Conclusions

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This study has the intention to investigate how a particular ICT support is used

within an established practice of homecare work. The discussion has dealt with

a case showing a perspective of how technology and practice coevolves and

gets enmeshed together. To put forward the conclusion that the new technology

support slowly is integrated with other repositories and tools in the environment

would not be a surprise. However, is this the result of the study’s design, or

what other aspects can be identified? These two organisations have had their

first encounter with ICT through these systems. It has been a bottom-up

implementation of technology in both cases, which means that no overall

organisational strategy says, “this is it, from now on this is the computer system

that we will use, and we do it for these particular reasons.” The personnel have

instead been forced to jointly negotiate the role of the system. As their

knowledge of technology is found in their own practice and repositories used

by tradition, the key problems in the their negotiations have been those

affordances the tools carry, related to situations where the specific tools are

found applicable. In some situations, the new technology has been accepted

and in another, it has been rejected, but in every negotiation of the tools, the

practical benefit is the underlined outcome. This is shown by the importance of

the diary, and by the observation that the design of the application has managed

to encapsulate mechanisms of practice, such as in the case of the articulation

part of the coordination work. The implication when the functionality of the

system partly is accepted, is that these parts slowly are interwoven in the web

of tools of practice.

What also is revealed by this study is that if one wants to propose a new

technology support in a specific environment, one needs to pay attention to the

collaborative dimensions of the work practice. Once again, the example of the

diary shows that the notion of the common information space is crucial. The

importance of seeing the interface of either the mobile devices or the stationary

computer as such common information spaces, one also need to address those

design challenges such an option imposes. The single-user interface the current

system offers is not enough support for the collaborative activities the mobile

workforce of homecare work is engaged in. There is a danger to reside on the

notion that mobile devices, as used in this case, will provide the users with such

a support. The mobile devices function only as a carried safety while working

alone, moreover, the technical and functional display of the mobile devices

constrains usage and the information is fixed, and, furthermore, the user

interface is not negotiable by the actors. Instead, relying on established tools

seems to be a rescue when the practical usefulness of the new tools is lost or

difficult to grasp.

When it comes to keeping track of ongoing events and actions, traditional tools

still have the workers’ attention, providing flexible and negotiable interfaces.

The history of events is clear on this point, stressing that more attention should

be put on an understanding of how different tools are embedded in practice,

especially if one has the purpose of replacing these with new technology. This

also concerns media that is used for communication. In this case, the diary and

the mobile phones along with face-to-face encounters are main communication

sources found in the mobile work place. If one wants to take advantage of these

media and situations, then the technology support should be designed to

account for those means.

Technology is negotiated per se, and the relation between new technology and

the means that are familiar have a promising potential to generate a valuable

input for design and development of related systems in the future. What is

needed to provide for such a generation of information is to get closer to the

activity, more than the user. I do not stress to downplay the role of the user, but

I would stress a move towards a focus on the activity the users are engaged in

— their practice. Following such an approach, one would be able to isolate

dimensions that give a better account for the needs the practice impose than

what pre-described documentation formats can give guidance for, which in

many cases now is guiding the design of these systems. When cultural tools are

digitally transformed, they are also given new affordances that, despite similar

procedures, change the particular situation completely, restructuring relations

between workers and groups, and giving information and communication new

pathways to follow. Note that this addresses the importance of understanding

the mechanisms that underlie certain procedures and dimensions of work, and

the work maintaining the tools, which not necessarily is mentioned in work

descriptions or a step-by-step instruction for documentation. The mechanisms

crucial for the practice are manifested in the cultural tools, as shown by the

diaries, and as in the example of the articulation of work through the software

application. These artefacts are or have been central tools of coordination and

collaboration. If we manage to grasp and understand their function, we have

one pointer giving direction as to how approach established collaborative work

practices and the development of new technological support.