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‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices
Contributors: Vanessa Dirksen & Ard Huizing & Bas Smit Editors: Jason Hughes Book Title: SAGE Internet Research Methods Chapter Title: "‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices" Pub. Date: November 2010 Access Date: October 20, 2013 Publishing Company: SAGE Publications Ltd City: London Print ISBN: 9781446241042
Online ISBN: 9781446268513 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446268513 Print pages: v4-255-v4-275 This PDF has been generated from SAGE Research Methods. Please note that the pagination of the online version will vary from the pagination of the print book.
In the concept of connective ethnography presented in this article.org/10. systems and texts.nlhttp://nms.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods http://dx.1177/1461444809341437 Encoding from PDF of original work ‘“Piling on Layers of Understanding”: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices’. vol.org/10.org/10.demailto:a. the sensitivity to the making of context includes both the sense of a local physical context as well as the increasing connections between information resources in the form of people. Based on the empirical material of a study conducted on the appropriation of virtual community in a corporate setting.doi.nlmailto:bas. In doing so. Vanessa Dirksen Ard Huizing Bas Smit New Media & Society. a specific combination of online and offline methods and the data they together generate are evaluated for capturing the dynamics of online social practices. v4-255 ↓ ] ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org@uva. special attention is paid to the application of social network analysis to online (log file) data. This article explores the notion of connective ethnography as a modern form of ethnography.doi.1177/1461444809341437 [p. Reprinted with permission. 1045–1063 Published by SAGE Publications Ltd. 12 (7) (2010): pp.doi.com http://email@example.com/ content/12/7/ Contact SAGE Publications at http://www. Page 3 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices .1177/1461444809341437http:// dx.sagepub.
It accommodates that online practices are increasingly embedded in offline practices and vice versa. Adding the idea of connectivity to the notion of geographically defined locales. network sociality (Wittel. The main findings of this study Page 4 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices 1 . nationally distributed. 2002: 303) to the ethnography. and bodies’ and analysing the construction of boundaries [p. all those work practices that are becoming more and more technology-intensive. texts and geographically dispersed people. information and communication system to support virtual community in a large. web-based. 1995). 1999: 8). texts. 2007. ‘ethnography generates or builds theories of cultures – or explanations of how people think. 2003: 211) than by geographical locales with fixed and static boundaries. The idea of connectivity entails that the ethnographic field site is determined more by ‘tracing the flows of objects. hereafter referred to as Dito. Leander and McKim. This traditional ‘focus-on-the-locus’ and ‘synchronized-time’ take on ethnography is in need of revision to better capture the complexities of modern work practices in organizations that are increasingly marked by highly interconnected information resources in the form of technical systems. a connective ethnography needs to blend traditional with online research methods (Mann and Stewart.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods Introduction Traditionally. v4-256 ↓ ] within and between virtual and physical spaces (Leander and McKim. and behave – that are situated in local time and space’ (LeComte and Schensul. in which the data generated by each method add ‘layers of understanding’ (Strathern. This article explores the notion of connective ethnography in a corporate setting. Dutch IT organization. more generally. and of integrating face-to-face and digital modes of connection. Hence. Urged by the emergence of computer-mediated communication. It draws from a study on the use of an internal. organizational ethnographic research is faced with the challenge of studying practices in and across local time and space. Such a connective ethnography is much better equipped to capture more accurately the dynamics of online practices or. 2000. 2003). connective ethnography is one methodology that has been proposed to address the issue of integrating research across online and offline spaces (Hine. 2000) and multi-sited research locations (Marcus. believe. 2000).
