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I handed in my research proposal to my professor and he said he was not sure how my interview questions were going to get at my high level research questions. He asked me to map my interview questions to my research questions and it was such a valuable experience and even made me tweak my research questions. Take a look below (sorry about the layout but this really had to be in table form to best understand the power behind it’s use.

Microblogs for Learning and Performance Improvement Research Questions Table
The study questions begin with collecting some light demographic information, followed by a few questions based on critical incident technique. None of these questions are listed herein. The questions below are the specific questions that are in the last part of the interview protocol.
Research Question Study Questions Sample Responses Reason for the Question
Does using a microblog in the workplace allow employees to become more aware of what each other is doing (help uncover context)? Has using Yammer changed your level of awareness with regards to what your colleagues are doing? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely. Possible response: “Yes, I feel more connected to them now—feel like I am in the “know” in terms of what everyone is working on and that is visibility that I did not have before using Yammer. It is visibility that causes more interactions and has created more connectedness.” Reason for question: To validate whether or not Yammer provides people with more visibility into what others are doing. In an unpublished pilot, the use of Twitter brought people in existing networks closer together. By giving insight into what each person was doing—it opened up opportunities to work together and learn from each other.
Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs? (therefore fostering learning and performance)Will the use of microblogs result in people feeling like they are part of communities where they can reach out to each other for assistance? (such as in a community of practice) Have you ever reached out to someone because of their status message, or has someone ever reached out to you because of your status message? For example, have you ever read a status update from a colleague and realized you can help them; perhaps you had a great article or tool or information to share that was relevant? If not, why don’t you think you have ever reached out or been contacted?
a. If so, can you give me an example?
a. What was the result of the interaction? For example, did you receive some new information? Did you receive assistance with a task at hand?
b. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you or your colleague looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
c. How relevant was this information to what you and/or your colleague were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
d. How much did you and/or do you think your colleague valued the interaction? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
e. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always
Possible response: “I read a status message once and realized that a colleague and I were working on two very similar projects for the same client, so we helped each other out.” Reason for the question: the questions sheds light on two research questions, ascertaining if people learn and receive performance support through the use of microblogs and if people reach out to each other to help each other with any kind of frequency–which could be considered a community of practice.
Research Question Study Questions Sample Responses Reason for the Question
Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs? (therefore fostering learning and performance) Have you ever benefitted from reading a status updates that did not result in you reaching out to a colleague or a colleague reaching out to you? For example, have you ever read a status update that gave you a tip, or had an attachment you could use that assisted you in some way with something you were studying or working on? If not, why don’t you think you ever benefitted from the updates of people you follow?
a. If so, can you give me an example?
b. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
c. How relevant was this information to what you were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
d. How much did you value the update? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
e. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always
Possible response: “I read status messages all the time that have links to interesting articles and tools.” Reason for the question: this question is focused on the benefits from reading a status message and can help ascertain if Yammer provides on-the-job learning opportunities and/or performance support that are not related to interacting with someone else, and if so how did that benefit come about. In addition, if there was a benefit, how much was it valued and how often does it happen. It will be interesting to ascertain whether the value in Yammer is more about connecting with others or receiving content that is interesting or useful in some way. What is the relationship between the relevance of the content to the task at hand with respect to the person’s valuing the content. How do Yammer users find good content—do they proactively search or just reactively receive?
Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs? (therefore fostering learning and performance) In general, if you think about all the times someone has reached out to offer a helping hand, or you read a status message that helped you with the work at hand, how much has using Yammer contributed to your learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution) To your effectiveness and efficiency? If not, why don’t you think Yammer has contributed to your learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?   Reason for question: up until this point, participants have been asked these questions indirectly, at the end of the interview it is time to ask them directly to see how aware they are of the benefits of the tool, and if their responses are consistent.
Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs? (therefore fostering learning and performance) (Question applies only to managers of people) How much has using Yammer contributed to your team’s learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution) To your team’s effectiveness and efficiency? If not, why don’t you think Yammer has contributed to your team’s learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?   Reason for question: Is there a discrepancy between how the manager’s perceive Yammer and how individual contributors perceive Yammer. The goal of the study is to convince corporations to use tools like Yammer, perceptions of both audiences will be critical to achieve this.
Will the use of microblogs result in people feeling like they are part of communities where they can reach out to each other for assistance? (such as in a community of practice) Does using Yammer make you feel like you are part of a community of colleagues to whom you can turn to for help on the job? If not, why don’t you think using Yammer makes you feel like you can reach out for help? Possible response: “Yes, I feel more connected to them now—and find it easier to reach out when I need help. I also now know more in terms of who I should turn to for what type of question–this is because of the visibility I have had into what they do on a daily basis.” Reason for question: To ascertain the effect Yammer has on a person’s network. In an unpublished pilot, the use of Twitter brought people in existing networks closer together. By giving insight into what each person was doing—it opened up opportunities to work together and learn from each other.
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This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

The interview protocol was designed to solicit rich feedback from participants. To this end, following demographic questions, critical incident technique (CIT) was used. For over 50 years the CIT has been and continues to be an effective exploratory and investigative tool that is widely used in qualitative research methods (Butterfield, Borgen, Amundson, & Maglio, 2005; Chell, 1998; Woolsey, 1986). After the critical incident questions allow participants to describe their experiences open-endedly without any kind of set structure, specific questions follow that aim at uncovering the critical behavior sets that would allow a determination to be made regarding the research questions. The interview protocol contains a mix of open-ended and close-ended questions. A 5-point Likert scale was used for some of the close-ended questions. Researchers deem 5-point Likert scales as a more sound mechanism to use for current research than that of 7-point or 10-point scales (Dawes, 2008). The interview will be administered via telephone; responses will be coded by the interviewer into a spreadsheet that will later be used for data analysis.

As part of the interview protocol, the researcher will ask the following questions:

General Questions

  1. What is your age?
  2. In what industry do you work?
  3. How many people are employed by your organization?
  4. Are you an individual contributor, a manager or a director (manager of managers)? If management, how large is the team that reports to you?
  5. How frequently do you use Yammer—including reading updates and writing updates?
  6. How long have you been a Yammer user?

Reason for the questions in this section: to see if any patterns exist for different demographics of participants, for example, did managers find Yammer more or less effective than employees? Do those who use it daily find it more or less effective than those who use it less frequently?

Critical Incident Questions

Reason for the questions in this section: to understand the spectrum of experiences from good, to typical, to bad. This understanding paints a picture of overall usage. It is effective to ask these questions before the specific ones to prevent the specific questions from constraining participants’ responses.

  1. Describe a typical experience you have had with Yammer. How often do you have such experiences? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always. Given this example, how valuable do you find the use of Yammer? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely

Possible response: “I update Yammer a couple times daily and when I do, I take a peek at what my colleagues are doing—often, I find myself responding to a status update a colleague has posted because I am interested in what they are working on, or because I may be able to help them. Sometimes we follow up with each other and other times I just note interesting things that they are doing.”

Reason for question: this question can help uncover the most common uses, “typical” uses with microblogs and will inform if there are any benefits to using Yammer and if there are, when are they likely to happen? If they happen during a typical experience that would allow us to draw conclusions and generalize to all Yammer users, if they only happen during a “very good experience” example, then we can conclude that this is a “best practice” behavior that doesn’t happen often.

  1. Describe a very good experience you have had with Yammer. How often do you have such experiences? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always. Given this example, how valuable do you find the use of Yammer? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely

Possible response: “Once I was on maternity leave and I saw an update from a colleague and she was working on a project of mine while I was away, so I reached out to her to see if there was anything she needed in terms of assistance.”

Reason for question: Again, this question brings to light what a good experience looks like and ascertains how often such experiences take place. If a good experience only happens infrequently, is it still worth it to use Yammer?

  1. Describe a bad experience you have had with Yammer. How often do you have such experiences? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always. Given this example, how valuable do you find the use of Yammer? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely

Possible response: “I was working on a top secret project that I was not supposed to reveal even to colleagues and I accidentally wrote a status message about it revealing the nature of the project.

