Monday, 22 June 2009

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 !!!!!

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