Johnson-Eilola explores – among many things – the ways that computers participate/enable aspects of our lives: “our patterns of working, living, and communicating and our relationships to each other in those areas” which “are dynamic processes of ongoing construction and reconstruction”
His theory is a constitution of two other theories:
- Articulation theory – one that describes the way objects, words, etc. do not have stable, essential meanings and the way that objects, words, etc. have meaning via repetitious constructions
- Symbol-analytic economics – one the describes a class of worker/work whose job is to manipulate data within a dataspace
Spaces in the Datacloud
Interfaces: here, Johnson-Eilola traces the ways that interfaces have evolved and within that evolution, the ways that interfaces make different kinds of work possible. Namely, he traces the earliest iteration of interfaces – circuits without a command line – as a kind of interface that required an apprenticed education. Later through the command line, interfaces could be understood through the use of manuals. More contemporary interfaces communicate their instructions for use outside of the contexts of use, i.e. within an apprenticeship. In other words, information about the computer becomes integrated in the computer. These contemporary interfaces are information-dense surfaces and social spaces that allow symbol-analytic work.
Workspaces: Johnson-Eilola traces a number of workspaces on screen and off screen to tease out the manifold forms of symbol-analytic work in the contemporary economy. Like the interface itself, these spaces are part of the datacloud, because as Johnson-Eilola suggests, they are overflows of the interface.
Some examples of workspaces include an office with bulletin board, desk, etc. A usability lab with a large monitor and a wired workstation, and a desktop computer situated in a computer lab. Across these examples there is a person doing symbol-analytic work: experimentation, collaboration, abstraction, systems thinking, and transformation of data.