Reason for question: This research looks to identify how useful Yammer can be but what about the opposite? How damaging can using, or misusing Yammer be and how does that effect the perceived value of the tool.

Specific Questions

10.  Have you ever reached out to someone because of their status message, or has someone ever reached out to you because of your status message? For example, have you ever read a status update from a colleague and realized you can help them; perhaps you had a great article or tool or information to share that was relevant? If not, why don’t you think you have ever reached out or been contacted?

Possible response: “I read a status message once and realized that a colleague and I were working on two very similar projects for the same client, so we helped each other out.”

Reason for the question: to ascertain if people reach out to each other to help, this would be the start of a community of practice. In addition, how often does it happen and how much is it valued compared to how relevant it was?

  1. If so, can you give me an example?
  2. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you or your colleague looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
  3. How relevant was this information to what you and/or your colleague were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  4. How much did you and/or do you think your colleague valued the interaction? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  5. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always

11.  Has using Yammer changed your network of colleagues who you can turn to for help in any way? If not, why don’t you think using Yammer has changed the network?

Possible response: “Yes, I feel more connected to them know—feel like I am in the “know” in terms of what everyone is working on and that is visibility that I did not have before using Yammer. It is visibility that causes more interactions and has created more connectedness.”

Reason for question: To ascertain the effect Yammer has on a person’s network. In an unpublished pilot, the use of Twitter brought people in existing networks closer together. By giving insight into what each person was doing—it opened up opportunities to work together and learn from each other.

12.  Have you ever benefitted from reading a status updates that did not result in you reaching out to a colleague or a colleague reaching out to you? For example, have you ever read a status update that gave you a tip, or prompted you to reach out to a colleague for help, or had an attachment you could use that assisted you in some way with something you were studying or working on? If not, why don’t you think you ever benefitted from the updates of people you follow?

Possible response: “I read status messages all the time that have links to interesting articles and tools.”

Reason for the question: unlike the questions using CIT, this question is focused on the benefits from reading a status message and can help ascertain if Yammer provides on-the-job learning opportunities and/or performance support that are not related to interacting with someone else, and if so how did that benefit come about. In addition, if there was a benefit, how much was it valued and how often does it happen. It will be interesting to ascertain whether the value in Yammer is more about connecting with others or receiving content that is interesting or useful in some way. What is the relationship between the relevance of the content to the task at hand with respect to the person’s valuing the content. How do Yammer users find good content—do they proactively search or just reactively receive?

  1. If so, can you give me an example?
  2. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
  3. How relevant was this information to what you were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  4. How much did you value the update? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  5. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always

13.  In general, if you think about all the times someone has reached out to offer a helping hand, or you read a status message that helped you with the work at hand, how much has using Yammer contributed to your learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution) To your effectiveness and efficiency? If not, why don’t you think Yammer has contributed to your learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?

Reason for question: up until this point, participants have been asked these questions indirectly, at the end of the interview it is time to ask them directly to see how aware they are of the benefits of the tool, and if their responses are consistent.

14.  (Question applies only to managers of people) How much has using Yammer contributed to your team’s learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution) To your team’s effectiveness and efficiency? If not, why don’t you think Yammer has contributed to your team’s learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?

Reason for question: Is there a discrepancy between how the manager’s perceive Yammer and how individual contributors perceive Yammer. The goal of the study is to convince corporations to use tools like Yammer, perceptions of both audiences will be critical to achieve this.

15.  What would you recommend to improve Yammer’s functionality with regard to helping you and others on the job?

Sample response: Allow more functionality in terms of sorting through status messages—organization

Reason for question: Interesting to find out what functionality users recommend and if functionality enhancement requests would steer the tool more toward knowledge management or not. This researcher postulates that the answers will in fact lead more toward knowledge management.

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

Materials and Procedure

The emails and any messages posted on blogs will contain a request for participation that also informed participants why they were receiving the message, what they are being asked to do and the criteria by which they are eligible: that they have used Yammer for more than a month. It will also include what they will receive for participation. For participation, subjects will receive $50. (This researcher decided to add this incentive because of the before mentioned difficulties in acquiring participants.)

