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Getting to Know the 'Customer in the Machine'

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Association for Computing Machinery


This paper reflects on the emerging results of a long-standing ethnographic study of everyday work in a large retail Bank. While customers as economic actors have often been overlooked in studies of computer supported work they are generally and necessarily the focus of commercial organisational life. The paper explicates the developing relationship between technology use and these organisational concerns through the notion of 'the customer in the machine.' Features of the contingent and skilful nature of everyday work are documented and used to comment on aspects of working with the 'customer in the machine' or 'virtual customers' within a rapidly changing commercial organisation.


Hughes, John; O'Brien, Jon; Randall, Dave; Rodden, Tom; Rouncefield, Mark; Tolmie, Peter (1999): Getting to Know the 'Customer in the Machine'. Proceedings of the 1999 ACM International Conference on Supporting Group Work. DOI: 10.1145/320297.320301. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 30–39. Phoenix, Arizona, USA