Activités (2013-04-01)

Au-delà de l’intelligibilité mutuelle : l’activité collective comme transaction. Un apport du pragmatisme illustré par trois cas

  • Alexandra Bidet,
  • Manuel Boutet,
  • Frédérique Chave

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 1


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Interactions are at the core of major sociological approaches to work. Some lines of research have accounted for cooperative interactions which include incommensurate perspectives. But in this paper we argue that the notion of interaction needs to be extended to the notion of transaction, deeply rooted in the American pragmatist tradition. The shift from interaction to transaction allows for the study of a wide range of situations lacking mutual intelligibility. The main feature is the coexistence of cooperation and entirely asymmetric perspectives, not just for a transitory moment in the process of exchanging perspectives, but as a stabilized configuration. Such contexts mean coming to terms with long unnoticed but increasingly topical components of work environments. To understand these singular forms of coordination with minimal interactions, we need to take account of the role of digital artifacts, third-party participants, and personal rhythms. This paper draws on three studies conducted in different organizational settings: a telephone traffic control center, a pediatric emergency room, and on-line gaming in the workplace. Where collective activity does not mean mutual intelligibility, the analysis turns to the various forms of life developed in the process of work, the intermittent encounters between commitments that are unaware of one another, and the workers confronted with their multiple spaces of activity