On the basis of an ethnographic field study, this article introduces the concept of documentscape to the analysis of document-centric work practices. The concept of documentscape refers to the entire ensemble of documents in their mutual intertextual interlocking. Providing empirical data from a global software development case, we show how hierarchical structures and sequentiality across the interlocked documents are critical to how actors make sense of the work of others and what to do next in a geographically distributed setting. Furthermore, we found that while each document is created as part of a quasi-sequential order, this characteristic does not make the document, as a single entity, into a stable object. Instead, we found that the documents were malleable and dynamic while suspended in intertextual structures. Our concept of documentscape points to how the hierarchical structure, sequentiality, and authorless nature of documents serve as a constitutive platform for the development of iterative and emergent work practices, making it possible for highly distributed actors to collaborate with limited communication, as the documentscape serves as a vehicle of coordination.
Title of host publication
CHI '14 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
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