Microblogs will also be used to collect participants and since they only allow 140 characters of text, a summarized request participation message will be required.

Messages to Recruit Participants

Microblog message (140 characters max):

Yammer users wanted 4 study on its use in orgs, $50 reimb. If using Yammer for 1 month + post 3x weekly, email: microblogstudy@gmail.com

Email and blog message:

Dear Yammer Users

A study is currently being conducted on microblogs in the workplace and you would receive $50 for your participation. The purpose of this study is to examine whether or not microblogs, when used within an organization to communicate with colleagues, can help people learn, improve their performance and create communities of colleagues who help each other with on-the-job activities.

Neither your name nor the name of your organization will be revealed when reporting results, pseudonyms will be used instead.

If you have been using Yammer for at least a month, read colleagues status messages and update your status on average at least three times a week, and would like to participate in the study, please email: microblogstudy@gmail.com expressing your interest and you will be contacted you to schedule a 1 hour telephone interview.

All participants will be offered a copy of the research results.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

The research is aimed at current users of Yammer, which, according to a Yammer, is currently just over 1 million. In an unpublished pilot study, this researcher has seen the benefits of using Yammer bring themselves to light after only 1 day of usage, however, this researcher will require that participants have at least a month’s experience using Yammer.

Participants are hard to find because organizations that use microblogs to communicate internally are difficult to find and approach, and even when found an approached, many organizations do not allow employees to participate in research that can reveal something about the organization as a whole. The researcher will try to recruit participants via a request for participation through internet searches, blogs, wikis, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and various other social media tools. Various groups of people will be contacted such as groups available for participation through LinkedIn. The researcher will also contact anyone who she is aware of is currently or has used a microblog to communicate with colleagues in the past. Individuals will not be contacted one-on-one, instead the researcher will send out mass emails to groups of users. All organizations who list themselves on the Yammer website (or any other internally used microblog’s website) as using the tool will also be contacted and given the opportunity to participate. Once participants are interviewed, using the snowball sampling method, each will be asked to recommend another participant. Again, the reason for this is that given this research is focused on organizations and their use of microblogs such as Yammer, this researcher anticipates that it will be difficult securing participants. Of course, the researcher will emphasize that the participants will remain confidential to increase their level of comfort in participation, and also offer assistance in securing the organization’s approval, including a sample letter that could be sent to secure approval. Due to all the difficulties outlined above, the goal will be to interview approximately 15-25 participants.

As explained by researchers focused on revealing the best sample size in qualitative research: phenomenologies directed toward discerning the essence of experiences should include about 6-10 participants. (Morse, 1994, 2000; Sandelowski, 1995) However, Marshall (1996) says: “New themes stopped emerging after about 15 interviews and an acceptable interpretative framework was constructed after 24 interviews—the stage of thematic and theoretical saturation.”

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

Method 

This study utilizes a mixed-method design of quantitative and qualitative measures combined into one instrument and delivered via telephone interviews.

Yammer Functionality

Once you have signed up you can invite people, and/or follow people. To follow a person means every time they post a status message, you can see that message in your timeline. A timeline is a real-time feed of all the status messages from all the people you follow. While Yammer has a lot more functionality than outlined here, what is detailed is the main functionality that highlights Yammer’s benefits:

  1. You can read your colleague’s status updates from a computer or even from your mobile phone. You can also download any files they upload. Note that your colleagues’ updates are visible to all who follow them.
  2. People who follow you, can read your status messages on a computer or a mobile phone. They can alsod download any files you upload. Note that your updates are visible to all who follow you.
  3. You and your colleagues can send private, direct messages to each other that the others will not see. This is good for taking conversations offline.
  4. You can search the status updates of all the people you follow.
  5. People can tag their status updates and search for or follow all related status updates that are tagged the same way.

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

Not only do microblogs give people access to communities of practice and experts but also to content in a somewhat organized fashion (using hash tags to add meta data). What are they ultimately doing? What knowledge management systems always aspired to do: to capture and manage an organization’s knowledge. In this researcher’s opinion, the possibilities of a tool that captures context, content and experts is significant.

