The rhythms of interaction with mobile technologies : tales from the police
This dissertation is concerned with understanding the dynamics surrounding the usage of Mobile Information and Communication Technologies (MICT) within the context of the police force in the United Kingdom. The opportunities arising from MICT and their rapid uptake have led to a great number of texts studying their impact and effectiveness. However, these studies have a superficial understanding of the context of use of MICT, are mainly concerned with improving the efficiency of one particular police task, and consider little usage of MICT as a technological, organizational or individual failure. Given the pervasive nature of MICT and the strong link that these create between institutions and geographically dispersed individuals, this dissertation argues that there is a need to investigate the process of MICT use as interconnected to the situations of its use. This further requires an appreciation of context not only at the situated level but also at the institutional level. The dissertation argues that such appreciation is afforded by a phenomenological understanding of police work and of MICT use that centers upon the concept of intentionality. The dissertation examines how MICT usage evolves through a number of situations as faced by various police units. The Framework of Virtuality is constructed to delineate the concept of context and is later applied to a qualitative ethnographic case study presented through narratives. The findings illuminate the dynamics of MICT use and illustrate that MICT use is neither linear, nor dependent on the functional capabilities of the technology. Rather, MICT use is discontinuous. MICT need to disappear from the context of work to permit for the intentionality of police action to surface in situated activities. This leads the dissertation to infer that the intentionality of policing is at odds with the projected activities suggested by MICT - and with the rhetoric surrounding its use and implementation. The thesis is that the current orientation and understanding of MICT influence the intentionality of policing in the UK directing towards a more mechanistic relation with the public. The dissertation makes a theoretical contribution by proposing the Framework of Virtuality for understanding and studying MICT in work contexts. It furthers offers methodological insights for studying MICT through observational ethnographic techniques and narrative. Finally, it provides practical implications regarding the deployment of MICT in police forces.