Boundary Objects and an Interesting Talk

So another interesting talk at Friday’s ICOS meeting by Eugenia Cacciatori. She has been conducting a lengthy study of an English engineering firm that is adapting to a changing market. In the past the bidding process focused just on the design and construction of a building, now they are being asked to submit proposals that take into account the WLC, or whole-life cost of a building. This change is causing all sorts of confusion and conflict over who controls what information. In order to provide an accurate cost for a project several different departments must combine their data into a final whole. The cost consultants, the designers, and the facilities managers all have to contribute, but not every group wants to contribute equally. In Cacciatori’s particular case the cost consultants try to unify everything into an Excel spreadsheet but are stymied by the resistance of the facilities managers to contribute real-time data about their cost projections. The end result is a knowledge integration failure.

The most interesting part of the talk was a link to some work I’d been unaware of up until now on ‘boundary objects’, the artifacts that communicate between groups. Pixelcharmer on boundary objects gives the citation for the original Star and Griesemer paper that started it all. Now I just need to track it down in the library system.

As an aside the new interface to SearchTools at Michigan is annoying. What if I don’t know what bundle of databases to perform my search in?