Flexible Turtles and Elastic Octopi: Exploring Agile Practice in Knowledge Work
This paper takes as its starting place the rich context of many knowledge workers today—highly distributed, increasing project focused, typically atypical days, infrastructural—and attempts to push past extant descriptions of their practices as ‘flexible’. Using empirical data informed by a practice theory lens, we expand the understanding of flexibility with regard to work by augmenting how worker disposition, as well as the ability to engage with agility in dynamic circumstances, should be considered as a factor when examining and designing for this population. We make several contributions of interest to the wider CSCW community. First, we distinguish between those who showcase flexible practices and those who proactively orient around flexibility. We call this second group ‘elastic workers’. Second, we raise new questions for us as scholars and designers keen to exploit the conceptual and pragmatic intersection of technology and work. These questions create opportunities to explore different methods for understanding complex phenomena such as flexibility, as well as understanding how we might design for this phenomenon with more foresight in the future.