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Secondly, the discourse about IT and social work is accompanied by the discourse and the practice of management and business ideas.


In this respect, the concepts of efficiency and effectiveness on the one hand and of information technology on the other hand are intertwined. We want to trace this basic alliance by focussing the process of informatisation in the field of professional social services. Social Work as a profession is more and more affected by the difference of front-line case-work on the one hand and an increasingly dominant management perspective on the other hand. Although Eliot Freidson describes professionalism as the third logic beside consumerism and bureaucracy, there have been negotiations in several respects in the professionalisation process of social work.

Particularly with regard to our research question, the dimensions of knowledge and decision-making are in the center of interest. These dimensions are theoretically elaborated by the approach of reflexive professionalism exemplarily Dewe and Otto ; especially in this context Kessl and Otto The easiest way to define reflexive professionalism is by highlighting what it is not meant by this concept.

If social work would only be a methodical routine which amounts to nothing more than a standardised assessment and intervention model we would call this kind of intervention - at the most - a semi-professional treatment. It would not be sufficient either to have an accumulation of specialised knowledge embodied in the role of an expert.

In our view, there is a difference between a professional and an expert.

Basing interventions solely on expert knowledge would in fact lead to a one-dimensional professionalisation and just one side of the coin. We can summarise the claim for reflexive professionalism: In addition to expert knowledge and methodical tools, social norms, social conflicts and social problems have to be kept in mind in every moment, because they are in a more general way mirrored in the concrete single case.

The logic of subsumption deduction refers to a mode of knowledge one typically finds in classification systems. However, professional social work cannot be reduced to diagnostic classification. It always includes components which cannot be standardised, like a hermeneutical and interpretative understanding of cases and their circumstances, as can typically be found in the logic of reconstruction induction.

The relationship between social work practice and its expanding body of knowledge is a long-standing issue and is often discussed in terms of the problems of decision-making. This especially applies if a professional task is cp. Otto and Schnurr :.

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Related to values i. Furthermore, there is a drift to situations where different values and maxims, which are often conflicting and antagonistic, have to be given equal attention and to be balanced against each other. Because of these characteristics, the professional task cannot be clearly defined through prescriptive routines or codes of practice. Hence, we are interested in how professional discretion as a link between organisational governance and the interaction-orientated professional work is shaped by case management systems.

In short: Is there a changing nature of case perception and social work intervention? Obviously, IT can be very helpful for the application of classification systems. But what about IT and the reconstructive logic? Space for discretion can be created either reflexively or arbitrarily for a basic discussion c. Lipsky Rather, by creating rules organisations create discretion. At this point it is necessary to take a closer look at the concept of rules.

In short: We are focusing on rules and their inherent formalisation. The coherence of discretion and formalisation can be displayed as follows:. If we adapt this heuristic framework for analysing software in social work, a deterministic view on software can be handled. Formalisation of social work through software is not in itself a bad thing.

To get an answer to the sophisticated question of how IT-applications exert influence on social work, it is necessary to have a look at the systems themselves and their formal structure. In a next step, their embedding or non-embedding in organisational and societal contexts has to be analysed.

Lindenberger eigensinn v1 en 2015

After that, the process of file management is decisive. Transformation of pedagogical actions into technical artefacts requires the reduction of complex realities to abstract categories. Semiotisation means the attribution of signs — such as language — to things or actions. It is the prerequisite for the understanding of contexts and communicating and acting in social environments.

One could contend that it is in fact the basis of every culture. Formalisation means the transformation of action into operation. Actions are characterised by uniqueness and dependent on context and situation. Operations describe routine actions which have been repeated many times. Transformation of action into operation has to be described and defined by an observer. From the outset, only causal formal references can appear as being essential.

In order to implement these formalised models into software, at last algorithmisation takes part: the transformation from operation to algorithm, i. Algorithmisation is the last step in the process of reduction of and abstraction from reality. Due to the implementation of case management systems, the observer fixes the described operations in computer systems. In the words of Suzanne Regan, these steps of transformation can be described as a process from narrative to code Regan This transformation implies important consequences: The process of mapping actions into software leads to the splitting, standardisation and de-personalisation of social processes.

