Monday, 22 June 2009

PhD dissertation 'Passion at work' : Summary

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

PhD dissertation: Summary

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. PhD dissertation: Summary own blogging practices are part of the approach: Lilia Efimofa studied them in one of the cases, used her weblog as a reflexive journal to document the research process and integrated 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.

Blogging in knowledge-intensive environments

On June 22 defends L. Efimova at the Utrecht University a remarkeable PhD thesis with the title: 'Passion at work Blogging practices of knowledge workers'.

Although the complete thesis (the whole book) can be read online I like to quote from Lilia's conclusions the description she gives of blogging practices in respect to ideas, to conversations, to relations, to working on specific tasks and to context:

* Weblogs are used to maintain awareness of the ideas “out there” through reading in small bites, using weblogs of others as trusted sources and own network as a filter.
* Weblogs provide a space for articulating and capturing ideas that might be undocumented or hidden in private collections otherwise, parking them in a trusted external repository shared with others.
* Blogging is used for sense-making supported by writing, multiple ways to organise and assess one’s own blog posts and conversations with other bloggers.
* When developing ideas the person-centric and open-ended nature of blogging brings unexpected insights that cross topical boundaries.
* Over time ideas captured and organised in weblogs provide a fertile ground for reflection and reuse.

In respect to conversations blogging practices are described as:

* Weblog conversations are informed by and embedded into histories of writing in individual weblogs as well as history of interactions and relations between participating bloggers. Those contexts are not necessarily explicit and visible to everyone who participates.
* Since weblog conversations involve communicating via comments to a specific weblog and via linking across weblogs they are fragmented and distributed over multiple weblogs. In addition, those conversations may be supplemented by interacting via other media. The distributed and fragmented nature of weblog conversations results in exposure to different audiences, crossing multiple topics, combining individual input and the power of dialogue.
* In comparison to other tools, participation in weblog conversations requires extra effort that includes manually connecting conversational fragments by linking, and well as creating and maintaining an overview of those fragments. This effort limits the scale or frequencies of such conversations and also makes them more likely to happen within densely-knit networks of bloggers.
* Weblogs provide a possibility for an occasional interaction rather than support constant conversations. They are not particularly suitable for goal-oriented conversations, but provide a fertile ground for exploring ideas, especially those that cross topical boundaries or where the interests of others are not known in advance.
* Participation in weblog conversations contributes to developing ideas and relations that often cross boundaries and exclude intermediaries.

In respect to relations the blogging practices are described as:

* Personal nature of blogging plays an important role in establishing professional connections. Weblogs are often treated as online representations of their authors, living business cards.
* Weblogs are used for establishing and maintaining both, personal relations with other bloggers and informational relations that involve treating other bloggers as trusted information source without engaging in person.
* In both cases it is “connecting through content“, where the person-centric nature of blogging plays an important role in establishing trust (either in blogger as a person or as an information source) and connecting across boundaries.
* Networking via weblogs is enabled by publishing and interaction. Publishing allows efficient broadcasting on a variety of topics to often unknown audiences and is essential for being present as a blogger, getting to know others and making informed choices about engaging with them, and as a low-key way to stay in touch. While bloggers do not actively interact all the time, it is the conversations between them over time that help to establish personal bonds that eventually enable getting things done together.
* While personal relations are often initially established via blogging, over time multiple channels come into play to monitor others and to interact with them.

In respect to working on specific tasks blogging practices are described as:

* The open-ended and public nature of weblogs does not necessarily makes them a good tool to work directly on tasks, so in most cases weblogs are used for enabling work, rather than doing it. Weblogs influence one’s work indirectly when they are used for developing ideas, engaging in conversations and establishing relations that might be needed in the future:
* documented ideas might be reused and reworked, accelerating working on tasks;
relations with others make it possible to engage them when needed;
conversations result in unexpected ideas and relations that can turn into new projects or contribute to the on-going ones.
* Blogging might became more closely integrated with one’s work when it requires working on tasks that match the medium, for example, those that require documenting potentially useful ideas, relationship building or communicating to a broad audience.
* While in some cases blogging might become the required way to perform one’s work or a focus of it, in most cases it is added to a pool of various tools one can use to work on a task. Knowledge workers choose to use blogging as an instrument when it works for them and do it intentionally, ad-hoc or in retrospect.

