Chapter 2: Hinterlands

Chapter 2 introductory graphic

Given the continuing references to the city through the flanography, titling what might normally be called the literature review as ‘Hinterlands’ seemed more appropriate. For a city the hinterland is the region surrounding it which sustains and supports it, but which is itself influenced by the city. Supporting and sustaining my study are the literatures which precede and inform it, but to which I hope my study will also contribute. I refer to hinterlands in the plural since they are not only the inscribed outcomes of previous research, but include the methods which were employed to bring them into being, but I shall discuss them at greater length in a later post.Read More »

Thinking about workplace learning

“Women operators at Midvale Company payroll machine in Time Office, April 29, 1949” flickr photo by Kheel Center, Cornell University Library https://flickr.com/photos/kheelcenter/5279278045 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

This is one of those posts where I need to get something out of my head and see what it looks like ‘on paper.’ I’m trying to rewrite a section in the literature review chapter of my thesis. I’ve explored workplace learning in a rather narrow way, mainly by distinguishing it from the PD literature in the way it emphasises the informal or non-formal nature of learning. I’d like to expand that into a more rounded consideration of how the literature informs my study. In this post then, I want to explore some of the definitions and conceptualisations of workplace learning, but specifically in the context of TPD – Twitter Professional Development [footnote].

The term ‘learning is used in a number of diverse and diffuse ways, compounded by the fact that it is often deployed when referring to a process and a product. Broadly speaking, there are also two competing and largely incompatible theoretical paradigms: cognitive, and socio-cultural or situational. There is no single, general account of learning and different conceptual lenses are needed, each employing different metaphors and assumptions (Hager & Hodkinson, 2009). Learning is a contested concept, so relying on a single conceptualisation will limit understanding. In what follows, I attempt to lay out some of the ways that learning has been conceptualised, and whether they may be applicable in the context of TPD.

Table of contents
Sfard’s (1998) two learning metaphors
Beckett & Hager’s standard and emerging paradigms
Fuller & Unwin’s Restrictive-Expansive framework
Lave & Wenger’s situated learning
Jacobs and Park conceptual framework
Final thoughts

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SM&Society Day 3: Graveyard slot

It’s never easy retaining an audience and maintaining their interest at the end of the day, let alone at the end of a three day programme. Nevertheless the group presenting the papers in the ‘Organisations and Workplaces’ session did a great job.

In the opening paper, Halvdan Haugsbakken reviewed research in social media use in organisations. Anita Greenhill and Jamie Woodcock discussed at project looking at crowdsourcing practice in ‘Zooniverse;’ clearly a very different kind of organisational practice. From the Netherlands, Anita Batenburg considered Virtual Communities of Practice created by organisations in the health care sector and Lene Pattersen looked at the ‘villages’ which formed in a globally connected organisation.

With the exception of Halvdan’s study, the online spaces we might usually recognise as social media were absent in these papers; instead the platforms were created by the organisations to provide social media functionality. Although it didn’t crop up (and I only thought about it writing this post!), I wonder how far we can claim institutional platforms as social media, when although they provide some of the social functionalities, they’re internally facing?

There were a number of elements which came together to make this one of the most successful sessions of the conference for me. First, although my research is focused more closely on individuals, the activity with which they’re involved is clearly related to their workplace, so everything I heard had relevance. Secondly, the papers covered a broad range of issues and topics, and did that through a variety of methods. We had a review of the literature, network analysis, surveys, interviews and an ethnography, all of which spoke to me multiple methods inclinations. Finally, and I’m sure this is something the conference organisers aim for, there was a clear theme which ran through all the talks and drew them together: knowledge sharing practice, motivations and value for all involved. This allowed the speakers to reference what was emerging in each other’s talks.

Most importantly for me, this package of talks suggested a number of avenues that might be fruitfully explored, including voluntaristic materialism, how and where is value being produced, self-determination theory, technol stress and key informant methodology. (I list them here so I can’t forget them!)