Aug 13 2009

About this blog

Published by under Overview

Welcome to our website and blog: it complements our book, Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for community. Get in touch with us, find out more about the book, about us authors, and get excerpts and additional material that complement the book. You can buy the book here.

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Feb 06 2016

Technology Stewardship: App Integration Testing

Cross-posted from Nancy’s Blog.

I can never fully leave behind my passion for Technology Stewardship that came out of co-writing Digital Habitats. It showed up again this week… and the power of thinking out loud together… I decided to try and capture what I learned. Sorry, it is a bit long…

One of the things I’m doing a lot of these days is designing meetings and gatherings using Liberating Structures. Part of the design practice is to put together a “string” of structures. I usually do this with a little set of cards, or just sketching on a page.

string

Another part of my practice is to share my draft strings with other LS practitioners for feedback. This is incredibly useful because the structures are so flexible, they can be used in many, many productive ways. My peers are discovering and using different approaches than I am and this sharing of draft strings helps us both see our own practice in new light, and enhance our repertoires by learning from each other.

A small group of LS “string beings” as I’ve started to call us, have been working mostly in an informal email string. We’ve talked about alternatives. I set up one based on my online consultation site here (password: strings ) but it is awfully clunky.

Some of us have been using Slack (“a messaging app for teams”) in other work and play projects. What I’ve really liked about Slack is it sets up a light communications net for quick conversations, a place to leave links and just enough ability to segment using different #channels that you can keep a tidy house.  So we set up an instance to play around with our LS stringing work this week.

While Slack is great for the social fabric of quick conversation, and pretty nifty file sharing, it does not have the sort of whiteboard capability where we can construct, share, play with and comment upon strings. So I went searching for a white board or pinboard app that had Slack integration. Why the integration? Because while we all get excited looking at a new tool, if it is not in our day to day “line of sight” we will forget about it. A great string might get posted, but if no one knows about it, or forgets about it, the peer collaboration evaporates. We need little signals.

I started with https://limnu.com/ which has a whiteboard plus notes, allows three free boards for experimentation (which expire after 7 days – fair warning!) and Slack integration. You can spawn a board WITHIN Slack, which turns out to be a really useful feature because you don’t have to remember to go back and tell everyone to come look at your new board. Slack’s search is good, so you can easily re-find your boards.

Limnu itself still feels a little buggy. Boards load inconsistently, and today each time I go into a board, my cursor is stuck on one image and the scroll bars to move around the board are gone. I’ve tried reloading but will have to troubleshoot more. There is a great little built in chat and once you poke around there is a sufficient set of features, but not so overburdened you will never discover them. Like many tools these days, you do have to click around and discover. Not everything is obvious (to me!) I can import the LS icons, but I can’t pin them to a note, so every time I move a note, I have to move the image, so I let the images go. I can’t format the text in the notes, so links to the structures are not hot. But I can play with a string, so the basic functionality I need is there. Here is a slightly blurred screenshot of a board (to blur client information…) I inserted a screen capture of an earlier string of a colleague shared in PPT (from Keith McCandless), did a little playing with the swirlies. We used the chat to discuss the string.

Limnu_2016_2_4

Limnu is not, however, as useful or elegant as Boardthing. Wait, why not use BOARDTHING? I wonder if it has Slack integration? Boardthing has been a great tool for building shared visualizations, particularly because it gives a group agency in shaping ideas and information. I like it! I can always put a link to a Boardthing board in Slack, but what if…

So I headed over to the Facebook Boardthing page and asked my question. Not only did Dave Gray and his CTO Gareth Marland chime right in, they and others like Sam Rose and Jon Husband started asking really useful questions.

Friends, this is technology stewardship in action and this is what this story is really about. Here are the questions that helped unlock my own understanding of what I was grasping for.

  • What’s your use case Nancy? Something that dropping a link into Slack can’t solve? Would love to hear more. (Dave Gray)… my response:
    Good question about why integrate. For a number of teams/[projects, slack has been our place for conversation AND link to our artifacts, related working tools, etc. It has the qualities that support social fabric, so it is the place to maintain some level of attention.

      Our work itself in most of these teams requires different tools at different times and it is easy to get compartmentalized into those tools and lose the social fabric elements. Thus the appreciation of Slack (or something like it) as supporting the social fabric, but not trying to bend it to all our other needs. Does that make sense?The Liberating Structures work is an example where Boardthing really fits the bill for the task work. I’m going to take our team on a “field” trip there when we can schedule it.
  • Can you talk about the specific features and scenarios you want to integrate with slack, or slack clone? (Gareth Marland)
    Good question about why integrate. For a number of teams/[projects, slack has been our place for conversation AND link to our artifacts, related working tools, etc. It has the qualities that support social fabric, so it is the place to maintain some level of attention.  Our work itself in most of these teams requires different tools at different times and it is easy to get compartmentalized into those tools and lose the social fabric elements. Thus the appreciation of Slack (or something like it) as supporting the social fabric, but not trying to bend it to all our other needs. Does that make sense? The Liberating Structures work is an example where Boardthing really fits the bill for the task work. I’m going to take our team on a “field” trip there when we can schedule it.
  • Can you think of very specific actions in slack you would want to integrate into board thing or vice verse? (Sam Rose)  Story: I am developing an LS string for an event. I want to get my peer’s feedback. I spawn a Boardthing board IN slack (so it is findable, searchable without me remembering to do it) – probably in a defined channel, and ask for that feedback. I would think carefully of the board name as the search function in Slack is nice and finding things again would be good. Folks would follow the link, play with the string (rearrange, substitute, comment, ask questions. The full context would be on Boardthing. That is the FIRST activity.
    After I use my string, I may want to return to my draft board and note what changes I did, what did and didn’t work. Then I’d want to export a snapshot of that string to share in our string library. Which currently doesn’t exist and we haven’t figured out how we want to do that. We have noted that creating a string and sharing a string are two different functions. The latter is content sharing with useful tagging.
  • So, in terms of the connection you would like to be able to create a shareable board within slack. and then they would provide feedback within the slack channel or the board? (Gareth)  I think feedback is best attached to the board containing the string but I could be misguided!
  • Dave Gray then came back with this summary: A. Alerts in Slack when a board is changed. B. Small version of board in Slack (probably not editable but one click takes you to board) C. Initiate a new board from within Slack. (We all thought this was great.)

Along the way other Slack clones were surfaced, and we are still batting around ideas. Gareth noted how important it is to add features only if they really add value, not clutter things up, and that includes features for integrations and alerts. In the research we did for Digital Habitats, we identified things like alerts and presence indicators as tool features that helped the social use of a tool. That still resonates today.

What did I learn? Dave summarized the kernel of the usefulness and features that make an app integrated with Slack or similar tools useful. There is this subtlety of WHERE the conversation takes place around an artifact, along with the very nature of the artifact. I needed visual, manipulable artifacts AND I needed it connected to a community of practitioners. These  insights now helps me refine both my tool selections and practices with my “string beings!” They also help me talk with other people about why I like Slack, which has been a bit challenging. I feel it, but I need to know how to describe it!

 

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Apr 17 2013

Tendrils of Digital Habitats

Published by under General

Draw2THinkDigitalHabitatsIt was a lovely surprise to see “Digital Habitats” show up visually in my Facebook stream today, via the graphic recording of Draw2Think, also known as Irene Mynthe. She was capturing a Skype presentation by Etienne!  She gave me permission to share here! Thanks!

Below is the full image.

Draw2THinkDigitalHabitats2

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Mar 30 2012

Kindle edition of Digital Habitats

It has been a while in coming! People have been asking about an e-book version of Digital Habitats since it was published almost 3 years ago!  It seems logical, given that technology is a central theme of the book.  Especially when it’s been assigned as reading in a class or workshop and people have scruples about using paper.

Now Digital Habitats is now available in a Kindle edition for $9.99:

It turns out that all those tables and pictures that make the book a practical handbook made it take a lot longer to put it in an electronic format.  And it took us a while to get to it.

Eventually it will be available on other platforms, but we’re starting with Kindle since free Kindle apps are available on Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone 7!

The electronic version goes with the other resources we’ve provided online, such as:

3 responses so far

Dec 30 2011

Editable version of Chapter 10 – Action Notebook

We wrote Chapter 10 of Digital Habitats as a combination summary of the whole book and as a workbook that organizes the content in a roughly chronological / process order (instead of the logical, expository order we use in the book itself).  We imagined that people would copy pages of the book and write their responses on paper.  And we published a PDF version that you could print out and write on as well.  But we’ve found that it’s useful when people complete it together, discuss it, and share it at several different stages of “completeness.”

Anybody can vew the Google Doc version of Chapter 10

Step 1: View the Google Doc version using this URL: http://bit.ly/DH-chapter10

Recently a group of students in the Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop completed a Word-Doc version of Chapter 10.  It turned out that the process of responding to the questions was very useful to them and the results were very interesting to compare, even thought the communities represented seemed quite different one from another.

Being able to write in the Word Doc was more useful than the PDF version because the boxes could expand according to how much there was to say about a particular topic for a particular community.  (And in one community that was at a very early stage of development, it was useful to complete just the front end and skip the rest of it.)

Here’s how to make a copy so you can work through the questions that are relevant to your community using Google Docs:

  1. Step 2: Save your own copy of the document

    Point your browser to the original: http://bit.ly/DH-chapter10 .  You can’t edit the original version, but anybody can view it.  Log in to Google Docs. (See Step 1.)

  2. Save your own copy of the document by selecting “Make a copy” on the drop-down menu under “file”.  Share your copy as appropriate, the more the better. (See Step 2.)
  3. Find your new copy in your list of Google Docs and begin the hard / fun part: thinking through all the issues discussed in Chapter 10!  (See Step 3.)

Step 3: Edit your copy, discuss, and share.

We are considering having some systematic group discussions in CPsquare, comparing completed responses for many different communities.  I anticipate that the issues raised in Chapter 10 will be challenging and difficult for some communities, obvious for others, and irrelevant for some.  Understanding more about those differences should be very useful to all of us.

If you have a completed workbook that you would like to present, please let me know.  Either way, stay in touch!

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Aug 04 2011

An electronic edition is in press

Published by under Resources

“In press” as in “in the works” not in a printing press.  We’re working on an electronic edition of Digital Habitats.  Can’t say how long it will take, but we are  working on it.  It turns out that all those tables and pictures that make the book a useful handbook present some special challenges when publishing it in an electronic format.

One change that the electronic format will require is that the 40 illustrative stories or vignettes that are shown in the book as floating text boxes won’t float on a page but will show up between paragraphs.  In this case, having to deal with that little detail means that we made a list of all of them.   For some reason such a list was never part of the book the vignettes were not included in the index! Now here’s a list of them.

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May 10 2011

Curating our personal technology configurations

(Cross posted on FullCirc and NWWCoP, plus a Russian translation here.)

A conversation emerging in the Network Weaving Community of Practice (NWWCoP) focuses on this question: how can/do we use social media for intentionally weaving our networks? As we prepare for a synchronous conversation today, I realized I can frame this question from a technology stewardship perspective, specifically the idea of curating our own personal technology configurations so that they can help us tap into and amplify the value of our networks.

What is a Technology Configuration?

From Digital Habitat’s we framed the idea of configuration this way: “By configuration we mean the overall set of technologies that serve as a substrate for acommunity’s habitat at a given point in time—whether tools belong to a single platform,to multiple platforms, or are free-standing.”
For a while I was obsessed with tagging material that helped us see others’ configuration, via my Delicious tags. Each configuration teaches me something new and gives me a new perspective on my own and the configurations of my communities. (See also other posts on the Digital Habitats blog on configuration.) In some ways, these felt like a type of fingerprint. While many communities used similar tools, the individual variations were fascinating. This made sense to explore at the community level, especially with more bounded communities.
While community’s have their configurations, so do individuals. When working with networks, where we are tapping into the value of connections between people, it becomes the intersection of individual configurations that fascinate me for many reasons. Here are a few:

  1. How do individual’s configurations intersect and complement or compete with their community’s configuration.
  2. How does the intersection between and individual’s configuration and their community’s make the individual’s networks available to their community? Specifically, what are the individual-to-individual configuration implications?
  3. How do we use our individual configurations for network weaving itself? (For example, see http://oneforty.com/i/toolkits)

Let’s get a bit more concrete about #3. Clearly a lot of non profits are interested in social mediagenerally, but lets focus on network weaving for a moment.For example, some of my key network weaving practices include “closing triangles” (introducing and helping people connect), sharing information from smaller, closed groups out to the larger world/networks, and curating resources within and across networks. What configurations might I use for these?

  • Closing Triangles – email, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, Facebook – all to do introductions and to “begin the conversations” while linking to relevant bios and backgrounds. The emphasis is on the social interaction and visibility of individual identity.
  • Sharing Information – blogs, Twitter (and related tools), delicious, Digg, Flickr, YouTube (and all content sharing sites) – the focus is on publication in some form or another, then connecting people to that content.
  • Curating Resources – mostly the same as sharing information, but with the added layer of tags, rating mechanisms, aggregation tools.

