Uses of the Diary in Beta: The Diary as a Depot

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The diary is frequently used in Beta, but plays quite a different role. The

assignment list is not only used to handle regular tasks. Errands that in Alfa are

handled through the diary are here listed on the assignment list. If these errands

and follow-up assignments are to be included into the assignment list, they also

need to be added into the computer application. Some of the actors experience

the work with the computer uncomfortable and choose to put forthcoming

assignments into the diary instead. This information is in most cases added as

paper notes attached to the diary page for the specific day when the information

is to be used. The use of paper notes indicate that messages not always are

written directly into the diary, and the diary has mainly, since the implementation

of the system, functioned as a depot of assignments. Since the application

manager articulates regular assignments and errands at the same time from the

assignment list, they are seldom forgotten about, which also provide a control

of the work as a whole. But it also imposes that the responsibility of certain

errands among the personal is lost, and especially concerning the task the

application manager does every morning. The communication of ongoing

events through the diary are also hampered since the diary rather solves

problems attached to the handling and work with the computer, rather than

giving awareness of other workers’ whereabouts.

Moreover, the result of these actions is that the application operator may have

a list of ten or more additional assignments to record into the system the

following morning. These need to be handled before any articulation work can

be managed, as the assignments need to be on the assignment list. The

procedure in Beta differs in that the application manager is responsible for both

the articulation of assignments, but moreover, she also needs to articulate them,

as they are to be coordinated at the same time. This was in Alfa solved by doing

this task in concert each morning. This is a problem, since the application

manager only has half an hour for the task. When assignments need to be added

to the assignment list, the time for this task shrinks the time-frame by ten to

fifteen minutes, which is a very short time managing a proper arrangement for

ten persons. This approach of using the articulation function in the system stress

that skills and familiarity with the system is needed.

The task appointed to the application manager during the morning is stressful

and some of the workers avoid the task because of this. This in turn excludes

some of the workers from learning how the technology can be used in practice.

They not only miss an opportunity to learn how to manage the system, they also

reduce the possibility of an understanding its practical implications, for instance,

the consequence of leaving the tasks to be dealt with the following day

on paper notes. In addition to this, those who can cope with both the stress and

the task learn the skills at the same time as they are given another position to

have control over their own work situation.

One way of handling this situation is that one of the two persons working with

the division of tasks during the morning has more experience than the other

person, which is a standard routine. This use of the system can also be

connected to the use of the diary. As discussed above, the diary is used as a

depot of assignments that needs to be recorded in the system. The workers that

arrive later have no control over the plan of their daily work, since someone else

settles the plan. The arrangement of procedure in Beta hinders communication

and notification both through the diary and the system; both are part of the

articulation of work, and neither for notification of events or actions.

The observations indicate that the coordination work in Beta is not an overall

collective achievement as it is in Alfa. Moreover, hierarchies and differences

are established among the personnel in Beta mainly due to lack of skills in

computer use and knowledge of how this technology functions in practice,

which creates a fear of the technology. Furthermore, it also indicates that the

cultures and the roles the coordinative tools play are different in the two

organisations. However, the observations underline that the use of the diary and

its relation to the system needs to be further investigated, as an integration of

the application and the function of the diaries seems to be a promising way to

take in both cases.

Disagreements of How Notifications are Handled

Through the System

During a user meeting arranged by the system designers, users from both

homecare groups, representatives from the municipality, and other interest

groups discussed their experiences with the system. One problem the homecare

groups agreed upon that needed to be redesigned was the notification function

in the application. Very strong opinions from both the homecare groups were

articulated about how this note function currently was managed by the system,

and how it counterworked their intentions. The assistants do not use the note

function at all, as they feel it to be unmotivated and cumbersome to handle. A

consequence was that when the function was used information ran a bigger risk

of being lost or forgotten, since the software in its current design separates

crucial information into two sections that are impossible to view at the same

time.

The reply from the designers of the system was that they considered the function

manageable and tried to avoid the problem, since they believed it worked. A

disagreement of what was working or not when it came to software and systems

solution can be put in Bergs’ (1997) remark:

“Advocates overlook how tools are always located; how a local

context and reflections of past negotiations are built into the heart

of the rational tool” (Berg, 1997, p. 169)

During my discussions and interviews with the actors, they were very decisive

about the fact that the note function needed to be handled according to their line

of work. The workers wanted to get the full picture of a particular day’s

activities displayed in one view, e.g., the assignment list, which is closely related

in terms of need of a common information space that gives the similar affordance

as the representation of the diary.