Metawork is information work

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Fri, 11/06/2015 - 07:14

Last week, one of the big issues in the Finnish social media landscape was Jenny Lehtinen's piece on the gender inequalities of metawork (fi. metatyö). It tends to be women, in families the mom, who tends to be the one who does most of the coordination, checking of schedules and finding out details for everything that needs to be done. As an example, she writes on how it works to take children to swimming lessons (something a dad might do). The taking them there is only a part of the work. It takes much more time and effort to find out where and when swimming lessons are given, when you should apply to them, to actually submit the applications, checking that children have swimsuits and goggles, all things are packed before departing to the lessons, checking any changes in the schedule, notifying instructors when children cannot participate, checking and paying the fee adn so on.

All of this is metawork, something that has been discussed in the literature quite a long time (Magnusson & Minör 1993Gonzalez & Mark 2004Gerson 2008 and Katleena Kortesuo in Finland, to mention a few) but Lehtinen's take is refreshing in discussing metawork in a domestic non-work context and for pointing out the very real equality/inequality related issues embedded in metawork and its invisibility in contrast to 'real' doing of things. 

From the perspective of an information researcher, another interesting aspect of metawork is that much of the so called metawork is actually information work (on my work on information work, check articles on information work in museums and information work in general). Metawork is to a very large extent a question of seeking, finding, managing and sharing information that supports the work we are doing.

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