An excellent set of suggested readings
Tentatively entitled Lessons in Community-Building: An Inquiry into Role of Weblogs in Online Communities, my thesis will focus on two matters: how webloggers perceive the concept of virtual community, and the effects of technical and design factors on the development of virtual communities.
[…]I am mainly in need of webloggers to interview. If you maintain a weblog and are interested in contributing to the ongoing dialog concerning the issues of online human behaviour in general, and virtual communities specifically, please contact me. I can be reached via ICQ (UIN: 115135696) and email.
Good to see more people focusing their research on the weblog phenomenon.
When can I get my outliner? Like Steven I’ve been waiting for this next bit of power out of Radio. As a matter of fact, I began using Radio and its precursor Pike more for their outlining capability than anything else. Weblogging came long after the value of outlining. Wouldn’t it be great to put the two together?
Technology Anthropologists – I have talked before about the idea of being a technology anthropologist. It was a random phrase that popped in my head one day. Some of you remember Dian Fossey the anthropologist who went to Rwanda to live among, and thereby study, gorrillas. There was movie about her life called Gorillas in the Mist.
Anyway, I sometimes find myself observing people as they interact with technology as an anthropologist would observe, say, gorilla behavior. Now, I don’t mean that I think that I’m somehow superior to others and I therefor see them as apes. What I mean is that I am fascinated by how the rapid intrusion of technology into our lives has forced us to grapple with strange tools. The gap between the capabilities of the tools and our understanding of how to best make use of them is somewhat akin to the gap between two closely related species.
Anyway, perhaps there is a safer metaphor. But the key thing is curiousity. I am infinitely curious about how we will learn to accommodate technology. Kids are interesting, but they aren’t adapting to technology. It’s just there and they use it. But adults, especially older adults are fascinating. I’m not the only one who is reporting on these strange encounters. Jenny does it frequently, and did it again today in a post that starts by referencing a Dave Barry article. Jim McGee does it too; his inclination is toward the effect of technology on business. But, of course, he’s interested in technology in broader ways than just business, as his post today on the difference between technology and magic demonstrates.
Phil Windley has a post today on KmIrony that qualifies. Any others?
Ernie is on to a nice meme here. Another term to throw into the mix is “ethnography.” While usually associated with doing anthropology in the field, it’s also become a legitimate research tool in organizational settings. I find an anthropological approach particularly useful in the realm of technology for a couple of reasons. First, technology is too dynamic for a lot of other research approaches. Along a similar line, organizational research is not a place where you get to do controlled experiments. It’s either impractical or unethical (sometimes both). That leaves you with observational techniques of one sort or another. One advantage of ethnographic/anthropological approaches is that they explicitly recognize that the anthropologist/observer is part of the system.
Another reason that I prefer anthorpological approaches is that technology and knowledge management issues lie in a space that Gerry Weinberg describes as “organized complexity.” The following diagram comes from his excellent Introduction to General Systems Thinking:
In that environment you need tools that are robust more than you need tools that are precise. You tolerate fuzziness in the answers in exchange for getting answers that are directionally correct in a manageable amount of time.
One consequence of doing anthropology is that you have to develop some sense for who the observer is. You’re not doing experimental work that can be replicated. You’re doing a certain kind of storytelling that depends on observational skills and narrative skills. Unlike a fiction writer, you aren’t using stories for the abiilty to make stuff up out of whole cloth (I suppose fiction writers don’t really do that either). You are using narrative as a tool to reveal gaps in the logic, to discover what’s missing in the logic of the story that will point you toward new things to look for.
[Point of clarification. The resources listed here were pulled together and organized by Joy London on her excellent blog – Excited Utterances. Although it’s cited below, some readers missed that, meaning Joy isn’t getting the credit she deserves.
I continue to struggle with how best to reference material here. My preference is to post all the material that comes through my aggregator and then to add my commentary. I typically indent/blockquote the posted material and add my comments at the end. Once I have some more time to figure out CSS and stylesheets I can probably figure out a more visual way of setting off quoted material from my own stuff. Anyway, Joy did the heavy lifting here. I just used it as a launching pad for a few observations. I also wanted to make sure that I had all these excellent materials ready to hand as part of my use of this weblog as my backup brain.]
Proxemics and Law Firm Workspace. I’ve always been fascinated by “proxemics“—man’s appreciation and use of physical space. The significance of proxemics in law firms is readily apparent as we consider ways to form communities of practice. A number of law firms have rethought their physical spaces to achieve more innovative and flexible knowledge sharing environments.
Cooley Godward (Reston, VA) provides visitor lounges as part of its conference center. With full voice/data capability and soft seating designed for work as well as conversation, it’s an ideal flex space that can also support teamwork and breakout sessions.
Gunderson, Dettmar (Menlo Park, CA) sets its paralegal/administrative workspace at the center of a converted warehouse to create a sense of openness and community. (See a virtual tour of Gunderson’s Menlo Park, Boston and New York offices).
