Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fieldwork part 2

My "field"
As I mentioned in my earlier entry on fieldwork, WiserEarth (www.wiserearth.org) become my "field". It is social networking site with over 45 thousand registered users and hundreds of different groups and initiatives. WiserEarth is often compared to Facebook - WiserEarth have what Facebook is lacking, a common goal, not merely collecting as many friends as possible, but also a vision of social change. Behind the building of this platform is the organisation Natural Capital Insitute (NCI), and its founder - the famous Paul Hawken (environmentalist and author of many books including Blessed Unrest: How the largest Movement in the world Came into Being, and Why No One Saw It Coming.) WiserEarth vision is to work as One, to unite people around a common goal, mobilize people and come up with solutions. Gather stories of success, collaborate, discuss and gather groups of like minded.

As a newbie and researcher in WE one is overwhelmed with all the possibilities, all the activity going on. Which group should I join? How do I know that this is the right for me? How could I understand this massive community? Is it possible to perform reserach here? Who should I talk to and so on. My strategy initially was to select a few groups, join them and share my thoughts and hopes around my research. I choosed around 3-4 and joined them, introduced myself in different discussions/chat. I was also soon invited in a pair of new groups by people who found me and my profile (where I presented myself in pretty much the same style as in this blog) and soon I had a constant stream of updates coming to my inbox. As soon as I had become familiar with some of the groups I started to introduce myself to individuals I found interesting (especially persons with knowledge about technology, activism and peace but also sustainability, WE and social media). It only took about a week to get to know the friendly atmosphere that is significant for WE (at least for the groups I´m a member of), but my impression of the platform "culture" was that it was a bit messy. A lot of people was members in a variety of groups and a lot of groups had interesting discussions. Still, it seemed like a lot of groups had activities outside WE as well (and they only used WE for contacts). I missed the coordination of action and thoughts (even though some groups inside WE most certainly tries to solve some of the major problems in the world) in WE as a whole, that is, the vision of the platform and the members acting as a whole.

Interviews in anthropology and ethnology is seen as a rich resource of informations and give us a valuable insight in how people perceive and interpret the world. My first interviews via skype and facebook was planned and performed about two weeks after my first entry on WE and they took around 2 hours each. It was very interesting interviews ranging over a wide variety of different questions. I soon understood that my research focus was of great interest but also that my quest for the perfect online innovative collaboration platform could´nt be performed over a 10 week period (especially not since it took 2 weeks to find WE and expert informants). Many of my informants was experts in their area and gave me valublae insights and tips about building a community. It is by now very clear that a community in the style of the ProPeace Platform is (and must be) a long (and slow) process but also that many organisations and persons around the world is interested in the creation of this kind of platform.

A community of communites
In a netnographic perspectives, one should choose a vibrant community with members focused around one topic/interest. WE is really a community of communites and could also be compared with a marketplace or a city square with different discussiongroups (all interesting in their own ways). My informants gave me insights in their own professional lives, both online and offline, inside WE and outside. They have given me information about how one can think around community-building but also how one can think around peace and mobilisation of people towards action. My netnographic material consists of 6-7 deep interviews (that is qualitative interviews ranging from 1-2 hours), e-mails, transcripts from various forum discussions and texts from and about WE. Even though I have a very richmaterial, I don´t think that I have the key to how to build the perfect ProPeace Platform. But I do think that I have many valuable tips and strategies, metaphors (which works as models in how to think about building and maintaining a community) but also what doesn´t work and what one could avoid (here technical discussions and forums for improvements in WE has been a rich resource).

The stakeholders in this research is not only myself and TFF but also members of WE and more specifically my informants, of whom many have said that they are very interested in my future results. I have also been invited to share my results and work with other organisations in their work. When it comes to social change, I think this is very doable, especially since this is not about a competition, but rather about cooperation.

The Future
My research will be presented to The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in January 2011. I´m in my analysis phase right now and have a lot of material to transcribe, decode, translate and analyse. The final product will take the form of a strategy for how TFF should think around the building of The ProPeace Platform (that is, it will be a recipe around how one can create an online culture of propeace and collaboration and initiate people to participate in this creation). I will update my blog (more frequently) with more refelctions around my analysis and the future work.

Friday, December 3, 2010

eCollaboration and work organisation: How social are Social Media really?

I went to a seminar on thursday at my departement (Departement for Cultural Sciences) at Lund University. The guestlecturer was Professor Fritz Betz, a sociologist from University of Applied Sciences in Burgenland. He spoke about concepts such as eCollaboration, Enterprise 2.0 and social media and the focus evolved around the internal use of these concepts which was illustrated by examples from his previous projects in 4 different companies.

According to Betz there seems to exist a kind of technological determinism among companies, which means that they want to implement eCollaboration tools and features from the social web eg. blogs, Wikis, forums and so on in order to achieve innovation, sociality and mobilisation. How this should be done, except from buying and installing eCollaboration tools, is often vauge and blurry among descionmakers within companies. The mere existence of social media is believed to create collaboration. According to Betz, this was only true to some extent within the companies where he had performed his research. Employees didn´t use the tools in the same way that they used social media privately. Often the communication was limitied to e-mail system or external forums (such as wikis).

This could be analyzed in a dozen of ways, but one reason for why eCollaboration tools in many companies does not work has to do with power and control, according to Betz. Employees are not keen on open discussions involving bosses on different levels, and different departments are not keen on letting material and info free because then they also need to decrease the level of control. Therefore, social media, eCollaboration and Enterprise 2.0 is merely "buzzwords" but the discourse around these concepts have changed the way we think and interact in organizations. The traditionally hierachical organization should nowadays be a network(ing) organization and the traditionally closed company is open. The divide between producer and consumer is blurred, we talk about prosumers, about crowsourcing and wisdom of the crowds, where consumers and employees is invited to the developement of the company or the organization.

The seminar did not give me any concrete insights in how to initiate people to become a part of ProPeace, but it did give me some hints about how Social media can become social. The participation need to be active, and the atmosphere of a ProPeace platform must inspire to that activation. It also need to be voluntarily and follow the principles of tranperancy, accessibility and personlisation. As Betz said; "social media is about social practices, they are not social in themselves". This means that a platform must offer the cues of practicing sociality. A user is not always aware of the bigger picture, that their use of a wiki, or blog actually forms and develops larger social movements. “One uses new (technological” tools without realising to what extent they influence ordinary life” (One of Betz informants). 

Another important aspect is to create a "community of practices", whereas the community members together constructs a storytelling, a certain culture related to that place, which in turn creates a strong brand for the company/organization. For further information on this topic, I would like to suggest an article (unfortunately only available in Swedish) about the external use of social media by companies:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fieldworking (Part 1)

I´ve been out in the ”field” for about one month now, interviewing, observing, reading and researching. The first one and a half week was dedicated to a mapping of various communities and social media platforms online. I wanted to find my ”field”, that is – a platform which corresponded to TFF:s vision about The ProPeace Platform. This vision states (among other aspects) that:” the platform should enable constructive thinking, ways of seeing, ideas, information and concrete proposals of our time. The central core to the idea is to ”give peace a visibility”, something that would be reflected in the content of the platform, in forms of eg: videos, photographs, arts etc. [...-...] Another central aspect of the vision is that it bridges academia and cultural production, [...-...] that various groups and intitatives in society should meet on this platform, and together form a global movement for peace” (for further information, see projectdescription).

With this vision in the back of my mind, it was obvious that not just any social media based community or webpage would be a worthy candidate for netnography. I made a set of criterias to narrow down my search, and these criterias were as follows: it had to be a page with a diversity of users (global, interculturally, interdisciplinary, different ages and so forth), it had to have the mechanism of a community (networking, inviting etc.), it had to be based on a cause or theme (e.g: social change, peace, sustainability), it should be a resource (with texts, photos, videos and so on), users should be encouraged to contribute, users should also be encouraged to collaborate and ”solve” problems together and finally – users should be mobilised, triggered to do something, to act. The question was; did such a platform exist and how would I find it if it did exist?
To start with, I found out that there are a lot of different concepts in Web 2.0 which correlated to the ideas above. In my research I came across a dozen concepts (some interwined with each other):
commons-based peer production (CBPP or social production), Collaborative Innovation Network (CoIN), Social Collaboration, Open Access, Crowdsourcing, Wiki, social networking site.
All in all, I probably found 25 different pages which could be described by using one or more of the mentioned concepts. Out of them I selected 11 to look closer at (and sign up to):
  1. www.mypitch.com (crowdsourcing)

After yet another closer examination and comparison to my criterias I narrowed down the list to nr 2, 7, 9, 10 and 11. After reading more in Kozinenets book, I came to a critical point in selecting one, maximum 2 platforms to perform my netnography: (I´m willing to admit that I planned to follow all 11 but that I came to my senses and realised that I only had 10 weeks, and 8 more to go). Kozinets (p. 89) added the following criterias in choosing the appropriate candidate:

”You should look for online communities that are:
  1. relevant, they relate to your research focus and questions
  2. active, thay have recent and regular communications
  3. interactive, they have a flow of comunications between participants
  4. substanstial, they have a critical mass of communications and an energetic feel
  5. hetereogeneous, they have a number of different participants
  6. data-rich, offering more detailed or descriptively rich data
According to these (plus my own criterias) only one platform stood out, namely WiserEarth.
Later on (in part 2), I will describe what WiserEarth is and also tell you more about my fieldwork, how I organized it, some results and something about the future....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is a term that is often used to describe the ”user-based” web and all that it consists of; blogs, social media (Facebook, twitter, flickr etc.), wikis, open source and so on. It is the continuation and developement of Web 1.0 and the Internet, which in its old form to a great extent was based on information and the user as a consumer. Web 1.0 is sometime refered to as the "Read Web" whereas Web 2.0 is called the "Read/Write Web". In Web 2.0, the user is both consumer and producer - a “prosumer”.
It is constructed by social networks like twitter and facebook. Users share, interact and collaborate and is therefore as important as the platform itself. This can be compared with Web 1.0 were the vast majority of the users simply consumed the content. Web 2.0 is also a concept and an idea that describes how people through interaction and use of different technologies creates culture and meaning in cyberspace – in a place without borders and physical materia. The image above depicts the continuation of Web 2.0 - namely the semantic web, which is more interconnected with the user, and the border between human and technology is blurred,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Project description for "Peace in web 2.0"

In 2010 TFF (The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research1) celebrates its 25 years anniversary. The TFF brand is also globally acknowledged, but even though TFF has a strong profile online (including network among various academics and decision makers), they are experiencing difficulties in reaching out to various groups in society, especially the youth. Plans for the future of the foundation is discussed internally and one result or vision of these discussions is a concept called the Pro-Peace Platform.
The vision of the ProPeace Platform states that it is ”a new type of platform” where the message and philosophy of ”pro-peace is promoted”. It also states that the platform should promote constructive thinking, ways of seeing, ideas, information and concrete proposals that highlights the pro-peace of our time. The central core to the idea is to ”give peace a visibility”, something that would be reflected in the content of the platform, in forms of eg: videos, photographs, arts etc. accompanied with reviews, debates and discussions. There would be academic studies with proposals, all kinds of peace courses, links to online learning and so forth. Another central aspect of the vision though, is that the platform bridges academia and cultural production, that it highlights culture in general and culture of peace activities in particular. The focus would be on “what was done, what can be don and how and who are the like-minded to link up with to move the world.” Various groups and initiatives in society should meet on this platform, and together form a global movement for peace.
The ProPeace Platform is a place that makes peace and peace-culture visible - for the concerned citizens, students, academics, artists and media people. It is a place “filled with “aha”-, “wonderful”-, I did not know that”- experiences” and a a place where the user get a sense of “Yes, there is hope – people have done it”. This should energize and appeal to people, especially the youth, around the globe and ignite the will to contribution. The basis for this could be a form of wiki or another form of social community, where people are devoting, with time and knowledge.

