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The work performed by bus drivers and road inspectors is conducted in a vast

setting. The mobile workers drive their vehicles separated from their colleagues.

Similar to Schultze & Borland (2000) and Brown & Perry (2002),

there is a tension between space-like and place-like features of mobile work,

which becomes apparent when collaborating. To accomplish the collaborative

tasks, the bus drivers and road inspectors make use of formal resources with

space-like characteristics, such as bus stops, timetables, maps, reporting

systems, inspection routes, etc. However, to solve their tasks they also refer to

locations other than the formal ones. To benefit from this plethora of resources,

they ascribe them place-like characteristics, e.g., in the reporting system, the

road inspectors specify the locations as part of their reporting and repairing

work. The bus drivers refer to certain locations when coordinating routes with

their colleagues.

Driving their vehicles and following their route to inspect is a solitary work. Still

the participants actively attend to collaborative activities, e.g., when inspecting

the same sections of the road, rendezvous at bus stops so that passengers can

shift bus routes, sharing the same route simultaneously or when articulating rules

and responsibilities of the organization. In this collaborative work they communicate

and relate to each other as members of a social space – a workplace.

Unlike the related studies (Bradram & Bossen, 2003; Belotti & Bly, 1996;

Bertelsson & Bødker, 2001), the bus drivers and road inspectors move around

in a vast setting, without any fixed locations where work is conducted.

As in other studies conducted on people working in their vehicles (Laurier,

2001; Esbjörnsson & Juhlin, 2003), the road inspectors and bus drivers

perform their tasks while driving. Often mobile workers do not have to consider

the roadside as part of their work since they are only passing through. However,

this is different when looking at bus drivers and road inspectors. Here we can

see that the physical environment plays an important role in the performance of

their occupational tasks. Thereby the bus drivers and road inspectors do not

only drive through an environment, they move through their workplace. Juhlin

& Weilenmann (2001) found that the view beyond the windscreen was

important for the mobile workers when they where in each other’s proximity.

Similarly we found that the view of the environment supported collaboration

even when the distance between the mobile workers varied. The collaborative

mobile work is dependent on the use of locations as a resource to coordinate

tasks, e.g., it can be used to talk about time (delays in traffic) or they can divide

their responsibilities in work by splitting up the locations between them.

The visual overview of the location is important when the mobile workers are

close to it. What they see can even change how they choose to work

collaboratively. Seeing that the visual overview of the location, and not only

tasks associated to the place, is important can explain why distant locations are

weak but also why the locations can be “strengthened” by using visual

representations such as photos. This illustrates that, like the architects (Appleyard

et al., 1964; Lynch, 1990), we have to take the visual qualities of the roadside

into careful consideration when studying mobile work.

Thus, the workplace for the mobile workers is the seat in the vehicle, the garage,

roads, crossings, bus stops, beautiful views, industrial zones and passengers –

everything that they associate with the activity of corporal mobility as they

conduct their work. Places and objects on the road and at the roadside, such

as reflection poles and passengers, and objects that the people carry, such as

post-it notes and photographs, are resources for the collaborative work

between the mobile workers. Taken together, this chapter illustrates how this

space is not confined to the vehicle, it is rather the physical environment

“beyond the windscreen” that is an integral part of their workplace.

Designing Mobile Position-Based


We find, in line with Brown & Perry (2002), that there is still much to be studied

regarding the geographical issue of making technology useful. The mobile

workers we followed were equipped with several tools ranging from timetables,

watches and post-it notes to mobile phones, radio-communication

systems and positioning systems. However, the relational aspect of locations

and the bridging between general and localized aspects of work was poorly

supported despite all tools and timetables. This inhibited the collaboration

between the mobile workers. The success of mobile position-based services

are not only dependent on the ability to mark locations, but on how people

currently use locations as part of their work.


This research was partly funded by the Swedish Institute for Information

Technology and the Swedish National Road Administration. We would like to

thank those people involved in the two projects (BusTalk and Guarding the

Roads), members of the mobility studio and anonymous reviewers for valuable