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I contributed to the article “Generation i” in the Economist Magazine:

“For universities it’s really cheap money,” says Gina Neff, a professor of communication at the University of Washington. “They are getting tuition dollars and not having to spend instructional dollars.” Some internships are valuable, she says, citing one she oversees in which students work on local newspapers with support from teachers. But some are not: she vetoed a Hollywood PR-internship after it turned out to be little more than an unpaid job promoting films on campus. Some universities might have pocketed the fees and looked the other way.

This article briefly reviews theories of materiality emerging in communication technology studies and organizational communication and then suggests three ways that journalism scholars might apply these theories to studies of news production. How journalists work, how journalism is shaped within newsrooms, the ways the news industry is changing, and ultimately, the effects of digital transitions can all benefit from including a focus on the ‘objects of journalism’. First, objects, such as documents, help scholars describe the social settings where objects are found. Second, the objects of journalism help scholars uncover lines of authority, contexts of news routines, and richness and persistence of news practices. Third, studying the objects of journalism can help explain the persistence of so-called residual practices that might otherwise seem dysfunctional in digital news. Materiality theories can help journalism scholars explain the impact of the transition to digital news on the work and practices of journalists and the news industry as a whole.

Journalism, September 2014. DOI: 10.1177/1464884914549294

Engineering teams collaborating in virtual environments face many technical, social, and cultural challenges. In this paper we focus on distributed teams making joint unanticipated discoveries in virtual environments. We operationalize a definition of “messy talk” as a process in which teams mutually discover issues, critically engage in clarifying and finding solutions to the discovered issues, exchange their knowledge, and resolve the issue. Can globally distributed teams use messy talk via virtual communication technology? We analyzed the interactions of four distributed student teams collaborating on a complex design and planning project using building information models (BIMs) and the cyber-enabled global research infrastructure for design (CyberGRID), a virtual world specifically developed for collaborative work. Their interactions exhibited all four elements of messy talk, even though resolution was the least common. Virtual worlds support real-time joint problem solving by (1) providing affordances for talk mediated by shared visualizations, (2) supporting team perceptions of building information models that are mutable, and (3) allowing transformations of those models while people were together in real time. Our findings suggest that distributed team collaboration requires technologies that support messy talk—and iterative trial and error—for complex multidimensional problems.

Journal of Management Engineering, June 2014, DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)ME.1943-5479.0000301)

In our paper for the ICA 2014 preconference on Sharing, Kristen Barta and I show how the Quantified Self community mobilizes the technological and social platforms for sharing and building social capital. The paradox is that online sharing in this community both extends what happens in the in-person local MeetUps while it establishes the boundaries of the community. There’s a relative ambiguity of what is valued in the community that is managed through sharing. Is it personal stories and histories, cool new technologies, or sharable new innovations for tracking that can be adapted by others? QS structures their presentations through three questions that help the community get around these different values and in turn manage what different people look for from the QS community. This is, we argue, a model for studying the so-called sharing economy.  In particular our preliminary study shows how the platforms of sharing provide the affordances and constraints that shape how people approach sharing and how people benefit from sharing.

BartaNeff_TechnologiesforSharing

BartaNeff_TechnologiesforSharing_slides