Inkwell: Authors and Artists
John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Sun 27 Jun 10 17:02
I feel like I'm hacking my way through this Well system, trying to figure out what works and how. Trying to reference a previous post has been a bit of a mystery so far. Copying from Jon's post (and attemtping to refer to it) re Jon's question: http://www.well.com/testing/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/386/Nancy-White-John-D-Smi th-and-Eti-page01.html#post47 I actually was thinking about the polarities as I woke up from my first good night's sleep in a while. I don't know about "drive communities" necessarily. I think the polarities are useful tools to think about community experience. What I woke up thinking about was a session with did for Jerry Michalski's Yi-tan series (See: http://coburnventures.com/wordpress/?p=122 and http://yitantechcall.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/yi-tan-tech-call-274-digital-hab itats/ ). I noticed how the group was so drawn to talk about specific tools. That's what we geeks love to do. And I noticed that by talking about tools we tend to drop a historical perspective. After all, part of our religion is that tools improve and the latest is probably the best and most certainly the coolest. And there are many other reasons that make it easy to ignore how things play out in time. And I think we all have a strong tendency to plan for some imagined "steady state". But as I observe myself and others doing tech stewardship work, it's all about improv and about taking incremental steps forward. A sense of timing is HUGELY important. So one of the most important things that the polarities do is focus our attention on timing and alternation and the historical evolution of a community's habitat (or configuration). I don't know that we had that as an INTENTION (I know I certainly didn't) but that's one important bit of work that they do. (I know that's a little "meta" before diving in to what they are, but I want to just start by reporting on my thoughts from waking up this morning before I forget them.)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 27 Jun 10 18:15
Just to clarify, I think that my comment was not that the polarities drive community, but that they're a factor in driving communities to adopt technology. I think what you're saying is that they're more of a consideration than a factor?
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 27 Jun 10 19:02
re: 51, we usually just refer to previous posts in the same topic by number, but it could also be referred to as <inkwell.vue.386.51>
Nancy White (choco) Sun 27 Jun 10 20:02
Jon, yeah. They are a way to look at our communities, give us language for that, and, at the core, remind us that communities are living, breathing things. It is not about resolving the polarities, but living into them in a way that fits for where we are now and where we are heading. For a bit about polarities from my perspective, there are some slides which can't totally stand alone, but give a skim of Polarities. http://www.slideshare.net/choconancy/digital-habitats-nov09-frameworks Brian, thanks for bringing in more details about PLATO. I wish we had fact checked from **you** rather than from various writings we delved into for that chapter. We also interviewed David early on in the project (as he has been an influence on me over the years. ) We can post some corrections/errata on the blog. Thank goodness for book blogs.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 28 Jun 10 05:53
Clarifying what we're talking about, the relevant polarities are: Togetherness <-------------> Separateness Interacting/participation <---------------> Publishing/reification Individual <-----------------> Group My understanding was that understanding where a community sits on each o the polarities drives or informs technology selection. Nancy, I really do like your observation about technologies that are "designed for groups, experienced as individuals." Getting a set of individuals in sync with a more or less common understanding, coordinating and orchestrating action in that context, is just a huge challenge. It's a communication challenge: we can work hard at making communication clear within a group, but the challenge is in having clear interpretation. I can say something to some group of a dozen people, and get twelve different interpretations, possibly contradictory. Regardless which technologies you choose for group communication, there's the social aspect of facilitating enough common understanding that interpretations will be generally in sync. To what extent do technology stewards work beyond technology, focusing on engagement, facilitation, synchronization?
Nancy White (choco) Mon 28 Jun 10 11:40
Jon, first I'd have to say that we don't always have to get people in sync. The polarities help us understand, for example, where we are in togetherness and separateness. If we feel we want to move more together or less, then we think about activities, processes and technology to help us modulate in the chosen direction. But as you note, this is not a PURELY tech decision. Thus this fun space between tech leadership/stewardship and more general tech/community leadership and facilitation. Let's say we want more togetherness. For example, our community of practice on chocolate has been in existence for 3 years, we've had the conversation about milk, dark and white, we have critiqued every brand, talked about the politics of labor in the chocolate market. When newbies come in, we are annoyed with the same old conversations. So the community decides it wants a place for newbies to ease in, get a sense of the history, etc. (Like the Well space for newcomers where they can belong for their first year.) This community decides it wants a monthly web meeting for this "space" and organizes a DimDim site, identifies some hosts, sets a calendar up for the dates, and another group creates a "hit list of top topics from the community" as a potential discussion starter. You can see there were tech tasks,but they were just a part of the picture. Now, did the tech steward LEAD this process? Maybe, maybe not. So we need to think of the role in the larger context of the community, what other people are doing, what roles are explicit or implied. Habitat. Ecosystem...
