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Associate professor of rhetoric at The University of Texas at Austin. Clay's research interests include research methods and methodology, workplace research, and computer-mediated activity. My first book, Tracing Genres through Organizations, was published by MIT Press in 2003 and was named NCTE's 2004 Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication. My second book, Network, was published in 2008 by Cambridge University Press.
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Zachry, Mark, Hart-Davidson, William, Spinuzzi, Clay (2008): Advances in understanding knowledge work: an experience report. In: DOC08 , 2008, . pp. 243-248. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1456536.1456585
Hart-Davidson, William, Spinuzzi, Clay, Zachry, Mark (2007): Capturing & visualizing knowledge work: results & implications of a pilot study of. In: Proceedings of the 25th annual ACM international conference on Design of communication , 2007, El Paso, Texas, USA. pp. 113-119. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1297144.1297168
Zachry, Mark, Spinuzzi, Clay, Hart-Davidson, William (2007): Visual documentation of knowledge work: an examination of competing approaches. In: Proceedings of the 25th annual ACM international conference on Design of communication , 2007, El Paso, Texas, USA. pp. 120-126. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1297144.1297169
Spinuzzi, Clay (2007): Learning our ABCs: accessibility, bottlenecks, and control in an organized research unit\'. In: Proceedings of the 25th annual ACM international conference on Design of communication , 2007, El Paso, Texas, USA. pp. 201-206. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1297144.1297186
Spinuzzi, Clay, Hart-Davidson, William, Zachry, Mark (2006): Chains and ecologies: methodological notes toward a communicative-mediational model of tec. In: ACM 24th International Conference on Design of Communication , 2006, . pp. 43-50. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1166324.1166336
Hart-Davidson, William, Spinuzzi, Clay, Zachry, Mark (2006): Visualizing writing activity as knowledge work: challenges & opportunities. In: ACM 24th International Conference on Design of Communication , 2006, . pp. 70-77. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1166324.1166341
Zachry, Mark, Spinuzzi, Clay, Hart-Davidson, William (2006): Researching proposal development: accounting for the complexity of designing persuasive te. In: ACM 24th International Conference on Design of Communication , 2006, . pp. 142-148. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1166324.1166359
Spinuzzi, Clay (2004): Four ways to investigate assemblages of texts: genre sets, systems, repertoires, and ecolo. In: ACM 22nd International Conference on Computer Documentation , 2004, . pp. 110-116. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1026533.1026560
Spinuzzi, Clay (2003): Using a handheld PC to collect and analyze observational data. In: ACM 21st International Conference on Computer Documentation , 2003, . pp. 73-79. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/944868.944884
Spinuzzi, Clay (2002): A Scandinavian challenge, a US response: methodological assumptions in Scandinavian and US. In: ACM 20th International Conference on Computer Documentation , 2002, . pp. 208-215. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/584955.584986
Spinuzzi, Clay (2002): Modeling genre ecologies. In: ACM 20th International Conference on Computer Documentation , 2002, . pp. 200-207. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/584955.584985
Spinuzzi, Clay (2002): Documentation, participatory citizenship, and the web: the potential of open systems. In: ACM 20th International Conference on Computer Documentation , 2002, . pp. 194-199. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/584955.584984
Spinuzzi, Clay (2001): Software development as mediated activity: applying three analytical frameworks for studyi. In: IEEE ACM 19th International Conference on Computer Documentation , 2001, . pp. 58-67. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/501516.501528
Spinuzzi, Clay (2000): Investigating the Technology-Work Relationship: A Critical Comparison of Three Qualitative. In: IEEE IPCC 2000 / ACM 18th International Conference on Systems Documentation , 2000, . pp. 419-432.
