Saturday, September 30, 2006
Themes and insights from SHiFT
Back home. Some SHiFT impressions that will stay:
Very convincing optimism of Euan Semple regarding the power of bottom-up processes in business settings that eventually will change organisations as we know them. Although I feel like being on the same ship thinking about long-term effects, I can't avoid thinking of practicalities on the way there – this is something that came back over conversations with many others around SHiFT.
- Lack of compatibility with current cultural norms -->
- "old" culture that shapes participants, difficulties with risk- and responsibility-taking behaviours at personal level (see also: Mediated)
- management resistance (especially middle-management)
- Need to change organisational structures and processes. Euan said that "quiet revolution" will eventually happen when current bottom-up processes reach tipping point - wonder if we will deal with "revolution" or "evolution" scenarios.
- Technology upscaling problem - you may start experimenting with wikis and blogs at "do it yourself" server without a budget and formal support, but if the whole thing works it would have to "professionalise" to scale up (probably meaning relying on paid software, involving IT department, getting helpdesk, etc.). My experiences are that once you go beyond early adopters to majority you can't rely on "do it yourself" technology any more (happy to hear any specific arguments if you believe that I'm wrong :).
- Creating a space for "globally distributed near instant person to person communication" doesn't always means totally thought-free self-organisation. What seems to hide behind the success stories is the role and specific approaches of people who initiate and support the change (position and reputation in an organisation, insider knowledge of organisational culture that allows choosing ways that are likely to work, experience in facilitating change and self-organisation, specific tricks to make things work, etc...).
Discussions with Beverly Trayner and Stephanie Booth about helping unprepared participants to get involved with a community technology
- Attitudes: not being used to decentralised, participant-driven ways of communication - need for someone in the beginning to "start filling the page", not expecting everyone "jumping into it" immediately, but designing strategies of involvement
- Fear of making mistakes (especially strong in some cultures, e.g. in Portugal according to Beverly) as a barrier - making own mistakes to give an example (although the culture could be too strong that you as a facilitator may start fear to make mistakes yourself)
- Lack of technology skills - slow introduction, preferably with private sync support (ideally f2f, otherwise IM/Skype/phone)
Communicating concepts through comics by Kevin Cheng (slides and related reading) – thinking of all those little drawings in my presentations that people seem to like to much :)
Extended thinking on design:
Blogging SWOT by Monica Andre and Margarida Cardoso - will be back on that soon.
Talking with Suw on choices and ethics of handling digital information (following her talk about ORG).
The image of earthquake coming from David Galipeau.
Talking about balance with Martin.
Side observations - feeling of discrimination by the Mac majority (can't they just accept that there are people who pray other gods?), talks about consulting rates and too much sweet pastries I couldn't resist :)
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Going to SHiFT
Flying again tomorrow - this time to Portugal, to speak at SHiFT conference (on Blogging on the edge: between personal passions, work practices and business risks).
Looking forward to meet old friends and other interesting people, get some fresh ideas and find a bit of time for Portuguese sweets (that even Indian sweets can't beat as No.1 :)
And, since I couldn't manage to do both - no BlogTalk for me this time :(
Crossing boundaries: A case study of employee blogging
Just to let you know that finally some parts of the research on blogging at Microsoft are going to be published:
Efimova, L. & Grudin, J. (2007). Crossing boundaries: A case study of employee blogging. Proceedings of the Fortieth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-40). Los Alamitos: IEEE Press.
Abstract. Editors, email, and instant messaging were first widely used by students who later brought knowledge of their uses and effective practices into workplaces. Weblogs may make such a transition more quickly. We present a study of emergent blogging practices in a corporate setting. We attended meetings, read email, documents, and weblogs, and interviewed 38 people—bloggers, infrastructure administrators, attorneys, public relations specialists, and executives. We found an experimental, rapidly-evolving terrain marked by growing sophistication about balancing personal, team, and corporate incentives and issues.
The paper is going to appear in a company of other interesting papers at HICSS'07, but unfortunately I can't be there myself.
I promised not to make it public till beginning of November (will add a link then!), but if you can always email me for a copy. The feedback is appreciated very much - I'm thinking of a follow-up journal publication. |
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Observed, lived and written: random thoughts on meeting Lee and Sachi in Moscow
Last year in Seattle, when Lee and Sachi were planning their trip around the globe I said I wanted to show them Moscow. The chances to meet there were slim - they didn't have any definite plans and I'm in Moscow just a few weeks in a year...
