The information system of mobile knowledge workers : an activity theory perspective of information sources and interaction

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Mobile technology has the potential to connect the mobile knowledge worker (MKW) to information sources which will support their decision making. Many researchers in the fields of innovation adoption and human computer interaction advocate that the development of support technology (such as mobile technology) should be initiated with an understanding of the end user that is based on current work practices, in order to support acceptance and adoption. The object of this research is to describe the existing information system used by mobile knowledge workers (MKWs). The assessment of the existing information system of MKWs under examination in this research goes beyond the identification of data and the technical means of data supply. A holistic view of the information system is applied to take into consideration both the existing sources of information which assist in decision making and the interaction and/or access made by the user (MKW) with such systems. An interpretive philosophical approach was taken via an empirical study of mobile workers in three different contexts. The empirical research resulted in the development of three case studies: Doctors working on ward rounds, Reporters working in the field and construction site workers operating on building sites. The case studies were executed in two rounds, the first round being focussed on the Doctors and Reporters, and the second being a main case study which examined the work practices of construction site workers. Consideration of these MKWs was developed using semi-structured interviews and interpreted through the lens of Activity Theory. The resulting framework adapted from Activity Theory identifies technical, social and environmental factors which influence the way mobile knowledge workers interact with information sources. Of particular note is the identification of a previously overlooked information source which sits outside the organisation: that of the Contributor. Another significant finding is the preference for information provided by Collaborators over information supplied by information tools. The information provided by Collaborators was preferred as it was subject to the application of Collaborators’ knowledge to the situational context.
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