The term parawork describes spaces and activities that function alongside—yet also outside—of traditional workplaces. Parawork spaces are not regulated by the workplace, but they are available for work-related activities. In parawork environments, it can be desirable to overlap the personal, social, and professional. Participating with others in parawork activities may not “get work done,” yet these interactions may facilitate professional identity formation, association with workplace and professional culture, and readiness to accomplish workplace tasks and professional goals. This chapter defines parawork, focusing on parawork enabled by online communication technologies. The author reviews literature that supports and informs understanding of online parawork. Through case study of one woman’s participation in an e-mail discussion list for teacher interns, the practical realities and possibilities of online parawork are considered. The chapter closes with conclusions about conditions necessary for effective online parawork, as well as implications for future research.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Culture: An ever-emerging social system of values, beliefs, practices, discourses, and constructed knowledge.
Discourse: A system of socially-patterned language practices; discourses continually shape and are shaped by culture, are influential in forming personal identities, and are used as resources as people work within, across, or against cultures.
Parawork: Spaces and activities that function alongside—but also outside—of traditional workplaces and work.
Collegiality: Mutually beneficial disposition of colleagues or peers toward each other, characterized by behaviors such as sharing, thoughtfulness, timeliness, reciprocity, helpfulness, and honesty.
Identity Construction: The shaping of a person’s values, beliefs, practices, discourses, and knowledge; influenced both by cultural systems and by individual actions.
Nonhuman Actors: Objects, artifacts, or structures that interact in a network with people (“human actors”) by constraining, permitting, facilitating, promoting, or responding to human actions; the term is central to Actor Network Theory.
Listserv, or List: When written in lowercase letters, a popular name for any automatic mailing server for e-mail messages; derived from the uppercase name LISTSERV ™—the registered trademark licensed to L-Soft International, Inc. for the electronic mailing list processor product that it distributes. Each member who subscribes to a discussion list automatically receives an e-mail copy of every message sent (“posted”) to “the list.” Posts are usually labeled with subject lines that identify the message’s theme or topic. A group of messages generated in response to a particular post (and often with identical or related subject lines) is known as a “thread.” The Intern-Net discussion list does rely on LISTSERV™ software, and subscribers refer to the space as both listerv and list .