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Diffuse collaboration: copying as a collective activity (RV of 2001/55/TM/OB)

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Based on observations of patterns of interactions in copier rooms that were conducted at 3 different sites, this paper claims that, although using an office copier is usually thought of as an individual act with little place for collaboration, in fact making copies is usually a collective activity involving the joint activity of a number of people. This collaboration takes place at no single point in place or time, nor between idenitified participants. The authors call it diffuse collaboration. It often goes unnoticed, and even becomes invisible. This paper describes the activity of copying as a combination og the target task and support activities. It shows that while the target task operating the copier is usually done by individuals and requires little or no collaboration, the supporting require considerable collaboration. It then turns to an exploration of, and evidence for, the different types of collaboration involved. Common sense suggests that collaboration involves identified actors that work together on a well-defined goal. However, the examination of collaboration in a very mundance activity, copying in offices, shows that collaboration can involved many actors that do not each other and collaborate together without being aware of it. The paper broadens the notion of collaboration and presents a framework for the network of cooperative links involved in the activity of copying.

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