I don't know how, but it actually worked - I was there when they arrived as part of their transsiberian journey, we could find each other and spent a nice day together. For me it's always very special to show foreigners around my own city, but this time was even more special.
I have been reading TWINF for months - it's started from checking how Lee and Sachi were doing once in a while, but slowly grew into some kind of light addiction, waiting to see the next story from their journey. It felt like some kind of reality show that I was following, but the one where the people were not completely strangers... Now it took another turn - we met and my position changed from an observer to a participant - I made part of their story... The most funny and strange thing is that what I know as the events of the day we spent together is not the story itself. I guess it will take a few more days till their impressions of Moscow get online and I have no idea what story they will tell. It's a very strange and special inticipation...
[and, in case you are wondering, I'm back to NL]
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
On acculturation and consciousness of it
Those who know me personally also know that 'integration' in a Dutch society could be a tough topic to touch: while accepting that there is a degree to what you have to conform to a local culture as a resident foreigner I always struggle to find where to draw the line for myself, how to conform to the local rules without loosing my own cultural identity. Like today.
Yesterday Dutch was nice - as nice as paved, clearly indicated bicycle roads and looking at old ladies cycling in a middle of heide (heather, which is almost at the end of its flowering season). Than I thought that may be it's not that bad after all if we end up living in the Netherlands - I could easily imagine myself as an old lady cycling through heide on a sunny Sunday afternoon...
Today Dutch was sad - as sad as a pregnant woman in a train lifting her suitcase to an upper shelf and no man around offering to help. I usually bring 'suitcase lifting' as an example of things that I don't like about Dutch society: I just don't get that sort of 'being an independent woman'. I have found my own workarounds (keeping my suitcases on the floor ;), but I'm horrified by an idea that my kids could grow with an understanding that the situation above is normal.
Which brings me to a couple of quotes from Watching the English, the book I enjoy reading in so many respects. It's on consciousness of an acculturation:
In fact, I would go so far as to say that Englishness is rather more a matter of choice for the ethnic minorities in this country than it is for the rest of us. For those of us without the benefit of early, first-hand influence of another culture, some aspects of Englishness can be so deeply ingrained that we find it almost impossible to shake them off, even when it is clearly in our interested to do so […]. Immigrants have the advantage of being able to pick and choose more freely, often adopting the more desirable English quirks and habits while carefully steering clear of the more ludicrous ones. [p.18]
Many of those who pontificate about 'acculturation' are inclined to underestimate this element of choice. Such processes are often described in terms suggesting that the 'dominant' culture is simply imposed on unwitting, passive minorities, rather than focusing on the extent to which individuals quite consciously, deliberately, cleverly and even mockingly pick and choose among the behaviors and customs of their host culture. I accept that some degree of acculturation or conformity to English ways is often 'demanded' or effectively 'enforced' (although this would surely be true of any host culture, unless one enters it as a conquering invader or passing tourist), and the rights and wrongs of specific demands can and should be debated. But my point is that compliance with such demands is still a conscious process, and not, as some accounts of acculturation imply, a form of brainwashing. [p.19]
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Chumbies join nabaztags :)
While Europe is conquered by nabaztags (like our own), North America seems to become mesmerised by chumbies. In case you don't know yet...
...chumby, a compact device that can act like a clock radio, but is way more flexible and fun. It uses the wireless internet connection you already have to fetch cool stuff from the web: music, the latest news, box scores, animations, celebrity gossip...whatever you choose. And a chumby can exchange photos and messages with your friends. Since it's always on, you’ll never miss anything.
First seen at danah boyd (who is "a serious alpha-geek hacker, a clever crafter or an accomplished Flash animator" as only those people can play with "precious few prototypes" :)
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
My work-related interests
I had to make a couple of slides describing my work interests in an informal way, so I thought of posting them here as well. Could be useful as an informal intro* and interesting in retrospect...
