Skip to content

Reddy, Dourish + Pratt – 2006 – Temporality in Medical Work: Time also matters

Summary: An ethnomethodological study of information-seeking activity by SICU nurses. Reddy et al. proposed a trajectory/rhythm/horizon model to describe the sociotemporal dimensions of distributed work in the context of 24/7 shifts when workers are not co-located.

Synthesis: The study responds to a body of related CSCW literature on distributed work practices where distance dominates and spatiotemporal dimensions are entangled. Reddy et al., draw from a largely unexplored perspective that parses temporal perspectives from the spatial in order to better understand how people collaborate during information-seeking activities.

Foundational concepts in this study: Computer-supported coordinated work, distributed work across 24-hr horizon, sociotemporality of how people work in an information-dense environment

Agreement in related work: There is growing interest in applying sociotemporal perspectives to studies of collaborative and distrbuted work. But disentangling spatial and temporal dimensions from one another had been much less prominent in the literature, up to 2006.

Contested areas: Reddy, et al., argue that prior CSCW literature tended to focus on the spatial qualities of distributed work and that sociotemporality had been given short-shrift.

Gaps/Limits in this study: The authors acknowledge but don’t seem to wrestle much with the spatio-temporality or socio-temporality phenomena in the T-R-H model. They contend that nursing shifts adds a non-physical context to the work and use that to subdivide the spatial from the temporal.

I need to search for more recent studies that focus on online distributed work that cite this paper. Are the spatio- and socio-temporal concepts so entangled in the T-R-H model that the physical component (setting aside the shift work argument) that the SICU case can’t be extrapolated to online contexts, like digital humanitarian work?

Also, has cloud-computing/collaborative technology advanced to such a degree over the last decade-plus to address or change how temporality affects information-seeking in a distributed work environment?

Connections to my work: Coordination work, high-tempo work, information-seeking, information-distribution, knowledge-management, sociotemporality

Annotated paper:

Reddy – 2006 – Temporality in Medical Work – Time also Matters

Published inannotations