Jun 26, 2009

case(s) sampling

This topic as been (too often) present in our discussions and deserves an entry on it's own. If you want, you can add your own views, and/or other citations, and/or contrary views ;-)

Kathleen M Eisenhardt & Melissa E Graebner (2007). Theory building from cases: opportunities and challenges. Academy of Management Journal, vol. 50(1), pp. 25-32:
"(...) frequent challenge to theory building from cases concerns case selection. Some readers make the faulty assumption that the cases should be representative of some population, as are data in large-scale hypothesis testing research. In other words, they ask, How can the theory generalize if the cases aren’t representative?

(...) clarify that the purpose of the research is to develop theory, not to test it, and so theoretical (not random or stratified) sampling is appropriate. Theoretical sampling simply means that cases are selected because they are particularly suitable for illuminating and extending relationships and logic among constructs. (...) cases sampled for theoretical reasons, such as revelation of an unusual phenomenon, replication of findings from other cases, contrary replication, elimination of alternative explanations, and elaboration of the emergent theory."

connecting «distractions» with literature

Just a quick note to add resources made available by 2 research groups on information overload and interruptions, following the entry about Distraction(s)...

Jun 11, 2009

weblog as PIM tool

Efimova, L. (2009). Weblog as a personal thinking space. Forthcoming in: HT’09: Proceedings of the twentieth ACM conference on hypertext and hypermedia, June 2009. New York: ACM:
"Using weblogs as a knowledge base, and then as an instrument to support PhD work, creates synergies, as the effort that goes into creating and organising entries [posts] later pays off by providing more ways for retrieval, and a better quality of the material to be reused. In turn, the experience of reuse or unexpected discoveries that older posts bring stimulates putting more effort in creating new entries." (p. 8)
Resulting from her own practice to a finished dissertation, using an autoethnography approach, Lilia presents a detailed account of that process, summarized in a table, showing "how different stages of idea development [during the PhD process] are supported by the activities around the weblog content."

Another strong point is made concerning the role of paper in knowledge work, and although I only saw the paper today, was glad to see that it reasons with the preliminary findings of the data I've been collecting and the entry that I've made previously, that it reasons with my own use of blogs for supporting research, and also for advocating the use of blogs instead of pages for eliciting the on going process of doctoral research work. Doing it requires "requires the filtering [of] large amounts of information, making sense of it, and connecting the different bits and pieces to come up with new ideas. In this process, physical and digital artefacts play an important role" (Efimova, 2009, p. 2).

The blog allows also for the integration of permanent captures of temporary information in that sense the blog works like a canvas that can display scrapnotes in other contexts extending their use for the weaving of new knowledge. But like she says in the paper,
"The connection between the functionalities of weblog technologies and their uses for personal information management needs further examination. The similarity between the roles my weblog plays in supporting my work and those of paper collections in other studies indicate a need to explore the affordances of weblog technologies from PIM perspective and possibilities of learning from blogging when designing other tools, in particularly those that support managing information scraps that do not fit current tools" (p. 9)

Jun 8, 2009

different perceptions of academic spaces

As a student, I don't review myself in the words of Tapscott. Maybe in most of my higher education I was very, very lucky. I did my bachelor in Macau (South of China), back in 1995-1998 and the majority of my teachers engaged with students in deep discussions and debates. Many times, the discussions continue outside the class room. Maybe because class-size (turmas) where around 30 people and not hundreds. But this should be viewed as anedotical evidence, since it is my own perception not based in any research, unlike the research based on the evidences collected by Tapscott in the US.

In my own life as student in the academic context, the questioning of our assumptions was the stage for our discoveries. Our teachers have done so in such a way, that we still maintain conversations today with some of them. The thousands of miles that separate us made the conversation fade, even though we could all communicate via CMC, makes me thing how important it is the social practice of face to face mentoring, so characteristic of academic spaces.

Later on, back to Portugal, following my 'licenciatura' (1999-2001), I moved to a pos-graduation (2001-2002), then a master (2002-2004) and now I'm on a PhD program (2006-2010) all in Portugal. I find the same engaging, the same will and open minds from the tutors and mentors with whom I cross. Some of the bonds that started in higher education later became business and work opportunities outside the educational system.

I agree that some things need to be changed, that the model needs perfecting, but I fail to see the end of Universities mainly because they are a gathering place where conversations can flow without restrictions, without our bias (seeing only what we want to see, is typical when each one of us is looking for information the web) and serendipity of finding what we did not know it existed happens through mentoring and exposition to contradicting views, of colleagues making questions that we did not knew how to ask, that otherwise would 'simple' be there 'invisible'.

Having access to all the courses information available, is not enough for all of us to become knowledgeable on those subjects. Like it's not enough to be able to access all the scientific databases to make a PhD. Even if we are independent learners (I wonder if we ever are!) we need to experience it, to articulate it, to try it out, to share it with others. Blogs, wikis, IM, and all the social tools that we have available, are great, and I've been using them for quite some time, and I'm longing even more for those moments where we can sit together, face to face, and articulate in a more encompassing language (where the non-verbal is the greatest part of our communication), where we are all hearing the same things, where we have the opportunity to read the silences, to articulate our discoveries, to let the unexpected and unlooked for emerge in the interactions.

