Work and work roles: a context of tasks

Isto Huvila (Information Studies, Åbo Akademi University, Åbo, Finland)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 17 October 2008

Abstract

Purpose

Both task‐based and work‐oriented research approaches have proved their value in information science research. A task is a workable analytical unit of human activity, which brings the level of explication close enough to cater for individual actions and their consequences. Similarly, work and work roles have been effective concepts at explicating the broad patterns of professional information activity. Major issues of the existing approaches are the difficulty of conceptualising the contexts of tasks and the relatively high level of abstraction of a work level scrutiny. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how the concepts of “work”, “work role” and “task” might be integrated into a common research agenda. It is suggested that the explication of work and work roles might serve in providing additional understanding on the formation of the purposes, meanings and values, which guide the shaping of the activities conceptualised as tasks.

Design/methodology/approach

The issue is discussed in general with a reference to an empirical study of information work of archaeology professionals informed by the notion of work role.

Findings

It is suggested that the broader notions of work and work roles are useful concepts for explicating the context of more specific tasks.

Research limitations/implications

The suggested approach brings together task and work–work role‐based research and provides a basis for exploring human information activity from a broader perspective than before and thus improving the general understanding of why and how information is used as it is used.

Practical implications

The study provides an approach to conceptualise the ways how people work with information and lays the ground for improving information management and organisation practices.

Originality/value

There has been little prior discussion about integrating the task and work‐based approaches. The paper suggests that the explication of work and work roles might serve in providing additional understanding on the formation of the purposes, meanings and values, which guide the shaping of the activities conceptualised as tasks.

Keywords

Citation

Huvila, I. (2008), "Work and work roles: a context of tasks", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 64 No. 6, pp. 797-815. https://doi.org/10.1108/00220410810912406

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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