Author Archives: Bruce Caron

Getting a handle on community

Community builds trust

Cite as “Caron, B (2015) Getting a Handle on Community, retrieved [date]   http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1439803 .”

The role of community may be the most important; least understood aspect of developing and sustaining knowledge sharing activities. It would not be an understatement to claim that knowledge sharing rests as much on community as it does on technology. To understand why this is so, it is important to understand that community is two things at the same time: community represents a social container, it describes the cohort, defines the membership for a group. Community also describes a quality of interaction within this group, a shared sense of belonging and trust. The amount of community in a group determines the level at which individuals will voluntarily support the goals of the group.

This second sense of the term “community” is what people are talking about when they propose to “build community”. Building more community into an organization or group gives each member a greater stake in the collective goal.

To makes things clear, let’s agree on terminology for the following section. The term “community” will be used to describe the social container and “community-sense” to describe the quality of shared belonging and trust within the group. A community is a group where the members share community-sense. A “weak” community is a community where the community-sense is low and a “strong” community is one where community-sense is high.

Community Sense

“Community-sense” is also a term used in social psychology (McMillan and Chaves 1986; Chipeur and Pretty 1999). Community-sense is what Wenger calls the “community element” of a community of practice (Wenger et al 2002). On the sociology side, community-sense also implies membership and consequent obligations, practical and moral. Community-sense provides the impetus for the informal community sanctions that help prevent “free-riders” from benefiting from the work of the community (Thompson 1993).

Community-sense is the engine for social capital (Putnam 2000), for shared trust (Fukuyama 1995), shared identity (Marcus 1992), shared intimacy (e.g., friendship) (Giddens 1991), and reputation (Rheingold 2002). On a grander scale, Anderson (1983) uses an “imagined” community to describe national societies, while the Drucker Foundation (Hesselbein, et al, 1998) posits that community-sense is the answer to many current social problems. Caron (2003) also notes that communities may not be universally positive in their social consequences (remember Jonestown and Pleasantville). 

There is also a growing literature on community (Koh, et al 2002, Smith and Kollock 1999), and community-sense (Blanchard and Marcus 2002) for virtual organizations, online networks (Cosley et al 2005, Butler et al 2007), and weblogs (Broß, Sack and Meinel 2007). Most of these apply some aspect of knowledge management (Finholt, Sproull and Keisler 2002) or social science (e.g., motivation research (Cosley 2005), emotions (Tanner 2005)).

References and Further Readings

Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Blanchard, A.L. and M. L. Markus. 2002. Sense of Virtual Community – Maintaining the Experience of Belonging. In Proceedings of the 35th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Brown, J. S. and P. Duguid. 1991. Organizational knowledge and communities of practice. Organization Science. Vol. 2, No. 1. February. pp. 40-57.

Broß, Justis, Harold Sack, and Christof Meinel. 2007. Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities: The “IT-summit-blog” Case. eSociety. http://www.informatik.uni-jena.de/~sack/Material/eSociety2007.pdf.

Butler, Brian, Lee Sproull, Sara Kiesler, Robert Kraut. 2007. Community Effort in Online Groups: Who Does the Work and Why? In Leadership at a Distance: Research in Technologically- Supported Work. Suzanne P. Weisband, ed. Psychology Press.

Caron, Bruce. 2003. Community, Democracy and Performance: The Urban Practice of Kyoto’s Higashi-Kujo Madang. Santa Barbara: The New Media Studio.
Available online at http://junana.com/CDP/corpus/index.html.

Caron, Bruce. 2005. “Ethnic Cultural Theme Parks in China and Japan: Toward an Anthropology of Intentional Tradition.” in Tourism as a Complex Phenomenon. [総合的現象としての観光] Nobukiyo Eguchi, ed. Kyoto: Koyoshobo

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihalyi. 1991. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Collins.

Chipuer, H. M., & Pretty, G. M. H. 1999. “A review of the Sense of Community Index: Current uses, factor structure, reliability, and further development.” Journal of Community Psychology, 27(6), 643-658.

Cohen, A. P. 1985. The Sybolic Construction of Community. Chichester, Sussex: Ellis Horwood Ltd.

Cosley, Dan. 2005. “Mining Social Theory to Build Member-Maintained Communities.” AAAI.

Cosley Dan, Dan Frankowski, Sara Kiesler, Loren Terveen, John Riedl. 2005. How Oversight Improves Member-Maintained Communities. Proceedings of the CHI.

Galegher, Jolene, Lee Sproull, and Sara Kiesler. 1998. Legitimacy, authority and community in electronic support groups. Written Communication, 15, 493-530.

