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Work and life in the clear‐cut: communities of practice in the northern Ontario tree planting industry

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Abstract:

Based on ethnography, interviews with tree planters and a survey of tree planting contractors, this article focuses on work cultures in northern Ontario tree planting camps. The compressed planting season and the relatively high yearly turnover in the workforce requires that new workers quickly learn how to plant efficiently. These features result in the development of distinctive work cultures and practices that facilitate learning and the sharing of tacit knowledge between planters. Using the concept of communities of practice, we emphasize the social practices that facilitate the integration of planters into their working communities. At one level, tree planters belong to an extensive network of practice and have a shared sense of identity, irrespective of for which contractor, in which region or in which camp, they work. However, at a finer level there are noticeable variations between camps. Both the client for whom planting is done and the operational practices of the tree planting contractor shape the communities of practice in individual camps. However, the most important factor accounting for differences between camps is the process by which communities of practice are socially produced, reproduced and transformed over time and the role, played in this process by worker turnover and retention.

Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1541-0064.2008.00209.x

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Publication date: June 1, 2008

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