Embodying classifications of self and other. reputation and negation. First. By engaging through the virtual community artifact. the study showed how technology appropriation evoked self-reflection (cf. which incited reflection about professional identity. selfordering (individual tactics) and self-presentation (profiling). on the organization. The purpose of this Page 5 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . Four patterns of user appropriation were found to exist: confirmation. Turkle. 1997). Reputation was the behaviour in which virtual community was interpreted not so much as a learning device. 2005). obstructed and facilitated social relationships and people imagining their working existence. 1996). the various online and offline methods mixed as part of the connective ethnography were crucial. Czarniawska and Sevón. the new technology provided a mirror for the professional self. In revealing these cumulative layers of understandings. Negation referred to the behaviour in which the technology was ‘worked around’ entirely. members expressed their attachment to some social groupings and their disidentification with others. [p. but as one of the tools available to guide the impressions others in the firm form of him or her (cf. These appropriation patterns indicated that users tried to preserve their own ways of ordering when confronted with the new artifact. Socialization was the pattern in which the professional used the virtual communities to become an accepted member of the group. it equally provided the users with the means to inflict their own logic on the artifact and. functionally and symbolically. Suchman. the study shed light on how these appropriations of the virtual community artifact recursively organized practice by way of self-reflexivity (subjectivity). Donath. hence.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods relate to how the users of this new socio-technical artifact have translated. the study subsequently demonstrated how the artifact was creatively appropriated by the various kinds of users while putting it to different uses. v4-257 ↓ ] As much as the technology may have prescribed. Finally. 1997) and was an expression of social affiliation (cf. than those intended by Dito's management and moderators. By talking about the virtual communities users made distinct assertions about the knowledge claims of themselves and others and hence about the boundaries of the profession in terms of who did and did not belong. Confirmation referred to the behaviour that approximated the learning ideals as presented in the promise of virtual community. Second. socialization. enacted and modified the imposed idea of virtual community (cf.
it developed from an alternative form of organization into an alternative way Page 6 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . For instance. paying special attention to the online methods and the use of online social network analysis particularly due to their relative novelty. The bulk of the empirical material relates to the last phase of appropriation. (2) the introduction of the artifact in the organization. the information systems discipline and cyber-culture studies respectively. the research traced how the virtual community idea evolved in the relevant academic and popular literature. as taken over from social theory. v4-258 ↓ ] travelled. as the idea of community [p. This entailed investigating the prevailing understandings of the ideas of community. for which we refer to Dirksen (2007). interview and participant observation in Dito as well as participant observation in and textual analysis of the virtual workspaces. it is aimed at illustrating how the complexity of technology appropriation can be captured more accurately by swiftly moving back and forth between online and offline research sites (Hine. traditional and virtual methods are of equal importance in connective ethnography and should be integrated to reflect the complexities of contemporary cultures in which offline and online activities are increasingly intertwined. enacted and modified in the context of Dito. ICT and virtual community in managerial/organizational discourse. i. 2007). To understand how it ‘landed in locality’ (Czarniawska and Sevón. Research Activities Offline To investigate how the idea of virtual community was translated. and a social network analysis of the log file data. data were drawn from discourse analysis.e. the design of the empirical work corresponded to the following phases of appropriation: (1) the ‘travel’ of the virtual community idea in the relevant literature. we will discuss how each of these methods contributed to our understanding of the case studied. how the socio-technical artifact was appropriated by the various kinds of users (employees) while putting it to different uses than those intended by ‘design’ (management and moderators). 1996). This discourse analysis revealed how processes of translation occurred through a continuous taking over of concepts while going through the necessary processes of abstraction. In our study. and (3) the reception of the artifact by employees in terms of interpretive flexibility and actual usage. Rather.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods article is not to elaborate on the findings and theoretical contribution of the study. In what follows. However.
modern community thinking in organizations is closely linked to ideas of organizational change. In line with the instrumental view of virtual community as reflected in the discourse analysis. The document thus illustrated how Dito's management interpreted virtual community predominantly as organizational change. Next. v4-259 ↓ ] Second. The latter view puts forth the belief in the manufacturability of informal communication structures and the creation of ‘sharedness in meaning’. [p. that is. Whereas the perception of the organization as community traditionally implied in organizational discourse acknowledged the more personal and informal relations people maintain at work. prospective meaning and functionality of the technology under study. that was used in a meeting to instruct the prospective moderators of the virtual communities.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods of organizing. its view on virtual communities and the groupware technology implemented to support the virtual community idea. The former were used as a representation of the company's history and as a starting point for deconstructing the organizing narrative (Rowlinson and Procter. The latter allowed the investigation of the intended purpose. Highly informative in this regard was an internal document. investigation of the internal documentation data provided background information about the organization. ‘Ten Motives for Organizational Change’. the efficiency objectives appeared most prominently on this list of motives. First. Examples of investigated documents and records were annual reports and documents on the acquisition of the technology. This process of commodification and instrumentalization of the community notion provided one dimension of the organizational context in the light of which people's enactments of virtual community were understood. 1999). The internal document clearly showed the mixture of motives behind the introduction of communities and the related technology. the cultivation of ‘cultural insiders’ acted as a ready source for informal consultation and convenient help over the course of the study. a way of ordering according to the template of community. Doing fieldwork in the organization entailed the cultivation of ‘cultural insiders’ – referred to as key informants – the conduct of interviews. participant observation and document analysis. our fieldwork concerning the subsequent translation and enactment of virtual community in the context of Dito lasted for a period of 16 months. These insiders ranging Page 7 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices 2 .
