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Situating graphs as workplace knowledge

By Richard Noss, Arthur Bakker, Celia Hoyles and Phillip Kent


We investigate the use and knowledge of graphs in the context of a large industrial factory. We are particularly interested in the question of "transparency", a question that has been extensively considered in the general literature on tool use, and more recently, by Michael Roth and his colleagues in the context of scientific work. Roth uses the notion of transparency to characterise instances of graph use by highly educated scientists in cases where the context was familiar: the scientists were able to read the situation "through" the graph. This paper explores the limits of the validity of the transparency metaphor. We present two vignettes of actual graph use by a factory worker, and contrast his actions and knowledge with that of a highly-qualified process engineer working on the same production line. We note that in neither case were the graphs transparent. We argue that a fuller account that describes a spectrum of transparency is needed, and we seek to achieve this by adopting some elements of a semiotic approach that enhance a strictly activity-theoretical view

Year: 2007
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