Posted by: soniahs | September 1, 2010

Exam reading: “Datacloud”

I often wonder about positive interpretations of the new, “postmodern” information-dense and chaotic work environment. For example, how well will this exciting new world of info-surfing as a model hold up, given recent evidence that we really can’t multitask? And there are also significant issues skipped over in most discussions of the changing work environment: the wide divergence of incomes between certain classes of knowledge workers and non-knowledge workers, the digital divide, and class stratification.

I certainly don’t know how these things are going to play out. But here’s another exam reading that doesn’t really address them head-on: Johndan Johnson-Eilola’s “Datacloud.” It’s probably a scope issue- he does at least mention these issues, but his focus is clearly elsewhere:

Summary: In this book, Johnson-Eilola tries to describe changes in the work environment occurring in information-based jobs, and how both education and computer workspaces should be changed to facilitate this new way of working. Describes standard model of how the “symbol-analytic” (S-A) workplace is becoming the new postmodern paradigm: fragmented, mobile, computerized. contingent, situation-specific solutions, under-defined goals, playful, and helping facilitate a concept of the self that is fluid and changeable. He focuses on how different articulations (“suggestions about acceptable meanings”) of technology can be sites of resistance to dominant cultural trajectories. “Articulation theory” is a postmodern adaptation of Marxism that says that subjects are constructed within social/class contexts, but that these sites of negotiation allow the subject some agency. His main focus is on how workspace design (mostly the computer interface, but also the physical space is important) can be changed to facilitate S-A work. S-A work requires the ability to navigate between complex spatial data representations, communicate at need with other workers, and be able to display some information in different, more permanent locations (e.g., whiteboards). Education spaces need to change to get students comfortable with these immersive work environments. Students also must learn how to be creative about representing and using information (rather than just using ppt or xls defaults).

Comments: Mentions the ideological nature of articulations (e.g., current word processing programs make it hard to work in a dynamically interlinked environment b/c of clunky embedding), but doesn’t go into too much detail about group-level politics. Characterizes hyperspace as linear on temporal scale, rather than as a fluid network that gives up temporality. Blogs are an example of new (book was published in 2005) emergent symbolic-analytic spaces: dynamic production sites with RSS feeds to let readers experience them in different temporal & spatial sequences.

Links to: Liu (historicizes symbolic-analytic work); Brown & Duguid (less focus on specifics of work envt.); Spinuzzi (approaches topic from network theory); Bolter (hypertext)



  1. […] This paper ties into some of my core T&T readings, like “Laws of Cool” and “Datacloud,” that address the knowledge economy and the future of work. However, here the focus is on […]


%d bloggers like this: