Classification schemes for collection mediation: Cognitive work analysis and work centered design

Hanne Albrechtsen

    Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

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    Work domain analysis and work centered design is a new approach to design of
    classification schemes. Classification schemes are symbolic artefacts that inscribe and mediate concepts and structures of domain semantics. In collection mediation, classification schemes are used to search and keep order in paper-based, electronic and digital collections. Research indicates that work centered design of classification schemes is difficult, and that solutions are often based on generic conventions for detailed design, which do not build on needs analysis of the work domains. This Ph.D. thesis deals with cognitive work analysis and work centered design of classification schemes to support mediation of collections. Cognitive work analysis is a methodology, which supports empirical analysis of work domains and work centered design of information systems. As foundation for overall design of schemes, cognitive work analysis focuses on understanding structures and concepts in work domains and actors' work activities. Research in classification schemes for work domains is also addressed by other perspectives, which either emphasise actors' concept formations in work domains or structures and concept formations within communities like professional disciplines or work collectives. The thesis addresses two themes within work centered design of classification schemes for collection mediation: classification schemes as sociological phenomena and cognitive work analysis, with an emphasis on analysis of collaborative work. The themes define two research questions that shape the present research. The two research questions are answered by five individual paper contributions. There exists no generally acknowledged conceptual framework for work centered design of classification schemes. The thesis applies the framework of cognitive work analysis as a methodology for analysing collection mediation work and as a starting point for characterising the use, contents and structures of classification schemes in the work domain. The five publications are placed within the means-ends model of cognitive work analysis in order to illustrate similarities and differences between the contributions. Four empirical sources contribute to the results. Field studies of three film archives and a public library address various collaborative activities in collection mediation. Primary methods applied in field studies are participant observation and interviews. In addition, participatory design of the empirical studies and empirical evaluation of design results have been used. Results from the field studies are discussed in the light of cognitive work analysis, as well as in the light of concepts developed within research in computer-supported collaborative work and sociological theory of communicative action. The studies of collection mediation in film archives focus on cognitive work analysis of collaboration. Their aim has been to an empirical basis for design of a web-based multimedia film research collaboratory, where classification schemes may contribute to supporting collection mediation and production of new film knowledge. The study of collection mediation at a public library focuses on collaborative design of classification schemes as boundary objects in a web-based information system that mediates multimedia materials to children and adults. The primary results of this thesis are:
    1) The use potentials of collections define the form and contents of classification schemes for collection mediation. Use potentials is not a static feature of the domain, but is constructed in collaboration amongst users and staff of collections. Constructions of use potentials happen in collaborative task situations, which involve information searching, indexing and classification of collections. The thesis discusses different theoretical perspectives on classification schemes in collaborative work and identifies advantages and disadvantages of the perspectives for analysis and design of classification schemes for collection mediation.
    2) An important challenge and opportunity in work centered design of classification schemes for collection mediation is that classification schemes are used in different task processes, and that their affordances are dependent on use situation. Cognitive work analysis addresses this challenge through heuristic
    models for studying and analysing prototypical task situations and the means and ends of work domains. The thesis proposes a general model of a common
    workspace for collaborative collection mediation. The model is based on the framework for cognitive work analysis. Preliminary design considerations are stated for how classification schemes can be perceived and used in context by the users.
    3) An additional important challenge in work centered design of classification schemes is that the contents and structures must be rooted in work domain semantics. Likewise, a translation of analysis to design is required. Analysis of the domain semantics of collection mediation is a comprehensive task, because the semantics is dynamic and diverse. The thesis proposes a preliminary method for translating analysis of semantics in collection mediation to a classificatory
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationRoskilde, Denmark
    PublisherRisø National Laboratory
    Number of pages172
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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