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 28 Jun 10 15:44
I realize reading your response that the idea of "syncing" can be complex. I was thinking about getting people in sync with a common understanding, what a colleague of mine calls "same page results." If everybody's on the same page, there may still be differences of perspective and differences of opinion, so they might not be in sync - in agreement - on particular decisions or course of action. And then, more relevant to the tech steward, there's the question of getting the group in sync about using a specific technology. Did you do much research into the nature and definition of stewardship as you prepared the book? I've had some interesting conversations with Charles Herrman, who has this definition: "Stewardship is the exercise of a trust wherein a custodial function not only fulfills an obligation but whose perfection to the requisites of fitness speaks to the stewards dedication to the principle upon which the trust has been founded." (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm/SSRN_ID1307172_code510356.pdf?abstrac tid=1307172&mirid=1) Charles talks a lot about the office and rseponsibility of stewardship. The article I linked, which contains that definition, is on corporate stewardship, a little different from the context we're talking about, but interesting nonetheless.
Nancy White (choco) Mon 28 Jun 10 16:28
Two paths, starting with synching I think some groups (such as teams) need more syncing. Open, wider ranging networks may need very little beyond the point of connection. I think that was more what I was talking about. So for the current econsultation I'm working on, the "same page" we need is a) understanding of the task asked of participants to review something and b) ability of participants to use the chosen technologies ENOUGH that they can do #1. To fullfill that we, as tech stewards and facilitators should have prepared the tools well, prepared simple briefing materials (expecting few to read them) and then provide rapid, personal support as the event itself is short. Happily, they don't have to come to consensus! (She says, sighing a huge sigh of relief!) For KM4Dev, the international dev/knowledge sharing community, the challenge is to give enough "line of sight" to the technology AND participation options. As a network, affiliation is VERY light to heavy, participation is from none, to core volunteer, but in fact with very little structure. The biggest complaint we hear is "I didn't know about X option!!" Too many channels? Not so much "togetherness?" Unclear domain? Or simply rich with possibility? I'd have to let the members judge that. ;-) As to definition of the word stewardship - oh boy, we had lots of conversations, searching, etc. It is amazing how many people have a negative view of the word "steward" (go back to it's meaning in Feudal societies!). Others associate it wit fluffy bunny new age. Others see it as a quite straightforward, sensible word. I took a quick peek at the article you linked to. I"m going to read the rest of it now!
John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Tue 29 Jun 10 10:42
When you think about it, getting on the same page is something of a miracle. A lot of time has been spent and ink spilt figuring out how to do that in face-to-face meetings and teams. And to learn how to do it in distributed settings, you have to look over the shoulder of people who know how to do it (or who've managed to do it "without knowing how"). And looking over someone's shoulder in distributed settings is itself a bit of an achievement. It seems to me that your econsultation is aiming to meet people where they're at, which is a very labor-intensive process. It strikes me that we don't see difference or distance as a resource until we're sufficiently close (on the same page or synced up) to put difference to work. That's a great example of what I was saying about how these polarities force us to take a step back from the tools and think about how processes play out in time.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 29 Jun 10 12:25
Yes. Many groups have minor or major splits ongoing within them and have sub-groups who have no motivation to be completely in sync with the larger group. Helping with tools probably means helping navigate hidden group power structures now and then! Here's a side question -- I may not formulate this elegantly, so everybody have at it if it needs to be refined -- I'm involved in a few online groups that have a Community of Practice reason for being -- but I also am involved with The WELL and Table Talk, which are communities that perhaps include some interlinked communities of practice, but seem to go beyond their practices such as apple users or parenting to a broader identity goal, a practice of being a community member. Is that something that you find as an emerging phenomenon around various CoP groups, or do you see it as unrelated and perhaps unusual? What's your take on communities that do not have one core practice and purpose, except for being community members at large?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 29 Jun 10 20:18
John, I found this statement intriguing: "It strikes me that we don't see difference or distance as a resource until we're sufficiently close (on the same page or synced up) to put difference to work." Can you give an example or two of "putting difference to work"?
