Elmine Wijnia has published her BlogTalk paper "Understanding Weblogs, a Communicative Perspective" (pdf). Although I have been a eye-witness of how her work took shape in the past months, with her master thesis and this article as outcome, now that there is something like a finished product it speaks more clearly to me.
In my view Elmines work does something very important, which is to firmly place weblogs in communications, and not put the fact that it's technology-based first. This is a notion that I and others attempted to do in the past in anecdotal form, but she does this academically.
That is why her definition of weblogs resonates with me:
The weblog, or blog, is a webpage on which the author publishes pieces with the intention to
start conversation. Or in more detail, a weblog disseminates ideas, to generate conversation.
It catches the part of blogs where publishing/broadcasting has a role, and when the more intense forms of 1 on 1 communication kick in. It describes what we actually do, in stead of which tools we use to do it.
Another interesting find is her conclusion as to why weblogs are a new medium:
the weblog as a communication medium is really a new medium because it combines three information patterns in itself. (the three patterns being, consultation, registration and conversation.
That is something that wasn't here yet. So when someone says that a weblog is like a website, or like a forum, they are all partly right. They lift one of the traffic patterns to the foreground, but ignore the other two. It's significance is not that it is like a website, like a forum. It's that it combines three basic informationpatterns that makes it interesting.
Comparing weblogs, based on their technological aspects, with the communicational theories of Habermas, Elmine provides a framework for thinking about the possible uses, and their limits. Although this is perhaps not worked out in full detail in her paper, as it wasn't the main focus of her work, it does open up a way forward in understanding why I like these tools so much.
I can recommend reading the whole paper, although I am biased of course as we live together. You might have some difficulty getting to grips with Habermas, but it is central to this paper that you do. His work is not easy to internalise, and I am glad I could follow Elmines work for a year so that I think I now have a basic understanding of his ideas.1 Comments and 2 Trackbacks | Permalink
Defining the Knowledge Worker
Martin Roell in a recent post described his thoughts about a workeable definition of what a knowledge worker is. In the trackbacks Florian Heidecke, Geoffry Rockwell, and Jack Vinson add interesting thoughts and observations.
What Martin describes resonates with my own perspective:
I think that when I say "knowledge work" I nearly always only focus on workers who are not in operative processes. That means their job is "different every day" - they don't have taks that are the same every day. They innovate their own work and usually work on innovating other people's work too. They need to manage complexity. In Dave Snowden's Cynefin Model they would work in the Complex and Knowable fields most of the time. However I am not sure that this is really the core of my view. I can see many "knowledge workers" that do have repetitive tasks. Maybe this part is just "information work"?
I agree with Martin putting knowledge work more in the complex and knoweable realms of Dave Snowdens model, and less in the known. That in my opinion is why plumbers and carpenters are not knowledge workers, even though they are skilled specialists requiring specific knowledge at what they do. They apply an established body of knowledge to mainly well known problems.
As to the routine work knowledge workers do, I think what we deem routine largely falls into the category of activities necessary to fit into an organizational environment. Attending meetings, writing reports, etc, it's all interfacing with the formal structures surrounding you. That is probably also why most knowledge workers find them boring.
This as opposed to the other part of their routine activities, the ones you hear them complain much less about: collaborating with others. We all engage in finding and contacting others, then building relationships, rapport and context, enabling us to create artefacts (documents, stories, objects) and exchange knowledge (in the form of information, experiences, skills and attitudes), and ultimately to store/anchor knowledge in our personal routines, flows and tools. This cycle of collaboration as I call it, is reflected at the organization level by the general knowledge flow of importing/generating knowledge, diffusing and applying it, and in the end evaluating/unlearning it.
The Knowledge Worker, bronze statue by Dieter Meding
Now everybody in the world is caught up in these collaborative cycles of course, and that in itself does not make someone a knowledge worker. What does, I think, is the notion that while you can be great at the conveyor belt, or as an artisan, without being able to nurture your social network effectively, you cannot be a great knowledge worker without being great at the collaborative cycle. In knowledge work your social environment is the source of your creativity, the place where ideas come to fruition, and where you are rewarded with appreciation and increasingly income. This second part of routine tasks knowledge workers have, is in the vocabulary of the previous paragraph, interfacing with the informal structures around you. Whenever this clashes with interfacing with formal structures knowledge workers feel restricted, unappreciated, misunderstood etc.
David Weinbergers definition of knowledge work, which he explained during the first BlogTalk conference in 2003, as having interesting conversations captures that exactly in my view.
