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Cultural Practices

Stephen Billett, Ray Smith and Michelle Barker (2005) paper on Interdependencies at work: Constituting reflection, performance, dialogue and reward discusses progress in a two-year study of the work, working lives and learning of twelve workers. They comprise four groups of three workers in emergency service, gymnasium, restaurant and IT help desk work settings. The concept of relational interdependence between individual and social agency is used to understand how their participation, learning and remaking of cultural practices that comprises their work progresses.

Stephen Billett and Margaret Somerville examine in (2004) Transformations at work: Identity and learning how identity and learning are constituted and transformed at work. Its central concern is how individuals engage agentically in and learn through workplace practices, and in ways that transform work. There is relational interdependency between the individual and work that can act to sustain or transform both self and their work. Individuals’ agentic action is exercised within these relations in ways directed by their subjectivities. So these relations and that agentic action has policy and practice implications for the conduct of work and learning through and for work. At any particular time, 'each generation is involved in this transformative process of enacting change. Often changes are required because the existing practices are inadequate. It is individuals’ engagement with and transformation of the existing practices that constitutes change. Therefore, individuals are often at the vanguard of change. Therefore, rather than conceptualising individuals as being mere implementers of change processes, individuals should be invited to contribute to those transformations. That is, to exercise existing and emerging ideas in the context in which they think and act in practice. It is only through the uptake of a commitment to change by individuals that it can be sustained. It follows then that individuals are active participants in remaking culture (eg work practices, technical innovations and values associated with work), albeit in a relational and relative sense' (p. 324).

Billett, S & Somerville, M (2004) Transformations at work: Identity and learning, Studies in Continuing Education 26 (2) 309-326.

Contu, A and Willmott, H: Studying Practice: Situating Talking About Machines; Organization Studies, 27 1769-1782 (2006). Julian Orr's Talking About Machines (TAM) is celebrated for communicating something of the richness and complexity of work practices. Authors' endeavour is to connect the current wave of interest in practice with Orr's focal attentiveness to the practices of photocopier-repair technicians. More specifically, they revisit how, in TAM, a careful examination of work practice is commended by Orr as a way of 'deepen[ing] our under-standings' for example, about 'the relations of employment and the role of work in the constitution of workers' identity'.

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