Anticipatory Work: How the Need to Represent Knowledge Across Boundaries Shapes Work Practices Within Them

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Representations, such as graphs and images, have been shown to help facilitate communication and coordination across knowledge boundaries. Many studies examine representations’ effects during and after interaction, characterizing them as tools that help communicate local understandings with individuals who have differing knowledge. This study explores whether the anticipation of building representations to communicate across knowledge boundaries significantly shapes a community’s work. To explore this question, the study develops a theoretical framework that extends the concept of performativity and then presents ethnographic data from four weather research teams collaborating with different organizations to develop tailored forecasting technologies. Analysis reveals that researchers’ need to represent weather model outputs to their partners shaped the practices they used to produce those models. By uncovering the presence and influence of “anticipatory work,” the findings paint representations not as passive communicators of established knowledge but as catalysts that shape the form of routine work.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1612-1628
Number of pages17
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015


  • Anticipatory work
  • Data representation
  • Knowledge boundaries
  • Organizational communication
  • Performativity
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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