comprehensive sample of Twitter updates was collected by establishing and then exporting custom RSS feeds for the two primary conference hashtags in use before,during, and after the event (hashtags are essentiallymetadata included as part of a Twitter update to identify participation in a conference, event, community, etc.).Data collection for the ethnographic study began inJuly of 2010 and concluded in early April, 2011. For the8-
months of data collection, I had unique access toseven professionals in a prominent media research firm.For example, my participants accommodated severalunannounced site visits and impromptu observations andcopied me on all email correspondence related to the project I was studying; this is in addition toaccommodating several planned observations, semi-structured interviews, and the sharing of artifacts.The organization I studied specializes in conductingconsumer research and usability studies, and countscompanies like Nielsen, Time Warner, and ESPN amongits clients. Data collection at this site centered around thefirm's practice of “ideation sessions,” a form of consumer research similar to focus groups that uses creativitytechniques to generate rich consumer perspectives aboutmedia. I was able to study the organization as they planned, developed, executed, analyzed, and disseminatedresults from a series of ideation sessions exploring online privacy issues.The total data set included over 150 participant- produced artifacts, more than 20 semi-structuredinterviews, over 60 hours of recorded audio, some 30,000words of field notes, over 250 photographs, and almost2,400 Twitter updates, collected by establishing and thenexporting custom RSS feeds for three of the primary participants; this also included all of the updates using a particular hashtag from a professional conferenceattended by one of the participants in late 2010.My university’s Institutional Review Board approved both studies. The approach to data analysis includescomprehensive coding of all the data collected in the pilotstudy (codes were inductively derived via the generationof
, descriptive, and process coding methods). For the ethnographic study, the current analysis is limited to participants’ use of social software; at the time of thiswriting, this analysis included genre mapping of socialsoftware use within the organization  and coding of the comprehensive sample of Twitter updates collectedduring the study period (using a list of starter codesgenerated during the pilot case study, as well as newdescriptive and process codes). In both studies, coding of Twitter data was triangulated via field notes and analyticmemos, and validated via interviews with participants.W
?For participants in both studies, the organizational useof social software was clearly strategic and intentional.During observations of pre-conference planning meetingsconducted by the executive board and local sitecoordinators for the pilot case study, an organizationalawareness of the need to better leverage social softwarewas strikingly apparent, so much so that theorganizational promotion of live-blogging, a YouTubechannel, and Twitter were key to the conferenceexperience. Likewise, in the ethnographic study the primary participants were keenly metacognitive andsanguine about their use of social software to promotetheir organizational brand and seed organizationalknowledge assets (for example, by incrementally teasingfindings from their consumer research on Facebook andTwitter).Yet one of the most interesting details to emerge frominterviews with participants in both studies was the sensethat professional writing via social software isoverwhelmingly unacknowledged
as writing work
— especially in contradistinction to more traditional forms of organizational writing work like reports, documentation, proposals, and email. Though participants were aware thatone focus of my research was their use of social software,when asked (on multiple occasions for three participantsin the ethnographic study) about the kinds of
theydo in their work, participants never mentioned their writing in social software unless prompted. When prompted, participants would typically respond withsurprise and belated acknowledgement that composingTwitter or Facebook updates does indeed constitutewriting.This finding leads to a peculiar understanding of socialsoftware within the realm of what these subjects consider the traditional norms of organizational discourse. There isa clear sense in which public, organizational writing in amedium such as Twitter is transitional and interstitial for these knowledge workers—such activities are significantin the main, in aggregate, but deemed less significant
when considered at the level of composition.This is perhaps indicative of the emerging understandingof the role of social software within organizations— knowledge workers know such work is important, butdon't yet consider such work as part of the writing they do professionally.In many ways, then, writing for social softwareenvironments is interstitial—it circulates in the in- between spaces of organizational writing work and carriesmeaning in non-traditional ways. For example, theinformal nature of many Twitter posts in both studiesreveals a casual, often phatic, socially significant tenor,interactions that may carry more personal meaning for participants than some sense of organizationalsignificance. But despite participants' reluctance toacknowledge things like Twitter updates as organizationalwriting work, there can be no doubt that such updates, inaggregate and alone, “count” as writing work—oftensignificantly so.