Steps Across the Border – Cooperation, Knowledge Production and Systems Design
The computer support of cooperation andknowledge production across sociallydistributed activity systems has become animportant topic in the context of the discourseon ``knowledge management''. The present articlewill draw on concepts of cultural-historicalactivity theory to discuss the problem of howthe notion of ``knowledge'' is conceptualized andimplicitly implemented in computer systems tosupport knowledge management, often neglectingthe social embeddedness of knowledge productionin everyday work practices. From the point ofview of cultural-historical activity theory wewould propose to look upon the generation ofknowledge as a process embedded in sociallydistributed activities that are constantlybeing reproduced and transformed in and betweenspecific communities of practice. We willpresent a model of cooperation that relatesprocessual and structural aspects of jointactivity. Methodologically, it draws on theanalysis of unexpected events in the course ofjoint activity. Our model also proposes to useforums for co-construction to make visibledifferent perspectives in the process ofsoftware design. The concept of cooperativemodel production is highlighted as a means tomediate, not to eliminate, differences ofperspectives involved in the course of systemsdesign. An empirical example will be given inwhich the repertory-grid technique is used tovisualize similarities and differences ofpotential users' viewpoints and requirements inearly stages of systems design.