Saturday, June 30, 2007

Presentation at Conference on Communities & Technologies

Here is the presentation I gave yesterday during the workshop on Communities of Practice in Highly Computerized Work Settings, as part of the Third International Conference on Communities & Technologies at Michigan State University. Volker Wulf and Aditya Johri were able to assemble a diverse group of people for the workshop, which led to many interesting avenues of discussion throughout the day.

With regards to my presentation, I was happy to receive a lot of positive feedback on my research perspective. The timeliness and relevance of studying virtual worlds as a test bed for possible new ways of working in organizations was acknowledged. The theoretical foundation seems to be fairly solid, as well. But as before in Finland, the group struggled with the tension between work and play (as do I).

The most interesting element of that discussion was a contribution by Karsten Wolf (who also presented a paper on his own World of Warcraft research during this conference). He argued that perhaps the tasks that are being performed in a virtual world (he used "killing a dragon" as an example) are much simpler than the tasks performed in a work context. Maybe simpler is not the right word, but at least they are not ambiguous or polluted by politics, which makes collaboration easier.

We also discussed possible reasons for the fact that these virtual world communities thrive without face-to-face contact (as do many open source communities) and came up with a "technology expectancy" theory: if you expect to be able to communicate face to face at some point, you will see computer-mediated communication as a hindrance. If you do not anticipate to communicate face-to-face, you will see the same technology as an enabler.

I will post some more comments about the conference tomorrow.

No comments: