The purpose of this class is to introduce you to the dominant theoretical approaches used in Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and allied investigations of collective action mediated by technology. There are two aspects to this. First, after taking this class, you should be familiar with the major elements, modes of reasoning, and analytic commitments of the theories that we cover. Second, you should be able to discuss the relationship between them, understand their relationships, and be able to place them within some meta-theoretical framework.
My colleague Matthew Chalmers has claimed that theory is like the library; everyone's glad that there is one, but most people don't want to go there much. One of the distinctive features of our program is its analytic and theoretical grounding; you should all be card-carrying library-goers by the time we're done!
I want to cover three main theories and two aspects of each. The theories are ethnomethodology, distribued cognition, and activity theory. The two aspects I want to look at are, first, the theory itself, it structure, claims, and concerns; and second, how the theory has been used to analyse and understand individual and collective action with and through information systems. We'll spend a couple of weeks on each theory, getting a basic grounding, and looking at how it gets used in practice.
From the first week: