Here’s a moment that I haven’t forgotten: when Patricia, Beverly and I presented our paper the afternoon following that stressful workshop, our nerves were rather frayed, to say the least.  I was tempted to think that the main focus of the Prato Conference on Community Informatics was a kind of defensive, narrowing, and combatitive learning. During the morning it seemed like a big challenge to get “on the same page,” where  we could actually have a conversation.  But after we presented, Michael Gurstein asked us a question that was completely pertinent to our argument and it pointed toward a new conversation between the community informatics folks at the conference and the “community of practice” folks.  Wow.


CIRN conference wiki

October 15, 2006

The Community Informatics Conference where we presented the workshop after the dialogue has a Wiki with the conference process.

Blogged with Flock

There were nine of us in the workshop: “Lively memory”. The kinds of questions raised at the end:

  • How do you negotiate the norms – what is private or not?
  • How useful is technology to a community really?
  • Why did we do the workshop? What was the purpose? Should know before.

Main issue to come out – privacy

We should have talked about taking the photos before the workshop. Otherwise pepole end up feeling pissed off. It should be negotiated first.

It’s about power. Allow people to make the decision themself. You could say that we might ask you about publishing photos later. Within an organisation, feed this back within these four walls. Shall we as a group move on to flickr?

Difficult to start talking about this in a session. “I’m going to take some photos, does anyone not want to be in it?”

It’s about being mindful of broad methodological processes.

Sense of accountability

How to serve the learning of the wider community?

Informed consent

If you have organised something, up to organisers to give the reasons why they are there.

Patricia – try to share experience first and then reflect on it. Rather than present goals …

Launching an extended conversation that lasts long enough. A primary concern is a sustained conversation.

Provide an explanatory statement.

The photos are in the computer, they are further removed. Reduces trust. Talking with researchers, so it would have taken a few minutes to do that.

There is a general assumption that photos will be taken.

In many communities, to talk about permissions beforehand can’t be done.

It’s about treating people as pairs. It’s about addressing the power issues.

Stop for coffee

Blogged with Flock

CP2-Meeting Florence, 6th. Oct 2006

A: Shawn takes us through „two-stage emergence“.

A fast-track real exercise on elliciting archetypes. What Shawn did with us:

1. Define the topic / question / setting:

(For practicing we picked „How to deal with difficult people in a COP“)

2. Everybody tells short stories about „difficult people“.

3. After hearing about those stories, make a list of typical issues that crop up, „types“ of people in a COP that emerge from the stories.

4. Spread them out on stickers on a wall.

5. Formulate positive and negative attributes to those „types“, add them to these types (stickers to the types).

6. Take out the types and randomize the attributes all over the wall.

7. Group the attributes along similarities.

8. Create a name for each group, preferably some cartoon-figure or historical figure, or literary figure…. à „archetypes“.


Careful about archetypes and not stereotypes.

How useful is this? Actually only useful when doing parallel effort on themes and values (on other walls in the same room). Shawn thinks the work on themes and values can directly lead the group to work on reflecting on what to do, whereas archetypes are often sidelined.

How does it help to work with people „who need a solution“, ie. it does not give us an immediate response on how to deal with difficult people in COPs.

Long discussion on concrete problem-solving paradigm (the expectation of most newbies dealing with COPs: „how do you do this“) versus investigating and dealing with complexities. Watch out: There is not a dichotomy here, it’s a continuum. Got to meet people where they are.

Cynefin – Framework (

4 types of decision-making settings:

  1. Known

Causes and effects are well known. Each time you need to get an effect, everybody knows what causes it and can act accordingly to achieve the intended effect.

Sense -> Categorize -> Respond

  1. Knowable

Cause and effect are known. But not everybody knows about it. You need an expert to tell you what to do to reach an intended effect.

Sense -> Analyse (by an expert) -> Respond (upon recommendation by an expert)

1 and 2 are the „ordered world“. The following 3 and 4 are the messy world.

  1. Complex

Cause and effect cannot be directly related. Too many variables interact with a particular effect. What works and what doesn’t depends very much on the situation, the setting, etc. etc. Experts are not much help here. Best way to figure stuff is to

Probe -> Sense what happens, how the systems reacts, discover patterns of what usually happens -> design the most useful settings that usually lead to an intended effect.

–> „Culture“, Leadership, Learning, Innovation.

–> „Trust“ is an important aspect of working in complex environments. Trustbuilding through track-record of getting things done together.

==> This is where COPs come into their own!!

  1. Chaotic

Nothing is predictable. No way of knowing why some things work and others don’t. Giuliani in the first hours after 9/11: Just did what came to mind, no system in it. What worked you pushed, what didn’t you stopped doing.

=> The „Just Do It“ paradigm: Seems to push chaotic stuff into complex stuff (ie. 4 to 3). However, JDI only makes sense if you track how what you do works out -> get some idea what works and what doesn’t -> discover patterns => you’re in the complex setting and beginning to cope.

Ueli: understanding the etymology of the words, although we’ve been using discussion, conversation, dialog and interaction almost interchangeably. Asking Bev about what blogs do. (bev interrupts). Blogging allows a lot of interaction and a lot of spin-offs in a lot of directions. Wondering how these interactions become a socially constructed consensus that amounts to something. We need to connect with people who disagree, to cross ideological barriers. Realizing that there’s an interesting thing happening here: we are generating tools that allow interactions; I’m also wondering about tools that allow consensus building across ideological boundaries.

Derek: this has been a fascinating discussion.

Shawn: There have always been two drivers of social change: technology and economics. Looking out over the rooftops, I’m reminded that one of the technology drivers that has changed lives was the chimney. It changed cities from people huddling around one fire to people having multiple fires. Chimneys that go through multiple levels in one building enabled further change beyond that. Seeing a similarly profound level of change with new internet tools. I’m with Ueli: not certain about their use for personal reflection. I don’t use blogs to have conversations with other bloggers: I write ideas down so I can talk with people about them. Blogs have big idea generation possibilities. I dislike typing so I also hate discussion forums / web boards. Interested to see how conversation can be ramped up in other ways than what we’ve already done. I did a bit of research recently, that was published in a journal this year, about ACT-km. Based on a survey, the main finding was that there is a minute proportion of people who actually posted on the forum: about 10 out of 1,000. But what happens is that people have face-to-face conversations in their workplaces about things that have been said by a set of provocateurs on the list. So it’s like a 3 ring circus. Postings have an entertainment value. Makes me think about how people stimulate their own thinking.

John: My sense is that conversation is a constructed experience. We learn to construct it and we learn to experience it but it doesn’t exist objectively as such. When we have a new technology and new setting we have to renew the skill, the image and our accountability to a new form of interaction. In my experience, face-to-face conversations are not portable­–when we move to a new location, like from a chance meeting on the street to a table in a coffee shop, we have to start over. Similarly, on a new platform we have to reclaim or reinvent the conversation. It’s a new landscape and the new technologies bring up new techniques and new issues as well as new conversational possibilities. We can be close with someone in Australia – we can make friends with someone on the other side of the world, if they know English. A key element is a new set of straddling behaviors. For example, when we talk face-to-face we use a lot of tonal gestures to convey that there are different levels in our thinking that are necessary to say what we have to say. Blogs by themselves don’t stand, nor do email or forums. For the purpose of creating important conversations in communities of practice you always have to straddle to keep your balance. Follow up a phone conversation with a blog posting, with an email, with something else. The dock that’s “stable” is our existing technology base and we have the other foot on the new technology platforms.

Bev: I agree with what Shawn said about how he uses his blog to reflect and get his thoughts together. That’s a really important element of blogs. What’s important is shared understanding & reflection. I work to clarify my own thinking as I write for my blog. Facilitate the conversation because you have an idea about what you know or think about the other person. The conversation that takes place is much richer because you know the other person – because you’ve gotten to know the other person and possibly what they’ve thought about the topics. It helps in the conversations. Blogs help conversations. I’m reminded of the “salon’s de thé” in the 17th century France. Conversations were facilitated. The art of conversation became very important. That was. Now I want to go back and read more about that based on this conversation. Politicians didn’t like them. Places that you went to. A person’s tea house. It’s not helpful re whether it’s analogous to a blog or other technology. Because no conversations in my institution, I don’t identify in any way shape or form with my institution.

Patricia: topic of blogs is nebulous for me. Have had many of these conversations with John and Bev, but I’m still doubtful. I find it difficult in this conversation. Language is one barrier. (Perhaps we continue in German tomorrow?) In this blog discussion I see a question of trust. I need to know with whom I’m taking. That’ the opposite of the blogger’s attitude. Whoever is reading it is problematic. It’s too anonymous. Trust is missing. Can’t solve it right now. Want to get to the restaurant.

Marc: in this whole discussion. I think of cops as a unit of analysis. So we don’t look as a transfer of knowledge from one person to another. Cops are an extension of zone of proximal development. In this discussion I got completely lost. We need another unit of analysis. So we can talk about all kinds of discussion. Would like to ask Etienne about how he views this. Would like another unit of analysis to look at the way people talk to each other. Another way of looking at it. Not through the lens of “discussion, debate, dialog”. It’s much more complex than just looking at those alternatives. A discussion can become a socially constructed something.

John: discussion can turn into debate or dialog and then that turns into dinner.

The end…

October 8, 2006

A nourishing few days. Lots of thoughts, lots of fun, lots of things to think about. And all the photos to see.
Florence day 3 - 20.jpg

On-site agenda

October 6, 2006

This agenda began to be formed on Thursday afternoon and has been updagted through Friday noon.

Current questions (have been “on the table” in CPsquare and at previous events)

  • face-to-face online cycle (variations & uses) & EVENT DESIGN
  • technologies for cops and their effects (on our thinking, on our experience, and on our roles)
  • Narrative –>  Methods (purposes, skills)
  • Our roles and identities in our different worlds
  • What are we doing? (in the world, with organizations, with communities and how do   we make money?)
  • Community of practice community assessment (as memory)
  • Community of practice as lens vs. object or solution

“New” questions (we are adding to our list of concerns)

  • memory
  • convenor’s role & process
  • conversations (in decline? Causes? Effects?)
  • Gender styles


  • Breakfast headcount
  • tasks
    – who, what
  • “complaints”
  • Bed /room assignments
  • Local wi-fi access / price
  • reification rota (who takes notes on behalf of the group?) sharing
  • people’s logistics (days in and out)
  • Payment (lodging, food, etc.)