inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #76 of 110: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 1 Jul 10 14:50
    
My comment that we might mutate was meant to suggest that we might (or
will) evolve to find coherence in the chaos of conversations and
activity streams that we see emerging. I'm already part of the way
there - I've always been comfortable with larger chaotic waves of data;
when they knock me off my board, I climb back on and keep surfing. I
watch so-called "digital natives" juggle data streams with remarkable
dexterity. However I suspect that we'll see linear conversations mixed
with nonlinear multiplatform threads. 

And when everything is miscellaneous, we learn to make lenses and
filters to sort things out, no?

Here's another set of related questions that I came up with earlier:
What are the community orientations you cover? How does a community
understand which are relevant? How do you gather and understand
requirements for your community, and translate those into technology
requirements for relevant orientations?
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #77 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Thu 1 Jul 10 16:28
    
I'm mutating!

I would caution any generalizations about generations. Some younger
folk juggle data streams. Some don't. I think there is a deep issue
about critical literacies for all of us. 
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #78 of 110: John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Thu 1 Jul 10 17:19
    
<inkwell.vue.386.70> about trans-national, multi-language,
multi-membership reminds me of being in Denmark a couple of years ago
at the Association for Internet Research conference
(http://aoir.org/conferences/past/ir-9-2008/).  One of the keynotes (by
a guy whose name I can't recall) was about ubiquitous technologies. 
The ubiquitous technology for the group of CPsquare members that were
at the conference was the mobile phone and I didn't have one.  As the
speaker pointed out ubiquitous means invisible but it then also means
that the person who doesn't have access (or mastery), which was me in
that case, is kind of a burden on others.  That is, special
arrangements were needed for me to be able to be in the right
restaurant at the right time.  Changes impacted me differentially.  It
was a mess.

Of course, I was connected in other ways, and was the tech steward for
the community -- or at least for one stream of conversation of the
community.   It seems to me that instances of being really out of it,
of not being able to connect, of not getting it, are very interesting
and quite revealing.  But detecting those lacks requires some kind of
continuity or expectation that implies a lot of continuity.  You may
not miss people who don't show up in a hash-tag based Twitter chat,
unless you've connected with them before, possibly on another channel.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #79 of 110: John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Thu 1 Jul 10 17:27
    
I think that mutating actually takes a lot of work! 
<inkwell.vue.386.76> and <inkwell.vue.386.77> are a lot of fun because
of the wooohahahaha factor, but the dexterity of digital natives
doesn't come from nowhere.  It's learned.  Dive into Mizuko Ito, et al.
 Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and
Learning With New Media (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009)
http://ISBN.nu/9780262013369  DOWNLOADABLE from
http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/full_pdfs/Hanging_Out.pdf

"Skills and literacies that children and youth pick up organically in
their given social worlds are not generally objects of formal
educational intervention, though they may require a great deal of
social support and energy to acquire." P. 341

One of the themes they develop is the idea of a techne-mentor, which
is very related to a tech-steward, except that a tech-mentor doesn't
necessarily have the structure or focus of a community of practice for
their learning & teaching activities.

p 59: "In conceptualizing the media and information ecologies in the
lives of University of California at Berkeley freshmen, classical
adoption and diffusion models (e.g., Rogers [1962; 2003]) proved
inadequate. Rather than being characterized by a few individuals who
diffuse knowledge to others in a somewhat linear fashion, many
students’ pattern of technology adoption signaled situations in which
various people were at times influential in different, ever-evolving
social networks. The term “techne-mentor” is used to help to describe
this pattern of information and knowledge diffusion….  Techne-mentor
refers to a role that someone plays in aiding an individual or group
with adopting or supporting some aspect of technology use in a specific
 context, but being a techne-mentor is not a permanent role. The idea
of the techne-mentor is useful for expanding conversations about
adoption patterns to one of informal learning in social networks."

I had quite an exasperating fight with the evaluators of a project I
worked on about their use of Rogers' diffusion model to assess the
"performance" of a community of practice.  Ideas and techniques in a
community setting tend to morph and mutate as they go, in part because
they're coming from all directions, not just some putative center
(e.g., Cambridge, Mass or other self-declared center of the universe
:-).
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #80 of 110: Jack Kessler (kessler) Thu 1 Jul 10 21:17
    
<73><choco> "Trayner, B. (2004) 'Babel in the international café'"

Thanks very much, Nancy: interesting article, yes. I was happy to see
the Sapir-Whorf reference -- these issues are not new -- we understand
our languages, and their relationships to "meaning", imperfectly still.
"Relevance"... well, epistemology is a pretty tough study.  

