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Tools integration, media competition and media stickiness

Another thing that keeps me thinking recently.

There is a lot of discussions in the blogosphere about merging between weblogs and other systems (e-mails, IM, wikis, etc.) [e.g. Weblogging is merging with…?, The future of the weblog as a communication tool (1) and (2)]

I would like to look a bit broader and ask why people need less (or even one) systems to do what they want to do? It’s clearly about time and convenience, but I’d like to see scientific explanations and studies.

This question is related to several things I do:

1. The need for integration and it’s assumed value is one of the drives for my studies of KM/learning connections. Next to organisational issues I’d like to see one entry point personal learning/ searching/ sharing space.

2. I constantly bump into the idea of communities competing for their members attention. The number of communities/groups/environments for someone to belong is limited. [I remember reading related discussion in blogs or at Knowledge Board, but I can’t find it]. It’s becomes visible in the blogosphere (e.g. Ton’s post – “since I’ve been writing my own blog, for a little over half a year now, I’ve seen my contributions to KnowledgeBoard plummet to, well to nothing really”), it also appears in some of interviews we do studying knowledge sharing, and it is consistent with my personal experience. Making choices between different communities is more complex than deciding which tools to use, but still there is a question of choices between multiple platforms.

So, I’m looking for explanations of why and how people choose tools to communicate. So far I found two relevant concepts, both without much details.

1. Media competition

In his I-KNOW keynote Gerhard Fischer used this term to address the choice that people made using the easiest media to communicate instead of the one intended by designer. I googled the web-site, but came across only one reference that explains it: Talking to strangers: an evaluation of the factors affecting electronic collaboration by Steve Whittaker. This paper describes a study of factors influencing use of Lotus Notes and gives examples of talking face-to-face or mailing instead of posting to the database (looks so familiar 🙂

2. Media stickiness

Don’t mix it with Gladwell’s stickiness, in this case it is used in a negative sense. New Methods for Studying Global Virtual Teams: Towards a Multi-Faceted Approach (Steinfield et al., 2001) describes the study of communication between virtual teams and provides one interesting observation: teams stick to using not ideal tools once they started to use them.

…each team tended to continue using the media they initially had chosen to use in a consistent fashion over time…

…groups engaged in seemingly irrational behaviour, sometimes failing to take advantage of more efficient communications tools…

…We observed that teams learn to use a tools and subsequently mutually adapt the tool and the tasks so that they do not need to diverge much from their past experiences.

I don’t know yet how to formulate my follow-up thoughts, so that’s it so far. Other references are welcome.

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2003/07/17.html#a677; comments are here.

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