For further reading:
(1) Law Firms: Design for Flexibility by Christopher Murray, III
(2) Law Firms: Trends & Implications by Doug Zucker
(3) Law Office Design by Doug Zucker
(6) Flexibility is In, Rigidity Out as Law Firm Offices Evolve by Andrea Vanecko
(7) Benchmarking the Law Office by Margo Grant Walsh
(9) KnowledgeBoard’s Space special interest group’s (SIG) news and documents
Workspace Design Consultants
An Excellent collection of resources.
The issues of proxemics extend well beyond law firms. When we designed our first office space for Diamond in the Hancock building, we made a couple of interesting decisions with the help of Perkins & Will , our architects. For example, we turned all the corners of the floor into team rooms where project teams could work. That left no corner offices to fight over among the partners. The Hancock has great views and we were on the 30th floor. We designed the partner offices with glass partitions separating them from the inner areas so that those views were available. A couple of partners wanted to restrict use of partner offices, but that lasted about 15 minutes. Partners are on the road most of the time, so partner offices rapidly became yet another meeting room for small teams.
One little lesson we learned and applied when we added space. The first offices had lots of power and network connections but they required crawling under credenzas to get to. In the second stage build out, the offices had all power and network connections available at desktop height at the back of the desks.
Slowly catching up with stuff that came through my aggregator over the holidays. This is some excellent thinking on the right frame of reference for thinking about knowledge management. Some key excerpts:
…while a batch of VC dollars have been spent on intranets and portal creation software, the whole concept of centralized knowledge management feels wrong to me…
What’s more the knowledge that workers create must be portable, for no matter how much companies wish to lock up employees’ ideas as intellectual property, the cross-pollination that occurs when people move from company to company is critical to innovation. We should be building tools to encourage innovation and collaboration, not constrain and control it….
The integration of personal and published web content, content and concept sharing, RSS aggregation and publishing, blogging, email filtering/storage/extraction and powerful collaborative searching is bringing a real revolution in knowledge working productivity into view.
There’s a marketing challenge here. While the answer is decentralized, solutions typically get sold to someone who’s been put in charge of the problem. Until you’ve thought long and hard about knowledge management from an operational point of view, the centralized solutions promoted by technology vendors are certainly going to sound like a faster and easier solution to your (i.e. newly appointed chief knowledge officer or equivalent) problem. That they aren’t won’t be immediately apparent and won’t easily be traced to adopting a centralized approach.
Making knowledge management work requires a delicate blend of technology tools, organizational sensitivity, patience, and persistence. A difficult message to get across in a technology marketing environment addicted to peddling instant miracle cures.
More on PR and Blogging. Phil Gomes sends this interview on how public relations folks should deal with bloggers. Interesting stuff…. [Dan Gillmor’s eJournal]
Interesting perspective demonstrating the potential contribution of weblogs in competitive intelligence settings.
Eleven initials RIAA, CSPP and BSA have conspired to produce a “groundbreaking agreement on an approach to digital content issues” that this press release by the RIAA says “promotes cross-industry coordination to elevate consumer awareness of piracy issues, a unified consensus on how content creators should be able to use technology to protect their property, and an agreement between the industries that government technical mandates are not the best way to serve the long term interests of consumers, record companies and the technology industry.” It mumbles on…
Specifically, the BSA, CSPP and RIAA have agreed on seven principles to govern their activities for the 108th Congress. The associations call for the private sector to be able to continue driving digital distribution. In addition to focusing on areas of agreement rather than divisive matters relating to government-dictated technology mandates, the associations stated that, how companies satisfy consumer expectations is a business decision that should be driven by the dynamics of the marketplace, and should not be legislated or regulated.
To combat piracy, the industries will promote privately funded public awareness efforts, as well as approach Congress regarding any federal role. Both industries stated their support for private and federal enforcement against copyright infringers as well as unilateral technical protection measures and they agreed that legislation should not limit the effectiveness of such measures. The industries also expressed support for actions by rights holders that could limit the illegal distribution of copyrighted works in ways that are not destructive to networks or products, or that violate consumers privacy. [emphaisis added]
The industries said they would continue to work together on technical measures that protect content, in addition to pursuing common ground in policy debates.
The associations will begin implementing the shared principles immediately.
That’s eleven initials versus millions of customers, which is what those “consumers” really are, dudes.
Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em, huh? So why listen to ’em, hm?
Thanks to Dan for the link, too.
I’ve highlighted the part of the announcement that worries me. Seems as though this agreement was motivated out of concern that legislation might actually attempt to balance the concerns of customers and vendors. Wouldn’t want that to get in the way of the status quo.
First of all, I want to say that Larry Lessig is to be commended for his heroic efforts. I haven’t read the opinion but I am sure that it will reveal that larger forces dictated the ruling. I don’t think that there is any way that Lessig could have won the case. I hope one day to have the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for trying.
Ernie pretty well sums up my thoughts at this point.