Google figures that we do understand it, but they're wrong: their
algorithm just placed a "boar hunting" ad on my wife's
coyote-protection blog -- it figures "ya seen one 'animal' ya seen them
all", and that's just in English... When we get to multi-lingual
community practice, then, the data-mining we have so far still doesn't
scale up very well: one person's "coussin gonflable de protection" is
just not necessarily another person's "airbag".

> Obviously there is more than technology at play. But while you can
get platforms with multilingual interfaces, few facilitate
organizing multilingual resources and conversations. 

Yes, that's very much the problem: nomostatics vs. nomodynamics, you
might say, and it's the latter that's needed.

> (ha, I wonder if there are twitter translators? I assume there are)

A great deal of that emerged on Twitter during the Iran blowup: a
number of very talented translators kept the rest of us, and the folks
in Iran, up-to-date in various languages -- there it was done very
well, and very quickly.

> 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.

Not if and to the extent that language determines perception rather
than the other way 'round, tho, as Sapir-Whorf and others suggest...
I'm not sure Eco or Chomsky would agree, either. The community-building
certainly is important, and satisfying, but there may be far more at
work there than just language. 

Face-to-face contact bridges language barriers -- your own websites
show this, those "group" images -- verbal communication may be less
important than physical proximity and shared effort. The point of
digitizing the verbiage may be to use time more efficiently, in fact,
enabling more physical proximity and shared effort to take place --
more face-to-face meetings, conferences, renewed & inter-networked
Global Cities (Sassen) -- works for "foreign" language speakers too, as
verbiage does not, digital or otherwise. 

> Language binds and separates us!

Ambivalent, yes: the Greeks knew this, about all communications and
not just telecoms as we do today -- the pipe is neutral, and often less
effective -- it's why they advised, "don't blame the messenger".
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #81 of 110: Jack Kessler (kessler) Thu 1 Jul 10 21:33
    
<78><johndavidsmith> "Association for Internet Research
conference... ubiquitous technologies..."

Key XeroxPARC criterion for technology success: ubiquity /
invisibility -- c1993, I can send you cites.

> The ubiquitous technology for the group of CPsquare members that
were at the conference was the mobile phone and I didn't have
one... kind of a burden on others. That is, special arrangements were
needed for me to be able to be in the right restaurant at the right
time. Changes impacted me differentially. It was a mess.

Great story! Your "difference" made you the most valuable contributor
to the conference, IMO. One great problem with Internet conferences,
conferences generally, shared practice, is the conformity of thought
imposed by such ubiquity: the most interesting thing at a conference is
the phenomenon of the stranger -- where & when that occurs --
otherwise it's just, "if the only tool that you have is a mobile,
everything begins to look like a tweet".
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #82 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Fri 2 Jul 10 07:28
    
Jack, I'm off to look up things you mentioned... 

I also have an AND to add to your graph about physical proximity. In
much of the work I do with front line NGO workers, the chance, the
resources to do their learning with other peers cannot be F2F. They are
too far "down" in the organization. The economic structures (barriers)
tell them "you aren't worth enough to spend the money for a F2F" or
"you live too remotely to justify the time it would take" = so finding
ways to learn, to make meaning, to do it in a humane way, are my
passion. I love F2F. I love doing graphic recording "in the room" and
facilitating with physical objects. My world asks me to do  this
online. 

Because I work "through the pipe," my experience is that it is not
neutral. Values are baked into the design of any of the systems we use.
Your example about Google translate. My experience when people feel
the tyranny instead of value of near -instantaneous delivery of emails.
The way designers place elements on a web page -- to me they aren't
really neutral. So instead of shooting the darn messengers, I want to
engage in conversation, co-design of the pipes (yeah, realistically at
some level, not all... I have to be careful what I'm spouting here!)
Thus this central thesis that there are multiple learnings, literacies
and practices at play in using online tools for human interaction. And
they are inextricable braided together, one impacting and shaping the
other. 

That's also what's exciting.

