One of the persisting advances through information and communication technology is the ability to mediate interaction across distance. However, as argued by Olson and Olson (2000), distance matters, and situated human interaction cannot be replaced with mediated interaction without raising serious issues. Mobile Information and Communication Technologies (mICT) can be viewed as a means of reducing the effects of distance by allowing for the combination of situated interaction while maintaining connections to others. Mobile ICT have enabled new ways of working and of engaging with a variety of physical environments (Sørensen and Pica, 2003). The most dramatic conceptualization of this is probably the idea of anytime, anywhere interaction whereby there is friction-free access across boundaries to any person and any service at any time from wherever, through whatever medium may be desired (Kakihara and Sørensen, 2002). Katz and Aakhus (2002) define this as the paradigm of perpetual contact. To refer to this phenomenon Agre (2001) suggested the term ‘always-on’ world. The new workers, defined by the mobile technologies they use to produce and support encounters, are ones that seem independent of space and time (Kakihara and Sørensen, 2004). These tools enable a worker to contact and be contacted by customers, superiors and co-workers at any time and anywhere. In addition, mICT act as channels to access corporate information systems, and thus allow for the consultation and update of a number of databases relevant to the work. The logic of such a scenario is straightforward: the worker is now more independent, more efficient and better prepared to face customers’ demands. As a dominant ideology, the concept of perpetual contact, as epitomized by mobile devices and ubiquitous computing, is linked to the ideal functioning of mICT in organizations. Despite the perceived benefits, such a scenario of ubiquity has given rise to a number of perplexities. Privacy advocates envision the rise of an Orwellian society. Technofiles view developments as uniquely positive. Technophobes see the technology as a means of controlling the population. These views represent extremes difficult to reconcile, as they depart from radically different ontological and epistemological levels. In a less theoretical and politically charged manner, and relying on a practice-based lens,
this chapter investigates the idea of ubiquity and the paradigm of perpetual contact by investigating operational policing. A practice-based lens is concerned with the everyday use of technologies and generally subscribes to ethnographic methods. This lens is derived from the theory of structuration and sees technology and its users as co-constituting, in that technological use cannot be stabilized but is emergent in time, and the structures of technology emerge only through continuous and situated use (Orlikowski, 2000).