Checkouts revisited: Taking an ethnographic approach to investigating workplace literacy
Currently government policy and media debate in Australia and overseas is premised in the view that 'literacy' is a set of decontextualised, generic skills which can be codified, measured and audited. Further, that it is the obligation of each individual to become literate and in so doing contribute to the economic performance of industrialised nations (OECD, 1995). But what does 'being literate' mean in terms of the workplace? This paper focuses on the importance of ethnographic research in providing evidence of how people use a range of literate practices to engage in meaningful social action in the workplace. Drawing on data from two ethnographic studies related to checkouts, a detailed account of ethnographic techniques and analysis will be provided to show how complex the concept of 'literacy' is, as it refers to a range of highly contextualised social practices in which people engage. As these practices vary according to events or aspects of people's working lives, so do the 'literacies' they require.
RWL4 2005 Researching Work & Learning CD