Managing Our Configurations

A major challenge we run up against in this proliferation both of practices and tools is how to manage this. There is a lot of talk these days of dashboards and tools like Social Base. I have resisted digging too deeply there due to my own habit of “rabbit holing” and not getting my work done, but clearly this is on my radar screen. What I’ve seen so far has been more about tracking metrics of social media rather than tying the media to the practice and desired outcomes.
Any guidance for me? What is your practice of managing your technology configuration from a particular practices perspective, such as network weaving?

3 responses so far

Dec 11 2010

Long Live the Evolution!

Published by under Events

Technology for Communities Before and After the Current Big Thing

The three of us are doing a presentation about Digital Habitats at The eLearning Guild on December 21, 2010 (10:30AM to 11:30AM Pacific Time) as part of their thought leader webinar series.  Here’s what we said we’d talk about:

Technology stewards, who attend to the technologies that support distributed communities, can’t just jump on new technology bandwagons without paying attention to their community’s history, composition, orientation, needs, and tolerance for change. In fact, it’s helpful when technology stewards step back from the moment to consider how our sense of being together is changing and what we need to do to influence technology adoption in our communities as well as what new technologies offer. Hear how a new interweaving of social learning and technology implies a new literacy as well as a new future.

Please join us!

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Jul 06 2010

Tech steward meet tech mentor

(Cross-posted from my Learning Alliances blog.)

Recently I finished a remarkably useful book: Mizuko Ito, et al. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning With New Media (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009). It has some common ancestry with ours, since the first authors of both Hanging Out and Digital Habitats were at the Institute for Research on Learning in the 1980’s. There are many overlapping frameworks and insights. Hanging Out has pushed my thinking by setting the idea of technology stewardship in a larger context of the book’s themes of friendship, intimacy, families, gaming, creative production, and work. In writing this review, I’m liberally quoting from it since the entire book is online. (All the page references in this post are to that book.) I’ve made up this diagram to help bridge between some of the ideas in the two books.

Hanging Out uses “genres of participation” with new media as a way of describing everyday learning and media engagement. The primary distinction that the authors make is between “friendship-driven and interest-driven genres of participation, which correspond to different genres of youth culture, social network structure, and modes of learning.” (p. 15) “Participation” is an alternative to an internalization or consumption perspective. It has the advantage in not assuming that kids are passive, mere audiences to media or educational content. “Hanging out” refers to friendships and social interactions that are oriented to local networks. “Messing around” refers to exploring, playing, cruising around, “finding stuff” – intermediate between the other two categories. “Geeking out” is participation that’s more oriented toward expertise, delving in a particular topic or technology. “Transitioning between hanging out, messing around, and geeking out represents certain trajectories of participation that young people can navigate, where their modes of learning and their social networks and focus begin to shift.” (p. 17)

Megan Finn was the lead author in the section that discusses the “techne-mentor” in depth (on pp. 59-60). A couple long quotes describes the techne-mentor concept:

“In conceptualizing the media and information ecologies in the lives of University of California at Berkeley freshmen, classical adoption and diffusion models (e.g., Rogers [1962; 2003]) proved inadequate. Rather than being characterized by a few individuals who diffuse knowledge to others in a somewhat linear fashion, many students’ pattern of technology adoption signaled situations in which various people were at times influential in different, ever-evolving social networks. The term “techne-mentor” is used to help to describe this pattern of information and knowledge diffusion…. Techne-mentor refers to a role that someone plays in aiding an individual or group with adopting or supporting some aspect of technology use in a specific context, but being a techne-mentor is not a permanent role.

“In the Freshquest study we found many cases of techne-mentors. The kind of roles they played varied from case to case and situation to situation. On one hand, the techne-mentor may simply make someone aware of a technology. On the other hand, he or she may play an integral role in demonstrating the technology practice or even installing the technology and ensuring its status as operational. Sometimes students we interviewed had one primary techne-mentor in their lives, but in turn the students would take on the role when they passed this information on to other groups. In fact, it is this constant flow of information about technology among a student’s multitude of social networks that accounts for the fluidity of the role of techne-mentor. In all these socially situated contexts, techne-mentors were an integral part of informal learning and teaching about technology and technology practices.”

Techne-mentors show up in all the genres of participation but their role is probably more visible at the geeking out end of the spectrum. That is, as technology becomes a more central concern, learning and talking about technology also becomes more central and so does mentoring. It’s really important that the way Hanging Out uses the concept, kids are involved both in being mentored and mentoring others.

