific group or a set of multiple groups, and how integrated they are with techniques for predicting initial groups. We analyze these approaches and identify a design space of potential evolutionary approaches. Using this analysis, we introduce a novel approach for automatically suggesting a sub-type of evolution, evolutionary growth. This approach (a) requires no prior knowledge of which groups change, (b) composes, and therefore interoperates, with an existing engine for recommending named groups, and (c) extracts groups from the social graph of multiple types of applications regardless of whether the graph are explicit or derived implicitly from message communication. Our evaluation considers social graphs created using explicit and implicit connections, and identifies the conditions under which the approach outperforms baseline techniques.
  • Journal Article
    Introduction to ECSCW 2018
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 3-6, 2018) Ignat, Claudia-Lavinia; Bjørn, Pernille; Dewan, Prasun
  • Journal Article
    An Afterword to ‘Infrastructuring and Collaborative Design’
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 2, 2018) Karasti, Helena; Pipek, Volkmar; Bowker, Geoffrey C.
  • Journal Article
    New Perspectives on Plans: Studying Planning as an Instance of Instructed Action
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 1, 43132) Redaelli, Ilaria; Carassa, Antonella
    The aim of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of the concrete ways in which planning is done in and through a set of material artifacts, demonstrating that the artifacts themselves, and the information they contain, constitute a set of ongoing instructions, in Garfinkel’s ( 2002 ) sense, which enable the artful reproduction of planfuness. Through the use of an empirical case, the paper shows how the material objects that are deployed in a ground control tower, the different forms of information that are available and the way in which this information is updated and re-deployed, can be seen as constituting a set of instructions which are reflexively available to skilled operators. Thus the paper re-focuses attention to the dynamic quality of information flows, to show how plans are not simply something that pre-dates action, cognitively or otherwise, but are something that are reflexively engaged with in and through the monitoring and use of information. The paper wants to provide for a different emphasis, one which focuses attention not only on the skillful work done by operators, but as much on the information they use and the artifacts where that information is to be found.
  • Journal Article
    The Types, Roles, and Practices of Documentation in Data Analytics Open Source Software Libraries
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 3-6, 2018) Geiger, R. Stuart; Varoquaux, Nelle; Mazel-Cabasse, Charlotte; Holdgraf, Chris
    Computational research and data analytics increasingly relies on complex ecosystems of open source software (OSS) “libraries” – curated collections of reusable code that programmers import to perform a specific task. Software documentation for these libraries is crucial in helping programmers/analysts know what libraries are available and how to use them. Yet documentation for open source software libraries is widely considered low-quality. This article is a collaboration between CSCW researchers and contributors to data analytics OSS libraries, based on ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative interviews. We examine several issues around the formats, practices, and challenges around documentation in these largely volunteer-based projects. There are many different kinds and formats of documentation that exist around such libraries, which play a variety of educational, promotional, and organizational roles. The work behind documentation is similarly multifaceted, including writing, reviewing, maintaining, and organizing documentation. Different aspects of documentation work require contributors to have different sets of skills and overcome various social and technical barriers. Finally, most of our interviewees do not report high levels of intrinsic enjoyment for doing documentation work (compared to writing code). Their motivation is affected by personal and project-specific factors, such as the perceived level of credit for doing documentation work versus more ‘technical’ tasks like adding new features or fixing bugs. In studying documentation work for data analytics OSS libraries, we gain a new window into the changing practices of data-intensive research, as well as help practitioners better understand how to support this often invisible and infrastructural work in their projects.
  • Journal Article
    Of Embodied Action and Sensors: Knowledge and Expertise Sharing in Industrial Set-Up
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 27, No. 3-6, 2018) de Carvalho, Aparecido Fabiano Pinatti; Hoffmann, Sven; Abele, Darwin; Schweitzer, Marcus; Tolmie, Peter; Randall, David; Wulf, Volker
    Knowledge and expertise sharing has long been an important theme in CSCW and, importantly, one that has frequently challenged a prevailing view concerning knowledge management. This critique focused, initially, on the practical problems associated with issues of Organisational Memory (OM), and in particular the difficulties inherent in an oversimplified ‘repository’ model. Attention then turned to issues of contextuality and communication for expertise sharing, drawing on concepts such as communities of practice and social capital to understand, again, the sharing of knowledge and expertise in practice. Here, we report on how particular kinds of ‘embodied action’ can be identified in relation to the potential of cyber-physical infrastructures for knowledge sharing in an industrial context. We argue that, in a complex industrial domain, both the recording of physical movement – ‘showing’ – and the representation of local knowledge – ‘telling’ – are potentially relevant. Our proposal is that the evolution of cyber-physical infrastructures now offers a way of changing some early assumptions about how knowledge might be captured and displayed. We argue that we are entering a third generation of knowledge and expertise sharing research, where the use of augmented reality (AR) and sensor technology will result in significant new methodological innovations, including the capture and sharing of knowledge, embedded in embodied action.