competitors. Furthermore.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods from higher management to IT professionals with different levels of seniority all involved in the virtual community project. All open-ended interviews included a biographical inquiry into the informant's education and working experience. which permitted direct and sustained observation of and interaction with a broad sample of the actors involved. These personal social networks often exceeded the boundaries of the organization. The interviews with the managers or initiators of the virtual community project revolved around aspects of the technology's prospective users and usage. The interviews with the employees ‘inhabiting’ the virtual communities (‘theuser-in-the-flesh’) distilled the various use experiences. Fourth. courses or seminars. Hence. data were collected from participant observation in the organization. 1987: 263). As the interviews with the participants of the virtual communities showed not only how the idea of virtual community was enacted but also how it was resisted and workedaround. talking about alternative information resources in the form of both technical systems and social relations revealed how the mechanisms of knowledge creation and network formation were constructed in the specific context faced and what these forms of engagement were based upon. clients or people met at the client. Interesting in this regard is that talking about the alternative resources the virtual communities had to compete with pointed at employees’ overall reliance on ‘personal social networks’. In the 16-month research period 59 formal interviews were conducted in the 15 geographical locations of the firm. Third. attended management meetings and frequently participated in Page 8 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . and included former colleagues. Consumption junction refers to ‘the place and the time at which the consumer makes choices between competing technologies’ (Cowan. referring to the not necessarily institutionalized and often structurally ephemeral and temporal binding of people (cf. These work-life biographies represented the variety of backgrounds among the IT professionals and the development of the computing industry. data were collected by means of formal interviewing. Wilson and Peterson. 2002). The interviews with the moderators were directed towards the intended goals and purposes of the virtual communities for particular (occupational) groups. The ethnographer participated in a three-day socialization programme for new employees. professional associations. they directed attention to the wider context of alternative resources in the form of both systems and people that employees call upon in their everyday work practices. the interviews revealed the ‘consumption junction’ of the technology appropriation.
More important. worked around by some employees and enacted by others.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods offline meetings of the members of some of the communities. To illustrate some of the research findings by means of participant observation. but it also provided the context in light of which informants’ stories were understood. formal and informal interviewing. and by connecting informants’ stories to their natural setting. In doing so.) In sum. v4-260 ↓ ] with direct observation not only enabled her to distinguish between ‘what people say they do’ and ‘what people actually do’ (Spradley. Q1: And. the consumption junction of technology appropriation in the form of both technical systems and personal social networks. (etc. following the events. thereby enacting the promise of virtual community: Q1: What's your definition of programme management? R1: I would describe it as coordinated management. there is in fact a difference between the two. 1980). they showed how forms of social engagement might be derived without prior experience of interaction. document review. biographical narratives of the informants. data gathered by way of discourse analysis. she experienced what ‘being a member’ of the organization was like. By participating in the research setting. R2: I disagree. we found that the members of the virtual community for project managers assembled on several occasions with the main aim of discussing the common language of the group. Programme management serves an explicit goal and it involves people from higher management also. and participation in the organization revealed how the idea of virtual community was concretized into ‘proper’ management instruments. how do you define the difference between programme and multi-project management? R1: As insignificant. given the purpose of this article. Page 9 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . and interacting with people. is that the various offline methods employed added to the ethnography in terms of discursive context. Combining interview data [p.
usually referred to as virtual ethnography (Hine. We will comment on each of these methods. Referring to the range of research methods that involve using the internet/information and communication technologies as research tool (Hine. Page 10 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . The virtual space as text requires textual analysis of the virtual encounters. The textual analysis predominantly entailed the observation of what kind of information was being shared in the virtual space and to what purpose. This kind of analysis was therefore mainly used to understand how the different patterns of appropriation relate to the purpose of communication and the content of the messages posted. the virtual methods applied in this research included online participant observation. Marcel. The various virtual texts were analysed and coded in http://Atlas. also in the virtual spaces. talk of what name would cover the group's commonality best dominated a considerable part of the software engineers’ discussion site: Topic: Name-giving community.ti according to the coding scheme of the offline interviews and observations. To illustrate our findings. and how they contributed to the intelligibility of the topic studied.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods Virtual Methods Apart from the offline methods. In the virtual communities studied. 02/07/2002 – 09:30 For some time now we have been discussing the name of the community. For instance. virtual methods were also part of the connective ethnography. The original proposition of Information Delivery disagrees with that of our commercially oriented people. 2000). is concerned with the investigation of the virtual space as both text and social interaction. 2005). textual analysis of the virtual workspaces and analysis of the log file data that were automatically stored. instances of ‘inventing’ community in terms of group mobilization on the basis of an imagined or created commonality were found. as well as the records of posted documents and the self-descriptions of members in the membership lists. virtual texts were both the sediments of social interaction in the [p. the kinds of data generated by means of them. Observation of and participation in virtual spaces. v4-261 ↓ ] form of discussions and chats.
