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Can organisations afford knowledge?

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“Affordance Theory” has been widely discussed as a potential resource for the design of interfaces for CSCW and other systems. In this paper, we discuss the extension and adaption of this concept beyond the psychology of perception to the social distribution of a common stock of knowledge. We suggest that a working division of labour as that is known, oriented to, and rendered visible by the management of space and artifacts within a working environment can “afford” knowledge of organisational routines and practices. Learning to see the working division of labour is coming to understand the organisation. The grounds for extending the concept in this way are derived from consideration of an actual example taken from fieldwork. Some implications for the design of CSCW systems are reviewed.


Anderson, R.; Sharrock, W. (1992): Can organisations afford knowledge?. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 3. DOI: 10.1007/BF00752436. Springer. PISSN: 1573-7551. pp. 143-161