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CSCW: Discipline or Paradigm? A Sociological Perspective

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Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands


We argue there is still much confusion about what is meant by cooperative work, and therefore what is meant by CSCW. It does not arise simply where more than one person is involved, and other attempts to delimit the field do not succeed. Since all work is socially organised, it wOl:Jld seem that all work potentially falls within the CSCW domain. If so, then (i) it would not be confined to a particular class of system ('groupware')
(ii) it would not be a small specialism bUl would extend Virtually throughout system design
and (iii) its interdisciplinary character would affect large areas of its contributing disciplines. We defend these consequences, and argue that CSCW is therefore more akin to a paradigm shift for its contributing disciplines than a particular subdiscipline in itself. We also consider not what CSCW is but how it has arisen in terms of a political economy - the interests of researchers, funding institutions and clients - and a set of ideologies. This sets out a position for contributing disciplines, but leaves open the detailed content of interdisciplinary relations.


Hughes, John; Randall, Dave; Shapiro, Dan (1991): CSCW: Discipline or Paradigm? A Sociological Perspective. ECSCW 1991: Proceedings of the Second European Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. ISBN: 978-94-011-3506-1. Full Papers. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 24-27 September 1991