Losing Touch: An embodiment perspective on coordination in robotic surgery

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Because new technologies allow new performances, mediations, representations, and information flows, they are often associated with changes in how coordination is achieved. Current coordination research emphasizes its situated and emergent nature, but seldom accounts for the role of embodied action. Building on a 25-month field study of the da Vinci robot, an endoscopic system for minimally invasive surgery, we bring to the fore the role of the body in how coordination was reconfigured in response to a change in technological mediation. Using the robot, surgeons experienced both an augmentation and a reduction of what they can do with their bodies in terms of haptic, visual, and auditory perception and manipulative dexterity. These bodily augmentations and reductions affected joint task performance and led to coordinative adaptations (e.g., spatial relocating, redistributing tasks, accommodating novel perceptual dependencies, and mounting novel responses) that, over time, resulted in reconfiguration of roles, including expanded occupational knowledge, emergence of new specializations, and shifts in status and boundaries. By emphasizing the importance of the body in coordination, this paper suggests that an embodiment perspective is important for explaining how and why coordination evolves following the introduction of a new technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1248-1271
Number of pages24
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number5
Early online date8 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Coordination
  • Embodiment
  • Expertise
  • Materiality
  • Robots
  • Role reconfiguration
  • Surgery
  • Technological mediation
  • Technology


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