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Research on mobile information and communication technology has, during the

few last years, expanded along with its employment in both work and leisure

(see, for instance, O’Hara et al., 2001; Esbjörnsson et al., 2002; Hedestig et

al., 2002; Weilenman, 2003, Ling, 1997). Weilenmann (2003) argues that

there is a lack of studies on the use of mobile technologies in situations where

people move and where the activities they are engaged in occur. Until today ,

studies of mobile work and mobile technology have (1) had a work-oriented

focus, (2) given an extra attention to office work, (3) treated some places as

bases and finally (4) treated mobility and mobile work as means of transportation

(Weilenmann, 2003). One could argue that many of these studies also

provide an account for work environments that already are technology intensive.

It is easy to accept such organisations as default examples, where

technology is taken for granted as one standard component. I will in this chapter

emphasise organisations where information and communication technology

(ICT) have historically not yet been supporting work at all, and where mobile

information and communication systems have become the first encounter. One

challenge information technologies need to deal with in these environments is

traditional systems that have been shaped by the tradition and culture of

practice, especially resources used in collaboration and coordination. One

could argue that studying such an environment would be like walking down the

memory lane of technology implementation and design, acknowledging that the

lessons taught have been learned, and that time would have equipped us with

the knowledge to present solutions that account for identified needs. Or

perhaps face the opposite, and learn yet another lesson that needs to be told.

Homecare work is a field of practice that has a history contradictory to other

sectors of healthcare in general. This sector has in the last few years attracted

a lot of attention, and homecare work in Sweden is about to meet a huge

challenge in the next couple of years. The number of elderly continuously

increases in most western countries, and higher demands on performance and

the quality of service will be critical. Involved parties are forced to find new

ways that meet future expectations. One initiative towards this is to employ

mobile information and communication technology. The intention is to give a

technological support to homecare workers, and generate possibilities to

measure work performance more effectively. State-of-the-art technology is

seen as one possible contributor to secure and assess the quality and efficiency

of mobile work, and with the very same technology simultaneously support the

mobile practice. As organisational needs and practice are to be served by one

solution, critical voices have been raised arguing that the long-term effect of

these systems is that predefined categories will deviate the line of work and

prioritise articulated categories that only account for a limited part of the work

as a whole. Thereby, the consequence would be that important aspects of work

are set aside in favour of others. The critics’ worries reside in the fear that the

practice, over time, through instrumental guidance of documentation, slowly

will starve the work practice of valuable knowledge (Christensen, 1999). Thus,

studies are needed to identify implications that this technology brings along in

homecare work as well as in mobile practice where mobile technologies are put

in use.

This chapter builds on an investigation of two homecare organisations where

mobile information and communication technology have been employed. One

of these organisations has used the system for two years and the other has

recently employed the system in their practice. Moreover, in neither of these

organisations has ICT been used in the hands of the homecare workers before.

Questions that have guided this research are, firstly, how is this system used in

practice, and secondly, how does the use of the system correlate to important

mechanisms of practice? To give direction for answering these questions, the

chapter will draw on an interpretative case study, where mainly ethnographic

study techniques have been used and where traditional concepts developed by

the community of computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) have

guided the analysis of the investigation. The remainder of this chapter is as

follows. First, a discussion of the concepts used for the analysis is presented.

This expose strongly focuses on the relation between new technologies and its

predecessors, and technology as a support for collective activities. Second, the

research method is briefly presented. Finally, a discussion is made, where the

practice of homecare work is deconstructed revealing dimensions that call for

our attention. This both in terms of understanding the role of different repositories

and their relations through practical uses, and furthermore, as base for

further work, in terms of how these systems could be designed in the future.