My Project – “Peace in Web 2.0”
I will perform a research-project for full-time for 10 weeks (from 18th October – 17th December) during the autumn. The project will be a pre-study for the ProPeace Platform, its content and its structure and the task would be to analyze social media with a focus on youth and people movements (like the peace movement and the anti racism movement). A mapping of other successful platforms could be performed as well as anthropological methods to interview users. In this way TFF could gain valuable information about the mechanisms of social media and patterns of the youth and also how the culture of peace could be amalgamted with the culture of Web 2.0.2 My main research questions are:

How do you create this kind of architecture? (Are there any examples out there that corresponds to the ProPeace Idea?)
How do you create an atmosphere of change-making and the will to contribute?
How do the users use social media with a focus on people movements and how do these social media use the users?

The result of this research could take the form of an action-plan or a strategy for how TFF should design the process of creating the platform and how the user should be involved. It should give insights to “peacetrends” on the Internet and a picture of the potential future user of the platform. A future goal could also be to present some form of visual “prototype” for the platform, eg. in a presentation for TFF.

In order to attract certain groups of people, TFF need to map theses groups wishes, needs, behaviours, movements etc. A mapping which could be done online through netethnography ( or virtual ethnography) by using and analysing social networks on eg. twitter and facebook.3 Netnography also includes participant observation (an anthropological term for being there- on site) in social communities online. Besides netethnography; qualitative interviews and/or focusgroup interviews with associates, students, researchers and people of diverse background will be used in order to answer my research questions. The knowledge gained from this could be the foundation for the ProPeace Platform.

The theories I intend to use includes the theories about "The Experience Economy” and "place-making" (Magic, Culture and the New Economy by Orvar Löfgren and Robert Willim) + (Kulturell ekonomi : skapandet av värden, platser och identiteter i upplevelsesamhället by Lars Aronsson (Red)) and various articles concerning the underlying philosophies about Web 2.0 and Innovation.

1 TFF (founded in 1986) is an independent think tank and an all-volunteer global network with associates all over the world. Their goals are based on ”peace by peaceful means” and include; ”conflict-mitigation, peace research and education to improve conflict understanding at all levels and promote alternative security and global development based on nonviolent politics, economics, sustainability and ethics of care.” TFF works in areas such as; Burundi, the former Yugslavia, Iraq, Iran and other places in the Middle East as well as in Sweden. (http://www.transnational.org)
2 Web 2.0 is a concept and a development of the Internet which builds upon a digital and open culture, which is developed through the collaboration between users. It is constructed by social networks like twitter and facebook. Users share, interact and collaborate and is therefore as important as the platform itself. This can be compared with Web 1.0 were the vast majority of the users simply consumed the content.
3 Potential subquestions: How do young people become engaged in social movements today? How do they organize themselves? In what way do the want their information? Movieclips, pictures, live-chat etc. How do they process information? (Do the share it with others? Do the want to download it?) Do they want to contribute? How do we reach certain groups in a time when individuals are bombarded with messages and information? In what ways can web 2.0 promote new forms of thinking around peace?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Time Plan for "Peace in Web 2.0"

This is my time plan for the project: ”Peace in Web 2.0”, which may be changed or updated in the future (in that case I will notify you). If there are any questions or if you have any feedback, don´t hesitate to e-mail me on edbertsson@gmail.com, or comment directly in this blog!

