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Blurred partitions but thicker walls

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In this paper, we explore public administration as a site of use for Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) applications, and outline the particular opportunities and challenges that CSCW and public administration pose for each other. We argue that public administrations in modern democratic societies are in both their organizational structures and their activities subservient to legal and political norms in a way that is different from private organizations; therefore, public administration cannot slavishly emulate CSCW applications that have proven themselves in a private context. Public administrations have to assess forms of CSCW in the light of the normative structure that is specific for them. We argue that the introduction of CSCW will further the tendencies to bureaucratisation and skew power biases towards public administration and away from the citizen. We give evidence for this contention on the basis of a comparison of different national attempts to introduce CSCW in Social Security offices in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden. Although each of these countries is inspired by different ideals about the relationship between state and citizen in the social security sector, the influence of CSCW in all three cases goes in the same direction.


Snellen, I.; Wyatt, S. (1992): Blurred partitions but thicker walls. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 4. DOI: 10.1007/BF00754331. Springer. PISSN: 1573-7551. pp. 277-293