Hesselbein, Frances, Marshall Goldsmith, Richard Bechard, and Richard F. Schubert. 1998. The Community of the Future. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

Hildreth, Paul and Chris Kimble. 2004. Knowledge Networks: Innovation through Communities of Practice. London: Hershey; Idea Group Inc.

Finholt, Thomas A., Lee Sproull, and Sara Keisler. 2002. Outsiders on the Inside: Sharing know- how across time and space. In Distributed Work. Pamala J. Hinds and Sara Keisler. eds. Boston: MIT Press.

Giamatti, A. Bartlett. 1989. Take Time for Paradise: Americans and their Games. New York: Summit Books.

Welcome News for Your Science Agency: The benefits of not funding the work of this virtual organization

trust1

Science agencies fund science.

Usually this is done directly through funding research. Sometimes new facilities are funded, or larger centers.  What I want to talk about are some important science-related activities that cannot, indeed must not be funded in order for them to succeed.

If you are guiding a science agency, then the notion that you can achieve certain high-value science goals only by not funding them may be news to you. It should be welcome news. In fact there are enormous ROI potentials you can only realize when you can refrain from adding money to the mix. There is a caveat here. While you cannot fund these, you also cannot manage them. Instead, they will govern themselves.

What I am referring to here is a new form of volunteer science/data virtual organization. Drawing their members from a broad swath of experts, led by the community they build (through a governance they own), and powered by volunteers, these associations offer agencies and the academy new forums for scientific discussion, knowledge management, and collective intelligence.

The oldest and best of these that I know about is the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners, sponsored by NASA and NOAA in the US. More recently there is the global Research Data Alliance, with significant sponsorship from Europe and elsewhere. The NSF is also spinning up EarthCube in the geosciences.

Let me be clear. These organizations still need support. All of these organizations require sponsors to pay their staff and expenses; there are websites and teleconferences, and some face-to-face meetings: all the tools of communication and collaboration. But the activities, the occasions for trust building, the growing sense of community, and the actual work: these are accomplished by the volunteers for themselves without being paid.

Volunteers in these organizations also realize a return on their investment. In fact, each and every volunteer should get more than they give. This math is driven by the network effect and some other stuff. That’s another blog, I’m afraid.  Here I am writing to you: the agency manager who can finally get something for almost nothing!

Here are Seven Things…

…your science agency can get only by not funding them directly, but through supporting a community-led virtual organization of scientists/technologists:

  1. Your agency gets to query and mine a durable, expandable level of collective intelligence;

  2. Your agency can depend on an increased level of adoption to standards and shared practices;

  3. It will gain an ability to use the community network to create new teams capable of tackling important issues (also=better proposals);
  4. Your agency can use the community to evaluate high-level decisions before these are implemented (=higher quality feedback than simple RFIs);
  5. Social media becomes even more social inside the community, with lateral linkages across the entire internet. This can amplify your agency’s social media impact;
  6. Your diverse stakeholders will be able to self-manage a broad array of goals and strategies tuned to a central vision and mission; and,
  7. You will be able to identify emergent leadership and potential new employees.

Bottom Line: Sponsoring a community-led, volunteer-run science organization offers a great ROI. There are whole arenas of valuable work to be done, but only if nobody funds this directly.

Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the contributor alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of EarthCube’s governance elements, funding agency, or staff.

ello

ello

ello

@brucecaron

So, I’m writing a batch of user stories today for a software project. This got me thinking. What is my own user story for ello? What am I looking for that I’m not getting from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.? What is a social network service for?

Part of the allure of ello is starting over. I’ve made mistakes on Facebook, liked too many pages, friended too many people. And there’s way, way too much sponsored content. And every time I refresh MY timeline, it’s completely different, and I can never find what I’m looking for, that I was looking AT just ten seconds ago. Facebook is broken. Twitter is great for immediate, topical interests, and for the buzz around events. I really like how G+ handles photos, and its search-ability. G+ is the closest service to what I envision as a great social network platform. I think ello has learned a lot from it. The problem is that people aren’t there.

What I’m looking for, what my own user story is for ello, begins with my desire to stay connected to creative people I’ve met at conferences or online, or I’ve read their books or blogs. My hope is to have ongoing, constructive conversations with them, to add my thoughts to theirs, to be able to pose a question now and then, like I would when we are having a beer at SXSW, or Dent, or (way back when) Gnomedex, or somewhere else. At it’s best, ello is an ongoing, somewhat casual connection between creative folk who happen to live wherever they do. We can log in and share a bit of insight, gain some collective intelligence, show some empathy, display some artistry, and live closer to the edge of the elsewhere where innovation happens.