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

Knowledge Management

This research does not address microblogs as Knowledge Management Systems but the connection is important to point out for potential further research and microblog development.

Imagine that a person has found a solution, posted an updated with a link to that solution, and tagged his solution with a hashtag—a microblog’s version of meta data. He is now embarking on knowledge management, “the generation, storage, transfer, transformation, application, embedding and protection of organizational knowledge” (Hedlund, 1994, p. 10; Nonaka, 2005). Perhaps communities of practice can use Yammer to manage their knowledge. In fact, in 2000“…the American Productivity & Quality Center began to notice how important communities of practice were in creating, gathering, and sharing knowledge as part of formal knowledge management (KM) efforts” (Hasanali, et al., 2002, p. vi). To that end, they conducted one of the largest studies on communities of practice to date that included many public and private organizations.

Knowledge management is a term that received some negative press because many organizations spent significant amounts of funding on them in the 1990s and they didn’t quite work as expected. There are many reasons for this but two relevant ones are:

  1. People did not participate either citing time constraints or because cultural values encouraged them to hoard knowledge (Guptara, 1999). Taking a look at the popularity of Twitter, a public microbog, one can see that microblogs have solved this issue; in fact many people just can’t stop contributing (Nagle, 2010).
  2. The other challenge was that KM systems had a hard time ascertaining what a person’s context was and context is a critical component for an effective knowledge management system (Degler & Battle, 2000). One could offer a colleague a great paper but if it is not relevant to what he is doing or otherwise interested in, it will most likely, not be consumed. So, microblogs also have also solved the issue of context.

Expert Networks

Finally, organizations often struggle with figuring out who their experts are, but have begun looking at social media analysis for assistance (Fu, Xiang, Liu, Zhang, & Ma, 2007). For example, imagine if for a year, everything employees were working on was captured in their status updates through Yammer. What if the leaders of that organization could search for certain keywords and could see all the people in the organization who have ever, at least in that year, worked on something like that or are currently working on something similar? How much easier would it be to assemble the best project teams?

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

Wenger (1998) highlights an obvious yet very compelling point that we are always learning and we are always participating in various communities from work groups to families. Therefore, learning is situated in a given context and part of that context is a given community, therefore learning is also social (Wenger, 1998). It is logical then that the concept of communities of practice emerged from situated cognition (Brown, et al., 1989), previously discussed, and Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978), that learning is enhanced through social interaction. In fact communities of practice in the work place produce significant learning and innovation (Brown & Duguid, 1991).

Specifically, Wenger et al. describe (2002, p. 4) communities of practice (CoP) as a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession. These groups can either grow organically because of people’s interests in the same field, or they can be created with the goal of sharing and learning from each other (Wenger, et al., 2002).

Eloquently stated by Wenger (1998, p. 8): “learning is an issue of sustaining the interconnected communities of practice through which an organization knows what it knows and thus becomes effective and valuable as an organization.” Therefore, if a tool like a microblog, can help create, strengthen and sustain communities of practice it would be impacting learning and the effectiveness, or performance, of the organization. “Communities of practice are thus key to an organization’s competence and the evolution of that competence” (Wenger, 1998, p. 241). In fact, researchers state that they “have seen communities of practice improve organizational performance at companies as diverse as an international bank, a major car manufacturer, and a U.S. government agency” (Wenger & Snyder, 2000).

Wenger describes three key characteristics of communities of practice: domain, community and practice (Wenger, 2010). A domain does not equate to an area of expertise; in fact, members can have different areas of expertise within the same domain. Therefore, domain could be a field, such as education, which could have teachers, instructional designers, performance strategists all part of the same community of practice because “They value their collective competence and learn from each other…” (Wenger, 2010). Wenger (2010) goes on to elaborate in each of the three characteristics. A community is defined as a group of people who interact and learn from each other as they pursue their domain. Finally, communities of practice do in fact share a “practice”. In the example above, different people with different titles are still all practitioners in the domain of education.