OK, gently stepping off my soap box and firing up my search engine to
better understand some of what you wrote. As you may sense, I am a "Do
then figure out" person rather than, understand then do! And you've
given me food for thought around my community/network statement that i
need to go chew on. Thanks!
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #83 of 110: Ari Davidow (ari) Fri 2 Jul 10 07:29
    
Thinking about twitter CoPs and the like, I am wondering how much of this 
reflects a side of CoP use that has always been there, the sort of mining 
a large body of expertise for informed answers (and hopefully being 
available to answer same), and that being all that one wants--it's not a 
community, it's a light-weight CoP--and that is entirely appropriate for 
many purposes. It's the IRC channels moved to a new medium.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #84 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Fri 2 Jul 10 08:18
    
<ari> Networks of practice! Yup. 

The differences may be a) visilibity and b) reach and c) scalability
(which introduces another set of dynamics)
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #85 of 110: Elmi Bester (jonl) Fri 2 Jul 10 08:27
    
From Elmi Bester in South Africa:

Two comments -
 
1. Twitter translation - Tweetdeck is doing a pretty decent job with
translation of Tweets. I'm tweeting both in English and Afrikaans -
some things I just feel I want to say it in Afrikaans.
And I can actually now follow the French tweets from some people as
well...
 
2.  Very interesting thread about the 'loss of deep conversation' -
very topical and something really demanding some thoughtful
conversation. But a comment about the fragmentation and "information
spillage'' we are faced with...
 
What I am advocating a lot these days is that people need to learn to
live with the white noise of multiple channels and multiple feeds from
multiple people - you need to fine tune your filters to be able to pick
up the relevant signals from all the tweets, rss feeds, e-mails etc
and be good at just ignoring - you cannot be interested in everything
all the time!  Also related to multi-membership - your attention will
shift amongst the communities and networks you are a member off -
depending on your current context and need - but you need to stay
connected for when you need it more in the front of attention. 
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #86 of 110: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 2 Jul 10 08:28
    
If you have a comment to add or a question to ask, and you're not a
member of the WELL, just send an email to inkwell at well.com, and
we'll see that it gets posted.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #87 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Fri 2 Jul 10 09:27
    
Elmi (who is a fabulous knowledge practitioner and manager of the CSIR
Knowledge Commons for the Council for Scientific & Industrial
Research), the practice you talk about is the one that I see the "edge
practitioners" taking on with ease. I'd love to know the tips you are
giving those who are struggling more. What one or two suggestions have
"taken hold" with your colleagues to live with the white noise and
multiple channels? How do they get started with "fine tuning?"
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #88 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Sat 3 Jul 10 17:36
    
<jonl> asked: 

>What are the community orientations you cover? How does a community
understand which are relevant? How do you gather and understand
requirements for your community, and translate those into technology
requirements for relevant orientations?

You can see an image with the 9 orientation here:
http://technologyforcommunities.com/excerpts/spidergram-tool/ and
http://technologyforcommunities.com/2009/11/community-technology-spidergram-ev
olves-again/
and 

Here are the labels -- but it can be misleading to look just at the
label. So holler if there is one in particular you'd like to talk about

* Meetings
* Projects
* Access to Expertise
* Relationship
* Context (internal <==> external)
* Community Cultivation
* Individual Participation
* Content/Publishing
* Ongoing Conversations

I wrote up a blog post a while back looking at a particular community
from the perspective of orientations based on the stories about the
birdwatchers of Central park in the book "Red Tails IN Love." (A great
book that never uses the term "communities of practice!")

http://technologyforcommunities.com/2009/03/red-tails-in-love-birdwatchers-as-
a-community-of-practice/

Often we use the spidergram tool noted above to start a conversation
about a community's set of orientations. You can look at it as a way to
see where the community has been "retrospectively," where it is now
and/or where it wants to go. It simply is a way to see what is going on
and give language to what is needed in terms of tech, process,
resources to move forward.

Orientations typically shift over the life of a community. Early on,
for example, there may be a lot of attention to community cultivation
(emphasis on togetherness, if you think about the polarities). Over
time, as the community grows and gets its own rhythm, more attention
may be put on making it easy for individuals to participate in more
flexible ways, or maybe after a long period of ongoing conversations, a
project or publication to focus and reflect upon the community's
learning. 

One thing I notice when we do the community orientations exercise,
people often say all nine are a top priority. I then ask - how  much
time and attention do you have? That changes the story and they start
thinking about what is important right now.