I like the simplicity of the interface. I like being able to see who the people I want to follow are themselves following. I like getting informed when someone follows me. I don’t need to know should they decide to not follow me sometime later. I like how it eats up my big JPEGs. I pop these up on Flickr, so I don’t need ello to be my photo library. I really like not seeing ads. I would like to see some open-source code, as this aligns the service with its pledge to become something better than a cash cow for its makers. I would like to see ello blossom as a nextgen service, one that is owned by its users (somehow). I would also like to help celebrate the makers who would enable this kind of service.

Animated GIF by Dave Whyte @beesandbombs

What’s better than Tenure?

Adjuncts Rising Up

I just did a post of some ideas on The Futures Initiative, An Open Project of the Graduate Center (CUNY) .

Here is the FULL BLOG over at Hastac. In this, I’m suggesting that faculty need to imagine a post-tenure bargain with their universities that will avoid everyone being (mis)treated like adjunct faculty are now.

Here are my thoughts of what a post-tenure university might look like:

Better than tenure

What is better than tenure? Here are the beginnings of potential guidelines, a strawman to build from:

1) A university-wide pay scale for teaching courses that allows for incremental adjustments for years served, and bonuses for class size and results (how do we want to measure results?). No second-class citizens in this system. Everyone who steps up to teach has the rank of professor. The full-time teaching load is the same for all professors.

2) Four-year contracts for all professors, with a review after three years, and an expectation of renewal unless specific causes (bad results, etc.) are evident. At the end of two consecutive four-year contracts, one year of sabbatical is provided to every professor. Teaching is the only activity under review for contract renewal.

3) Release (for a semester, or a year, or more) for externally funded research stops the clock on contract review process. Research projects fund the researcher’s salary during these periods (as they now fund other research team members). Research results and publication are not reviewed for contract renewal. Of course, these are reviewed by funders and will impact future funding. Researchers are rewarded bonuses (culled from the overhead of research income) based, say, on the metrics of their publications in open source journals. When the funded research ends, the professor goes back to teaching full time and the contract review clock starts again.

4) Faculty-run review system to guard against university actions that might infringe on academic freedom, and also to review decisions to not rehire a faculty member.

Photo Source: http://www.usw.org/districts/district-10/photos/PointPark3.JPG

So, what are your ideas for a system that is better than tenure?

EarthCube is poised to start its mission to transform the geosciences

The red areas are sandstone.

The red areas are sandstone.

Here is the current vision statement of EarthCube

EarthCube enables transformative geoscience by fostering a community committed to providing unprecedented discovery, access, and analysis of geoscience data.

The primary goal of membership in EarthCube, and indeed of the entire culture of the EarthCube organization is to support this vision. The EarthCube vision describes a future where geoscience data is openly shared, and where a new science, one based on an abundance of sharable data, assembles new knowledge about our planet. Certainly shared open source software and open access publishing are anticipated in this vision. The vision accepts that it will take a committed community of domain and data scientists to realize this goal.

What can we predict about the culture of a community committed to transformational geosciences? How is this different from the culture of a community pursuing geoscience currently? We need to start building out our imagination of what transformative geoscience will look like and do.  One thing we might agree on is that this will be a much more open and collaborative effort.

Unprecedented data discovery, access, and analysis in the geosciences coupled with open science best practices will drive knowledge production to a new plateau. Many of today’s grand challenge questions about climate change, water cycles, human population interaction with ecosystems, and other arenas will no long be refractory to solution. For now, we can call the engine for this process “Open Geosciences” or OG for short.  What will OG pioneers be doing, and how can EarthCube foster these activities?

  • Pioneering OG scientists will collect new data using shared methodologies, workflows, and data formats.
  • These OG scientists will describe their data effectively (through shared metadata) and contribute this to a shared repository.
  • OG scientists will analyze their data with software tools that collect and maintain a record of the data provenance as well as metrics on the software platform.
  • OG scientists will report out their findings in open access publications, with links to the data and software.
  • OG scientists will peer review and add value to the work of others in open review systems.
  • OG domain and data scientists will reuse open data to synthesize new knowledge, and to build and calibrate models.
  • OG software engineers will collaborate on open software to improve capabilities and sustainability.
  • OG scientists will share more than data. They will share ideas, and null results, questions and problems, building on the network effect of organizations such as EarthCube to grow collective intelligence.
  • OG science funding agencies will work with OG communities to streamline research priority decisions and access to funding.

