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Abstract

In this paper, I explore what we might mean by the phrase “crossing work practice boundaries by means of electronic communication”. The focus is on the work practice boundaries, and the transformational effects of electronic communication on such boundaries. I begin by defining work practices with respect to the social world or activity system communities for whom such practices make sense. Taking up Strauss’ suggestion that peripheries arouse more appropriate imagery for the variation and fluidity of social world boundaries, I propose a metaphor of boundary in terms of centres and peripheries, where peripheries can be characterized in a number of ways including: the degrees of commitment, the limits of communication and the levels of participation. Vignettes from three case studies illustrate some of the transformational effects of electronic communication on the relationships between a centre and its peripheries, on the external relationships among centres and their peripheries, and on the relationship of work practice boundaries to other boundary forms. In designing support for social worlds, a centre-periphery perspective could allow for more explicit account of the fluidity of work practice boundaries and the ways in which these might be affected by electronic communication.

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