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Work and work roles: a context of tasks

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Isto Huvila


Journal of Documentation, Volume 64, Number 6, p.797–815 (2008)



information science, LIS research, task analysis, tasks, work, work roles


<p class="rteleft"><strong>Purpose: </strong>Both task-based and work oriented research approaches&nbsp;have proved their value in information science research. A task is a&nbsp;workable analytical unit of human activity, which brings the level of&nbsp;explication close enough to cater for individual actions and their&nbsp;consequences. Similarly, work and work roles have been effective&nbsp;concepts at explicating the broad patterns of professional information&nbsp;activity. Major issues of the existing approaches are the difficulty of&nbsp;conceptualising the contexts of tasks and the relatively high level of&nbsp;abstraction of a work level scrutiny. The purpose of this paper is to&nbsp;discuss how the concepts of &lsquo;work&rsquo;, &lsquo;work role&rsquo; and &lsquo;task&rsquo; might be&nbsp;integrated into a common research agenda. We suggest that the&nbsp;explication of work and work roles might serve in providing additional&nbsp;understanding on the formation of the purposes, meanings and values,&nbsp;which guide the shaping of the activities conceptualised as tasks.<br /><strong>Methodology/Approach: </strong>The issue is discussed in general with a&nbsp;reference to an empirical study of information work of archaeology&nbsp;professionals informed by the notion of work role.&nbsp;<br /><strong>Findings:</strong> It is suggested that the broader notions of work and work&nbsp;roles are useful concepts for explicating the context of more specific&nbsp;tasks.<br /><strong>Research limitations/implications: </strong>The suggested approach brings&nbsp;together task and work &ndash; work role-based research and provides a basis&nbsp;for exploring human information activity from a broader perspective than&nbsp;before and thus improving the general understanding of why and how&nbsp;information is used as it is used.<br /><strong>Practical implications: </strong>The study provides an approach to&nbsp;conceptualise the ways how people work with information and lays the&nbsp;ground for improving information management and organisation&nbsp;practices.<br /><strong>Originality: </strong>There has been little prior discussion about integrating&nbsp;the task and work-based approaches. We suggest that the explication of&nbsp;work and work roles might serve in providing additional understanding on&nbsp;the formation of the purposes, meanings and values, which guide the&nbsp;shaping of the activities conceptualised as tasks.<span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-weight: bold;"><br /></span></p>

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