About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Teaching about mob mentality

Today I taught my group communication class about mob mentality. This is the first semester I have included this in my course, but with the recent publicity about Bullying, I felt it was necessary for my students to understand the role of group communication in the bullying debate. In fact, I think a large part of the bullying problem, especially for those in Middle School and High School, is based on group dynamics, social identity, and intergroup/intragroup relations. I assigned the readings:

Stott, C, Hutchinson, P., & Drury, J. (2001). ‘Hooligans’ abroad? Inter-group dynamics, social identity and participation in collective ‘disorder’ at the 1998 World Cup Finals British Journal of Social Psychology 40, 359–384.

Donley, M. (2011) Examining the Mob Mentality. South Source (1).

I went to twitter to ask for suggestions on teaching this. It seemed that this is not a common topic taught among my followers and my followers' followers, so I was on my own. This is why I decided to write about the activities I used (which was both engaging and interesting for my students). In fact, this was one of the best group discussions I have ever had in class. So much so that I went over time in my class and the students didn't even try to run out before we were finished!

So what did I do?

1. We went to a well traveled area of campus (relatively so for 9:00 AM), the campus center and food court. We found a well traveled area and my students (about 35 of them) lined up. We tried different things, such as all of them looking up and all of them looking down. Initially, the few people in the food court avoided the area, conspicuously changing direction to get to where they were going without walking past the line. My students were also initially uncomfortable. Soon, however, they became relaxed, and began to talk to those that would walk by. By the end the five minutes, my students would try to engage those who walked by in conversation, laying sometimes, sometimes trying to get them to join the line. At one point, there was a person who asked if they were waiting in line for food (they were no where near the food areas). My students began to laugh and this was when the students attitudes changed from uncomfortable to getting into the "mob" spirit. We left after 5 minutes and then discussed what we had observed.

2. Modified survivor game. I broke the class up into two large groups. I then asked a trivia question. Then I had the group vote out two people from the group. This first two to leave for the most part volunteered. We then went to the next round. However, before two more people were voted out of each group, I told the class that those voted out would need to dance in front of the class. At this point, the 4 who had initially opted out of the groups protested and declared that they would NOT dance in front of the class. This round also ended up being more high stakes in terms of who would go. One group asked for volunteers who could dance. I continued with rounds until there was one group of 5 and one group of 3 along with the group of 27 who had already been voted out. I then told all three groups they would have to dance in front of the class, one group at a time. Not surprisingly, the large group of 27 were the least inhibited in dancing (yes, even the one person first voted out who had protested the loudest ended up dancing without a single word). We then discussed peer pressure, social identity theory, and mob mentality.

3. Finally we discussed the TV show, What would you do? This hidden camera show presents ethical dilemma scenarios and sees how people react. Often, the non-verbal communication cues indicate someone does not like what is going on, but action is not taken until someone speaks up. When this happens, often others will chime in. This is a perfect example of both the "mob mentality" and the "silent majority" that don't want to be excluded from a group because they have questioned a group's norms. This is often the cause of bullying, especially in middle and high school. It is not as much an individual conflict as a group dynamic which creates an environment in which group members either feel empowered to act in anti-social behavior because they are part of a group (mob mentality) or others do not want to stop anti-social behavior for fear that they will be excluded from the group.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Knowledge ownership

This is my third finding of my dissertation. I will post the first finding next week.

Ownership of Knowledge

The greater the level of ownership that an individual feels towards a project or piece of work, the more likely he or she will align that work to personal values and knowledge. An individual’s personal values and knowledge might be related to his or her perceived profession, desire to be accepted by the group (project group, department, organization), or the cultures that informed the individual’s work (social, organizational, professional). Just as important is an individual or group’s perceived agency in the creation and use of knowledge within the collaborative process.

According to Skitka’s (2003) AIM model of Social Identity Theory, a greater level of ownership may create higher stakes for the individual within a group. A group member would want to be tied more closely to the other group members’ norms if the individual member perceives him or her to have a higher level of ownership in the work or work processes. Therefore, if his or her work is not accepted by the group, more than his or her work is questioned; his or her social identity and group acceptance is at risk. On the other hand, if the work is perceived as conforming to the norms and values outside of the group, as the quarterly report did, the group member would perceive the ownership of the work as someone else’s. As a result, his or her social identity within the group is not at risk. As a result, he or she might be more open to changes in the final product, work processes, or group knowledge boundaries, especially if those changes are perceived as coming from those outside of the group and the organization’s power structure.

In the group studied, there was the perception that knowledge could be located, owned, and/ or accessed either by an individual or the group when needed. Externally owned knowledge (e.g. the funding agency or organization owning either transactional or negotiated knowledge) did not always need to align with personal epistemologies for collaboration to take place within the distributed group. However, with internally owned knowledge (both transactional and negotiated knowledge), the more work was perceived as being owned by an individual, the greater the necessity that the epistemologies were aligned with the organization, group, and group members in order for collaboration to take place.

As discussed in the traditional model of knowledge management, when faced with information or an event on the group level that contradicts an individual’s personal identity construct (value, knowledge, epistemology, personal schema), that person has three choices: modify his or her own personal identity; modify the group’s beliefs, values, or understanding; or leave the group in order to maintain the individual’s personal identity (Levesque et al., 2001; McGrath et al., 2000; Moreland & Levine, 2001; Skitka, 2003; Whitworth et al., 2000). However, there is a fourth option that the group in this study used: create distance between the individual and the ownership of the work, contribution to the work, and/or knowledge needed to complete the work. In other words, knowledge needed to develop the final product or outcome is created and owned by the group, department, organization, or an external entity rather than the individual.

Related to the concept of ownership is the perceived agency an individual may have over his or her own work. Agency is the perceived ability an individual has to contribute, influence, and participate in the collaborative process. Using Nonaka’s (1994) model of intention, autonomy, and fluctuation discussed in chapter 2, agency is dependent upon both individual attributes (intention and efficacy) and situational factors (power structures and the environment). The greater the perceived agency for a task, process, or final product, the greater the level the individual perceives ownership over his or her work or work products (i.e. writing, designs, etc…). While an individual may feel a sense of ownership towards the knowledge used to create a group product having been part of the group that created it, he or she may not have felt a sense of individual agency in the creation of the knowledge due to influences at the group, departmental, or professional levels.

In the traditional model of organizational knowledge creation outlined in a previous blog post, ownership of knowledge was based on the location of the group work (individual, intragroup, intergroup, organization). This model did not account for influence outside of the organization on knowledge creation and access. Most knowledge management models (Conceicao, Heitor, Gibson, & Shariq,1998; Cook & Brown, 1999; Foss, & Pedersen, 2002; Nonaka, 1994), for example, assumed that knowledge was held by individuals within the organization. Information could then be transferred from individuals to others within the organization, thus creating knowledge at different levels. Occasionally, there was discussion of transferring the knowledge to external stakeholders (Mason & Lefrere, 2003; Yakhlef, 2002). However, the ultimate owners of the knowledge, to be kept or given away, were the individuals where the knowledge was housed (Cook & Brown).

In this study, however, the closer to the individual that agency was granted, the higher the level of ownership (and the closer to personal identity) the individual felt for that knowledge. Location for agency and ownership of work can be placed on a continuum in which perceived ownership of knowledge by external stakeholders grants individuals the lowest level of individual agency. On the other end of the continuum is knowledge that is perceived as being owned by the individual, resulting in the greatest level of individual agency.

In looking at the Quarterly Report, for example, the traditional model previously outlined would place the writing as an individual product, with high individual agency and ownership. This is because each individual wrote his or her own section, which often was edited by Robert; but much of the original writing was in the words of the individual contributor. The location of the work was somewhere between the individual and group levels. However, participants repeatedly distanced themselves from ownership of the quarterly report. In fact, the purpose and format of the Quarterly Report was perceived as being imposed on the individual and project group by the funding agency. Therefore, there was very little perceived agency in writing the Quarterly Report at the individual and even project group level. The Quarterly Report was perceived as being owned by the funding agency who imposed the format, valued knowledge, and discourse style on the project group.

The location of agency and ownership of work and the perceived ownership of knowledge is an important distinction to make as a traditional model would look to capture the individual contributions, interpreting it as expertise at the individual level. However, since the knowledge can be transactional, much of the individual knowledge was withheld or not captured because the individual knowledge the group possessed was not perceived as having value for the organization and funding agency. As Ronda discussed in the group interview:

Ronda: You know one thing the quarterly report doesn’t do is it doesn’t capture…it…it fails to capture a lot of work that is, eh, either a false start or kind of cons…concept building or teaching one another. And that’s…that’s been an incredibly important subtext of this all of this interdependence has been teaching one another about our work. And the quarterly report doesn’t ever…it’s only interested in what you did. Meaning, like what have you got evidence for. (Group interview).

In addition, the quality of the work, since it was perceived as being owned by the organization and funding agency, did not affect the social identity of the individual; therefore, there was little time and effort put into writing the Quarterly Report as it had very little individual knowledge value. Contrary to what Dias et al, (1995) claimed, genres only promote a different way of knowing which can be used as a starting point for group knowledge creation if there is a sense of agency and ownership of the knowledge. Without agency and a sense of personal ownership, the genre cannot trigger cognitive dissonance or negotiated knowledge.

In addition to the project group’s influence, individual members’ membership in a profession and department also had an impact on his or her social identity which in turn influenced perceived agency which in turn influenced perceived ownership. Professional and departmental processes, formats, and visions influenced an individual’s work as part of their desire to maintain the group norms within the profession or department. Each profession and department had its own focus and vision that was unique to the profession or the department. Each profession and department has its own codes, means of highlighting information important to the profession or department, and processes for creating professional and departmental artifacts which defined professional or departmental vision and value knowledge (Goodwin, 1994). Moving from the department to the distributed group, the project group in the study began to create its own lens (codes, highlighted information, the way in which information was sequenced, accessed, exchanged, and recorded), through which valued knowledge was identified. Each group member came to the project with a professional and departmental vision, which became the basis for developing the project group vision and culture.
For example, participants spoke about the difficulties of the project group in working with the Video Production department due to the rigid professional vision and work processes used in Video Production. Elearning was used to using a much less formal process for video creation and set a less rigid standard for video production. As the healthcare counseling project progressed, the Video Production department was given less agency in developing the video and the ownership of the video moved from Video Production to the project group. However, the project group began to revisualize the quality of the video so that it was different from both the elearning and the Video Production standards, yet still acceptable to both departments. The final video product moved location of ownership from the departments to the project group, yet also created negotiated knowledge within the departments through alignment of professional and departmental vision.

Within the collaborative process, tensions would arise when there was a question of legitimate ownership of knowledge or there was a struggle to grant or remove agency. For example, conflicts over writing styles based on differing professional standards often resulted in the realigning of negotiated knowledge. This realignment was sometimes interpreted as diminishing the agency to use certain professional knowledge that others in the group may have valued less than another profession’s knowledge. An example of this would be the conflict the group had over the language used for an elearning module. While Ronda believed a certain tone of language was needed as part of effective engagement strategies in instructional design, Phillip believed the language would be inappropriate for the healthcare profession. For those whose self-concept was strongly tied to the profession such as Phillip, Ronda’s questioning the use of traditional healthcare rhetoric could be perceived as others questioning his professionalism or expertise within the profession and, thus, his self-concept. However, as Skitka’s (2003) accessible identity model implies, the cognitive dissonance created through different professional standards could be resolved by group members identifying others as part of a different profession. In other words, different perceptions of valued knowledge and expertise might be caused by different professional alliances, but these differences might be accepted by project group members of differing professions because of perceived differences of professional alliances within a distributed group. As a result, Ronda aligned her work with Phillip, but at the same time relinquished individual ownership in exchange for the group knowledge and granted Phillip a greater level of agency in the creation of the elearning modules. However, she maintained her individual professional knowledge ownership on what makes a good elearning module.

At other times, differing knowledge about the same topic were allowed to coexist with ownership being shared within the group or between levels (departments, organizational, or stakeholders). For example, even though the negotiated knowledge about the curriculum was the basis for the training manuals and elearning modules, there were differences in the final products produced within different departments, even between those from the same profession. The training manuals developed for the face to face training deparment and the elearning developed for the IT department had fundamental differences. The curriculum knowledge upon which the manuals and modules were based was perceived as being owned by the project group, funder, and organization as a whole. The knowledge used to deliver the curriculum (which tended to be transactional knowledge) was owned separately by individual group members and their departments. The curriculum was perceived as being very valuable at all levels of the project. As a result, it was important to participants that there was a sense of ownership at all levels. The variation in the delivery of the curriculum could be attributed to a sense of lack of agency by individuals (i.e. Olivia and David) and departments (elearning and Video Production); differences in perceived value; or by the transfer of ownership to other levels or project members.

The process of modification and reconciliation of processes and formats helped the project group began to identify ownership of transactional knowledge (certain processes and documents). It also helped individuals to align their knowledge and create negotiated knowledge with other levels of the power structure (group, department, professional, organization, stakeholders). Literature on communities of practice and discourse communities observed the same outcomes when those within the communities experienced cognitive dissonance (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Goodwin, 1994). In this study, however, when knowledge could not be aligned, than the individual could distance ownership of a product or the knowledge upon which processes and outcomes were dependent. In some cases, the department maintained ownership (which the group accessed when needed); at other times the group or a subgroup (i.e. the elearning group or the face to face trainers) claimed ownership. Individuals that did not perceive themselves as having a high degree of agency, did not have a strong sense of identity with the knowledge, and/or did not perceive value to the knowledge. They were better able to distance themselves from the ownership of the knowledge used in collaboration.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Transactional and Negotiated knowledge

I have revised my dissertation to include three major findings. This is one of the findings: there are two types of knowledge used in distributed workplace collaborative writing, transactional and negotiated. Next week I will discuss ownership of the writing.

Transactional and Negotiated Knowledge

There are two different types of knowledge used in distributed group processes: transactional and negotiated. Transactional knowledge was knowledge and expertise of perceived value often used as currency within the power structure. In order for knowledge to be used as currency, it would need to be of value, accessible by others, identifiable, stable (with clearly defined knowledge boundaries), and available in either a tangible form or tangibly represented. As explained in the previous section, knowledge of perceived value often were used as currency within the power structure, with study participants sharing, accessing resources, or withholding their knowledge based on their analysis of situational factors within the environment. The use of transactional knowledge is similar to the concept of knowledge used by the knowledge management theorists discussed in Chapter 2. Negotiated knowledge is knowledge created as a result of cognitive dissonance, overlapping knowledge boundaries, and a desire to create shared meaning and mental models. Negotiated knowledge is dynamic, difficult to identify (intangible), and dependent on situational factors. When expertise and perceived knowledge is shared, there is a process of negotiation in which meaning is created and knowledge boundaries are recreated. The concept of knowledge and knowledge creation identified by organizational learning theorists can be termed as negotiated knowledge.

This finding moves away from defining knowledge according to level of internalization and tangibility (explicit/implicit, tacit, content/competency/expertise) to defining knowledge according to its purpose. In addition to knowing what and knowing how (Cook & Brown, 1999; Nonaka, 1994; Sternberg & Horvath, 1999), employees and organizational entities need to have the ability of knowing where and when. Knowledge can be held outside of the individual within knowledge networks for current and future use. Employees that have access to a wide breath of knowledge when it is needed will be the most valuable to the organization, coworkers, and departments.

Transactional knowledge can be located with the individual member, within the group, in multiple departments, or within organizational or professional knowledge networks. In fact, transactional knowledge may be partaged throughout the organization or networks, stored within knowledge networks, and retrieved quickly when needed. For a service organization, especially, transactional knowledge is the product, and as such, the ability to convert knowledge into something tangible becomes an added value to the organization. Transactional knowledge can take the form of content or apprehensive knowledge. Negotiated knowledge, on the other hand can be internalized, located within a community of practice, or embedded deep throughout an organization or network. Negotiated knowledge requires interaction with others and is, thus, time consuming to create. It is the closest to Kolb’s (1980) comprehensive knowledge with the process of negotiation not only creating new knowledge, but also the relationships and understanding of the situational factors in which future negotiations/knowledge creation can take place. Access to negotiated knowledge is used to develop knowledge boundaries at various levels within which collaborations takes place. Negotiated knowledge is important for the functioning of a service organization, but may not be perceived as the organization’s product.

In the study, transactional knowledge or knowledge that was represented in a format that was identifiable, could take the form of documents, models, visual representations, interviews or testimonials, assessments such as quizzes and tests, credentials such as diplomas or training credits, web or training tools, and brands. The more tangible the knowledge was perceived, the easier it was for that knowledge to be traded or used as currency or valued transactional knowledge.

The use and offering of valued transactional knowledge could be banked and used as a currency for future access to resources. Phillip, for example, spoke about the importance of his work with this project group for future positions in the organization, “This is where my education is, all my experience is here. I feel really comfortable, confident, you know, in this field. So I probably want to stay here and this…this ac…this would, um, compliment the experience I’d already have. So could transfer into…into moving me into some other position, maybe, in the future.” In this case, Phillip could use his education and work experience to obtain another position. His resume and college degree were tangible representations of knowledge that he could use in another job or organization.

Transactional knowledge in recognizable formats such as reports, credentials, or group artifacts/products could also increase the value of an individual, group, or department who had access to valued knowledge. The quarterly report was important to the organization because it could be used as currency for future projects with the project funder. Transactional knowledge could also take the form of work processes. Many study participants spoke of how this project could be a model for future projects both within and outside of the organization. The model was a tangible representation of effective work processes that could be stored and replicated by others in a similar environment. As a result, the ability to create a model for similar projects within the organization or the healthcare profession was perceived as knowledge that could be traded, sold, replicated, or withheld depending on its value to others inside and outside of the organization.

Access to transactional knowledge was controlled depending on its perceived value. The video group, for example, withheld their expertise from the project group. Olivia did not offer her expertise and knowledge about video production to the project unless it was requested because she believed decision makers and those in a position of authority did not value that knowledge. She only did the work that was dictated to her by those higher up in the organizational power structure. Any value that she could have added to the project group’s work was withheld if not requested by the project group or the organizational power structure. In this way, she maintained ownership of her knowledge, withholding it rather than giving it away when it would not be valued.

Members of the group also managed access to transactional knowledge partaged throughout their knowledge network. In order to access the transactional knowledge, group members would need to know where the knowledge was stored (i.e. documents, artifacts, personal expertise or knowledge) within the knowledge network, have the resources to retrieve the knowledge (permissions, time, computer program access), and filter the knowledge so only knowledge of value was provided. A member’s knowledge network then became currency for use in their work environment, to be used or withheld at various levels internal and external to the project group. Olivia, for example, seemed to be a strong gatekeeper to her network, partly because of her perception that the group and those in authority did not value her knowledge, but also because she was unsure of her place within the project and organization. She maintained her network outside of the organization and group so that it would not be corrupted should she have to leave the organization. On the other hand, other group members protected their networks from specific members, again so their network was not corrupted (lack of trust, poor reputation, associations with undesirable experts, ideas, or policies). Paul, Helen, and Ronda all expressed concern about Robert interacting with those within their networks. He was perceived as having done damage in the relationships with those within their knowledge networks. There was a fear that further interaction with Robert would result in limited access or the disintegration of their networks. The negative impact Robert would have in turn would dimension the value of the network that they used as currency to access situated knowledge. In other words, their transactional knowledge would lose value.

While transactional knowledge was based on knowledge identified as something tangible or the ability to be made tangible (through documentation, visuals, processes, etc…), negotiated knowledge was dependent upon discussion and interaction. This interaction could include communication between coworkers, resources, documentation, the environment, and/or communication tools such as project management software. The purpose of discussion and interaction was to create shared meaning, norms, and mental models. The participants used terms such as “being on the same page”, “understanding where they [other group members] were coming from”, and “they (don’t) get it” when discussing their interaction and group meanings.

Some of the factors participants identified as being important for creating
negotiated knowledge included: 1) an openness to ideas, 2) feedback, 3) a sense of trust from those with whom the meaning would be negotiated, 4) awareness of where the starting point should be, 5) a sense of relationship with those involved and perspective taking abilities, and 6) cognitive dissonance or the awareness that there was a difference in understanding. According to the project group members, management had a problem with negotiated knowledge because creating shared meaning was time consuming, often without results or identifiable (transactional) valued knowledge.

Group members used a number of communication modalities to create negotiated knowledge. These included:

• Face-to-face communication in the form of formal discussions (e.g. regular “check-ins” and updates), working meetings (e.g. planning, departmental, content), weekly meetings, and informal discussions (e.g. breaks, water cooler or hallway conversations);

• Written communication in the form of scripts, online postings, programming codes, work approvals, reports, emails, planning documents, project task checklists, and feedback solicitations;

• Visuals in the form of write board diagrams, maps that represented content, flow charts, powerpoint slides, video footage, and representative photos.
These different modalities could trigger cognitive dissonance and helped participants discover differences both within and outside of the project group. The cognitive dissonance, once identified, then was the basis for negotiated knowledge, with participants defining the boundaries of their own understanding. Each participant created new knowledge boundaries through negotiated discussion.

The use of either transactional or negotiated knowledge for a group task depended on the perceived value of the knowledge by individual members and others they interacted with, the power structure, access to resources available for the task, time available for the task, and other situational factors.

Group members would use negotiated knowledge when there was time to negotiate, there was cognitive dissonance which was affecting the quality of individual and group work, and there was support for negotiation by those high within the power structure. Sometimes project group members were able to internalize redefined vision, ideas and/or meaning to create negotiated knowledge which became the basis for the project work. Phillip described the process the group went through in adapting content for elearning:

So we kind of, like, arrived at some middle postion. So it’s kind of a neat…ah, you know working relationship. And what it does is gives you o…other ways to think about things that you just wouldn’t have thought of. You know, you…you don’t know to think of those…things if you don’t know. (Phillip, interview 1).

This meaning making and perspective taking leads to higher order thinking and knowledge creation (Ede & Lunsford, 1990; Gunawardena, Lowe, & Anderson, 1997; Hagtvet & Wol, 2003; Jarvela & Hakkinen, 2002). Through group discussions, the sharing of prototypes, and negotiated group processes, the project group defined the knowledge boundaries of what elearning modules should look like and accomplish. This collective vision then allowed the project group to work distributively as long as their work was contained within the shared knowledge boundaries. Once there was an event that triggered cognitive dissonance, such as the project management requiring more elearning modules, the knowledge boundaries would need to be renegotiated. Those within the power structure were willing to allow project group members time to negotiate knowledge, especially in the beginning, in order to build relationships between departments, create a shared mental model from which the group could work, and create group norms that would expedite work tasks later in the project. However, towards the end of the study, less and less time was allotted for the renegotiation of knowledge boundaries as negotiated knowledge became less valuable to those in authority.

At other times, both transactional and negotiated knowledge was used at the same time, but at different organizational levels. The project group members simply were able to understand a different perspective while they maintained their own personal epistemologies and schema for the work task. In other words, there were two levels of meaning and beliefs for the work task: personal and group. The project group’s shared schema would inform group processes, but individuals could distance themselves from the dissonance caused by differences between group and personal epistemologies by handing ownership over to the project group. At this point, personal knowledge became transactional as their personal knowledge boundaries were not perceived as being as valuable as the group’s negotiated knowledge. An example of this was the quarterly report (see Appendix C: Writing Tasks for a more detailed description). While each group member had an idea what the quarterly report should include and the format it should take, the group allowed Robert and the funding agency’s vision to dominate. The project group’s negotiated knowledge about the quarterly report was established through group meetings, discussions on the project software, and feedback from managers and colleagues. However, the project group members distanced themselves from ownership of the quarterly report which allowed them to maintain their own knowledge boundaries on what effective report writing should be compared to the knowledge boundaries on what the quarterly report should look like. Helen, for example, noted that she thought the quarterly report had too much information (transactional knowledge she withheld), yet provided Robert with information he required to write the quarterly report because it was not her report, therefore it did not reflect on the quality of her personal work. Helen was able to maintain her social identity within the project group and organization by distancing ownership to the quarterly report (Skitka, 2003).

In the creation of the document that had perceived value, however, the use of negotiated knowledge in the form of reconciliation of differences between personal and group knowledge boundaries was important. For example, there were tensions between members of the stand-up training, elearning, and management groups over what exactly the Subway Map represented (see Appendix C). There were differences in interpretation, often based on the different understanding of how end-users/trainees would learn, need to know, and use what they learned. Management wanted to use transactional knowledge, in the form of the draft of the Top Ten List, by halting further discussion of the document due to time constraints and pressure to complete the project by the funders. Because the Subway Map would result in the actual final product each group member would contribute to the project, the Subway Map was perceived as being much more valuable by the project group members. In other words, knowledge workers might be able to accept different knowledge boundaries in their work when they do not perceive the work as their own, but they would try to exert their own knowledge boundaries when they feel the work was perceived as theirs (each individual taking ownership for the work). This increased the value of the negotiated knowledge, making it more important that there were shared knowledge boundaries. As a result, the project group members continued to create negotiated knowledge through discussions outside of management’s channels of communication (meetings and project group only online spaces). In this case, the same event triggered the creation of transactional knowledge (the Subway Map) and negotiated knowledge (discussion of the document on alternative communication channels).

Participants also used a combination of negotiated and transactional knowledge by creating knowledge networks that could be accessed in the future. They would develop relationships with others that allowed individuals to maintain their vision, schema or individual beliefs, but also allowed individuals to understand the perspectives of other group members. This negotiated knowledge was based on shared cognition, shared mental models, cognitive dissonance, perspective taking, and social relationships (Akgun, Lynn, & Byrne, 2003). Within this context, there might be knowledge external or internal to the group which could be accessed in the future (transactional knowledge). This future transactional knowledge is unknown (and, thus, could not be defined) until it is needed. However, through social interaction, knowledge networks were established which could be accessed when needed. Paul discussed the knowledge needed working on one of the project tasks as being a puzzle in which different pieces were held by different people (transactional knowledge). Access to those pieces were based on the social relationships that project group interaction created (negotiated knowledge).

Knowledge accessed from a knowledge network could be both transactional and negotiated. The interaction group members had in negotiating knowledge created relationships both within and extending outside of the group. Group members could act as translators of knowledge for resources within their own knowledge networks. Specifically, each group member had his or her own knowledge network which they accessed when they needed to find intellectual and cognitive resources (e.g. answers to questions, feedback, information, expertise or specialization). At times project group members’ knowledge boundaries might not allow them to communicate and/or understand other project group members’ knowledge networks. When this happened, other project group members would need to mediate understanding or translate knowledge between the various knowledge networks. Because the knowledge was of value and in a tangible format, it would be considered transactional knowledge to the person who accessed or stored the knowledge. However, for the person who needed the knowledge, the format was not accessible without negotiation of meaning. Once the knowledge was translated, it became negotiated knowledge.

A good example of this mediation of knowledge within a knowledge network was Ronda visiting healthcare provider students with Helen. Helen was able to speak to the students, many of which were also healthcare service recipients and then translate that knowledge into concepts and terminology that Ronda was familiar with. Ronda then incorporated this information into her elearning designs. Without Helen, however, Ronda might have had difficulty in interacting with the students, asking the correct questions for identifying their needs, and/or understanding the information the students provided as Ronda did not have first-hand experience or knowledge about the subject matter.

The most important group members were those that could create a bridge between the project group knowledge and department expertise, being able to access valued transactional knowledge and then translating that knowledge so those in other groups or departments could understand and use it (negotiated knowledge). In other words valued group members were able to use both types of knowledge. Ronda, Helen, Sam, and Paul especially, learned the discourse of the departments with which they worked. This is why they were perceived as being valuable within the project group. They had excellent negotiated knowledge skills that allowed them to move between departments while at the same time they were able to access transactional knowledge because of the relationships they had developed through their interdepartmental/intergroup negotiations. David commented on the void that was created when Ronda left the project, “now that she’s gone, ah…there’s…there’s really no longer that bridge between what we do and the development of the curriculum. So now it’s to the curriculum developers and then us. (David, interview 2).”

Throughout the study the two different kinds of knowledge were created and used in different ways for different purposes. In some cases, both transactional and negotiated knowledge was used in the same work task for different purposes at different levels within the collaborative writing process. Perceived ownership added to or decreased the value of the knowledge which in turn influenced the type of knowledge (transactional or negotiated) that was used.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The use of hyperlinks

Jenny Luca had an interesting post about the teaching of hyperlinks in k-12. I actually wrote about this in 2007 and 2008. This is an area I'm very interested in once I get my dissertation completed.

My comment on her blog was

I wrote about this is 2008. Part of the problem in the English language is that we teach writing as a linear process and hyperlink writing requires spatial writing. For me, using hyperlinks opened up a world for my writing. However, as I write my dissertation, I realize that many English and writing teachers are linear thinkers.

When I write pen on paper, I have notes in the margins, arrows between ideas, drawings all over the paper. As a child I was reprimanded for this because I was considered “scattered.” Outlines helped me to put my thoughts into a linear format. However, I am very good at hyperlinks. I discovered a few years ago in a course I taught on computer based writing across the curriculum that “good writers” had a very difficult time adding hyperlinks.

This, in fact, relates to some of my findings on partaged knowledge. I feel the ability to link ideas is inherent in some people, just as the ability to think linearly is inherent in others. While we work with those (such as myself) in "organizing thoughts" in a linear manner, we haven't yet recognized that we need to work with those who think linear for a "partaged knowledge" society. We should be teaching hyperlinks. But that would mean having to recruit students with non-linear thinking and changing our conceptions about "scattered" thinkers.