Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More community of practice stuff

Harasim on COP--

(Side note: I bought the e-book of this as it was much cheaper, and THERE ARE NO PAGE NUMBERS! I didn't realize this could be a problem when I use quotes. I'll check the version on the "cloud reader" to see if that's more like a pdf with the page numbers.)

"COPs are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this are by interacting on an ongoing basis." Wenger, 2002, p. 4-5.

From Barab, MacKinster, Scheckler (2004).
"Participation in a COP results in some outcome, whether it is an idea, a tool, drawing, online post, or simply becoming more knowledgeably skillful with respect to the practice.This process of transforming experience and the outcomes of experience into a thing is knows as reification" (p. 66).

Wenger (2002): "Knowledge lives in the human act of knowing."

Hmm. I don't think that's what really goes on in writing CoPs. It's more knowledge is created by the process of creating. That is, in my experience on the GEnie romance fiction roundtable-- still in my experience the greatest time of sharing and growing in writing knowledge-- we'd write, and then discuss the problems, issues, and solutions that arose in the writing, then as a group (or in back-and-forth) discuss why this problem might happen, where else it might happen (like in another book), and why the solution worked, or what other solutions could work. That is, we ended up building theories of fiction writing (particularly structure) based on the experience we had in creating and discussing the creations.

Harasim: "Historically, knowledge has advanced as communication technologies have improved," and uses the printing press as an example.
Printing press made possible widespread literacy.
 "as the mechanisms to meet and share ideas improved, so too did scientific knowledge."
In 1992, in a heated desire to join friends on the GEnie network, I bought a primitive modem and learned to use it. (Anyone remember ATDT? and then some number? I don't even remember what that was for.) That is, the technology came and we all had to learn how to use it-- we became computer literate or modem literate in order to participate in the community.

Can't read printed books without being literate, but there's no way to become literate without books being available-- technology actually creates the need AND the ability to fulfill that need.

Another motivation-- in a CoP, even without a competitive element, you want to put your best face on. Wear your Sunday best, as my grandmother would say. If you're in the midst of articulate, able writers, before you post that passage from your book, you're going to revise and refine based on what the community has been discussing, so that you won't be embarrassed by inadequacy in front of your new friends.
Community grows.
Members participate.
Discourse advances, sometimes very rapidly, through interaction.
Knowledge (new) results from the discourse and is recorded (in forums, the archives, etc).
Members take the new collective knowledge home and use it to create or revise their work (reify the knowledge), then come back and share the new product with others, adding more to the knowledge base.

I remember in those halcyon early days of GEnie, three of us (two of us are still close friends, united in part in mutual dislike of the third, poor thing) decided to write a "braided novel". (We all wrote in the same genre for the same publisher and editor.) The big thing was--- and this was put out as a marketing element-- we did all the brainstorming and writing online, in the GEnie roundtable, and other members would weigh in with comments and suggestions. Once I wrote what was sort of the center of the emotional plot, a big confrontation scene between a soldier and the wife who had been waiting at home. It had my signature graceful prose (if I do say so myself... that's really my big strength) and the emotionally-embedded sentences. I was over the moon with pleasure at it. And it went over well with the commenters, except one, a much more accomplished writer, said that it felt disjointed as a scene because the most threatening threat from him to her happened in the middle, so everything after that seemed an anticlimax. The other commenters agreed, and so I tried moving that part to the end of the scene. Voila, now there was an staircase of emotion, so that the greatest emotion was at the end.

That was a true Community of Practice-- we "practiced" as a group.
Must stress with paper-- writing communities are interesting to study because the "product" is part of the discourse, an occasion for the discourse, not just a reification of the knowledge but a part of the process of getting to the knowledge. And it's all immediate. It's not like, say, the bar association continuing legal ed (also a cop purpose) where the knowledge in the seminars is carried out and used outside the community later in a case-- in a writing community, the discourse leads immediately to the writing passage which is shared and then becomes another part of the process of knowledge-creation.

"Schools of thought and practice are based on shared texts."  (Harasim paraphrasing Brown and Duguid 2000).
... "note the importance of text and documentes in generating new schools of thought and practice... the history of the internet as extending a long tradition of communities forming around documents: textual communities.

Harasim: "The term "cop" has evolved from an emphasis on apprenticeship within an organization to that of members sharing a common profession or type of work beyond an institutional affiliation... hared profession or work but not shared workplace... informal...voluntary. ... Members typical share: a comon language or set of terms related to their profession, practice, or interst;, a substantive common focus; common training or experience; acommon way of working or doing things; a common set of tools or technologies SEE IF IN AUTHONOMY THEY'RE ALL USING SCRIVENER OR SOME OTHER WRITING TOOL; a common tacit understanding of the topic."

\... there is generally a high level of cohesion and intentionality, if the group is to survive."

Authonomy-- apprenticeship program? With Jenny and Ellie both, as soon as they got published, they moved on. (Community had changed, but so did they-- didn't need it anymore?) Contrast with Lynn C's group, where they were "friends" and success didn't lead to an exit.

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