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Visualizing Patterns of Group Communication in Digital Workspaces

Leaders: William Hart-Davidson, Michigan State University; Clay Spinuzzi, University of Texas; Mark Zachry, University of Washington

  Visualizing Patterns of Group Communication
in Digital Workspaces

William Hart-Davidson (Michigan State University)
Clay Spinuzzi (University of Texas)
Mark Zachry (University of Washington)

This workshop will offer a hands-on experience for rhetoricians who want to extend the analysis of organizational writing practices to include digital environments. Digital environments hold great promise for rhetoric and writing researchers because both the depth and breadth of activity available to study expand, as does the amount of detailed data available. We will ask participants to consider both the theoretical and practical issues that arise in investigations of knowledge work, a broad category that encompasses literate activity undertaken in organizational settings for a variety of specific purposes. We expect and welcome a wide variety of research goals and settings among workshop participants. Some of our own have included:

  • learning what accounts for the success of proposal writing teams in different types of organizational settings: academic research lab, military contractor, non-profit social services agency
  • discovering how intra-unit communication among workers at a telecommunications company shape/reflect corporate strategy and identity in a shifting marketplace

The need for this methodological move lies in the inevitability of encountering digital spaces wherever we might seek to investigate literate activity. The proliferation of data also underlies our focus on visualizing - literally seeing - complex patterns of activity as an important research goal.

Each part of the workshop is designed around one or more hands-on activities that will offer participants a chance to try out new techniques with sample materials and data we will supply, followed by a session where we'll ask participants to adapt these techniques for a project they are working on and share these adaptations with the group. Registered participants will receive a reading list and info packet to help them prepare.

Part I: Text Ecologies & How to Study Them

What are text ecologies?
How do they form?
Data collection methods: system monitoring, participant diaries, organizational games

Part II: Novel Techniques for Analyzing & Visualizing Text Ecologies

Activity Network Diagrams
Communication Event Models & Genre Ecology Models
Sociotechnical Graphs
Operations Matrices and Graphs
Contradiction-Discoordination-Breakdown Tables

Part III: Designing Text Ecologies: People, Tools, Spaces

Working with Participatory Design Methods
Creating Open Systems (APIs, Mashups)
Hands-on Demonstration of Software: SWAP/ELIFor inquiries, contact William Hart-Davidson:

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