This is an excerpt from my PhD dissertation – Efimova, L. (2009). Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers. Enschede, Netherlands: Novay.
Since their early days, weblogs have been envisioned as a prototype technology for enabling grass-roots knowledge management. However, while experiments with blogging are underway in many businesses, research that could inform them is limited. In this dissertation early adopters of weblogs are studied to develop an understanding of uses of weblogs in relation to work, and to provide insights relevant to introducing blogging in knowledge-intensive environments.
This research focuses on describing the blogging practices of knowledge workers. It is guided by a framework that provides a view of what knowledge work entails and includes tasks, the essence of one’s work, and enabling personal knowledge management activities, such as developing one’s knowledge and relationships over time.
The studies, included in this dissertation are complementary, rather than comparative. Each is focused on identifying practices of bloggers in relation to one or more parts of the knowledge work framework and combines an analysis of weblog artefacts (text, links, tags) with participant observation and interviews. My own blogging practices are part of the approach: I study them in one of the cases, use my weblog as a reflexive journal to document the research process and integrate excerpts from it in the dissertation text.
The dissertation documents uses of a weblog as a personal knowledge base and an instrument for growing ideas from the early stages to a final product, as well as different uses of weblogs in a process of establishing and maintaining relationships. In both cases, blogging seems to be especially useful early in the process, helping to deal with fuzzy ideas and would-be relationships.
Although various conversational uses of weblogs are relatively well studied, this research adds insights on practices of participating in complex conversations distributed across posts and comments of multiple weblogs. The results describe not only the effort that goes into constructing these conversations from fragments and keeping an overview of them, but also their importance for both growing ideas and developing interpersonal relations between bloggers.
The findings suggest several characteristics of weblogs that contribute to a broader understanding of weblogs as a medium: their simultaneous uses for publishing, conversations with self and interaction with specific others, switches between personal and social, as well as opportunities that weblogs provide in crossing various boundaries. While weblogs are used to work on specific tasks that match with those characteristics, the open-ended and public nature of blogging makes it more valuable for enabling work indirectly through supporting sense-making conversations, developing ideas over time and being able to tap into one’s network when needed.
As well as providing an overview of work-related uses of weblogs in a variety of settings, this research documents the issues that arise as a result of those uses and gives insights about the changing nature of work that becomes increasingly digital, nomadic and networked. It documents various ways of integrating blogging with work, the tensions between personal and organisational perspectives around blogging, and individual choices that bloggers make to address these challenges. It shows the power of individual knowledge workers, who bypass existing authorities and use their networks to stay informed and to get things done; the blurred boundaries between what is personal and what is professional; and the growing need to know how to deal with transparency and fragmentation of one’s work.