The more I use technologies, the more I long for a place of real interaction with less noise and more meaningful interactions. With the people that I've come to know over the years over CMC and the continuing sense of friendship that grown out of it, comes also the frustration and the sorrow of not being able to be there to be part, to share special moments like this. We can flatten the world with ICT but our social relations are not substituted by «platforms». We still need to be able to live our relations with all our senses, not just by creating our digital identities and much less by disembodiment of our knowledge to resume it to bits of scattered information.

No! Information comes with the passion of long weaved and crafted social interactions that makes it much more than just words, images, sounds. Information comes with memories, with all the senses we have used in the distinct, the unique journeys that each one of us makes. Some of them come from having to know things that we wouldn't wont to look for. Even frustration, pain, losses, they are all needed to understand the information that surrounds us. And do not get me wrong. Technology is great. I'm a great enthusiast myself. But I do not think it should ever be used to justify short cuts of motivation and the need to find meaning that is not around the corner, ready to use (or to be bought). We live very assimetrical realities. What for some are fluent tools for others are handicaps, but they both have a very important place, and we should not afford loosing any of them. They are all needed. They are all part of a delicate ecology in our long history of learning.

For sure that the models in use can be perfected, but not the excuse of lack of tools for not making it, since they are at our finger tip disposal and we can (and are) bringing them to the academia (and the organizations and circles we are part of). That's also part of the privilege times we are witnessing. When we can all share tools as needed instead of having them imposed on us. Let us choose according to our needs, sculpting together the spaces of our learning.

Thoughts on reading the provoking piece on the Edge: The Impending Demise of the University By Don Tapscott, that wrote the well known book «Growing up Digital: The rise of the Net Generation».

Jun 4, 2009

desktop research

From the Integrated Systems team of Microsoft Research, the Research Desktop project: "Research Desktop augments the standard desktop environment (...) [i]t provides support in four key areas: Activities, Tools, Library and Notes." Looking in more detail to the available project overview, some things caught my attention in respect to visual cues:
  • instead of the «type of file» icons, richer visual aids are given: book covers, actual display of photos, first pages of documents, groups of working information (including the tools that were used to manipulate that information)
  • the integration of a scrapbook were one can lay out documents and make scrapping like anotations: althought I'm convince that it will not substitute the paper scrappings in support for work, it nevertheless helps visualize work-in-progress needs when messing around with ideas. Remember that scrappings have also a social dimension during meetings: they have an important place during brainstorming, think-out-loud, and collaboration gatherings. Also, one of the places for scrappings is very often walls (either by whiteboards, placards), which can be related to the fact that individuals want to be in permament visual contact with that «work-in-progress». But this is just a feeling that needs to be verified
Some questions that come to my mind, regarding the Research Desktop. Since one of the components of collections, is the previous existence of items (unless it is a new user who has never collected anything previous to start using a new tool!) how will existing information «move» to this interface: 
  • will it be available regradless of OS used?
  • will it require manual adding? 
  • can the individual use any information format, regardless of previous OS / application / artifact?
  • since information is social, is it easy to share with team members, post on the web, transfer to other spaces (like printing on a large paper the scapbooking to hang on a wall) sharing with team members that have different OS or browsers?
Note to self: found this project because of the footprints left by someone that made a search for papers of Bergman, that took him to my profile in Academia.edu (that warn me about it), I've followed the link back to a paper of Bergman et al presented in CHI2009 (April), where I found other papers from Microsoft in a PIM session, which I then googled for access of the full paper, and arrived at Microsoft paper archive that was under the project umbrela.

The paper from Bergman et al:
Bergman, O., Tucker, S., Beyth-Marom, R., Cutrell, E., and Whittaker, S. (2009). It's not that important: demoting personal information of low subjective importance using GrayArea. In Proceedings of the 27th international Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Boston, MA, USA, April 04 - 09, 2009). CHI '09. ACM, New York, NY, pp. 269-278. 

The paper from Oleksik et al: 
Oleksik, G., Wilson, M. L., Tashman, C., Mendes Rodrigues, E., Kazai, G., Smyth, G., Milic-Frayling, N., and Jones, R. (2009). Lightweight tagging expands information and activity management practices. In Proceedings of the 27th international Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Boston, MA, USA, April 04 - 09, 2009). CHI '09. ACM, New York, NY, pp. 279-288. 

Jun 3, 2009

storing artefacts

[Image by Rusty Orr, Egyptian hieroglyphs, a low-density, long-lifetime storage medium, courtesy of the author and Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley.]

Note to self: see rumblings in notebook (June 3rd, 2009) and paper with artefact expected to extend the lifetime and density of bit storage for large archives ("density as high as 1012 bits/in2, and thermodynamic stability in excess of one billion years." p. 1835) and how technological artefacts narrate human mobility, in this case storage artefacts.
Begtrup, G. E., Gannett, W., Yuzvinsky, T. D., Crespi, V. H., and Zettl, A. (2009). Nanoscale reversible mass transport for archival memory. Nano Letters, 9(5):1835-1838.

Jun 2, 2009

integrating flows of communication

Notice how Google Wave focus is not on knowledge management (KM) but on communication and collaboration. More precisely, in integrating flows of communication. And although it will only be release in the end of the year, you can show your interest by submitting your email.

After seeing the video, I can't wait to use it in real life research projects. While the use of web tools was of great value, there where always issues of individual preference for using different tools, and in the end we ended up with more scattered information across different tools. Because most of them where used only if a private space was provided, it added for the difficulty of moving information from one place to the other.

As for the last words in the Google Wave presentation "can't wait to see what you are gone come up with, guys", I'm just waiting for my time to come and play around with it :-)

What is a wave?

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.