The Sociotechnical Nature of Mobile Computing Work: Evidence from a Study of Policing in the United States

The Sociotechnical Nature of Mobile Computing Work: Evidence from a Study of Policing in the United States

Steve Sawyer (The Pennsylvania State University, USA) and Andrea Tapia (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-268-8.ch007
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Abstract

In this paper we discuss the sociotechnical nature of mobile computing as used by three policing agencies within the United States. Mobile devices, access and service was provided via a third generation wireless network to a focal application, Pennsylvania’s Justice NETwork (JNET), a secure web-based portal connecting authorized users to a set of 23 federated criminal justice and law enforcement databases via a query-based interface. In this study we conceptualize mobility and policing as a sociotechnical ensemble that builds on the social-shaping of technology perspective and the tradition of sociotechncial theorizing focusing on the co-design of work practices and technologies to support work. Drawing from the social informatics tradition, we turn a critical, empirical, and contextual lens on the practices of mobility and work. Our analysis of the data leads us to find that the social and the technical are still separate in this mobile work context. This simple view of social and technical as related, but distinct, often leads to problems with collecting and interpreting evidence of ICT-based system’s design and use. We further note this over-simplification of sociotechnical action is likely to continue unless more viable analytic approaches are developed and the assumptions of the current techno-determinist approaches challenged more explicitly.

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