Again, in the words of Bruno Latour: Social actions are inscribed into technical artefacts Latour Jobs formalised in this sense then become countable and accountable Burton and van den Broek , especially from the perspective of organisations. The act of formalisation is indeed a process of objectivation and subsumtion.

Each standard and each category valorises some point of view and silences another. This is not inherently a bad thing — indeed it is inescapable. But it is an ethical choice, and as such it is dangerous, not bad, but dangerous.

Culture and Culturality

Focussing on the topic of formalisation, several authors point out its coexistence and even coproduction with a new managerialism. Otto and Schnurr ; Messmer Technologies of care typically entail processes whereby local skills are expropriated into abstract systems and re-organised in light of technical methods and knowledge. As top-down instruments they impose on social work the character of a function, with practitioners as low-level administrators dealing largely with assessment. This shift from a narrative to a database way of thinking and operating Parton represents the case in a specific way. The client is reduced to standardised risk factors, which in turn enforces strategies of profiling which conflict with a holistic view onto to the client.

However, all of these positions are running the risk of ending in conceptualising technological change as technical determinism or even as seing it as prefiguring the stadium of a technocracy as Helmut Schelsky already wrote in In addition, and somehow in contrast to this discourse on technologies of care, which also means inherently arguing against an emerging rise of neo-liberalism in social work, there are a few ethnographic papers focussing on the basic gap between the organisational claim of standardisation and formalisation on the one hand and the practice of daily, bulky front line social work on the other hand cp.

Instead of producing order, efficiency and uniformity, technology driven customer services sites were observed embedding their opposites. While Regan focuses on the vulnerable implementation process, Peckover, White and Hall show the contradictory requirements directed at social work practice from the organisation. However, both field studies emphasise the usage or non-usage of IT without a clear conceptualisation of IT itself.

Thus, they run the risk of ending in a position of social determinism.

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Whilst positions of technical determinism can be characterised by their stance that social work is more affected by IT rather than by professional methods and habitus, positions of social determinism argue that IT misconceives the complexity of social work, has no positive effect on frontline work and therefore is only used as a symbolic innovation.

To our knowledge, there is still a research desideratum in terms of how the knowledge base of professionals and the perception of the clients are shaped by these technical surroundings. How is the case constituted in computerised work sites?


How are processes of knowledge acquisition and decision-making accompanied or ignored? Furthermore, in the process of translating standards into action, these scripts are necessarily changed and partially reappropriated Timmermann and Berg The question how technical systems - like case-management-software — are induced to act takes center stage of such research.

Technology here acts as a catalyst, ensuring or rather un settling the continuity of social rules Latour In this respect, technical determinism and social determinism are resolved by the analysis of the processes of mediation between human and non-human actors. But if we are taking this amalgamation of professionals and technoscientific scripts seriously, what does that mean for the positioning of reflexive social work?

Professional action is imaginable neither without nor within technology. In the core — a database-driven file- and information-system — these applications are similar, but they prioritize different purposes. Orlikowski , Schulz-Schaeffer Degele Strukturen reduziert. Was als wesentlich gilt, ist also auf dieser fundamentalen Ebene nicht etwa ein Ergebnis des Modellierungs- und Formalisierungsaktes, sondern eine Entscheidung, die ihm bereits zugrunde liegt. Informatiker sprechen vielleicht eher von Kontextfreiheit. Sinn ist in ihnen ersetzt durch Funktion.

This implies to confine software — at most - to the sphere of mediation.

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  • This could enhance professional autonomy through the insights gained by its use, by means of abstraction from characteristics of the single case. However, arrangements have to be made which avoid the danger of a technocratic application in terms of programming decisions and degrading professional autonomy.

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    It rather is the attempt to manage the profession which seems to be problematic. This is not to be understood as an argument for acting arbitrarily and the other way round again nonprofessional. According Bruno Latour, this boils down to the confrontation of materialism and sociologism. Adler, P. Akrich, M. Frankfurt a. Beckmann, C. Online Belliger, A. Bielefeld: Transcript. Benders, J. Neuwied, Berlin: Luchterhand, pp.

    Bowker, G. Classifications and their consequences. Capurro, R. Coy, W.