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

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.

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.)

Who’s watching?

September 29, 2006

This dialog in Florence is happening at the same time as the September 2006 Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop. We try to make the workshop be as real as possible while trying to limit the amount of chaos and overwhelm to which we subject participants. Knowing that one size doesn’t fit all, we’ve proposed that Foundations workshop participants can come along as much as they’d like — so we’ve set it up as a kind of virtual field trip. They’re invited to read this blog as well as a discussion within CPsquare’s Web Crossing space for postings about the Dialogue that we don’t want to be visible for the entire world. I hope they’ll follow the discussion and won’t be surprised if they post their comments here! In the same vein we’re inviting all CPsquare members to follow and post in both the public and private spaces.

(That Web Crossing feature that lets one discussion appear in three places has gotten me into trouble in the past, but it does seem like a powerful one! We ought to be able to fiture out how to use it well.)

We met for an hour today and, even though we had a very noisy phone bridge, the excitement was palpable and the conversation had a life of its own. Although we’ve been working together online for a month or more, there is nothing like actually listening to each other and thinking together to get the  juices running.  We acknowledged that “we meet in advance, not to close off any possibilities but to move the discussion forward about what we might do and how.” The following topics were proposed for discussion during our dialog:

  • Effect of Web 2.0 tools on our notion of what a community of practice looks like.
  • How to talk about and learn from each other about timing in the design of learning events when we don’t have traditional constraints such as the classroom hour. When does the learning happen?
  • How to talk about the value of play and error correction in learning events? Are these topics more important today than they were before?
  • Process innovation versus content innovation? How describe and justify to others?
  • All of this with an overarching focus on memory — how it’s formed and what use it is in a community of practice.

We are also thinking of experimenting with process and how we organize ourselves for learning during the dialog:

  • Stories and other techniques to put cases for discussion “on the table” at the beginning of a segment
  • Improvisations or dramatizations to demonstrate what we learned at the end of a segment
  • Expeditions to organizations or places that are or were once exemplary as venues for learning.
  • Different ways of representing what we’ve done, from written notes to audio or video recordings to make it more public, porous and legitimate
  • Any methods of welcoming participants from the online Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop into our conversation
  • Having each segment of the schedule (including evenings) organized by a different team, who would be responsible for all of the above
  • How work with the likelihood that we will have no internet access at the guest house where we’ll be staying.

In case you’re curious (you could still join us in Florence!) here is a 4 minute audio recording that gives you a sense of the voices that will be there.  It turns out that Etienne Wenger will definitely join us for part of the time.

Prato and memories

September 10, 2006

My connection here has more to do with serendipity than anything else. I’m travelling with a girls school choir from Christchurch, and we are in Florence at the same time as the get together occurs. And as one who is fatigued by formal paper driven conferences, the opportunity to attend an event initially refered to as a ‘muck about’ was too good to miss.

I’m involved in a range of learning communities. Putting aside at this stage nuances of meaning, these these usually have an online component (lists, corperate blog, course management system, virtual community space etc) – some are part of bounded courses (with the dreaded assessment) some are professional development oriented (with both vonenteers and conscripts) and some are just for fun (everybody choosing to be there) and some are a bounded professional affiliation. (Pay your fees and you are in).

The just for fun ones include several informal networky things – almost like mutual mentoring, support and sounding boards.

Here is a well known quote:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it – George Santayana.

I could build a lot on this idea: memory is a mixed blessing. There has been a bit about this in our local paper in the coverage of the escape of Natascha Kampusch.

There is an expiry date of first hand memories. I am interested to note how often now we are talking to my sons about events I took for granted. I remember with chagrin how much passed from consciousness with the death of my grandfather.

In a slightly whimsical mood I quote this little extract on someone’s thoughts on Nietzsche:


In the second of his untimely meditations, Nietzsche suggests
     that a cow lives without boredom and pain, because it does not
     remember.[1] Because it has no past, the cow is happy. But the
     animal cannot confirm its happiness precisely because it does
     not have the power to recall its previous state. It lives
     unmindful of the past, which, as it gives happiness, also takes
     it away from the animal. Nietzsche uses this example to point to
     the liberating power of what he terms "active forgetting," a
     willfull abandonment of the past that is beyond the capacities
     of the cow:

In the case of the smallest or of the greatest happiness...
          it is always the same thing that makes happiness happiness:
          the ability to forget or, expressed in more scholarly
          fashion, the capacity to feel unhistorically during its
          duration. (UD 62)

Nietzsche calls for an abandonment of the past because, as he
     says, it "returns as a ghost and disturbs the peace of a later
     moment" (UD 61). Too much past precludes action, happiness, and
     further development. As an antidote to this predicament he
     suggests a critical discourse on the past that would be
     attentive to the needs of the present and able to distinguish
     between what in the past is advantageous and what is
     disadvantageous for life. Thus "active" forgetting is selective
     remembering, the recognition that not all past forms of
     knowledge and not all experiences are beneficial for present and
     future life.

Then there is different memories of the same event, and different interpretations of the same fact. People can merely brood.

That’s the other side. As well there is the question: How can communities of any kind manage their thoughts, their experieinces, stories and findings? Especially now in a web 2.0 environment?

How can we avoid overload? Filter out irrelevant stuff? Not filter out stuff we should engage with but may not want to? (Think professional development for us out of our comfort zones) Share key ideas that may challenge the status quo and still keep relationships intact? Assist with the boundaries of our community thinking? Manage the corperate vs the individual? Incorperate newcomers without mere indoctrination . . .

We shall see. I’m coming to Prato relatively inexperieinced at this sort of event, knowledge construction, open space etc etc, and basically because I can, circumstances being what they are. And also because I have met online, read about, read the blogs of, talked by teleconference to some of these people, and look forward to a chance to meet in person. – Derek