we conducted a sequential observation and a social network analysis of the log file data of the virtual communities. The risk of operating under the name of Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing is that the more operational businesses pass us over. the virtual space as social interaction requires online participant observation. In short. we will first describe the kinds of (raw) data available for analysis. each allowing for distinct kinds of online data. Marcel Whereas the virtual space as text asks for textual analysis. the ethnographer identified herself as a researcher to the other members of the group (Jacobson. Conducting participant observation online means active engagement in real time online interaction. participation in the virtual communities gave a sense of the dynamics of the online activity. Upon entering the communities and guaranteeing anonymity. Digital Data-Capture Apart from participant observation in and textual analysis of the virtual workspaces. She reported regularly in these communities on her research findings and asked for people's feedback on these findings. In general. The name Information Delivery initially intended to cover the whole area: things like operational reporting. Prior to explaining both methods. crm and integration. There are various strategies of capturing log file data (Burton and Walther. 1999). First. so-called clientside data-capture entails the recording of browsing activity giving an overview of all sites visited by a user on a specific PC (Nurmela et al. 2001. For both the textual analysis and participant observation we gained access to four virtual communities. Your opinion is most welcome … Thanks in advance..OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods The proposition is therefore to change it into Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing. it enabled the ethnographer to approach participants online for interviews – people that she would otherwise not have come across in the organization. v4-262 ↓ ] registers the actions that have occurred online and therefore enables one to track online activity of participants – their ‘digital traces’. server-side Page 11 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices 3 . Second. Hogan. data mining. a log file [p. 2008). data quality & cleansing. 1999). Additionally.
moving and deleting documents as well as adding and removing users. posting and administration. 2005). In the case of a webserver log. what kind of activity the user performs. retrieve some of the content of the messages posted. these data also include information such as IP-number. Using an application-level log provided us with the necessary richness of data on the online activity performed in the community environment. including the so-called sessioninformation (Van der Aalst et al. With the events responsible for posting. Simply put. Posting entailed providing information in the virtual space to other community members. posting a message. visited URL. the first 256 characters of the subject line were given. reading or deleting a page. posting and administrative action was relevant to the extent that people can be responsible for a relatively large share of the group activity but only as a lurker or administrator and less so as a poster of information. i. the previous page visited). application-level data-capture harvests the ‘events’ close to the core of the application logic.e. Reading entailed obtaining information from the community and referred to behaviour related to information-seeking only. and whether or not the request is fulfilled successfully. referrer page (i.e. 1997). The following example illustrates the kind of information such an event-string might contain: Page 12 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . In addition. changing the layout.. 5 4 In an application-level log. Third. in this way. these events indicate what actually occurs.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods data-capture provides data on how often and when a certain user connects (Jackson. the application recognized 51 separate events). which involved knowledge production in the case of collaborative work on documents. we used a customized log at the application level of the virtual community environment. Administrative events were those events used for creating and changing the structure of the community such as adjusting the folder structure. and moving. each action by the user is evaluated by the application and together with the session-information results in a number of events being triggered (in total. Examples include adjusting authentications in the virtual environment. This enabled us to combine the event with the session-information and. The distinction between reading. The important point here is that the application-level or event-log enabled the online researcher to distinguish between events for reading.