Nancy White (choco) Tue 29 Jun 10 20:41
Gail, I think the focus in CoPs is learning. There are tons of types of communities -- but with the use of online tools that allow fuzzy boundaries or as John put it recently elsewhere, a broad periphery, it seems to be a natural progression that the interlink, some overlap or even blend into a larger whole. It has been interesting to see how, for example, many non profits are giving up hosting their online communities on their own websites and are using Facebook or NING, and thus getting access to the "friends" of their members or fans, and to the adjacent "communities." This asks us to rethink and probably redefine what we mean by community. And be careful if you get me going on this. ;-)
Ari Davidow (ari) Wed 30 Jun 10 07:55
Although, that trend towards Ning and Facebook is what I was talking about last week. It also reflects, at least in my own mind, that it is a LOT to demand of the members of a CoP (which often is not a "community" in most general senses of the word) to learn a unique system and track unique login/password info - and for some purposes, that is no longer necessary. It is certainly common for people to have Facebook accounts, and I am probably typical is belonging to several Ning communities, as well. Having said that, one feature that is true of all recent community tools that I have used is that much that we have learned about how to facilitate online conversation has disappeared. I think of how many neat features of WebCrossing or Caucus are utterly missing from Ning and Facebook and it is a shame. We =do= get, in return, lots of ways to socially network and share presence, but it's as though the new technologies were mostly disruptive--nobody looked back and said, "what makes a forum work well"--the concept was simply re-invented and is slowly returning to bare bones utility.
Gail (gail) Wed 30 Jun 10 10:08
Exactly. When people outside this community ask "could The WELL run on a contemporary platform?" my first question is about the basic features of keeping track of people and what one has already read. Those are indeed less common on the really big platforms. It is extraordinary that those things have not been brought along to the new technologies. (On the other hand, perhaps it is intentional: in some drop-in, drive-by comment contexts perhaps nobody wants people to gain long term awareness of each other, with conversations that go forever, feuds, alliances, and all kinds of collusion. Fun for the participants perhaps but maybe not part of the distractable tidbit-paced ad-friendly revenue model of the platform owner.)
Craig Maudlin (clm) Wed 30 Jun 10 10:13
I think it's an example of what happens when the focus of attention slips away from 'the interaction between practice and tools' to just 'tools.' > This asks us to rethink and probably redefine what we mean by > community. And be careful if you get me going on this. ;-) Yes, please. I'm partial to the notion that, if the ancient nomadic peoples of the earth hadn't settled down, we wouldn't be having all this confusion over concepts of 'community' and 'place.'
Nancy White (choco) Wed 30 Jun 10 10:22
Well, we can add "conversation" to that confusion as well. <Ari>'s observation about the lack of facilitation reflects for me a shift of the types of activities people are engaged in. And more indepth conversation doesn't seem to be a prominent feature. It is more light interchanges, intersections of content and commentary. I'm not sure that alone can sustain a community of practice. So for me, my experience these days is of more networks interested in shared domains, and less, indepth CoPs. The types of tools that have currency seem to have a causal role in this. (Not the only cause!) Now <clm>, I'd love to hear more of what you think the world would look like if we stayed nomadic. Because I think we are now often digitally nomadic. I'm intrigued, but can't quite get my head around it yet. Say more please?
Craig Maudlin (clm) Wed 30 Jun 10 11:31
Well, in early times, I imagine the survival of nomadic groups must have depended on a high degree of clarity about the practices that sustained them. Group learning would be key. And the language impulse would give it a name. But language would never trick the nomads into thinking that these activities depended on a particular place -- because *nothing* they did depended on a specific place. Rather, they would be more attuned to patterns or configurations, it seems to me.
Nancy White (choco) Wed 30 Jun 10 11:33
Patterns. YES. I'm going to chew on that for a bit (with some chocolate, of course) The key here is focus and persistence, no? Are we focused and persistent now?
