La multi-activité et ses appuis: l'exemple de la "présence obstinée" des messages dans l'environnement de travail.

Abstract : The evolution of work practices in flexible, market-driven organizations and ICT-rich environments has often been described as leading towards an increase in the fragmentation of activities and the number of interruption. We introduce the concept of multi-activity, to account for situations in which several courses of action are simultaneously relevant. Within a pragmatic perspective we show how the “obstinate presence” of some artefacts in the setting, that is the persistence and the salience which they acquire by design and/or use as long as they have not been treated (which characterizes for instance most messaging systems) support multiactivity. In the second part of the paper, we provide empirical evidence for multi-activity. Based on ethnography of managerial work in the R&D center of an IT company, we analyze a video sequence in which a manager finishes a task and scans her environment for relevant cues to determine what to do next. We identify some of the key resources for orienting in complex informational ecologies: the use of prefatory gestures (which act as tangibility trials) by which the subjects “animate” a given artefact so that its conventional use becomes a relevant next action; the use of body stretches and body torques to accomplish, distribute, hierarchize and cue multiple engagements. Exploring the environment in that particular case takes the form of a step by step choreography of engagements whose sequential organization co-produces and makes accountable the longing attraction that the email system exerts on the activity of the subject, and the resistance she opposes to it. Consulting the email inbox then appears as an action which is relevant and procedurally consequential within the sequence, even when the subject is apparently not engaged in it, which corresponds to our definition of multi-activity. The flexibility and reactivity constraints within organizations combine with design strategies oriented towards the availability and perceptive salience of artefacts within work environments to favour the development of multi-activity in contemporary work settings.
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Caroline Datchary, Christian Licoppe. La multi-activité et ses appuis: l'exemple de la "présence obstinée" des messages dans l'environnement de travail.. @ctivités, Association Recherches et Pratiques sur les ACTivités, 2007, 4 (1), http://www.activites.org/v4n1/datchary.pdf. ⟨hal-00325081⟩

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