New paper on professional responsibility in partnership

Hopwood, N. (2014). A sociomaterial account of partnership, signatures and accountability in practice. Professions & Professionalism, 4(2). doi: 10.7577/pp.604

This paper is open access, so it can be downloaded free from Professions and Professionalism.



Professional work is often heralded as undergoing radical transformation. This paper focuses on partnership between health professionals and families as a specific instance of changes aimed at delivering shared responsibility and joint knowledge work. An ethnographic study of a residential child and family health services provides the empirical basis for a detailed examination of what is signed, by whom, and with what effects. I show how signing and signatures provide fertile starting points for sociomaterial analysis, a rich empirical reference point for what Nicolini calls “zooming in” on particular instances, and “zooming out” to understand their connections to other practices. Schatzki’s practice theory is used as a theoret- ical basis, drawing also on Kemmis’ notions of practice architectures and ecologies of practices to elaborate such connections. I trace how acts of signing and signa- tures as artefacts are produced through and reflect partnership, indeed pointing to significant changes in professional work. However I also show that wider ecologies of practices present architectures that challenge diffuse accountability and shared epistemic work.


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