In the september issue of the Global Knowledge Review, a new magazine by David Gurteen, in his editorial David paints a similar picture of what a knowledge worker is to him:
You take the initiative to seek out the knowledge you need and to develop your personal capabilities. What motivates you is the ability to be yourself, to speak with your own voice,and to learn and develop in your own way and at your own pace. You are a knowledge worker and see yourself as a business of one. To you managing knowledge means managing yourself. You have taken full responsibility for your working life.You continually strive to understand the world about you and to modify your work practices and behaviours to better meet your personal objectives and those of your organization. No one really tells you what to do anymore, and certainly not how to do it. [...] You are self-motivated.
A better understanding of what a knowledge worker is, is relevant because it then can form the basis of a better understanding of what personal knowledge management is: what can an individual do to be a more effective knowledge worker, within his social network.
All in all the above paragraphs are all just impressions and stories around the concept of a knowledge worker, and not yet a definition. To explore this further I have set up a group of wiki-pages (in the Personal Something Management Wiki) where I will work on this question from several different philosophical perspectives, in order to build a broader understanding, and a basis to arrive at a (consensus) based definition.2 Comments and 5 Trackbacks | Permalink
Global Knowledge Review
David Gurteen has started a new magazine, Global Knowledge Review. As I have a large amount of respect for David as a person, and his Knowledge Conferences (although I've never been able to attend one), I am sure that this magazine will be valuable as well. The introduction issue is free for download, and there are reduced price subscriptions until Oct. 1st.
A handful of topics from the first issue:
Everyday miracles, learning and the human condition
What do Knowledge Workers want?
A wake up call for HR
Can we make the flow go?
Trees versus webs
BlogWalk IV: London
It will be strange tomorrow, as for the first time I will not be attending the BlogWalk myself, even though I helped organize it. Just couldn't make it. But the next one is already taking shape. We'll be visiting Umea in Sweden, on the kind invitation of Stephanie Hendrick. On November 11th Howard Rheingold will hold a seminar in Umea, and the day after that the seminar will serve as input for our fifth blogwalk meeting. Definitely going to be there!
But first of all back to the upcoming BlogWalk in London. Focus will be the future of work under influence of social software, for instance blogging behind the firewall. A diverse and interesting group of 19 people will come together in the Old Crown on New Oxford Street:
Johnnie Moore - http://www.johnniemoore.com/blog/
Tim Kitchin - http://www.stealthisbrand.com/
Ian Glendinning - http://www.psybertron.org/
David Wilcox - http://partnerships.typepad.com/civic/
Anu Gupta - http://www.scalefree.info/
Riccardo Cambiassi - http://www.codewitch.org/
Lee Bryant - http://www.headshift.com/
Suw Charman -http://chocnvodka.blogware.com/
Martin Roell - http://www.roell.net/weblog/
Chris Macrae - http://www.blogger.com/profile/1765762
Julian Elvé - http://synesthesia.co.uk/blog/
Lilia Efimova - http://blog.mathemagenic.com
George Por - http://www.community-intelligence.com/blogs/public/
Ed Mitchell - http://www.knowledgeboard.com
Colin Morley - http://www.empowermentillustrated.com/
Louise Ferguson - http://www.louiseferguson.com/cityofbits.htm
Desiree Gosby - http://www.savaje.com/
Omar Green - http://www.savaje.com/
Lloyd Davis - http://www.perfectpath.co.uk/
I am sure they will have great conversations and that we'll be reading their aggregated reflections at Topicexchange.
Interested in attending a BlogWalk meeting? All meetings are by invitation only. But invitations are not hard to come by. Just get in touch with me (or Lilia Efimova or Sebastian Fiedler) and show your interest.0 Comments and 3 Trackbacks | Permalink
Real People Talking Real Business in Real Time
Scott Allen blogs a great story. I have strong reservations about Ecademy as a platform, think that in general it has a approach to networking that sees contacts as prospects first, and as human beings only second at the most. (Although there are a lot of very interesting and fine people active there, in groups and communities) But I have to hand it to Ecademy founder Thomas Power for giving great proof to a group of T-Mobile managers, that there is nothing un-real about our virtualnetworks. We're real, we're professionals, and we're using new tools as best as we can.4 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink
This is posted from a new tool by the hand of Jon Husband which Elmine, I and others are betatesting. I think I'll divulge more when Jon lets me :)1 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink