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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

NBC's censoring of the Olympics: Social media and lost opportunities

Let me begin by stating I am a big fan of the Olympics. Overall, NBC, the American television corporation with rights to broadcasting the Olympics, with one exception, has done a pretty good job of covering the games on its free, open access station. They have included a wide variety of sports in all day (more or less)coverage.

However, they have really missed the boat on their social media/online coverage, which could have real repercussions from fans in the future. It also points out how ignorant the corporation is about social media and the "new" media the it purports makes this the first "social media" Olympics.

My history with the Olympics

As a child, I remember waking up early in the morning or in the middle of the night to watch the first "live" satellite broadcasted Olympics. Living only 90 miles from Lake Placid, the winter Olympics were always followed closely in my family. Then the Broadcasters learned that they could get better viewing numbers (and thus higher advertising rates) if they saved the most popular events until primetime (7-11PM). Soon, only certain events were available for viewing. This was the first line of censureship by American broadcasters of the Olympics. Only events in which American won were shown. There was a general outcry as fans of a certain sport in which there was popularity and good representation by the US (e.g. hockey, bobsledding, equestrian)were not shown unless there was a win. Viewership of the Olympics fell.

During the Atlanta Olympics, sametime coverage was extended and the networks learned that they could develop fans for lesser known sports. I remember watching the equestrian field jumping one afternoon and became entranced (as did others, which I learned later). Broadcasters learned that there was a market during the day, especially for the summer Olympics.

For the China Olympics, I finally had access to high speed internet which allowed me to view streaming video. The Olympics became even more exciting as I was able to watch video (some of it raw footage) on little known sports that the general population might not be interested in (i.e. fencing, rowing, white water canoing/kayaking) and some better known sports that might not be widely watched in the US (i.e. soccer). It was wonderful being able to access footage not shown on the TV, but watching primetime for the major sports.

By the winter Olympics in Vancouver, however, things had changed. I was no longer able to go to the NBC site to view the Olympics. In addition, NBC had migrated some of the events I was interested in on to their cable channels. I was not willing to pay $1200 a year for cable (in which I have very little interest as I do not watch much TV for the most part during the year, and we live on a limited budget). A new form of network censureship took over in which I was limited in watching only those sports the network deemed as important and I was limited in accessing information via the internet. I was able to find some footage on YouTube and NBC did post footage 24 hours later. I could understand the network wanting to get as much viewership as possible via television to ensure maximizing advertising profits.

Speed forward to this year. I was so excited when I heard NBC had a special app to view the Olympics on mobile technology. Then I went to the NBC Olympics home page and discovered that not only could I not watch the Olympics live, but the only video available was "highlights" (fluff pieces and edited versions of the live video). According to the NBC Olympics site:

Q: What is required for accessing Live Extra content?
A: You will need to verify that you subscribe to a cable, satellite or telco video tier that includes CNBC and MSNBC. There is no additional charge.
Q: Is account verification required for accessing video other than live streams?
A: Yes, but only full-event replays (e.g. an entire basketball game) within 48 hours of an event’s conclusion. You will NOT need to verify your TV subscription to view the extensive collection of competition highlights, interviews, athlete profiles, etc., available on NBCOlympics.com.

Q: Can I access live streams anywhere other than NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Olympics Live Extra App without verifying?
A: No. Olympic video will not be available to U.S. viewers on other websites or Apps.

In other words, NBC has put a block on all Olympic video so that countries in Africa and Asia have more internet access to the Olympics than in the US (unless you pay for your television through cable).

Why is this bad?

While I understand the marketing decisions NBC made due to income from cable companies (trying to get their numbers up so they can charge cable companies higher viewership fees), NBC does not understand that viewers without cable are now frustrated and do not want to watch the Olympics. Cable companies and production companies have learned that viewers want alternatives and individualization (viewing on demand) in their viewing habits. They don't want to be forced to view on cable or nothing at all (viewers that access televisions through DSL are also blocked from videos on the NBC site).

I am surprised that NBC has been allowed to have such a monopoly in which all information is limited to what NBC allows out. One exception is twitter. I have been able to access images and information from twitter. However, I'd like to access video. I feel such resentment towards NBC, that I would NEVER get cable as I don't like being blackmailed into something. Interestingly enough, looking at the schedule, CNBC and MSNBC don't really carry very much of the Olympics. So this is just a way of using the Olympics to blackmail viewers into getting these TV stations.

While we complain about other governments blocking content that is unacceptable for the population to access, we allow corporations to do the same thing. Only filtered information is available about the Olympics. This makes me wonder what other aspects of broadcasting will begin to become filtered. What if NYSE were to come to an agreement with a broadcaster that NYSE information could only be available through cable? This means that a certain group in the population (those that don't have cable or access to cable) would always be excluded. This gives new meaning to the digital divide.

A missed opportunity

On the part of NBC, I feel that in their wish to control all aspects of information about the Olympics demonstrates their lack of understanding about power of the internet and mobile technology. One of the most amusing, yet disturbing, examples was their attempt to integrate social media into their broadcast (no doubt trying to emulate ABC's Good Afternoon America and Live with Kelly's success).

NBC assumes that all who do not subscribe to cable also do not have mobile technology. Their "bait and switch" tactics in advertising that they had an app in which people could access live streaming did not add that you needed to have cable television subscription with CNBC and MSNBC in order to use the app. They lost out on a large potential income stream by not selling the app for use by those who did not have a cable subscription. I know of many who would have paid for it.

The webpage for the NBC Olympics really needs improvement. It is very difficult to navigate and find out information (other than the fact that really you can't use it unless you subscribe to CNBC and MSNBC). Finally, the Today show is not taking advantage of the games to the best of its ability. I was very disappointed this morning (and have decided I will do all my work from 7-10 when the Today show airs in my area) at the content. I was not interested in the calories food in England have or the fashions of England. I did want to see the entire skeet shooting competition in which the American winner shot 99/100 and set an Olympic record for most consecutive gold metals in the summer Olympics. At that point, the interview (which was good) could take place. The Today show could be a tease for the evening tape delayed events (i.e. showing tape delayed or live qualifying events so those watching in the evening would want to see how it ended).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Archaeology of Knowledge

This week I received unwelcome news AGAIN from google. For about 3 years, I have used igoogle as my homepage to keep track of email, blogs I follow, and tools for weather and translation. It is nice because I can see in a glance all internet activity I'm interested in when I sign on the the internet. However, this week a notice popped up that igoogle will go away as of November.

This happened before with google's webpage program. I was able to create my own webpage, but they discontinued the product two years ago. This got me to thinking about what happens to our electronic footprint and the knowledge we store in it.

Transparency and Storage of Knowledge

Today, archaeologists try to decipher the knowledge embedded on material objects thousands of years later. There is still records in caves and carvings, although the knowledge behind those records have been lost. The question for archaeology is can we retrieve that lost knowledge without an understanding of the context in which the records were created? While we may have lost the contexts, there are still clues that archaeologists and anthropologists can put together to try to understand the contexts in which these records of knowledge were created. These artifacts have survived the elements, destruction, civilizations, and politics.

However, advances in technology (caves to paper to electronics) have meant increasing parishibility of knowledge. Records from the middle ages are written on paper that disintegrates as time goes on. While knowledge was able to be disseminated to a wider audience (it's hard to carry a cave around), it also means that the permanence (in the form of a permanent record) decreased. Now as we come to the electronic age, knowledge creation becomes more transparent, but the storage of this is threatened. In the short term, an individual's foibles and mistakes are open to the world (i.e., facebook timeline, twitter, even blog comments). In the long run, however, as technology changes, so does access to records of knowledge. How many of you have information on floppy disks that you are unable to access now because there are no machines to read the floppies?

How will those in the Future Know who we are?

Which brings me back to my question as to what will happen to all of the knowledge we built through the electronic ages? Will those in the future know about our civilization by looking at our buildings? What other means do we have for a permanent record of our knowledge that can be passed down from generation to generation? As more knowledge is disseminated (outside of the context in which it was created) and made more universal, will be become a more closed civilization that those in the future will not be able to understand? Is it possible that those civilizations that we think we know may have had knowledge (most likely passed down through oral traditions) what will forever be lost to use, yet at the time were universal truths?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ethics of Higher Ed Marketing in the US

As I start looking for colleges/universities for my daughter in the US this year, I'm much more savvy about how US colleges/universities market themselves. My son, a 2 year student at Penn State, went through this last year. As a student/professor for 20 years at US colleges, I went into his higher ed search a bit cocky. After all, I knew what I was looking for in a student, I knew what my student profiles were in multiple departments, I understood the system for college credit transfer, financial aid, housing. But I was shocked when I got sucked into the higher ed marketing that goes on in the US.

First, there is the number of marketing brochures, emails, and personal phone calls a student receives. My son did very well on his SAT's (Standardized college entrance exams), even better on his AP exams (Advanced Placement standardized tests), and outstanding on his SAT II (or subject matter tests). His PSAT's that he took his second year in high school were also very good.

We knew he did well on these tests which placed him on schools' radar. However, what we didn't know (but we know now) is that most of the marketing was for those that placed above 50% on the SAT's. Schools also looked at the profiles (curriculum, ethnicity, etc...). We were very surprised when he received recruiting information from ivy league schools as we had never expected he could get into them (which in fact he could not). He was bombarded with information from Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, and University of Chicago in particular, all very competitive schools. Naive that I was, I now realize this barrage of information was targeted towards my husband and I. We looked at Dartmouth and convinced my son to apply to there and Vanderbilt as it appeared he had a chance to go to school there (even if my husband and I had to mortgage our house!). We paid the application fees to all of the schools the required it (often $60-100) and then waited. My son did not get into one of these prestigious schools.

Looking at their sites, many of these schools really did not need to advertise (which is why we were suckered in as why would they send information to a student they did not want?). So why did they? I have 2 theories: 1) to make money off of the application process. I you are charging $50-100 per application and you have 20,000 applications, that's a nice chunk of change you just earned. Not to mention, you now have your name out to a broad group through the marketing funded by the application fees. 2) In searches, the more competitive your school is, the more apt your school is to be at the top of search engines. How do you determine competitiveness? Using the ratio of # of applicants to #accepted. As a result, it is in the best interest for these prestigious schools to increase their number of applicants.

Now I look at websites in a new way. While some schools claim they do not use SAT's or ACT's to determine acceptance, if they publish the range of scores for the incoming class, and most are at the very top, then I say they do use those scores. Why publish the range if it is not going to be used? Why not have a range of standardized test scores from the students?

Do not get me wrong. My son has a perfect match with the school he currently attends. Academically, it is very strong, especially in Liberal Arts which is what he is studying. This, ultimately, is what parents and prospective students should be looking for. The cultures of those schools he applied to did not fit his style. However, I felt like someone who bought a bogus product from a latenight TV show when his rejection letters began to come in. These prestigious schools lured us in to applying for a school that would never fit my son's style, nor would he have the profile they were looking for. This, I feel, is very unethical.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Knowledge Genres

For weeks, I have been grappling with the "categories of knowledge" I developed in my knowledge grid. During my defense, my adviser pushed me to define what these categories were. Needless to say, my inability to define what exactly these "categories" were and what they represented made me revisit and revise my dissertation. It took a while, but I finally realized that "category of knowledge" did not really reflect the concept I was trying to express. On the other hand, these categories were the central concept of my findings; these came before I was really able to identify what my findings were.

I finally decided I would need to name these concepts using a new term. The closest I came to expressing these "categories of knowledge" were knowledge genres. Once I had a term to describe this concept, I was able to create a framework to identify knowledge genres which eventually I will use to identify design features to optimize knowledge creation.

Defining Knowledge Genres

Genres standardize rituals and rhetoric, influence work patterns, promote particular ways of acting, and set orientation to thinking (Berkendotter & Huckin, 2005; Dias et al., 1999; Nonaka, 1994). In analyzing collaborative writing in distributed groups, genres could be applied to different ways in which knowledge is organized, created, accessed, and used. I refer to this structuring of knowledge as knowledge genres.

I identified two underlying bases for the structuring of knowledge genres which I call transactional knowledge and negotiated knowledge. Transactional and negotiated knowledge both are grounded in the social interaction of the distributed group, but are used for different purposes, create different work patterns, result in different perceptions of ownership and agency, and set different orientations of thinking. The result is different structures in the organization, creation, storage, and access of knowledge which creates different knowledge genres.

Framework for Identifying Knowledge Genres

Based on the findings, an emerging structure to understand knowledge genres was developed. The framework for identifying knowledge genres includes four dimensions:

• type of knowledge;

• level of perceived agency and ownership (individual, intragroup, intergroup, extergroup);

• purpose of knowledge creation (transactional or negotiated); and

• situational factors such as location, level of interaction between distributed group members, time, and external influences.

This section with will discuss the emerging theoretical basis of the framework, and then apply the framework to two examples of knowledge genres referenced by the study participants.

Three types of knowledge

The traditional categories of knowledge are content (or explicit knowledge), competency (or tacit knowledge), and expertise (which is performance based). However,there is a need to redefine the categories as the parameters of knowledge are reconceptualized in the context of distributed groups. Defining knowledge according to depth of knowledge or level of internalization is an insufficient basis for defining knowledge and knowledge creation in a distributed group because knowledge can be partaged. In addition, a social and knowledge networks may have knowledge which may not apply or be perceived as having value to all current situations. However, access to social and knowledge networks can create social spaces that allow for the creation of knowledge for distributed groups or individual members in the future.

Based on the findings discussed in the previous chapter, the definition of knowledge based on depth of knowledge could be expanded to be knowledge genres defined by level of tangibility. Unlike the traditional collaborative knowledge model, the model developed through this study proposes a continuum of tangibility within knowledge genres where three types of knowledge attributes (tangible representation of knowledge, processes and tacit knowledge, and partaged knowledge) are actually on a continuum of tangibility.

The three types of knowledge attibutes I identify as:
1. Tangible representation of knowledge which can be represented by policies, forms, formats, curriculum, degrees or credentials, records, and other artifacts at the individual, group, departmental, organizational, and/or professional level;

2. Procedural and tacit knowledge, which includes an understanding of work processes and the knowledge created as a result of those processes; and

3. Partaged knowledge, which was knowledge created through the linking of ideas, social relationships, cognitive interaction, and/or cultural interaction.

Knowledge genres are used by distributed group members to identify, discuss, understand, value, and create shared mental models and relevant knowledge at all four levels of interaction (individual, intra-group, inter-group, extern-group). The choice of genre is dependent upon environmental factors, power structure(s), knowledge networks, and work task requirements. At one end of the continuum is knowledge that can be identified as transactional and at the other end is knowledge that is negotiated. As knowledge becomes less tangible, groups are able to create knowledge through interaction and negotiation (negotiated knowledge). In other words, partaged knowledge is negotiated or knowledge that is created through group interaction.

In the emerging theory of distributed group knowledge creation, the type of knowledge defined as tangible representation of knowledge is close to Kolb’s (1984) comprehensive knowledge. This is knowledge that can be articulated, represented in various forms (such as visuals, documents, presentations, interviews), and stored for future use. Unlike the more traditional content or explicit knowledge, tangible representation of knowledge may include implicit knowledge. For example, educational credentials (e.g., licensing, degrees) tangibly represent certain knowledge that may include implicit and explicit knowledge. These credentials can be used as currency within a group, thus making knowledge appear tangible. However, within a traditional model of knowledge creation or knowledge management theories, the knowledge that credentials represent would be considered a competency or implicit knowledge that would be expected to be applied in any given situation. In the traditional model, the knowledge that credentials represent would then be both implicit and explicit knowledge, fitting into two different categories: content knowledge and competency (Cook & Brown, 1999; Cook & Yanow, 1993). The emerging theory of distributed group knowledge creation, therefore, needs to allow for a broader definition of knowledge genre attributes that includes abstract and tacit knowledge that can be represented through visuals, documents, and artifacts and stored for use by others.

In reconceptualizing the term competency to procedural and tacit knowledge, knowledge genre attributes move the concept of individually held knowledge and know-how to a socially constructed understanding of how things work within a given situation. It expands the concept of individually possessed knowledge about procedures and processes from a purely cognitive definition (competency) (Allee, 1997; Contu & Willmott, 2003; Raelin, 2008) to a socially constructed understanding of the situation in which procedures and processes are used (requiring analytical ability), the intangible variables that affect the situation, and the interpersonal relationships and meaning negotiation that create social cognition (Herling, 2000). The term competency, does not capture the alignment of knowledge within distributed group power structures, the withholding or use of knowledge based on perceived value, the negotiation of knowledge, the development of knowledge networks, or the distancing of work from the individual based on perceived ownership or agency. In the study, processes and procedures represented work quality expectations, reconciling processes and procedures between group members and departments, and understanding the environment in which work was situated. This indicates a much deeper level of socially constructed understanding, situational analysis, and understanding of how and why things function a certain way, which requires the new term procedural and tacit knowledge.

The use of distributed groups has allowed for both collaboratively constructed knowledge, also referred to as a shared mental model (Mohammed & Dumville, 2001) and the distribution of knowledge throughout an organization (Nonaka, 1994; Raelin, 2008) However, there is no term for knowledge that can be both shared and divided for future use. I use the term partaged knowledge for knowledge that one would need to be able to access and link to other knowledge (i.e., linking ideas, putting into context). The term partaged knowledge is derived from the French word partager, which means both to share and to divide. Partaged knowledge might be internal, such as what happens during an individual’s writing process. Initially there may be many ideas, seemingly without any correlation (divided). Through the writing process, an author must link together those ideas into one cohesive whole (thus the sharing or putting together through interaction of ideas).

Partaged knowledge can also happen with group processes in which members come into the group (especially a distributed group) with different expertise, access to resources, cultural influences, and experience/mental models of the work (divided resources and expertise). Through their work processes, group members’ knowledge is partaged or distributed through knowledge networks throughout the group and beyond. This partaged or distributed knowledge is then accessed when needed and modified or translated for use within a given situation. Partaged knowledge, therefore, includes the ability to co-create knowledge, divide the knowledge for later use, access the knowledge when needed, and translate or interpret the knowledge for a given situation. Partaged knowledge is the most valuable for knowledge-based organizations as it allows for knowledge to be evenly distributed throughout the organization, thus making organizations less vulnerable should an employee leave (Allee, 1997). It also allows for others who are not directly exposed to content, work processes, experience, and/or environments to be able to access knowledge outside of an individual’s knowledge base. Knowledge can be part of the network internal to the group, external to the group, within the profession, internal to the organization, and external to the organization. However, partaged knowledge is difficult to quantify, control, and capture because it is situated, visceral, and colocated.

Partaged knowledge is created through creative practices (writing, design, problem solving) rather than through the imposition of formats or processes. In the traditional knowledge model, expertise is an intangible form of knowledge held at varying degrees by individual group members and demonstrated through performance (Herling, 2000, Nonaka, 1994. Yaklief, 2002, 2010). Expertise assumes that knowledge boundaries are static and access to knowledge ultimately is based on the individual and his or her ability to use the knowledge. In the emerging theory of distributed group knowledge creation, expertise, tacit knowledge, and content can be held by individuals, the group, the organization, or even stakeholders in the form of partaged knowledge. It is not enough for an individual to be able to access information. Rather, it is important to link ideas; add knowledge to the group and/or organization; store the knowledge within a network for future use by others; value knowledge situated in differing power structures and knowledge networks; and link new meaning to established meaning, negotiating the creation of new knowledge boundaries within the distributed group knowledge system.

Partaged knowledge also differs from expertise in that partaged knowledge is the possibility of future knowledge creation when it is needed. Partaged knowledge is the possibility to access and create knowledge within a knowledge network in the future. Even the concept of what knowledge may be needed is abstract with partaged knowledge, although partaged knowledge is based upon a knowledge network that will allow those who are part of the network to access knowledge when needed. To access and use the network, individuals, groups, and organizations need to understand where and when to create knowledge.

Location of knowledge creation, agency, and ownership

The traditional model of knowledge creation locates knowledge and ownership of knowledge with the individual (Nonaka, 1994; Raelin, 2008). Nonaka further identified an individual’s level of autonomy as a requirement for organizational knowledge creation. The granting of autonomy is termed agency. In the traditional model, the idea of agency and ownership are separate with agency being controlled by the power structure and ownership tied to work task artifacts (Lundsford, 1999; Lundsford & Ede, 1992). An individual who contributes to the work task artifact would be a partial owner of the knowledge created through the distributed group process merely by contributing to the process. The degree of ownership would depend on the level that agency was granted.

However, this study suggests that agency plays an important role in how distributed group members and their knowledge networks perceive ownership. The perception of ownership and agency is as much an individual construct which relates to social identity theory as it is a socially defined construct created through interaction by distributed groups based on perceived agency at the intra-group, inter-group, and exter-group levels. The findings of this study suggest that agency is not as much granted as perceived as being granted by those within the power structure through the use of genres (communication and knowledge), perceived value of individual contributions, distributed work processes, and perceived ownership of the final work artifacts and created knowledge. In the study, the greater level of perceived individual agency to create knowledge within a distributed work task, the greater perception of individual ownership over the knowledge and work task artifact.

The emerging theory for knowledge creation in distributed groups, therefore, would use a continuum to identify perceived level of agency and resulting ownership depending on the distance between the individual group member and the perception of where knowledge was created. In other words, an individual without individual agency may perceive that knowledge is created and owned by the organization when group processes, contributions to created knowledge, and knowledge genres are dictated by the organization. Even though the individual contributed work to the creation of knowledge and distributed group artifacts, the individual did not have agency. As a result, ownership moves from those completing work tasks to those that dictate discourse communities, knowledge genres, and work values, norms, and processes. An individual can create distance between his or her perceived level of ownership of work in order to maintain his or her social identity when individual agency is taken away. Therefore, the location of agency (individual, intra-group, inter-group, and exter-group) will have an effect on the location of perceived ownership.

The continiuum I developed to represent the distance between the individual and the level that he or she perceives the location agency and ownership of knowledge creation in distributed groups places high individual agency at one end and low individual agency at the other. The greater the level of individual agency the closer an individual perceives ownership of created knowledge by the individual. On the other end of the continuum, the absence of individual agency in distributed group processes, the greater distance in ownership between the individual and the knowledge created through distributed group processes.

Situating knowledge boundaries

There are a number of situational and environmental factors that affect the creation of knowledge and the use of knowledge genres in distributed group work. As discussed in previous chapters, knowledge creation in distributed groups are situated in the work patterns and power structures within which distributed groups work (Contu & Willmott, 2003; Foss & Pedersen, 2002; Goodwin, 1994; Laufer et al., 1998; Sternberg & Horvath, 1999). Those work patterns and power structures affect how knowledge is valued; where knowledge is created, stored, accessed, and used; who has access to valued knowledge within the workplace, discourse communities, communities of practice, and the power structures; and when different types of knowledge is accessible from (often) competing power structures, knowledge networks, and social networks.

Theories in group communication (Akoyo, et al., 2002; Engleberg & Allison, 2007; Galanes, 2007; Gersick, 1988), communities of practice (Boland, 1992; Haythornthwaite et al., 2000; Johnson, 2001), discourse communities (Hagtvet & Wold, 2003; Parks, 2001; Russel, 1997), and organizational culture (Collis, 1999; Cook & Brown, 1999; Goodwin, 1994; King & Frost, 2002) apply to the study findings that situational factors such as the power structure, access to resources, and social interaction affect knowledge creation in distributed groups. Expanding on these theories, I identified situational factors that affect a distributed group’s knowledge creation as: (a) knowledge networks, social networks, work environment, and power structures of distributed groups including the choice and application of tools; (b) the creation, choice, dissemination, and use of formats; (c) membership in discourse communities; (d) modality of interaction; and (e) the use, creation, modification, storage, application, and collection of distributed group artifacts. Many of these factors both affect and have an effect on the power structure(s) that control the environment and knowledge boundaries in which distributed groups create knowledge. Based on the findings of this study, I propose that creation of knowledge genres are bound by three situational attributes in distributed groups: temporal orientation, access to resources, and level and modality of interaction.

Temporal orientation is the perceived amount of time allowed for negotiation, creation, interaction, and storage of knowledge created by distributed group processes. Any given situation can require that either individual members or the distributed group as a whole create knowledge in a short time period (i.e., minutes or hours) or knowledge is created over a long period of time (i.e., months or years). In the study, if the knowledge needed to accomplish a task was located away from the individual (e.g., within a knowledge network, community of practice, or discourse community), temporal orientation was more long term. The temporal orientation also affected and was effected by group members’ perception of when the knowledge would be needed (immediately, in the short term, in the future). Knowledge genres, therefore, can be bound by how long it takes to convert knowledge into an accessible tangible representation that is valued by those who will use the knowledge, how long it will take for a member to access valued knowledge, how long knowledge will be relevant to and/or stored by those within a knowledge network, and how static the knowledge is.

Another way in which knowledge boundaries were established in the distributed group work processes were through the allocation and access of resources such as communication modalities, social interactive spaces (e.g., conference rooms, collocated offices, online spaces), content experts, and personnel, both within and outside of the organization. Knowledge could be structured based on the resources available and the expectation of the power structures.

Knowledge genres are also bound by the social structures that create the environment and social spaces that affect interaction between individual distributed group members and social circles within which they work (intragroup, intergroup, and extergroup levels). These interactive boundaries are affected by tools given for interaction (i.e., software, office space, communication tools, storage of artifacts); discourse community values, norms, and rules of interaction; and place, time, and opportunity to interact with others at different levels. Knowledge genres may be limited through control of the social structures within which a distributed group works, such as limiting who is allowed to interact, the format of the interaction, power structures valuing some forms of interaction over others (e.g., weekly meetings or interaction via the internet), and choice of discourse community (e.g., preference for one department or profession over another). However, knowledge genres may also have flexibility built in which allows for greater level of interaction and knowledge building. By establishing a more flexible structure for interaction between levels of the power structure, there may be greater control by the individual group member by giving the individual greater agency to create knowledge.

Each of these situational attributes help to define the knowledge boundaries used in the creation, storage, access, and use of knowledge while at the same locating the knowledge in the environment in which it was created.

Examples of Knowledge Genres

There were a number of knowledge genres used by participants in this study. Two of the knowledge genres study participants referred to the most when describing their work and the work of others in the distributed group were credentials and professionalism. Using the framework to identify knowledge genres outlined above, this section will identify the attributes of the knowledge genres credentials and professionalism used in this study. While perception of what credentials and professionalism was varied from group member to group member, department to department, and profession to profession, there was a shared knowledge boundary in which these genres (credentials and professionalism) were framed.


Credentials are the establishment of tangible representation of knowledge possessed by the individual. Credentials can take the form of reports and other documentation of individual work; degrees, drafts, postings, or notes that contribute to the group process; and transactional knowledge such as degrees, awards, and job titles. Unlike the traditional knowledge model, credentials within a distributed group is a socio-cognitive construct. Credentials represent valued knowledge that can be used or transformed into an identifiable form to be used as currency for the individual (e.g., future jobs), within the group, between groups, and externally (e.g., product or service sales). The value of the knowledge is situated within the power structure and environment in which the individual works. Credentials are situated within the knowledge needed for a particular task.

Credentials, unlike documentation, deliverables, and certification, are perceived by the individual as being owned by the individual to dispense whenever the individual believes it is to his or her advantage. As a result, a group member might have hidden credentials that they feel are undervalued or not needed by the group. Credentials also may be tied to the individual’s social identity, so the undervaluing of the individual credentials may result in a group member disengaging from the group, withholding knowledge, or presenting knowledge in a form that is inaccessible to group members (e.g., unfamiliar formats, technical jargon, limited access documents). In the last case, the individual then becomes invaluable to the group as the credentialed individual is the only one able to translate knowledge into a form that is identifiable and useful for the group.

The form that credentials can take may change depending on the who is perceived as owning the distributed work task, the alignment between levels of agency and shared mental models, and perceived location (either individual members or the distributed group as a whole) within the work task power structure. Professional credentials, such as degrees, licenses, and membership in a professional organization, will always have relevance at the extergroup level, but may not have relevance at the intergroup level when organizational and professional qualifications for a specific task are not aligned. When there is misalignment at one of the levels, then credentials may be presented in multiple forms (e.g., diploma for the organization and license for the profession).

Credentials usually represent access to discourse communities and knowledge networks that an individual perceives are relevant for a certain work task. Credentials also may be used as a starting point for interaction between an individual and others (at intragroup, intergroup, or extergroup levels) in terms of resources, expectations, and work patterns for a given task. Finally, credentials tend to have a long term orientation, as it takes a long time to develop credentials. Credentials tend to be composed of static knowledge, and once established, credentials can be stored with the individual for future use.


Professionalism is trans-organizational which means that there needs to be interorganizational interaction for professionalism to exist. This interaction can come in the form of interaction and training with stakeholders, professional organizations, and professional institutions (e.g., professional training programs, higher education programs). The interaction creates both a shared mental model for the profession and an understanding of where and how to access resources within the profession so that it is unnecessary for an individual to know all aspects of the profession, but will have access to all professional knowledge when needed. In other words, professional knowledge is partaged throughout the profession and professional knowledge networks. Professionalism and professional knowledge exists outside of the individual(s) through formation of professional alliances and networks (Nonaka, 1994).

Once a person is identified as a member of the profession, he or she will need to understand where, when, and how to access community resources. However, membership in a profession is socially constructed through professional discourse communities and sub-communities (i.e. Healthcare profession and the sub-community of Healthcare Counseling profession). There are definitive knowledge boundaries that create a broad professional structure within which there is great flexibility for interaction, knowledge creation, and power structures for individual and distributed group work patterns. While the professional knowledge boundaries are fairly static, those individuals that identify themselves as members of the profession may have flexible knowledge boundaries based on interaction with others, both inside and outside of the profession. The individual will align his or her own individual knowledge boundaries with the profession, based on cognitive dissonance created through interaction with others. In other words, with knowledge perceived as professional knowledge, there is a low level of individual agency and, therefore, a high perception of ownership by the profession.

Professional knowledge, because of its partaged nature within the diverse environments in which knowledge creation occurs, is more susceptible to competing power structures. Because professional knowledge is situated in the work processes and social and knowledge networks within which a distributed group works, resources and temporal orientation vary. Therefore, the most valued members of the profession are those that understand how to access professional resources; translate professional knowledge into a form that those within and outside of the profession can understand; and create new knowledge that both fits within the professional knowledge boundaries and yet is situated within the distributed group’s work environment.


The framework presented to identify and understand knowledge genres used by distributed groups differs from the Traditional Model of Organizational Knowledge Creation, in that the framework (a) uses an expanded understanding of knowledge that recognizes that knowledge can be held outside of the individual within distributed group knowledge networks; (b) identifies the attributes that bind the knowledge creation process within the social and knowledge networks situated in the distributed group processes; (c) expands the location of knowledge creation through interaction and perception of influence to include social spaces outside of the organization (externgroup); and (d) identifies the relationship between agency and ownership, and the ability for individuals to contribute to a collaborative artifact without having perceived individual ownership.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Managing the data

Now that I have completed my dissertation, there are some aspects of the research process I want to write about. One topic is related to questions I received at my defense and issues that have been brought up on #phdchat.

One of the first issues was to use a software like NVIVO or come up with my own process/technology. In the end, after downloading NVIVO and trying it out, I felt that it was too much work for the benefit. I have trouble with using software that does not fit my own style, writing and thinking styles included.

So I opted for index cards and work processing software. The index cards allowed me to move ideas around, making connections between ideas, reorganizing so related ideas could be reused. I also did a lot of hand diagrams. Like NVIVO, I have yet to find a diagramming software that matches the way I like to think.

I was doing a qualitative study, so there was a lot of data that needed to be coded. I ended up writing the emerging codes (in pencil) on index cards, then I would discard or revise the codes (by hand) as I coded electronically. I used the comment function to code data and highlighted key words (which I eventually began to write down to identify data later on).

Using Charmaz's constructed grounded theory process, I answered each research question using the index cards with each of the codes. Not all index cards/codes were used as they did not answer the research questions. I laid out each of the codes and began to create answers to the research questions, moving the index cards around when it appeared they were related. After each "category" of codes, I would fill out an index card with the theme. I then wrote out each code that fell under the theme.

I'm not sure I could have achieved this part of the process if I had used a computer. The advantage of the index card was that I was able to see many ideas at one time and manipulate the cards to reflect the various relationship between the ideas.

Once I had the themes, I then went back into the data and identified passages that supported the emerging themes using the key words I had identified (on the coded index cards) and highlighting the font different colors. I then cut and paste each of those passages, identifying the source and page number (i.e. Ronda, interview 1 as the section title, p. 4 {passage}. I also identified when there was no data from participants for a specific theme. At the end of this I had about 40 pages of data arranged by theme and further arranged by participant and/or document.

Finally, I documented the relationship between the data over the study period, developing a visual of how the data changed over the course of the study.

Once I had this, I began to write up my findings by answering the research questions. I would then go into the data and develop my conclusions/findings. I continued to go back into the master list of "passages" trying to find examples that would support my conclusions or reading through all of the passages to help fine tune my findings. This was especially important during my revisions and preparation of defense. It also helped when I was asked to give more detail on my research process as I had all the cards, hand created models, and printouts of passages I used.

I have written this post in the hopes that those with limited resources can use this process to help expedite their research process. This was a relatively low tech, yet thorough process that anyone could use.

Monday, July 2, 2012

You may call me Doctor

I know I haven't been posting much the last few months (well, really not at all). Two things have happened in the last couple of days. First, my final revisions were accepted on Friday, so now I am confident that I will be receiving my Ph.d in August. The second thing is, now that I have time to post, my daughter will have my computer for the next 5 weeks so many of the ideas I had for posting are not nearby!

I will continue to try to post at least once a week on a wide range of topics. One area that I am very interested in posting about are the changes I made to my final dissertation. While many of us who participate in the #phdchat on twitter Wednesday 2:30-3:30 EST (7:30-8:30 GMT I think)know that there will be revisions to the dissertation, this process is almost more painful than the actual thesis writing.

In my case, I went into my dissertation defense knowing to expect some challenges to my work. As my committee members told me throughout the process, my research was messy. As such, it was very important that I knew what I was saying for my final defense. However, there were a few factors that I had difficulty articulating. These "minor" points ended up being major factors as I began to revise my dissertation. In fact, through working out the answers to the questions posed during my defense, I came up with a new concept (and term) as I was unable to articulate it any other way.

I think having been near the end of the Ph.d process also made it even more difficult to complete this last bit. I thought I had gone as far as I could with the data I had (which is why I went forward with the defense). Therefore, I really had to push myself and overcome my complacency in the dissertation to address the issues my committee members had identified.

This was very different than journal articles I have written. I'm not sure why, but I have no difficulty addressing and revising problems pointed out by reviewers. Perhaps it is the high stakes in which I feel for my dissertation I must please my committee members whereas with an article, I can always walk away if my vision and the reviewers don't align.

I want to write some articles based on my dissertation, looking at some of the issues I had to either cut or ignore to complete my dissertation. I really want to start a whole new project in a totally different area. But for now, I'll just blog the next few weeks.