As mentioned earlier. which we regularly did in a special column on the organization's intranet. 2002). the names mentioned in this article have been changed to protect participants’ anonymity. it enabled us to include the various kinds of users in the research. the degree of activity and sort of activity per participant. Wyatt. was conducted for research purposes only. did not return to the online space. sequential observation of the log files made up for a shortcoming of participant observation in the online space as it allowed us to include those who lurk and those who. 1. however. 6 Page 13 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . it was used for the more or less unrestricted selection of research informants (Howard.55 gigabyte). During the course of the study we monitored the activity in the virtual communities for a period of nine months. The social network analysis of the log file data. This kind of information behaviour visualization was used for understanding the diffusion of the technology in the organization and the share of the population represented in the virtual communities. v4-263 ↓ ] 08-Nov-2001#08:14:16# Peter Zoethout #11/08/2001 08:14:16 AM#/ instantlocus##### 030#”CN=Peter Zoethout/OU=client community/ OU=IL/O=ASPX”#”Working as consultant in the field of quality management such as the INK model and Information Security”#”“ We gained access to the log file data with permission of the community project managers under the condition that we were to report back on the general statistics of the online activity. the number of memberships participants held across the various communities.500.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods [p.000 events. 2003). Hence. two kinds of methods were applied to the log file data: a sequential observation and a social network analysis. Since the total number of records was considerable (1. events were taken together or categories of events were singled out – this predominantly concerned the events for reading and posting – and sometimes analysed for a selection of the communities only. The sequential observation of log file data generated the general statistics of online activity in the virtual communities: the number of participants. Moreover. In this way. In our study the latter group was referred to as ‘deliberate non-users’ (cf. In particular. as a way of accessing ‘the field’ independent of our gatekeepers. after an initial period of participation.
e. 1996. we will briefly discuss some recent studies concerning the structural analysis of computer-mediated communication. ‘the absence of the lurker in the ethnographic text enhances the perception of the [virtual community] as a coherent bounded entity’. 1997). 1997). Applying social network analysis to computer-mediated communication cannot be regarded as wholly novel or original. With the purpose of illustrating how our approach to (online) social network analysis is distinctive. Moreover. they are visible to the log observer. a social network analysis using social network analysis software was applied to the log file data. lurking may very well in due course turn into active posting behaviour once a participant feels confident enough to do so. Lurkers make up an important part of the online environment and are as important as the active participants. Online Social Network Analysis Next. ‘boundaries become important analytic variables rather than a priori analytic constraints’ (p. that is. Instead. hence enabling a richer reporting of events (Leander and McKim. Furthermore. retrieve in one environment and post in another. 1998.e. it pre-eminently allows for the determination of the actual groups people engage in. i. The value of social network analysis is that it does not ‘treat formal group boundaries as truly social boundaries’ (Wellman. Finally. the observed social networks instead of the prescribed. as Hine (2000: 25) warns. the bulk of these studies still uses social Page 14 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . In particular. the posters of information. groups (Haythornthwaite. i. mapping social networks on the basis of people's digital traces showed the extent to which the proposed virtual communities were enacted (or not) in terms of actual information-sharing relations between people. Hence. Work done in the area includes the extent to which computer-mediated communication reinforces already existing social networks offline (Pettigrew and Durrance. formal. Wellman. 179). However. Wellman. because they constitute the necessary audience that posters [p. 2000) and how different media support different kinds of relationships (Haythornthwaite and Wellman.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods The important point here is that while lurkers might be invisible to the participant observer of the online workspace. 1997: 179). enabling the empirical investigation of information sharing between people and groups of people. lurkers may act as boundary spanners. v4-264 ↓ ] are presenting themselves to. 2003).
i.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods network analysis as it is traditionally done. 2006. Rogers and Marres (2000) designed a web crawler program to ‘collect the data directly from websites’ (Park and Thelwall. v4-265 ↓ ] of ‘surfing and counting’ (Park et al. ‘a hyperlink is a technological capability that enables. Park and Thelwall. and the content on the basis of which these relationships were formed. The few studies that do in fact apply social network analysis to the study of digital traces largely concern the investigation of the structure of the World Wide Web. hence. 2000. Simply put. 2006.. people are asked to point out their relations with the members of a certain social group. Instead.. 7 Page 15 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . More importantly.. The majority of these hyperlinking studies are done on the basis of the method [p. Not only are the links counted. the main objection to hyperlinking research is that ‘hyperlinks typically do not represent connections between people’ (Park and Thelwall. whenever social network analysis is applied to computer-mediated environments. hyperlinking indicates the relation between websites and. In studying the interconnectedness of websites.e. 2005: 178). Park et al.. sometimes the content of the linked pages is examined also (see Tateo. one specific website to connect seamlessly with another’. 2006) or interviews (Wellman et al. on the basis of surveys (Ellison et al.. For instance. In traditional social network studies. we applied online social network analysis (OSNA) to the study of interpersonal communication and investigated not the potential links but the actual information-sharing relations between people and groups of people. Haythornthwaite. this kind of ‘intertextuality’ is based on the potential links between published sites and not on the ways in which people actually ‘surf and click’: how they navigate from one site to another. the connection of texts. 2002. studies are still limited when it comes to collecting and analysing digital traces directly from the log files. 2006). In contrast. in principle. 2004). 2005). However. these studies investigate the extent to which websites are connected to other web-sites. 2007. social researchers are increasingly using computer-assisted measurement. ‘It requires a researcher to surf websites and many web-pages within each site carefully’ (Park and Thelwall. Hlebec et al. As defined by Park and Thelwall (2003). 2003: 57). 2003). 2002). making visible the ‘network of sites’ through the concept of ‘hyperlinking’ (Heimeriks and Van Den Besselaar. Whether by means of surfing and counting or with the application of social network analysis software.
93% 19. Degree refers to ‘degree of connectivity’ and provides information Page 16 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . Rosen et al. 30).. The matrices were subsequently analyzed with UCINET social network software (Borgatti et al. v4-266 ↓ ] one set of actors – the first mode. Sociability Social expertise Formal representations of practice Institutional Technical expertise 37. as opposed to person-to-person matrices. affiliations were either represented by person-to-group. a set of events or activities’ (p.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods Our OSNA included the frequency.. after which they were exported to a database in which the content lines were organized according to the keywords appearing in the subject lines. Other than in so-called ego networks showing the one-on-one relations between people. they have only [p. people were either connected by shared membership in terms of actual participation (reading and/or posting) or people/groups were connected by a shared involvement with a certain topic. the keywords were manually coded in the database and subsequently organized according to five ‘super codes’ (see Table 1). The main measure of social network structure used for the analysis of affiliation networks is degree.80% As the N × M matrices already indicate. 1994: 40). For the purpose of content analysis. 1992). group-to-content or person-to-content matrices. in our OSNA. In our work. meaning that the links between people could only be inferred indirectly. For the OSNA. Affiliation networks are special types of two-mode networks. the data were arranged in N × M matrices in which the N rows indexed either the users or the groups and the M columns either the groups or the content. kind of user activity and the content of the information relations (cf.23% 15.96% 13.07% 13. An affiliation network thus arises when ‘one set of actors is measured with respect to attendance at. 2003). depending on the kinds of pairs used for analysis. or affiliation with. ‘The second mode in an affiliation network is a set of events (such as clubs or voluntary organizations) to which the actors belong’ (Wasserman and Faust. The relevant log data were kept in a custom-file format and were converted to a flat-text file. the OSNA was performed on the basis of affiliation networks.
as promised in the organizational discourse. In our study. formal communities) were enacted in actual relational patterns as it not only shows the actually existing links but also the missing links. The connections [p. group and content. Using ‘degree’. v4-267 ↓ ] between the nodes represented the degree of participation in the selected group or with regard to a selected topic. Table 2 illustrates the lack of cohesion in the 170 formal communities that were found to exist in Dito. With a mean score of 10. that is. depicting the social networks as nodes and connections between nodes. Table 2: Degree of connectivity The results of the OSNA were subsequently processed in the form of (bipartite) social network graphs. Comparing the mean and maximum scores additionally led to the observation that some of the imposed groups were well connected. By taking ‘shared memberships in other groups’ as the measure for the degree of connectivity – the so-called N3-networks – we found that there were 124 alternative employee networks at work at Dito that were almost ten times as connected as the formal groups.2 percent. This was a clear sign of the existence of informal networks of people operating across the formal boundaries. 1997).. the nodes referred to the following units of analysis: participant. This makes ‘degree’ apt for investigating the extent to which the imposed structures (the virtual. however.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods on the density of the networks. on ‘the number of actually-occurring relations or ties as a proportion of the number of theoretically-possible relations or ties’ (Garton et al. a maximum score of 83. Figure 1: Social network graphs Page 17 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices .4 percent and a standard deviation of 11.5 percent. that did not apply to many groups.
