Narratives at work: Story telling as cooperative diagnostic activity

  • Orr J
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The diagnostic process for copiers involves narration of the process, including a description of the state of the machine. This follows from the fact that copiers are elaborate assemblages of relatively simple mechanisms, and the problem in diagnosis is not so much the testing of components as keeping track of the tests and making sense of their results. The anecdotal re telling of this narrative to one's associates constitutes the mechanism for incorporating the diagnostic experience into the community expertise. These anecdotes are remembered and used or referred to during the diagnosis of other difficult problems or when seeking help. Individual expertise is in part the ability to interpret the anecdotes, to abstract the information about the machine from the context of the story. The participation of the community in remembering and using these anecdotes gives the community the flexibility to adapt to the unforeseen problems which are necessarily part of the service function.

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  • J.E. Orr

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