“Communities develop their practice through a variety of activities. The following table provides a few typical examples:” (Wenger, 2010)

Problem solving “Can we work on this design and brainstorm some ideas; I’m stuck.”
Requests for information “Where can I find the code to connect to the server?”
Seeking experience “Has anyone dealt with a customer in this situation?”
Reusing assets “I have a proposal for a local area network I wrote for a client last year. I can send it to you and you can easily tweak it for this new client.”
Coordination and synergy “Can we combine our purchases of solvent to achieve bulk discounts?”
Discussing developments “What do you think of the new CAD system? Does it really help?”
Documentation projects “We have faced this problem five times now. Let us write it down once and for all.”
Visits “Can we come and see your after-school program? We need to establish one in our city.”
Mapping knowledge and identifying gaps “Who knows what, and what are we missing? What other groups should we connect with?”

 

Most people’s objection to participating in communities of practice is that they do not have time (Lujan & Day, 2010; McDermott, 2010), they consider participation to be something extra that they have to do, taking them away from the task at hand (Hara, 2009, p. 21). However, updating a status message on a microblog that doesn’t allow more than 140 characters makes the time it takes to update it, even several times a day, minimal. In addition, if employees found participation valuable, they would make the time. Isn’t the true goal of communities of practice to help with the task, or project at hand? Isn’t that the true just-in-time learning and performance support? It always benefits people when they accidentally come across another person who has experience and knowledge in a given area – there in lays the value.

Given that it is so easy to see what others are doing on microblogs, could it inspire people not just to reach out when they need help but also to notice if they have knowledge they can share with others? Can this notion of using Yammer to find experts and to offer expertise take off and become viral—infecting everyone, or at least many people in an organization? Can this model, if tested in an organization, demonstrate that members would find it valuable enough to keep up with Yammer to become self-sustaining community of practice?

Imagine the following scenario: An employee comes across a challenge, something he could really use some help with and his first thought becomes: to search Yammer to see if there is anyone else in his organization who can help. So he searches for a keyword and finds someone who he can speak with. He reaches out to this individual and before he knows it the two of them (or more) are helping each other and before they even realize it, they are now part of a community of practice.

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

Hutchins’ (1995) definition of distributed cognition, simply put, is the notion that cognition is not confined by what is inside one person’s brain. Instead, it is distributed across many things, such as other people, artifacts and the environment. Meaning, we don’t just learn in our heads, we talk to others, experience things in our environment, and use tools such as a paper and pencil to write out a math problem. A great example of distributed cognition, as described by Hutchins (1995), is the navigation of a large ship–many people and systems come together to navigate collectively. Not one person alone could navigate the ship–you really need the collective.

In any organization, it is the collective driving it forward. Even though there may be individual contributors, no one person alone can help a company, for example, meet it’s revenue goals. Again, it has to be the collective. It is the “informal communication channels that make work proceed smoothly, synchronized among a group of workers without the need for direct verbal communication” (Norman, 1993, p. 153). In Norman’s (1993) examples this non-verbal communication is observed in person. However, with today’s knowledge workforce being distributed across many locations, observation takes on different forms, like reading status updates. In addition, in many cases, the work doesn’t have to be as closely synchronized as employees would need to be to operate a ship. Yet, at the end of the day, the work product is still that of the collective. Microblogs offer just this capability: the possibility of “observing” each other’s actions without actually being there, without working closely together and without direct verbal communication. In fact answering the question: “What are you working on?” produces status messages that uncover context. “…knowing and context are irreducibly co-constituted, and learning is fundamentally connected with and constitutive of the contextual particulars through which it occurs (S. A. Barab & Kirshner, 2001; Cobb & Yackel, 1996)” (Sasha A Barab & Plucker, 2002).

Distributed cognition provides a framework, or lens through which to analyze cognition that focuses (unit of analysis) on the system, rather than the individual (Hutchins, 1995). Cognition is not just distributed within (Minsky, 1986) but also between learners and the objects they use to solve problems (Schwartz, 2008). Therefore, when researching microblogs, focus will be placed on the interaction between individuals and the tool as well as between individuals and other individuals.

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

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