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Improvisational choreography in teleservice work


This naturalistic study of the ordinary work practice of Sales Representatives employed by the call centre of a large office-equipment company focuses on the actions of those Reps during their calls with customers. These actions are oriented produce what sounds to those customers like an efficient, hearably competent call. We show how this work performance is organised through an improvisational choreography of action involving not only the turn-by-turn interchange with customers on the telephone but also the concurrent utilization of a variety of tools and artefacts. While ‘improvise' and ‘choreograph' may appear to be conceptually incongruent, our analysis demonstrates that even though these teleservice workers recurrently fabricate their actions out of materials and means that are conveniently on hand, the convenience is often carefully arranged to afford such extemporaneous composition. Finally, we conclude from this analysis that the traditional topics of ‘work routines' and ‘routinisation' need to be respecified in order to take into account how any ‘routine' is a contingently produced result (and in this centre, a craft-like performance).


Whalen, J. ; Whalen, M. ; Henderson, K. Improvisational choreography in teleservice work. British Journal of Sociology. 2002 June; 53 (2): 239-258.