This chapter proposes an analytic for the assessment of sustainability and success of virtual workplaces. This analytic considers value, visibility, and infrastructure as key factors required for success, and suggests that an assessment of sustainability must include methods for evaluating current and possible mechanisms for securing or distributing social capital, exposing the degree to which the tasks and interactions of workers are made visible, and assessing the administrative and technological infrastructure with regard to support of communication, cooperation, and collaboration. This analytic is applied through a case study of the virtual workplace of the online scholarly journal Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, Pedagogy.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Cultural Capital: Pierre Bourdieu (1977) coined the term “cultural capital” as a reference to the material goods that are collected and displayed by the cultural elite (such as paintings by famous artists, extensive libraries, or collections of fine wines). The goods that represent cultural capital reference elite cultural values (and are thus not simply a display of wealth, but a display of the owner’s knowledge).
Social: Capital: Unlike cultural capital, social capital is primarily not material; rather it is the network of who you know rather than what you have . Social capital is accrued through the acquisitions of awards or other recognition of an individual’s value, as well as the exchange of social indebtedness between individuals who belong to the same social networks.
Infrastructure: Infrastructure includes both the material support systems that make virtual work possible (such as computers and computer networks) and the embedded practices of communication that have been established within a particular community of workers. Star and Ruhleder (1996) argue that infrastructure is transparent to use, but becomes visible when it breaks down and is linked with conventions of practice (p. 113).
Webtexts: In the most basic sense, Webtexts are texts that reside on the Web. These texts are distinguished both from hypertext (because their structures may be linear rather than hypertextual) and from print texts that have been placed on the Web (such as PDF copies of journal articles). Jennifer Bowie (qtd. in Austin, Bowie, & Jones 2001 ) notes that while: some [W]ebtexts are hypertext, ... many others just incorporate a few of the multilinear and hypertextual possibilities. Webtexts are found on the World Wide Web and, like hypertext, can be multimedia. They will have links between different nodes, however the text may be designed to be read more linearly than hypertextually. (definitions.html)
Academic Capital: Academic capital is a form of social capital particular to academia; it is accrued through the activities and recognition of publications and presentations within a particular scholarly discipline.