Blogging practices in respect to context are described as :

* Blogging on professionally interesting topics often results in a degree of integration with work, even when started without such an intention. In business settings blogging is neither purely individual nor business-driven – the choices that shape a particular weblog are multifaceted and weblogs of individual knowledge workers are positioned on various places between the extremes.
* Bloggers have to deal with the effects of visibility that comes as a result of blogging. While visibility might be a driving force for blogging and a reason for many positive effects it brings (e.g. ideas and people being found) it also comes with challenges of dealing with expansion of networks and information overload, changes in power distribution when crossing hierarchical or organisational boundaries, raised expectations and making mistakes in public.
* Given that blogging is shaped by and useful in different contexts that often result in incomparable requirements, bloggers have to make choices and draw the boundaries deciding if they blog for themselves or others, do it for connecting with peers or a business gain, or how personal their work-related weblog should be.
* Blogging is creating microcontent, but the value of it is in the connections and patterns across those fragments over time. It is also efficient in exposing a blogger to a great number of ideas and people across various boundaries. So, learning to deal with fragmentation and abundance is part of blogging practices.
* Choosing, managing and ‘working around’ tools is part of blogging. Next to making choices about the technology set-up for their weblogs when starting, bloggers constantly deal with making choices about media to engage with others. Various tools used for that purpose require the effort of maintaining contacts across them and learning how to maximise their potential and account for limitations.

Highly recommanded reading !!!!!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Communicating Global/Development Research

This morning one of the open space sessions during the EADI-Information Management Workshop in Copenhagen was based on the question: What is so specific about communicating Global research? I had the pleasure to discuss this question with 7 other participants sharing experiences and point of views from various angels.

In the first place we had difficulties in understanding the concept of Global research and replaced it by Development research (assuming this concept would be clearer ;-).

Furthermore we argued that it is necessary to distinguish different types of researches and, for the matter of communication, also researchers:
  • Academic research – researchers who apparently mainly communicate in peer reviews;
  • Programme research – evaluations, monitoring of development programs and projects, by academic researchers but mainly by consultants (evaluations, consultancies)
  • Experience based research – research in which the people actually involved in the development processes are directly involved (‘the people’)
These three types of research need different ways of communication (strategies, methods and tools). Thereby issues of validation (“truth” is not equal to “authenticity”) and access to money and power play an important role, be it in a different way for each of the three defined types of research.

They play a role in the way the ‘to be’ communicated information or message can be ‘translated’ for the intended audience. And again, this discussion group concluded that it is as important to make a distinction in the audience, be it academics, policy makers, program managers, press/media or the involved people themselves. This distinction also defines the strategy, methods and tools to be used to communicate about the research.

This all led to the conclusion that ultimately communicating about research is the same as any other communication: all depends who is involved, on the purpose and on the source.

But, while discussing the following questions arose:

Why does one go into development research if not to contribute to development?, and: Why then do so many (academic) development researchers adopt a mode of work which does not contribute to that aim? (by keeping the information among themselves and/or communicating in such a subtle way that is hard to follow for most audiences?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Euforic, Climate Change and Information Management

On Wednesday June 10 the AGM of Euforic took place in Copenhagen, kindly hosted by NIAS. The morning was dedicated to the business meeting. As so often unfortunately this meeting was not attended by very much members, a pity because it is so important to have members really involved in what is going on in a joint organization such as Euforic (or Dgroups for example). But anyhow all plans were approved and a nice discussion about future plans took place. For the latter there was no time to ‘finish’ it and it was agreed to continue the discussion on line. So all members that were not able to come to Copenhagen can still join this discussion!

The afternoon session was quite interesting. A couple of members presented their activities around the issue of Climate Change. More information about these presentations can be found in Euforic’s blogpost. Unfortunately there was hardly time to discuss the presentations and talk about experiences and activities which were not presented. But anyhow it is amazing to see and hear how much is being done and therefore how many opportunities there are to join efforts and make our work more effective. In that sense Euforic could do a lot in actively ‘linking’ members when they feel possible collaboration between members (or other organizations they come across) could be fruitful.

Today, the Workshop of the EADI Information Management Working Group started. The main topic to be discussed, in a Open Space session is “What are the issues, ideas, possibilities, opportunities etc. around communicating affectively in global research consortia and networks”.
The intention is to make it possible too follow what is happening in this workshop on-line. Therefore we started with some short explanations on how to Twitter, blog and blipping (post videos on Interested people who could not attend this workshop can find all the new postings looking for the tag #IMWG2009.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

By the Dalits for the Dalits; CARDS theater group performs

The 'CARDS International' theatre group from India performed in the chapel of the ICCO Alliance office in Utrecht today. This youth group is visiting the Netherlands for two weeks from June 3 until June 16. Their objective is to raise awareness on the situation of Dalits in India. Dalits fall outside the Hindu cast system and are considered to be lower than the poorest class.

Today's performance showed a touching mixture of theatre and dance. The drums that represented the hearts of the Dalits and its hypnotizing beat could be heard throughout the ICCO building. The chapels, with its colourful windows provided a suitable setting for this performance. Through their dance they showed how government provided fruits were available. The poor Dalits were however not able to access these fruits, which were bought by landlords and more privileged persons.