A “tech steward” is a specific kind of techne-mentor, working on behalf of a community, mentoring and being mentored in the context of that community. A technology steward is influenced by their social context. In geeky communities such as the Ubuntu community that Andreas Lloyd studied, everyone is concerned with technology in one way or another, although some people are more influential than others. In thinking about the “hanging out” end of the spectrum it occurs to me that the job of technology stewards is partly to make technology disappear. People really want to be hanging out with each other, talking about hawks in Central Park or milking cows in Portugal. The more intuitive and habitual a community’s technology infrastructure becomes, the more authentic and direct the experience of being in the community.

As we wrote Digital Habitats and began focusing on technology stewards who we encountered in different communities, we were struck by the fact that they came from many different backgrounds. That as far as their role was concerned, they were not “trained” in any conventional sense. Looping back to Hanging Out, that makes a lot of sense:

Sociocultural approaches to learning have recognized that kids gain most of their knowledge and competencies in contexts that do not involve formal instruction. A growing body of ethnographic work documents how learning happens in informal settings, as a side effect of everyday life and social activity, rather than in an explicit instructional agenda.” (p. 21)

That’s a very polite way of saying that school is, in some important respects, irrelevant. It applies to kids as well as to grown-up technology stewards.

“One of the key innovations of situated learning theory was to posit that learning was an act of social participation in communities of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991). By shifting the focus away from the individual and to the broader network of social relationships, situated learning theory suggests that the relationships of knowledge sharing, mentoring, and monitoring within social groups become key sites of analytic interest. In this formulation, people learn in all contexts of activity, not because they are internalizing knowledge, culture, and expertise as isolated individuals, but because they are part of shared cultural systems and are engaged in collective social action.“ (p. 14)

Learning to learn about technology (in particular) from this point of view is a fundamental skill that results from hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. To me this suggests that people who learn about technology in school are cheated because they miss out on some fundamental hanging out experiences. In this sense, the “digital divide” between older people who have been subject to training and younger people who came by their knowledge more socially may be more of a “learning divide.” That makes a lot of classroom instruction about technology irrelevant.

Beware of any technology steward who tells you that they learned how to do it in school.

13 responses so far

Jul 05 2010

Putting our diagrams to work

Our goal in writing Digital Habitats was to recognize and move forward the literacies that are involved in stewarding technology for communities.  We are happy when people put our ideas to work and appreciate it when people use our diagrams for that purpose.  If you write us requesting permission to use the diagrams in a copyrighted work, we are happy to give permission.  You may use them in informal ways, where you do not assert copyright, like a blog post without express permission, as long as you use them “as is”.  Here are the diagrams that have been requested most frequently.

Fig 1.1 Learning Activities - p 6

 

Fig 5.1 Tools Landscape - page 60

Orientations - page 152

Tool Polarities Map - page 162

Note that there are other resources to download under excerpts and diagrams specifically here.

6 responses so far

Jun 19 2010

InkWell.Vue Digital Habitat Conversations

Starting June 23rd for a couple of weeks, the three of us will be part of a discussion about Digital Habitats on The Well’s Inkwell.Vue conference. Inkwell is a cool, public facing bit of the well (the rest is paid membership) that gives folks a chance to have an asynchronous conversation with book authors from or associated with the Well. We invite you to join into the conversation.

For those not familiar with the Well, it is one of the original and most enduring online communities. (Nancy hosts the Virtual Communities conference there with Jon Lebkowsky!)

Inkwell is a great example of a “public facing space” for a private communities which is reflected in Digital Habitats chapter six as the “context” orientation. It gives outsiders a taste of the Well, which may invite them in, and it gives the Well a way to add value out to the world. Plus a few Well member volunteers get free review copies and encouragement to help stimulate the conversation, along with one or two designated conversation hosts. There have been some amazing conversations in Inkwell over the years, and it is now a Well tradition.

In preparation for the two weeks, the three of us thought it might be fun to record a short conversation to introduce ourselves. This is not what usually happens on Inkwell.vue, so we’ll see how it goes.

Some of the questions we raised and which might be fodder for the Inkwell conversation include:

  • Do you recognize yourself as a technology steward?
  • And if you recognize yourself in the role, does it make a difference in practice?  Are there consequences in terms of relationships, labels, or intentions that change as a result?
  • In your community do you see the tech steward  role as more individual or more distributed across community members?  What are the consequences?
  • What can we learn from long-lived communities like The Well?
  • How do technology stewardship practices vary across different socialcontexts?

One response so far

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