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"ACM SIGCHI General Interest Announcements (Mailing List)" <[log in to unmask]>
Michael Muller <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 24 Jan 2000 13:31:37 -0500
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Call for Participation:

CHI 2000 Workshop on
Electronic Communities:
Places and Spaces, Contents and Boundaries

Michael J. Muller and Jessica Friedman
Lotus Development Corporation
55 Cambridge Parkway
Cambridge MA 02155 USA
[log in to unmask]
+1-617-693-4235 (voice), +1-617-693-1407 (fax)

This workshop brings together four related areas of
research and practice:

- Electronic communities in CSCW

- Communities of practice in management science

- Places and spaces as constructed venues for
  collaborative work

- Boundaries and boundary objects as crucial areas
  for communication, collaboration, and
  articulation work

These four areas already have some areas of overlaps.
The goal of the workshop is to expand those areas of
overlap, to enrich their work through mutual education.
Electronic Communities
Electronic communities have been studied in HCI and
especially CSCW for several years.  Schuler, as well
as and Carroll and associates, have described the
structure and dynamics of existing electronic
communities. The field is mature enough to have
several important collections of papers.  But how
are communities shaped?  Clement and Wagner noted
that communities may sometimes benefit from selected
degrees of disaggregation (i.e., partial or complete
isolation or delimitation) from other, similar
communities, or from a broader social realm.
Fanderclai described some of the rich interactions
and constructions of knowledge that can occur in a
delimited electronic community.

Communities of Practice
One type of delimited community that has attracted
increasing interest in both management science
research and commercial offerings is communities of
practice.  Briefly, communities of practice are
usually described as diffuse, largely voluntary
social networks that exist horizontally in
organizations or associations.  Their members work
on their own individual projects or teams, and have
few recognizable shared goals.  However, the members
of a community of practice have common methods,
procedures, and knowledges, and have a need to share
information, resources, and expertise with one
another.  Communities of practice have been
theorized as sites of exchange of perspectives and
information, and of mutual learning.  Communities
of practice have also been described as crucial
resources for the success of knowledge-dependent
organizations.  There is increasing interest in
constructing delimited electronic spaces to support
communities of practice.

Places and Spaces
The fields of HCI and CSCW have long been concerned
with the construction of shared work spaces and
other places for communities in electronic or
virtual worlds.  Dourish and associates articulated
one approach, in which system providers make spaces
into which users instantiate places.  Others have
focused on different spatial models, such as rooms,
landscapes, or locales.

Boundaries and Boundary Objects
One important question in library and information
science research has revolved around the constructed
nature of shared spatial domains:  That is, people
make choices (deliberately or unconsciously) about
how the domains are structured, what kinds of
information are visible within those domains, whose
voices are heard within those domains, and (as a
consequence) what kinds of discussions and actions
can take place within those domains.  Code has made
an influential philosophical argument that each
constructed shared domain becomes a rhetorical space
in which certain kinds of power, knowledge, and
action are privileged, and certain other kinds are
made invisible or impossible.

Research in CSCW has tended to share Code's focus
on what happens within each space.  By contrast,
the study of disciplinarity within library and
information science has led to a focus on what
happens between or at the boundaries of rhetorical
spaces.  Star's and Bowker's concepts of boundary
objects and boundary infrastructures provide one
influential approach to describing points of
articulation and coordination -- and hence,
opportunities for collaboration and/or mutual
learning -- between diverse disciplines or work
cultures.  These concepts in turn help us to think
about relations among people who are working
together from one electronic community to another,
and especially from one community of practice to

A Desirable Synthesis
These four areas of endeavor are clearly related
to one another.  There have been some important
points of overlap among the four areas.  We hope
to create a stronger set of connections by bringing
together people who are working in these areas.
Our goal is specifically interdisciplinary.  We
hope to develop a clearer sense of ways of thinking
about both existing delimited spaces for
communities and possible future constructed spaces
for such communities.  We hope to highlight the
ways in which system providers and community
members construct rhetorical spaces that have
differential impacts on members' (and groups')
knowledge, power, and action in various domains of
concern.  We hope to bring attention both to the
work that communities do within their delimited
spaces, and the work that related communities do
across boundaries between their spaces.

We ask people who are interested in the workshop
to consider the following questions:

- How is the social and computing environment
for a community (the attributes of its place or
space) shaped or determined?  Who decides?  Who
implements?  Who is consulted?  What are the
impacts upon different groups within the community?
What are the impacts upon other people, outside the
community, who are affected by the community?

- How does the social and computing environment of
a community (the attributes of its place or space)
affect what goes on within the community?  what
goes on at the boundary of the community?  How do
community members change their social or computing
community environment?

- What work takes place within a community?  What
work takes place across boundaries (a) between one
community and another, (b) between the community
and the larger social world?  What work takes place
at the boundary?

- To what extent are structures, resources, or
persons within the community visible to community
members?  To what extent are structures, resources,
or persons within the community visible to
outsiders?  What are the consequences?  To what
extent can community members control these issues
of visibility?

- What benefits does the community provide to its
members?  What benefits do the members provide to
the community?  What benefits do other communities
or the larger social world receive from the
community and/or its members?  What benefits does
the community and/or its members receive from the
larger social world?  How are these benefits
related to the content, dynamics, and boundaries
of the community?

Please write a position paper that addresses one
or more of these questions, and send it to
Michael Muller at [log in to unmask] (fax:
+1-617-693-1407).  Your position paper should be
2000 words or fewer, and should arrive by
28 January 2000.

A longer version of this Call, with citations, is
available from [log in to unmask]