The performance showed the changes brought about by the work of CARDS. It showed how the financial situation improved. The Dalits no longer had to beg and they were no longer shouted at.
The water situation also improved, since the water source was solidified. Their status in general had improved and especially that of Dalit women. A woman no longer had to massage a men's leg, nor fetch them a drink when asked in a brutal tone. The Dalit ladies could simply pass men by with an umbrella and a smile on her face.

CARDS is a youth organisation for development of rural communities in Andra Pradesh. CARDS has been working over 25 years for rights of Dalits. The ICCO Alliance has supported a number of their projects since 1968, read more. 60-70% of Dalits are illiterate, that is partially why this theater group is raising awareness on their situation. The performance was made 'by the Dalits for the Dalits'.

For more pictures of the performance, follow this link.

By Stephanie Zwier

Understanding of Dutch Culture/Religion; Sunday 31 May

The team of 7 trainees left the guesthouse at about 9:00 am and travelled to Amersfoort and participated in an Ecumenical Church (Het Brandpunt). Het Brandpunt faith community church is made up of believers of Catholic and Protestant background, who have decided to come together to worship as one church 15 years ago; and so were also celebrating their 15th Anniversary this same Sunday. The Worship was conducted by two female Pastors Josephine van Pampus (Catholic) and Anette Sprotte (Protestant).

During the service a member of the church was confirmed. This appeared a bit special as the lady was called in front to give an explanation of her confirmation before the Pastors led her through “Questions of Faith to Christ”. The Pastor earlier acknowledged the presence of ICCO guests during her sermon. Also in the course of the service, the Pastors also undertook the commissioning and blessings of 11 Volunteers with special functions/tasks in the church. The church service ended a little after an hour and the congregation participated in coffee/tea and snacks session before retiring home. During this time the 7 ICCO guests were introduced to their host families and were taken home till 6 pm and we all met again at the church premises to be conveyed back to our Guesthouse.

On arrival to the Guesthouse a short evaluation/feedback session was held.
Question: What one word impression do you have from this visit?
Excellent, beautiful, hospitable, loving and caring, spontaneous, integration etc..

Question: What made you say this?

How 2 different denominations found a way to come together. How the find common values that unite them whereas others go separate ways. We experienced what holds people as human beings whatever their religion or beliefs… My host family asked me a lot of questions and I also asked them a lot.. . we shared… we exchanged a lot of this about our families… , our lives….

Question: Any questions from you?

Yes, how 2 denominations come together?Answer from a host: May be it’s money? Ideology? Money because it is easier for us to come together to build our own church as each denomination has to find its own money… but we are having problem sticking together for over 15 years… each denomination wants his way… but we are still going on so far…

Question: What other things did you find special?

  • The church service, as a Hindu I have never participated in the a Christian service, I only observe at distance.. as a tourist.. but today I participated fully, I like the prayers and the songs sound sweet… something I can’t forget… I enjoy the prayers..
  • It is special women conducting prayers/service…. this not common in India for women…
  • No young people, youth in the church… only parents and younger children…
  • This seems the case in every religion… all over the world… the youth wants to do things different from their parents…yes, it’s difficult my children only attend on special days… they don’t like to participate in church..
  • Some youth come back later… I myself did not like church when I was young, but after my mother died I like to go back to where she took me to… may be back to the community in church/
  • I like the simplicity of things, especially the church room compared to others.. big catholic buildings… only the cross is in the church ok… not many other symbols.. distractions.. better.

Question: What about the host families?

  • What I like about my host family is they all show interest. They live at different places but they tried to meet on Sunday for church..
  • I like the division of work in the family, the husband help cook and clean- the gender part - not so in my culture… men don’t like to do certain work.. but it’s changing… better than in my mother’s generation.. I will train my son to even do better in his generation…
  • The children (9yrs, 14yrs) in my family were nice but we could not communicate much as they don’t speak much English… so I could not talk much about my children with them… but I see they are interested… I see the children are the same in many ways as from my country.. although the environment are different…
  • I visited a village school, I was very impressed . Village life not the same and very difficult in India… I shared about socio-economic life in India, my host were very surprised as they did not know a lot about India…
  • I see loving relationship between the wife and husband.. although they are now 56 and 60 years respectively.Any other questions?
  • Oh it’s appreciative to be with a Dutch family..
  • My family was wonderful.. they tried to speak Spanish also with me..
  • Being with a family is wonderful thing… one can travel as tourist to any country but it’s difficult to be with a family. Being with a family is the best way to experience the culture..

Question: What can you say is typically Dutch?

Bread and cheese, lot of bikes, dropjes everywhere, even in car.. they like nice and simple things.. they don’t show off.. they are open..

Close at 8.30 pm.
By: Prosper Sapathy