Gail (gail) Wed 30 Jun 10 13:54
Hmm, are we focused and persistent now? I have a lot of distraction from the interfaces that emphasize tiny unrelated events in a mingled stream. Random collage is not a productive environment for me. I can see your point, Craig. That way the community who passed through the oasis would never be confused with those who happened to live permanently in proximity to the oasis. That ambiguity about the idea of community would be removed. The other difference might be that the nomadic group would also be a CoP in learning and perfecting an obvious group practice of travel. Plus the nomadic group would be, most likely, a much smaller group, more unified by common adversity. One set of differences out of many, I'd guess. So yes, they would notice configurations and patterns in their group. To Nancy's earlier musing, are we more like nomads and less settled because of our technologies? I wonder whether we want to be, and what being like nomads really means in modern life.
Jack Kessler (kessler) Wed 30 Jun 10 16:55
<40><choco> I like your Nigeria story very much, Nancy. My primary interest is international / trans-national Internet applications, and your story makes many of the terms and concepts here "sound" trans-national -- i.e. you don't necessarily have to be in Dallas to do it -- you said, > "Did you know that to associate a non gmail account with a Google group in Nigeria requires a mobile phone verification process, while it requires only an email response in the US. Did I know that? No. I found out when I had to troubleshoot with a scientist from Tanzania who was in Nigeria when he tried to log in. This is tech stewardship from both the tech and community perspective because in the course of our Skype call we got to know each other and I could encourage his participation. And of course, that introduces Skype as a non-central part of our tool configuration, along with email. Plus I talk to the core team on the phone. Getting complicated, eh? Oh, and we are using video hosted on YouTube. Natch." -- much food for thought, about international / trans-national, in every line there... sounds like pre-internetworking device juggling... Any other such trans-national war stories, from you or others here? Any thoughts about human languages and cultural differences etc. as tools, or as yet-unsolved barriers? R&D now occupies -- 24/7 & globally -- Digital Habitats, as I understand your term, as does online gaming. Sometimes language and cultural are barriers, in those, and sometimes they're not: global science speaks English, currently, the way air pilots do -- the latter bunch literally "airport english" -- online gaming, though, develops techniques to accommodate vast varieties of linguistic preference and cultural difference. I've been waiting a while to see simultaneous translation utilities facilitate trans-national communities of practice, but the software I've seen for that still is pretty clunky. Per Wikipedia and other examples there are vast arrays of parallel discussions going on now online, all over the planet, excitedly discussing identical topics and topic threads, but unaware of one another and with nothing to connect them. The separation tends to be simply linguistic: some brave technology stewards have tried "multi-lingual", but that usually founders -- altho this very day Google & China are tugging at one another over "multi-cultural" differences, too -- it would be nice to get some of these techniques on board with specifically trans-national apps.
Craig Maudlin (clm) Wed 30 Jun 10 17:04
Jack slipped in. Responding first to Nancy: > The key here is focus and persistence, no? Yes, I think those are key. But I found myself asking 'focus and persistence' about what? This brings up what John posted above in #59: > ...these polarities force us to take a step back from the tools and > think about how processes play out in time. And it seems to me that the kind of learning required to recognize (let alone master) a set of social processes is quite different than the kind of learning that leads to an understanding and mastery of computer-based tools. (Tacit vs explicit?) I think one of the things the three of you are saying in "Digital Habitats" is that both ways of learning are necessary.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 1 Jul 10 04:32
Both ways of learning are necessary, and part of stewardship is ensuring and supporting both. Getting back to the discussion of current, common social platforms and now they're less supportive of sustained conversation, it's been interesting to follow the evolution of Twitter and engage with the significant number of people whose experience of social software really began there. One thing you see them doing is trying to fashion ways to have sustained conversations in an environment that was built for random short messaging, which I (and I see Gail) refer to as drive-by conversation. Twitter chats would work so much better as realtime chats or asynchronous forums. Why don't people go there? Gail said something about contemporary technologies - I think forums and chats are considered old school, "Web 1.0" technologies, and disregarded, even though there's a clear desire to have sustained coherent conversation among, for instance, the various ad hoc communities that are emerging on Twitter, tied together by hashtags. I mentioned earlier the example of the Sunday #blogchat, which I found hard to follow because of the volume of comments. I had also joined a community managers' chat some time ago that moved to FriendFeed with the idea that it would be more manageable there, but the conversations were still fragmented and hard to follow. I suggested earlier that, rather than move to something like a linear asynchronous conferencing environment like the WELL, users might instead "mutate" and adapt to the more fragmented environments, e.g. getting better and better at bringing order to the relative chaos of the twitterstream. Nancy and John, have you paid attention to communities of practice that form on Twitter? Are you finding any of the existing CoPs you work with gravitating to that platform?
