The Dynamics of Control and Mobile Computing in Distributed Activities

Gamel O. Wiredu*, Carsten Sørensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Mobile technologies are increasingly finding a place in a multitude of organisational settings. As they are intimately associated with the individuals carrying them, they can potentially play a significant role in the remote control of activities. The aim of this paper is to analyse how the balance of control between local and remote authorities shapes the use of mobile technology in a distributed activity. Based on 1-year action research study of work-integrated learning within a British National Health Service (NHS) project, we discuss the use of mobile technology as a function of control and human mobility. The aim of the project was to pilot the establishment of a new NHS profession, the Perioperative Specialist Practitioner (PSP). The article explores how the contradicting goals of the London-based project management team and of the everyday activities of the surgical teams across Great Britain hosting the PSP trainees critically shaped the unsuccessful use of mobile technology in the project. Based on a theoretical analysis using Activity Theory we outline four analytical categories of local-remote control configurations; (1) territorial dispute; (2) strong local control; (3) strong remote control; and (4) shared harmonious control. We apply these in a discussion of how the use of mobile technology is shaped by contradicting or harmonious motives between object and advanced activities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Information Systems
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)307-319
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Activity theory
  • Control of remote activity
  • Mobile technology use
  • Remote work-integrated learning

Cite this