Spinuzzi, Clay, Zachry, Mark (2000): Genre Ecologies: An Open-System Approach to Understanding and Constructing Documentation. In ACM SIGDOC *Journal of Computer Documentation, 24 (3) pp. 169-181. http://www.acm.org/pubs/articles/journals/jcd/2000-24-3/p169-spinuzzi/p169-spinuzzi.pdf
Spinuzzi, Clay (2000): Exploring the Blind Spot: Audience, Purpose, and Context in Products, Process, and Profit. In ACM SIGDOC *Journal of Computer Documentation, 24 (4) pp. 213-219. http://www.acm.org/pubs/articles/journals/jcd/2000-24-4/p213-spinuzzi/p213-spinuzzi.pdf
Spinuzzi, Clay (1999): Grappling with Distributed Usability: A Cultural-Historical Examination of Documentation G. In: ACM 17th International Conference on Systems Documentation , 1999, . pp. 16-21. http://www.acm.org/pubs/articles/proceedings/doc/318372/p16-spinuzzi/p16-spinuzzi.pdf
16.9 Commentary by Clay Spinuzzi
In Kaptelinin’s conclusion, he argues that activity theory must develop to address new work organization. He says:
Examples might include university-industry partnerships (Gygi & Zachry 2010); massive multiplayer online role-playing games (Nardi 2010); coworking (Spinuzzi 2012, in press); classroom collaborations that span locations and disciplines (Paretti, McNair & Holloway-Attaway 2007); and sales engineers, who must bridge between clients and engineers (Ludvigsen et al. 2003). As Kaptelinin stated, such cross-activity work poses challenges to the conceptual framework of activity theory - and such examples are multiplying as activities become more networked.
Why is cross-activity integration such a critical issue now, and how must activity theory develop to address it? The answer lies, in part, in changes to work organization that were not anticipated during earlier stages of the theory’s development. And the challenge lies in addressing these changes while keeping the theory relatively coherent.
The foundational ideas of activity theory came of age during the industrial era, grounded in Marx’s critique of early industrialization (1990) and developed during the rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union (see especially Luria 1976). In fact, its early examples reflect agricultural and craft labor: hunting, fishing, farming, blacksmithing. But as Yrjö Engeström began developing third-generation activity theory (3GAT)1, he recognized that work organization is changing in “the age of information technology” (1990, p.50), i.e., in the age of knowledge work, and that we are undergoing a historical transformation in the nature of expertise, moving toward “multi-professional team and network work and expertise” (1992, p.25). More recently, Engeström has suggested that we need a fourth generation of activity theory to address such work (2009, p.310). He argues that “Third-generation activity theory still treats activity systems as reasonably well-bounded, although interlocking and networked, structured units. What goes on between activity systems is processes, such as the flow of rules from management to workers”. But, he says,
Like Kaptelinin and Engeström, others see challenges to activity theory as currently constituted (Bødker 2009; Lompscher 2006; Ruckriem 2009). For instance, Yamazumi (2009, p.212) argues that the knowledge society has shifted from mass production to interorganizational collaboration (cf. Castells 1996, 2003), resulting in “new types of agency [that] are collaborations and engagements with a shared object in and for relationships of interaction between multiple activity systems” (p.213). As Engeström puts it, “social production requires and generates bounded hubs of concentrated coordination efforts” (Engeström 2009, p.310), hubs in which interorganizational collaboration constitutes an aspect of the activity’s object (cf. Adler & Heckscher 2007; Gygi & Zachry 2010). Consequently, if we are to perform an activity theory analysis that is oriented toward knowledge work, we must examine the interorganizational collaborations to which they contribute.
Given these changes, activity theorists are increasingly concerned with addressing knowledge work. In the past few years, at least three collections on activity theory have addressed how it must adapt to discussing knowledge work (Sawchuk et al. 2006; Sannino et al 2009; Daniels et al. 2010), as have various monographs (Kaptelinin & Nardi 2006; Engeström 2008; Spinuzzi 2008).
As Kaptelin and Nardi argue: “Work itself is changing. Work is more distributed, more contingent, less stable. How do we understand social forms such as networks and virtual teams that partially replace standard organizational hierarchies? ... Knowledge work usually involves multitasking and working with diverse groups and individuals” (2006, p.26). And they describe the theoretical difficulties associated with this sort of work:
So the issue is known, but the elaborated concepts are yet to be developed. As we attempt to develop them, our great challenge will be to keep the theory coherent and focused while expanding it to address such analyses.
16.9.1 Additional references
This commentary is a shorter version of the argument in Spinuzzi (2011)