Cultivating the Value of Networked Individuals

Cultivating the Value of Networked Individuals

Wolf R. Richter (University of Oxford, UK), David A. Bray (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) and William H. Dutton (University of Oxford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-797-8.ch001
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The Internet and related digital networking platforms facilitate searches for information and the sharing of information and expertise among individuals. In recent years, these behaviours evolved from focusing on information retrieval and sharing to include facilitation and coordination of collaborative problem-solving efforts and distributed co-creation of services and products. Such collaborations, supported by digital networks, often extend beyond the traditional boundaries of organizations and institutions, the social networks of small groups, the subjects of specific disciplines, and the geographic borders of nations. Consequently, they raise concerns over how to best manage networked individuals and realize the potential utility of their activities. This chapter builds on the findings of a series of case studies designed to explore such questions. From the results of these case studies the authors propose a framework for categorizing ‘Collaborative Network Organizations’ (CNOs); one that suggests that value emerges as a result of cultivating particular kinds of relationships and activities within these networks. The authors employ the term ‘cultivation’, instead of management, as the case studies indicated that such efforts often fail if managed too precisely or too restrictively in a “top-down” fashion. Instead, the provision of greater latitude and “bottom-up” autonomy to the individuals involved characterized the more successful CNOs we studied. In addition, the success of CNOs depended on how such efforts reconfigured information and communication flows in ways that supported distributed sharing, generation, or co-creation of content within a wide variety of collaborative contexts, ranging from the conduct of scientific research to problem-solving in business and everyday life. Directly attempting to manage or control CNOs can undermine these networks, whereas indirectly influencing and cultivating desired behaviours and activities can encourage the expansion of productive networking. The authors offer this theoretical framework as a means for better capturing the mechanisms governing collaborative behaviour.
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Historical Precedents For Collaborative Network Organizations

The emergence of CNOs represents the latest stage in a forty-year thread of initiatives using computer-based systems to harness distributed expertise. For example, the RAND Corporation developed Delphi techniques in the 1960s to reduce the bias created by influential individuals in the social dynamics of co-located face-to-face groups of experts. Difficulties in soliciting thoughtful responses from experts undermined the perceived value of such techniques, but they remain in use in a variety of contexts.

The potential for computer-based communication networks to enable the sharing of expertise accelerated the drive towards distributed collaboration in the 1970s, to include computer conferencing (Hiltz and Turoff 1978), group decision-support systems, and later initiatives around computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW). The diffusion of personal computers across organizations also led to conceptions of ‘groupware’, computer-supported collaborative work and other digital applications to network individuals and personal computers within and across organizations in the 1980s and 1990s (Johansen 1988; Grudin 1995; and Sproull and Kiesler 1995).

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Jonathan Foster
Chapter 1
Wolf R. Richter, David A. Bray, William H. Dutton
The Internet and related digital networking platforms facilitate searches for information and the sharing of information and expertise among... Sample PDF
Cultivating the Value of Networked Individuals
Chapter 2
Andrew Wong
This chapter considers the collective information behavior of the poor in Bangladesh. It examines the mobile phone as the central node and seeks to... Sample PDF
Living with New Media Technology: How the Poor Learn, Share and Experiment on Mobile Phones
Chapter 3
Anne Beamish
The long-term sustainability of online communities depends on the active participation and contribution of its members, but we have limited... Sample PDF
Contributors and Lurkers: Obstacles to Content Creation in a Professional Online Community
Chapter 4
Sylvie Noël, Daniel Lemire
The last 30 years have seen the creation of a variety of electronic collaboration tools for science and business. Some of the best-known... Sample PDF
On the Challenges of Collaborative Data Processing
Chapter 5
Madhu C. Reddy, Bernard J. Jansen, Patricia R. Spence
Collaborative information behavior is an important and growing area of research in the field of information behavior. Although collaboration is a... Sample PDF
Collaborative Information Behavior: Exploring Collaboration and Coordination during Information Seeking and Retrieval Activities
Chapter 6
Nozomi Ikeya, Norihisa Awamura, Shinichiro Sakai
In order to study collaborative information behaviour (e.g. information search, creation, and sharing) in the work environment, it is important that... Sample PDF
Why Do We Need to Share Information?: Analysis of Collaborative Task Management Meetings
Chapter 7
Sean Goggins, Sanda Erdelez
This chapter situates collaborative information behavior in completely online groups as a phenomenon distinct from prior work understanding... Sample PDF
Collaborative Information Behavior in Completely Online Groups
Chapter 8
Philip Scown
Typically education is a process that is done to students. The work reported here relates to students who collaborate in the education process so... Sample PDF
Building a Learning Community: Students Teaching Students Using Video Podcasts
Chapter 9
Chirag Shah
Designing systems that support collaborative information behavior (CIB) pose many unique challenges that single-user systems typically do not face.... Sample PDF
Designs for Systems to Support Collaborative Information Behavior
Chapter 10
Elizabeth Meyers Hendrickson
This chapter describes the cross-disciplinary conceptual frameworks used to examine a popular American entertainment website that employs a virtual... Sample PDF
It Was Only Natural: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to a CMC Study
Chapter 11
Richard Chalfen, Michael Rich
The chapter presents findings from recent studies that feature a model of doctor-patient collaboration called Video Intervention/Prevention... Sample PDF
Sharing Information about the Pain: Patient-Doctor Collaboration in Therapy and Research
Chapter 12
Pamela J. McKenzie
The concept of “traces” is useful for understanding the collaborative practices of informing. Readers of documents leave traces of their use, and... Sample PDF
Informing Traces: The Social Practices of Collaborative Informing in the Midwifery Clinic
Chapter 13
Jonathan Foster
This chapter presents a coding guide for the analysis of peer talk during educational information seeking. The guide is an outcome of a structuring... Sample PDF
Collaboration as Co-Constructed Discourse: Developing a Coding Guide for the Analysis of Peer Talk During Educational Information Seeking
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