Knowledge Workers and Associative Activity: An Examination of Knowledge Work Systems and Settings
MetadataShow full item record
The US has experienced broad reaching economic changes as work has moved from the farm, to the factory, to the office, and now beyond. The long-term, high-level shift toward information work in the US is accompanied by transformations in the activities of those engaged in it, knowledge workers. This dissertation is an inquiry into the contemporary tools and settings of knowledge work emerging in this developing ecosystem. The study examines knowledge workers, their use of publicly available online services (PAOSs), and their use of coworking locations. Previous research on computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) has focused on project teams and systems. This study shifts the unit of analysis to the individual knowledge worker, which provides a novel understanding of workplace interactions. The findings show that knowledge workers conduct identifiable categories of activities that rely on associative interaction: network expansion, relationship cultivation and maintenance, self-presentation, status awareness, information seeking, trend exposure, and organizational socialization. In the study presented here, these categories of associative activity are mediated both online through PAOSs such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and offline through interactions in coworking locations. These findings contribute to our understanding of knowledge work, connect the concept of knowledge work to the domain of CSCW, and produce implications for workplace internet and telecommuting policies, workplace systems design, and workspace design. This dissertation also introduces the concepts of the association-isolation divide and communal collocation. The association-isolation divide is the tension between a knowledge worker’s need to conduct associative activities while working in configurations that isolate them. Participants ameliorated the drawbacks of working in isolation through communal collocation, working collocated with other workers at coworking locations.