Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems


Understanding what really happens in workplaces has become a central issue for the emerging cooperative methods of designing information systems. It is not enough to rely on the descriptive observations (Jordan, 1993) or on normative accounts of work (Button & Harper 1996). It is necessary to find out how the work gets done and what the work practices are in the lived, everyday life of the workplace.

For that purpose, drawing from the field of activity theory and developmental work research, the author describes how the work of journalists was studied in a Finnish national daily newspaper, after the implementation of a new pagination system. The tools developed for analyzing and reflecting on work include a systemic analysis of the disturbances in the work practice.

The analysis of disturbances suggests that only a part of the work of the newsroom complies with the notion of traditional journalism: an individual reporter writing news stories. The article looks at journalism as a part of an activity system, as a collaborative work process and a contested field of negotiations between different actors, owners, managers, journalists, systems and production departments, printing plants as well as advertisers and readers.

Disturbances indicate the existence of contradictions, persistent tensions in the activity. Tensions appear in connection with deciding what the content of the newspaper should consist of, how the work of the newsroom should be organized and the flow of the production process controlled.