Community, diversity and division: the cross organisational networks of practice in web production in UK Higher Education
2011-02-22T11:09:10Z (GMT) by
This thesis examines factors governing the shape of Networks of Practice among fellow professionals in different organisations through a study of web production in UK Higher Education. It explores the character of two cross organisational spaces, an online community and a conference series, and then at the individual level examines the pattern and causes of participation within these spaces. There has been little research into web production as a professional activity, so capturing something of its rich culture of work expands our understanding of these information professions. Subject and genre analysis supported by observation, interview and questionnaire are the primary methods used to study the cross organisational spaces. The individual level is explored through qualitative interview data treated for analysis as discursive resources, as well as containing "factual" data. The thesis uses community of practice theory as a starting point to provide a set of dimensions, terminology and predicted character of Networks of Practice, but also draws on themes from the theory of the professions. Although valued sources of information and support, both the online community and conference series have a strong technical slant and seem to exclude some important relevant professional perspectives, particularly that of marketing. At the individual level common information and support needs are pursued through cross organisational contacts, but the creation of a community is limited by the diversity of individuals' roles, aspirations and organisational location as well as differing involvement in technical innovation and different degrees of organisational liminality and divergent organisational cultures. Gender is also an emergent factor, revealing that the freedom opened up by lack of professionalisation also creates forms of vulnerability. The research suggests that the degree and pattern of participation in collective professional spaces, such as online communities, is governed by aspects of individuals' local contexts.