On Distribution, Drift and the Electronic Medical Record: Some Tools for a Sociology of the Formal
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands
Formal tools (i.e , tools that operate on circumscribed input using rules, and that contain a model of the workplace in which are to function) are attributed central roles in organizing work within many modern workplaces. How to comprehend the power of these tools? Taking the (electronic) medical record as an example, this paper builds upon recent calls to overcome the dichotomy between the Formal and the Informal and proposes an understanding of the generative power of such tools which does not attribute mythical capacities to either tool or human work. The concrete, real-time use of formal tools is the starting point. These steps towards a sociology of the formal are crucial for a more comprehensive understanding and evaluation of such systems.