PhD dissertation: Preface

This is an excerpt from my PhD dissertation – Efimova, L. (2009). Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers. Enschede, Netherlands: Novay.

My journey towards this book started long ago, in my childhood. It was my mother who taught me to follow passions: to dream about things worth pursuing and then to go for them. Without this foundation I probably would not have dared to study an emergent technology which, at the point I started this work, still had a very unclear future, to use unconventional research methods, or to cross boundaries in order to get where I wanted to be.

However, passion alone is not enough. This work has been supported by the company I work at, Telematica Instituut, which is currently working on reinventing itself under a new name, Novay. Doing PhD research outside of conventional academic settings is a challenge, but it also provided opportunities to learn from working with others in multidisciplinary projects and to make choices that would not have been possible otherwise. In particular, I would like to thank Janine Swaak for coaching me through the early steps of learning how to be a researcher and being a role model in many other ways, and Marcel Bijlsma for shielding me from the project demands towards the end of the PhD, so I could have time and space necessary for converging.

While working on a PhD is a lonely endeavour, it is also not possible without others. My PhD work was supervised by Robert-Jan Simons and Robert de Hoog, who believed that eventually something valuable would emerge from fuzzy pictures presented in various drafts, who asked questions that forced me to define and defend my choices and guided me through the process of developing confidence as an academic. I am glad I could work together with Jonathan Grudin, who made my internship at Microsoft Research a great learning experience and shared insider knowledge about scientific communities I wanted to belong to. This dissertation has many traces of my collaborations with other researchers: thank you, Sebastian Fiedler, Aldo de Moor, Stephanie Hendrick, Carla Verwijs and Andrea Ben Lassoued for the inspiration, complementary expertise and the pleasure of getting things done. Anjo Anjewierden, this work would be much poorer without your ability to create tools that make blogging patterns tangible and your attention to detail. I am also grateful that I had support of colleagues back in the office: thank you, Edward Faber for being there for me to work out ideas and to get through the process at the toughest times, and Ruud Janssen for picking it up at the finishing stretch, inspiring comments and emotional support.

What appears as a single book is in reality a tapestry woven to include insights that come from an extended network. I could not have done it without bloggers who shared their ideas, commented on work-in-progress, volunteered their time to be interviewed or just were there as an audience to write for. I am glad that with many of you we could go beyond being “imaginary friends”, and I am thankful for many opportunities to share food, thoughts and fun. Taking the risk of choosing just a few names of many I want to name here, I would like to thank Ton Zijlstra and Elmine Wijnia for providing many opportunities to observe your learning trajectories from a close distance, Jack Vinson for the insights on the ever-changing KM blogger community and making me realise how long I blog every time I see photos of your boys, Nancy White for letting me see truly networked work from your house and eat berries from your garden, and Monica Pinheiro, for sharing ideas, uncertainties and Pastéis de Belém.

In addition to those who contributed their ideas to this work it was also enabled by the broad support network. Thank you, PhD researchers at Novay, in the blogosphere and on Twitter for making it less lonely, Andy Boyd for convincing me that the corporate world can wait, Marjan Grootveld and Olga Fernandes Steen for providing company during all those unscheduled breaks, Ardennen crew for sharing offline fun across countries and locations, and Hanneke Pieters, for creating friendship that does not need appointments. I would like to express my gratitude to my family and friends in Russia for being there for me and not asking too many questions about my dissertation, and to Roel, Esther, and the rest of the family here in the Netherlands, for making me feel at home far away from home.

Finally, this work would not be possible without the love and patience of Robert and Alexander, and their ability to sleep through the sound of a clicking keyboard in the middle of the night. I guess you will be very happy to have me back from this journey.

Lilia Efimova

May 2009
Enschede, Netherlands