2004). v4-268 ↓ ] other groups and the ‘inner circle of squares’ that is relatively close to the graph's centre suggested a high extent of overlapping memberships. The consultants scored relatively low on internal cohesion. By mixing these methods we found. To subsequently explain the patterns of information behaviour as represented by the network graphs. Conversely. were well connected to [p. we found that the object orientation group featured a relatively low internal cohesion. The closer participants were positioned to the centre of the graph. In this way. we used the data drawn from interview. In contrast. participant observation and textual analysis of the online spaces. the project managers had a relatively cohesive group. Finally. These four graphs thus measured the extent of connectivity in terms of strength of ties and multiple memberships. the more active they were in the other groups they were connected with. and low on overlapping membership. demonstrating the internal cohesion or fragmentation of the online communities. the more active the members were in that community. the software engineers combined a relatively high internal cohesion with moderate connectivity and few overlapping memberships in other groups. for instance. Furthermore. high connectivity and a high extent of shared memberships in other groups. the more participants approached the squares. the more participants in the group jointly shared memberships in other ‘referral cliques’ (Barley and Kunda. Figure 1 provides insights into the extent to which the imposed groups were enacted in practice. the closer the squares were to the graph's centre. high on connectivity. Page 18 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices .OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods As an illustrative example of person-to-group networks.
and sought other groups for information on joint clients and sectors. Project managers typically shared project management information. On the other hand. even though they concerned the same topic. As we argue. OSNA can be a valuable method in the study of computermediated communication if and only if it is performed as an integral part of connective ethnography. such as becoming over-reliant on data that are more easy to access or losing the sense of seeing the world as participants see it by making use of data that are not readily available to them.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods that the relatively high internal cohesion of the project managers could be explained by their mutual practice in sharing codified and abstracted information such as project plans and standard templates. Finally. the person-to-content and group-to-content networks subsequently shed light on the degree of information resource concentration. In some cases. 1996: 332). therefore. embedding it in a combination of online and offline methods compromises the potential drawbacks of OSNA. As such. codified knowledge with other project managers. These groups acted out as ‘knowledge islands’ that proved to be inaccessible to each other. Moreover. Figure 2 gives an example. while their relatively high connectivity originated from the need to be knowledgeable about the large diversity in types of clients and sectors to be served. there were no links of communication among these groups (with only one exception). We would like to stress that OSNA was only one of the methods used in our study. consultants had less concrete information to share internally and fewer overlapping memberships in other groups. While the topic of ‘SAP’ was discussed in various formal groups. [p. Information resource concentration refers to ‘the likelihood of [participants] having access to the same information or resources’ (Haythornthwaite. From the various network graphs we used in our study the ‘groups of belonging’ on the basis of actual information-sharing behaviour between people and groups of people emerged. thus operating more individually. the community idea contributed to the formation of separate groups that were not involved in knowledge-sharing relationships with each other. v4-269 ↓ ] Page 19 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices 8 . these networks illustrated the extent to which imposed group boundaries converged with the emerging boundaries on the basis of actual topic involvement. for instance.
First. v4-270 ↓ ] traces of online activity. i. interviewing actors with different opinions and behaviours. Second. lurkers and deliberate non-users. As we showed. On the whole. Finally. Third. In doing so.e. we illustrated the different kinds of data generated by means of it for a study on the appropriation of the technology and ideology of virtual community in a corporate setting. online participant observation and textual analysis of the workspaces enabled us to investigate the variation in online representations. and analysing the digital [p. using key informants. the sequential observation of the log file data made it possible to include the different kinds of users: active users.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods Figure 2: Island formation On the whole it can be said that the virtual methods employed in the study added intelligible context to the ethnography in four ways. both online and offline. combining traditional and virtual methods demonstrated the extent to which online and offline practices co-constituted each other. the people that would otherwise remain invisible to the online researcher. our arguments are based on both ‘proven’ tactics for ethnographic research as well as more novel ones: spending a long time ‘on site’. applying multiple data-collection Page 20 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . Conclusion: Capturing the Complexities of (Online) Practice In this article we argue for a connective ethnography. OSNA provided for the interconnectivity of people as it is based on people's actual information-sharing and communication relations in the computer-meditated environment.
