Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

demand-control theory

October 2nd, 2004

I attended part of Robyn’s workshop on observation supervision, and can see immediately why so many people have told me to check out her work. There are definitely many overlaps. 🙂
Demands are, simply, those tasks required of the job itself. Controls are the decisions one takes/makes to manage the delivery of these tasks.
Controls sound a lot like regulation in the Vygotskian sense (see previous post). Robyn described them as “decisions, actions, and attitudes – even recognizing a demand is a control” (not necessarily an exact quote, smile). There seems to be an implication that these controls are conscious? Since I don’t know the whole theory, I may be speculating way “out of turn” (surprise!), but it seems like putting the two approaches into dialogue with each other might be really productive. For instance, does demand-control theory itself recognize that some controls are unconscious (meaning habitual or reactive)?


I definitely appreciate the breakdown of job components to EIPI: the Environmental, Interpersonal, Paralinguistic, and Intrapersonal. (The intrapersonal part would be where the conscious/unconscious dynamic comes into play.) This breakdown is somewhat reminiscent of Hymes (by the way, I *loved* the way Jeff mentioned Hymes in the “Still Working Together” workshop without using the dreaded (audist) acronym!)
The “environment” corresponds to the setting, scene, participants, ends; the “interpersonal” corresponds (or encompasses) the participants, acts, instruments, norms, and key (or tone); the paralinguistic could include the acts, key, instrument (mode), norms, and genre; and the intrapersonal would be the ends, acts, and key. (Roughly, anyway, with overlaps!)
What demand-control theory accomplishes is to shift focus onto the job itself and the accomplishment of the job. I think this is a cognitive model or framework that an interpreter can use to understand the necessity of separating one’s self-identity from the performance of the work, and then process mediation and peer mentoring practices provide the concrete skill development to actually enact this distinction in our practical education and discourses about the work. I guess what I’m saying is that I didn’t hear any reference in the part of the demand-control theory presentation that I witnessed as to what it is we’re supposed to shifting our focus from. There’s an implication that we’re not doing something “right,” i.e., that we’re doing something “wrong”. Basically, I agree. 🙂 But it’s a weakness, I think, if we’re not able to articulate the factors and features of what isn’t working, is debilitating, or even counterproductive. This is where I see a natural complement between the discourses of process mediation, peer mentoring, and demand-control theory. In other words, demand-control theory articulates why and process mediation and peer mentoring articulate how.
Any comments? 🙂

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