Nancy White (choco) Thu 1 Jul 10 12:09
First, Jack and language/culture and "linguistic separation." Oh yeah, this is very real and persistent in my work. KM4Dev, for example, has two sister communities SAGE in French and SIWA in Spanish and right now it is the multilingual members who do or do not create the bridge. And it is not just language, but the time and attention to follow more than one of the language groups and weave things together. I suspect this is something we in KM4Dev really need to pay more attention to. Our meetings are primarily in English with some "whisper translation" and ad hoc break outs. But it is a challenge. I have facilitated a number of multilingual online groups where we've done everything from paid translation (costly), to voluntary translation (quality varies, follow through) to simply embedding Google Translate tools into our wikis. Surprisingly, the latter is better than I thought. I wrote this up once on my blog... I'll try and dig up the url. (must be somewhere in this batch! http://www.fullcirc.com/category/language/) The wiki for one consultation is here: http://onlinefacilitation.wikispaces.com/Gender+Equity+and+Women%27s+Rights You might also enjoy Beverly Trayner's paper, Trayner, B. (2004) Babel in the international café. In Communities and Technologies, Huysman, M. Wenger, E. Wulf, V. (eds) Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Available for download from this page.http://iisi.de/114.0.html Obviously there is more than technology at play. But while you can get platforms with multilingual interfaces, few facilitate organizing multi lingual resources and conversations. Again, from Bev, there is http://shirikisha.com/ and the use of this platform in an EU project where there are some great strides in this area. We should invite them in to share how CHALLENGING this is. Automatic translation works at a light level, not for indepth conversation (ha, I wonder if there are twitter translators? I assume there are) It is the community building, the shared practices, the weaving across languages though - those messy human practices - that matter the most. The closest I've come is to think of the domain as a network umbrella and the language groups as communities within the network. Language binds and separates us!
Nancy White (choco) Thu 1 Jul 10 12:10
Small follow up on diversity. In my online work, professional culture is more often a larger barrier than national culture. Interesting, eh?
Nancy White (choco) Thu 1 Jul 10 12:18
Both ways of learning are necessary? Craig and Jon - YES YES YES! I'm sure John will chime in more on this as our learnmeister! On to <jonl>s questions! (you have good ones) First, regarding the "in depth" conversation. I hate to say it, but we also have to ask ourselves, those of us who are deeply practiced and used to asynchronous discussion, are we the ones who are out in left field or not? I have colleagues who say they are getting that deep connection in the "loosely joined" floating conversations. It started across blog comments, now FB, Twitter, etc. I don't think FourSquare can claim deep group engagement in conversation, but heck, are we the ones who can't see it? I feel compelled to keep asking myself the question. No answer at the moment. Now, you asked >Nancy and John, have you paid attention to communities of practice that form on Twitter? Are you finding any of the existing CoPs you work with gravitating to that platform? Speaking for myself, I have seen some very clear CoPs emerge around hashtags and shared interest and yes, their conversations are "straddling" as John likes to say, beyond Twitter. The #Kmers have created their own website. The #LRNCHAT folks are pretty darn intertwingled across many platforms. What I sense is there is less of a demand for coherence and shared experience and more emphasis on access to the diversity of the larger, less connected network. THIS is a shift in many ways. From the polarities perspective, togetherness is less important in these groups. Facilitating diverse individual participation (mostly through the openness of the technology) is a dominant theme right now. What I wonder is if this is a "swing of the pendulum" and people will pull back and look for more coherence. Or if the early adopters, those comfortable dipping in and out, who can more easily sense patters will keep this mode and draw away from the rest?
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