Pre-phase (June – September):

1st meeting with TFF

Specialization courses (15 hp) in Informatics at Umeå University ("Öppenhet på internet" and "Web 2.0: Begrepp, teknik och Innovation")

2nd meeting with TFF

Meeting with the TFF board

3rd meeting with TFF

Phase 1: Fieldwork preparation (18th -27th October)

- Planning Research: Read Robert V. Kozinets Netnography, revise timeplan and identify questions and need.
- Gathering Information and Literature: Find relevant articles and literature for the researchprocess

- Mapping relevant sources and resources: Compile a list with webpages and portals online that could be a resource for finding informants or a field itself and material for netnography.

- Identifying internal and external stakeholders and needs: Who will benefint from this research? Who are the users?

- Producing Blogg+Facebookpage: Produce some kind of ”research blog” where clients, stakeholders and others can follow the research, also- produce a facebookpage for recruiting informants and informing about the project.

- Start recruiting informants: When one or more webpages/portals have been selected, the recruiting process should be initiated as soon as possible.

Deliver revised Project Plan, time budget and status-report on 22th October

Phase 2: Fieldwork (28th October-12th November)

- Commence the netnography: This part includes the entree and participant observation in various social media, a number of qualitative interviews (preferably at least 5) online and in real life (irl) and, depending on time - an internet survey about usage and experiences of a social media platform.

- (Absence, 1st November) Lecturing in Örnsköldsvik for Youth Against Racism

- Continue the recruiting process

- Going trough written sources

- (Absence, 11-12th November) Participation at "Innovation In Mind 2010", http://www.innovationinmind.se/

Phase 3: Processing data (15-19 November)

- Selection of literature and sources: Which articles, webpages, books etc. should be included in the final presentation?

- (Absence 16th November) Participation at ”Jag bor i Malmö”-(A youth conference)

- Transcribing interviews

- Compiling surveys

Phase 4: Analysis ( 22 November – 8 December)

- Analyzing processed data

- Idea generating process

- Deliver status-report on 26th of November

Phase 5: Production and Visual Presentation (9-17 December)

- Producing action-plan (with suggestions) and a Visual presentation for the future ProPeace Platform

Final presentation: 17th December

Post-phase (2011):

- Follow-up meeting with TFF in January

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hjälp, tips och diskussion sökes!

Under de kommande 10 veckorna (mellan 18:e oktober och 17:e december) kommer jag att praktisera på en tankesmedja som heter TFF (Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research). Under denna period är min uppgift att utföra ett internt forskningsprojekt med fokus på folkrörelser och deras användning av sociala medier (exempelvis den antirasistiska folkrörelserna och fredsrörelsen). Frågeställningen är hur de kulturer som kännetecknar folkrörelserna reproduceras/transformeras online och hur kunskapen om de sociala mediernas form, mekanismer och mönster kan användas för att mobilisera människor online.
Jag vill komma i kontakt med användare i forum, plattformar och portaler som har en klar anknytning till en folkrörelse. Målet med min forskning är att få insikt i hur engagemang skapas kollektivt, vilka metoder används och de frågor jag funderar över är bla; Hur kommunicerar man sitt budskap genom dessa kanaler? Vilka uttrycksmedel används? Hur använder användarna dessa sidor? Jag är mycket intresserad av att komma i kontakt med personer som är villiga att ställa upp på längre intervjuer och samtal men även allmänna tips om bra sidor. De metoder jag kommer att använda inkluderar netnografi, kavalitativa intervjuer, fokusgrupper och deltagande observation. Jag är även öppen för diskussioner kring etnografi, netnografi, antropologi, kulturanalys, Web 2.0, fred och så vidare.
Jag kommer kontinuerligt att uppdatera bloggen med forskningsrelaterat material, mer allmänna inlägg, tips och reflektioner.
Diskutera gärna med mig direkt här i bloggen eller kontakta mig på edbertsson@gmail.com alt. 0707208353

Peace in Web 2.0