This has interesting tech implications. For some crazy reason, we
think we build our platform once and everything is done. But
communities change and evolve. It seems their technology configuration
often has to evolve too!
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #89 of 110: John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Sun 4 Jul 10 13:09
    
I think it's paradoxical how we need examples like the bird-watching
community in Central Park to get our imaginations fired up about what
our own communities could be.  And at the same time, examples can also
serve as enclosures to our wider imaginings, impoverishing our sense of
the possibilities.  The community orientations we wrote about help us
take a step back from what we observe and "scale up" our thinking a
bit.  

When we first started thinking about the orientations, they were
really clusters of tools that seemed to go together.  Then we realized
that they didn't necessarily have to do with the tools, but seemed to
be clusters of activity -- so, community orientations.  

And when you think about the effect of technology on each of those
orientations, there are specific contributions that technology can
make.  One that I've been thinking about a lot recently is "increasing
the periphery".  Just to take the first three (have to run some
errands, so must limit my ambitions here):

* Meetings - The obvious example is tools like WebEx or GoToMeeting,
etc. This is one of the UNDER-developed pages on our tools wiki:
http://cpsquare.org/wiki/Web_Meeting_tools .  But actually technology
is changing the way we do meetings in profound ways.  I went to a
corporate ethnography conference in Chicago last August (I guess I like
being an outsider) and had fits because the wifi was SO expensive and
SO flaky; I had counted on Twitter during the meeting to provide a kind
of social access that I didn't expect to find otherwise.  Here's some
other thoughts on how tagging can help make meetings more useful
(bending them to our own purposes):
http://learningalliances.net/2010/01/tagging-and-face-to-face-events/
(That's increasing the periphery in an odd way: giving a subgroup some
kind of toe-hold on meeting planning.)

* Projects.  I think that the conventional thinking is probably that
GANTT chart tools like MS-Project are what make projects manageable. 
But technology (starting with email) vastly increases the scope and
speed of small-group organization.  I was quite surprised by the
discussion on this piece:
http://technologyforcommunities.com/2010/05/digital-habitats-for-project-teams
/
 It seems to me that there are huge opportunities to increase the
peripheries around Agile retrospectives.  (When retrospectives are
closed, it's a perfect example of wasted learning opportunities because
of peripheries that are truncated.)

* Access to Expertise - I think the obvious example here is the
blogosphere in the good old days.  Think of being able to listen to
Dave Snowden without having to learn to dance with the prickles.
Although the size of peripheries are social phenomena, technology
changes things in surprising ways.

As a student of communities I feel very committed to use those
orientations creatively but to put direct observation of living
communities and their inventiveness first.   If we follow the learning
we may find other orientations.  And ethnography at a distance probably
has its own illusions and traps, but I think that technology stewards
have to be barefoot ethnographers to really be a positive force.

(I have to say I'm struck by how "on-topic" this conversation is --
it's interesting nobody mentions having to run to the grocery store or
the other threads that wrap round this ongoing conversation.)
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #90 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Sun 4 Jul 10 14:33
    
Oh dear. I have to run to the airport to pick up my sister. (So there.
We now have social drift)

Actually, John, IJHTS that was a great post. Thanks.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #91 of 110: John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Sun 4 Jul 10 23:41
    
IJHTS = I just Hvae to Say?  :-)  Maybe that's "inny" Well-talk?  
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #92 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Mon 5 Jul 10 07:55
    
It's simply old discussion board short cuts! IMHO (in my humble
opinion),IJWTS (I had it wrong, I Just Want to Say) , etc. 
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #93 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Mon 5 Jul 10 08:47
    
John, I'm going back to your comment, 

>I think it's paradoxical how we need examples like the bird-watching
community in Central Park to get our imaginations fired up about what
our own communities could be.

This suggests a couple of things to me.

* Do we take the time to think about, observe and talk about our
communities?
* How are we using stories to surface what our communities need from a
tech perspective

The other thing I find is when someone hands me a framework, it
doesn't come alive until THEY tell me a story using it. So for me, the
orientations are more of an academic exercise until I see them come
alive. So maybe it is a lack of imagination, but another way of looking
at it is that we all have different ways of taking ahold of an idea.
Examples help me. They don't limit me. I can also see how they can be
limiting. 