What I do best: asking questions and recognising patterns, initiating and facilitating change, workshop/learning facilitation, boundary spanning, translating from research to practice and back
Contexts: knowledge management, human resources development, technologies for collaboration, learning and knowledge sharing (including those under "social software" umbrella), technology adoption and change management
Things I value at work: flexibility in time and space, participatory leadership, space for diversity, time for good arguments before settling for a compromise
Topics I'd like to explore
- Personal (something) management – personal ways of managing things around work (information, relations, time, productivity, etc.) and ways of supporting it
- Managing things you can't control (e.g. knowledge work)
- Web 2.0 (emergent technologies - low-weight and bottom up) and Enterprise 2.0 (how those could change work and what is needed for that)
- Digital traces – making of what is already there, personal/social/business implications, privacy and ownership
- Ambient information and knowledge – supporting peripheral awareness
- Technology introduction/adoption across contexts
- Supporting work and life of people with no work/life balance
Activities I'd like to be involved
- Qualitative, exploratory studies
- Don't ask me to do experimental research – I'm bad at it (so I'll come up with enough explanations why it's bad for the project ;)
- User studies (e.g. prototype evaluation)
- Support for introduction/implementation
- Workshop/training/community facilitation face-to-face and online
- Integration between social, business and technology perspectives (e.g. while designing a solution)
- Business cases, "selling" research (results) to managers
- Project management
* Just a note - not looking for any big new thing (project or job ;) before my PhD is close to completion, but always up for a conversation and a bit of thinking/reading/writing...
Monday, September 04, 2006
My definitions of a weblog
Last Friday Stephanie emailed a simple question, asking for my own definition of what a weblog is. I was too busy then, finishing things before a weekend offline (end-of-the-season windy North Sea coast, if you are curious ;), so I had to leave it till now. Of course, the purity of the experiment has been already spoiled since I have read about the first results, but I'll give it a try.
So, what is my definition of a weblog? I couldn't answer it easily because "it depends" - I could identify at least three clarifying questions that would probably result in different definitions (as I write this I don't know yet ;).
What is my weblog for me?
On my About page I say that it's my learning diary and it's "a reverse-order posting of insights, commentaries, links and a few longer stories". It's definitely more than that:
- it's an edge between personal and social, between implicit and explicit, between themes, topics and people that otherwise would exist in parallel universes
- it's an incubator - where ideas and relationships grow
- it's my personal space online - pretty much like my home - where it's up to me to choose style and focus (or no style and focus); as with my home, I'm aware of others - they could peak through the windows or share a food and a conversation - so their (possible) presence definitely shapes what and how I write, but I still feel pretty much "owning" the place to cater for the guests only when I feel like doing it
- it's a place for serendipitious conversations with myself and others - not expected, planned or counted on, but ever present as an opportunity
How do I know that it's a weblog when I see one?
First I react to the format (something I would probably recognise even if it's written in Chineese) - dated entries, reverse-chronological order, often a calendar and a way to peak into the archives (= bits of micropieces unfolding in time). However, this is not enought: one can well use a weblog software to update news pages of a website.
Second reaction is to the content and style: it should have some kind of "personal touch" to qualify as a weblog. Most likely it's writing from a first position (I, not academic we), personal stories, opinions - something subjective that shows the personality behind the text (as the opposite "trying to stay objective" of academic or journalistic writing). To be percieved as a weblog it needs some degree of "this is how I see the world" perspective in it.
Third thing is more complicated - I'd call it "a possibility for an interaction". To be a weblog it has to be not private, not "intended for myself only" - those I would percieve as personal diaries or private communication that in a strange way ended up in public. It also has to avoid another extreme - being written for an audience in a way that expects interaction and doens't make any sense without it (those give me suspicious feeling of "something else pretending to be a weblog"). For me a weblog needs some degree of ambiguity ("not entirely for myself, not entirely for my readers") - something that gives an excuse to the author to actually write in public and to a reader to read it and an opportunity for both of them to interact without feeling an obligation to do so.
How do I define weblogs for my research?
This is totally different discussion, since my personal definitions above are a bit fuzzy to serve as a good criteria for deciding if something published online with a weblog software is actually a weblog. In my publications so far I usually refer to Jill's definition as a starting point and a self-definition ("if an author considers it a blog") in a process of data-collection. Since I'm into heavily qualitative sub-culture specific studies this works, but I definitely would be very cautious in using it with respects to "blogs in general".
I'm not happy with that: I'm pretty much sure that implicitly my research is shaped by my personal definition of what a weblog is, but I don't have (so far) a good way to articulate the criteria that would turn it into a some kind of "objective" researcher-independent definition.
And, Stephanie, a word of caution - "blogging" as an activity might be defined quite different from "writing a weblog" (for me it would be something like "doing things around my weblog" that would involve, for example, talking about my weblog with blogger friends when we meet).