 At this stage, EarthCube is in its most institutionally reflexive moment and is most responsive to new ideas. Like a Silicon Valley start-up flush with cash and enthusiasm, EarthCube is poised to build its future up from the ground. EarthCube can succeed in its vision without attempted to directly influence the embedded cultures of government organizations, tier one universities, professional societies, and commercial publishers. EarthCube will succeed by building its own intentional culture, starting with its membership model and focused on its vision. EarthCube will only transform geoscience by proving that its members can do better science faster and cheaper through their commitment to the modes of scientific collaboration now made possible through EarthCube. EarthCube will transform science by transforming the practices and the attitudes of its own members.

NASA image by Robert Simmon with ASTER data. Caption by Holli Riebeek with information and review provided by David Mayer, Robert Simmon, and Michael Abrams.

Intentional Culture and Anthropology: ten years later

That's me with the camera

That’s me with the video camera

Ten years ago I published a paper (in Japanese) about doing an ethnography of intentional cultures and traditions. Ten years before that, I was capturing the very intentional effort of a Korean cultural community in Kyoto to build their own public festival. In the past ten years, I have been working toward an understanding of virtual communities in the arena of science research and data.

Here is a link to the English version of my 2004 paper: Ethnic Cultural Theme Parks in China and Japan: Toward an Anthropology of Intentional Tradition

Conclusion:

Intentional cultures are not limited to theme parks and cities (such as Las Vegas) that are rebuilt as theme parks, but can be seen as the future of traditional (or post-traditional) culture. The act of producing intentional tradition represents a mode of “detraditionalization” in Giddens’ perspective: “A detraditionalizing social order is one in which the population becomes more active and reflexive, although the meaning of ‘reflexive’ should be properly understood. Where the past has lost its hold, or becomes one ‘reason’ among others for doing what one does, pre-existing habits are only a limited guide to action; while the future, open to numerous ‘scenarios’, becomes of compelling interest (Giddens, 1994, 92-93).” Theme parks compete with each other and with other types of destination for scarce tourist cash flows. The ability of cultural theme parks to innovate traditions—to attempt to manage their future—is crucial to their competitive position. So too, the workers in these theme parks use intentional traditions to innovate their own ethnic markers and construct cultural practices that offer them a future in the tourism industry: the world’s largest industry. And these ethnic markers and cultural practices are highly competitive as valued tokens in the economy and society of ethnic minority locales around China. In Japan, foreign-themed parks reinforce the islanders’ sense of belonging to the wider world. These offer local experiences of far-away traditions, experiences that are added to their visitors’ reflexive construction of their sense of self and national identity.

Giddens, Anthony. 1994. Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Photo by Erich Schienke

What is an online community architect?

Architecture

I was recently asked why I call myself an online community “architect.” A fair question. My use of the label “architect” is meant to highlight how intentional communities, such as virtual organizations, can design, assemble, and use cultural practices to become more effective at achieving their goals and their vision.

The “unintentional” communities that we find ourselves belonging to (or resisting) in our society, from our neighborhoods and schools to our language groups and nations, use cultural practices that are grounded in longer histories and broader social structures. These represent the culture we are submerged in from birth; often they are the practices that represent our sense of identity and position in society.

These practices (and associated beliefs) are what anthropologists call “culture.” They remind us that much of this is learned and then used unconsciously, as habits and behaviors that come naturally to the enculturated members of the society. Intentional communities are made up of members that carry their own cultural habits from their society. On top of these habits, an intentional community agrees to add practices that are mutually agreed upon and available for discussion and revision. 

Some intentional communities are created as counter-cultural groups, where their practices are designed specifically to conflict with those of the larger society. But many more intentional communities, from workplaces to voluntary societies and virtual organizations simply want to define their core values and to design governance practices to support these.

Often, corporations and networked communities fail to recognize that they need to develop an intentional culture to support their collaborations. They rely on the unconscious cultural habits of their members and on imposed management schemes to compel participation. Management practices can seem more effective and cheaper than the expense of building cultural practices and governance. However, in situations where corporations need to pivot quickly, or where virtual organizations need to rely on volunteers, there is no substitute for shared values supported by governance practices.

The literature on the costs and benefits of a robust corporate culture is quite large. But how can organizations gain expertise in developing intentional cultural practices? Just as a building architect is used to create an efficient and effective envelope of space, a community architect can help an organization create an envelope of practice. Every effective corporate culture is based on shared intention and honest design. It is the role of the community architect to become familiar with those design patterns that can help a new virtual organization build a robust cultural fabric to support its vision and its goals.

Photo Credit: “On The Saturday Before That” by Thomas Hawk on flickr