Maybe I misunderstood your comment? Say more?
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #94 of 110: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 5 Jul 10 20:16
    
You talk about the relationship orientation in groups where members
emphasize knowing each other and having more interaction one on one or
in small groups. How common is this orientation in CoPs that you've
studied? I'm wondering how more or less impersonal the interactions
tend to be? 
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #95 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Tue 6 Jul 10 07:08
    
<jonl> this is where I think technology has had a big impact. At least
it has for me. In my F2F CoPs of "days gone by" relationship was
assumed as central and often preceded many other types of activities.
The emphasis was on strong ties (to use network language).  In the
technologically linked world, weak or loose ties are so easy to create
and maintain, that it feels like they are dominating more. So content
and interaction often precede relationship compared to F2F CoPs. (This
is a generalization. Apply your grain of salt.)

The interesting thing about this is that while the electronically
mediated groups can be larger and it is harder for everyone to have a
relationship to most everyone else, the TOOLS we use - the multiplicity
of tools -- allow "easy group forming." Often outside of the
community's "designated" technology. 

So,a lot more personal? A lot less? I think the options are wider now.
I guess the choice is up to us, eh?
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #96 of 110: Craig Maudlin (clm) Tue 6 Jul 10 09:30
    
And, in some situations, weak ties can be more valuable to the
participants.

Plus there's the measurement problem: you can't just keep track of
the relationships you see at the bowling alley. Relationships can
transcend groups, tools and even language.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #97 of 110: John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Tue 6 Jul 10 12:04
    
Nancy's comment about examples... <inkwell.vue.386.93>

I think that examples are like stories... very evocative and powerful.
In ways more useful than some kind of conceptual scheme, like you say.
But they can also be problematic because they are too powerful.  I
feel like I have often been smitten by a powerful example -- a
community that is so vibrant, so productive, so much admired -- so that
I forget some of the details, all the flops along the way, the dead
spaces or conversations that trailed off into the ether.

For example, in "Cultivating Communities" (Wenger et al 2002) there's
an extended example of the Turbodudes.  I think that the example has
had a life of its own, almost becoming a paradigm of what a community
of practice SHOULD LOOK LIKE.  That can be a problem.  Details that are
missing from the account can be crucial.  For example, that Turbodudes
example doesn't mention that the community's existence was partly due
to the fact that the CEO of Shell set aside a huge pile of money for
organizational learning, so that people from Shell USA were sent to a
bunch of expensive organizational learning workshops and there was a
lot of money thrown at the Turbodudes.  Some of the dynamics of the
Turbodudes were of course very general.  But it too me a while to
figure out that projects like that were not much of a financial
honeypot for peripheral consultants like me.  :-)
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #98 of 110: John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Tue 6 Jul 10 12:19
    
Craig's comment in <inkwell.vue.386.96> about "measurement" is a
really big issue for participants and even more so for tech stewards. 

Of course f2f communities were never completely visible either. 
People have always talked to each other behind each other's backs. 
When you add in the amount of learning that happens without words
(watching practice, doing work together, etc.), you realize that these
are old problems.

But the fact that conversations can get picked up from one "channel"
and move onto another makes participating rich and purposeful, but also
adds a layer of complexity.  There are many opportunities for saying
stuff "in public" that should be taken "offline" AND visa versa.  So
there needs to be more acculturation about channels and the only way to
learn this is to get feedback (on what channel, I wonder?) one way or
another.

Reminds me of a little comment in Ito et al.'s "Hanging out, etc."
book:

"Skills and literacies that children and youth pick up organically in
their given social worlds are not generally objects of formal
educational intervention, though they may require a great deal of
social support and energy to acquire." P. 341

In fact, kids today have accumulated a HUGE amount of culture about
jumping from one channel to another, about appropriateness ("you don't
break up with someone on SMS"), and about boundaries (how to monitor
fidelity) that's very impressive.  And somewhat invisible to people who
don't parlay vous the language.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #99 of 110: Nancy White (choco) Tue 6 Jul 10 12:23
    
Is turnabout fair play in an Inkwell.vue conversation? As we get to
the end of our two weeks, I'd love to hear from those of you who read
the book. What of value (if anything) did you take away from the book?
What troubled you? What is missing? Feedback --> the gift!
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #100 of 110: John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Tue 6 Jul 10 17:36
    
I've taken a crack at connecting the Digital Habitats to the Mimi Ito
book I've been talking about:
http://learningalliances.net/2010/07/tech-steward-meet-tech-mentor/
  

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