More importantly. the sequential observation of the log files and the textual analysis of the virtual workspaces connected the various appropriation patterns with the content of the messages exchanged and the purpose of communication. participant observation contrasted the ideal of practice with the actuality of practice and linked the interview data to their context of interpretation. Page 21 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . discourse analysis was used in order to set the discursive context. hence solving a problem of modern ethnographic sites which are more often than not geographically dispersed or multi-sited. the OSNA applied to the log files enabled us to draw conclusions about the actual information-sharing relations instead of the projected ones and provided initial insight into the various patterns of appropriation.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods methods as part of the connective ethnography not only opposed the ideal to the actuality of online practices but also integrated the different dimensions of translation and enactment of the virtual community idea. As to the virtual methods applied. combining these data with the interview data. the sequential observation of the log files made it possible to unobtrusively incorporate the various kinds of users into the research. i. 2000) added layers of understanding to the ethnography in terms of intertextuality. In addition.e. Finally. Next. It additionally illustrated how employees’ subjective appropriations recursively organized practice. the wider context of use referred to as consumption junction. the interconnection of people with and without computer-mediated communication and the incorporation of the various kinds of users. people and objects both online and offline. Altogether. online participant observation was used to get a sense of the online dynamics and as a new method of entering the ‘field’. including lurkers and nonusers. the mixing of traditional methods with virtual methods of research (Mann and Stewart. With regard to the traditional. Interviews provided insight into the backgrounds of the individual informants and the state of the computing industry at the time of research. Finally. the relevant textual resources influencing people in how they approach new information and communication technologies. they exposed the interconnection of people and technical systems. offline methods. by following the connections between texts. the connective ethnography enabled us to show the extent to which digital modes of connection were both embedded in and creative appropriations and modifications of face-to-face modes of communication and sociality. More specifically.
4. it also captures more accurately the complexities of modern offline practice. 5. (1999) for the investigation of these kinds of data by means of social net-work analysis. Notes 1.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods By and large. we contend that such a connective ethnography is also on the whole better fit to use for studies that do not hold online practices as their main object of study. Beaulieu. See Nurmela et al. 2. see Van der Aalst et al. Although this article specifically aimed to study the online and offline contextualization of online practices. In real life. meaning that face-to-face and digital modes of connection increasingly both provide for the meaningful context of any ethnography. not only is the mixing of traditional methods with virtual methods of research considered indispensable for understanding the dynamics of online practices. of all those work practices that are in this day and age so inherently more technology-saturated. as the fieldworker decides which connections to follow up on. it remains his or her construction (cf. For an example of the application of social network analysis to these kinds of data. the offline and online worlds are more and more highly connected spheres of social activity (cf. sensitivity to the making of context in connective ethnography means showing the larger discourse and the wider network of social and ‘objectual’ relations of which it constitutes a part. Fieldwork was conducted by the first author. Leander and McKim. With this we do not mean to claim that the field is naively discovered during the course of fieldwork. that is. 2004). (2005). This study defines social networks by the interactions between students and teachers in collaboratively creating online documents. social network analysis is used for the Page 22 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . 3. Using virtual methods as part of ethnographic work is thus a way of striving for a more complete ethnographic [p. v4-271 ↓ ] representation. Jackson suggests the application of social network analysis to these kinds of data in hyperlinking research. In this study. It is therefore better equipped to capture the complexities of modern work practices as both local practice and as removed in time and space. 2003). Hence.
However. and user-activity logs. Page 23 of 28 SAGE Internet Research Methods: ‘Piling on Layers of Understanding’: The Use of Connective Ethnography for the Study of (Online) Work Practices . See Wyatt (2003) for a discussion of the various kinds of non-users and why non-users are important for the social study of technology. they define social networks on the basis of offline data and add to that the usage statistics as obtained from the server log. they use face-to-face interviewing. Though not many. The other items. Beaulieu. (2005) is delineated by the formal structures of the organization whereas our analysis is directed toward the boundary crossing formation of social networks. a study using weblogs by Furukawa et al. i. there are exceptions to this. as opposed to our study. 18 (2–3): pp. G.e. v4-272 ↓ ] References Barley. We use the term ‘deliberate non-user’ to refer to the people who were aware of the existence of the virtual communities and gained some experience with participation and to distinguish them from the people who were left out of the virtual community project altogether. 8. NJ: Princeton University Press. (2002) for another study that mixes various methods in the study of online social networks. [p. can at best be typified as passive links. ‘Mediating Ethnography: Objectivity and the Making of Ethnographies of the Internet’. Social Epistemology (2004) vol. For instance. A. An important difference with our study is that the work of Van der Aalst et al. The item ‘comment’ does refer to actual information-sharing relations. 6. however. Similar to our study. ‘blog roll’. The server log is used solely for counting the number of interactions with the CSCL tool. See Martínez et al. Hired Guns. 7. ‘trackback’ and ‘comment’.R. they do not include the content of these interactions. Kunda (2004) Gurus. (2007). investigates social network links on the basis of the following four items of a weblog: ‘citation’. and Warm Bodies: Itinerant Experts in a Knowledge Economy.OCTOBER FREE TRIAL Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods mapping of business processes as expressed by enterprise applications such as SAP. SNA mapping. Princeton. S. 139–63.
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