Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Matthew A. Koschmann

Second Advisor

Timothy R. Kuhn

Third Advisor

Bryan C. Taylor

Fourth Advisor

Karen L. Ashcraft

Fifth Advisor

Paul M. Leonardi


Over the past thirty years, science research in the U.S. has faced increasing demand for collaboration across disciplinary and organizational divides, with varying success. This dissertation study traces a federal research laboratory facility through organizational changes implemented toward achieving greater cross-disciplinary collaborative capacity. The particular interest driving this study is to discern and trace the role of disciplinary expert knowledge as a potential resource and/or obstacle for situated, collaborative problem-solving. To examine the mitigating role of expert knowledge toward the achievement of problem-centered collaborative knowing, I study laboratory and building management meetings involving a committee of scientists and building workers representing a number of research units and building systems workers. Through participant-observation during these collaborative management meetings, and by asking follow-up questions during interviews with those involved, I document the collaborative communication and resulting texts produced by the committee as they raise, discuss and resolve the building and laboratory issues experienced during these organizational changes. Key findings center on the way that collaborative talk became encoded into organizing texts that provided a common vision of the organization and collaborative work, by linking together and configuring organized meanings, narratives, practices, material (spatial and object) understandings and, in the process, specifying worker relationships. Together, these configurations resulted in a new type of expert knowledge: a textual compilation of building knowledge that replaced prior “silo-ed” laboratory-specific expert knowledge/practice combinations.