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Self Tracking
Venture Labor
Surviving the New Economy

Innovation Through Practice

Purpose: Through the study of visualizations, virtual worlds, and information exchange, this research reveals the complex connections between technology and the work of design and construction. The authors apply the socio-technical view of technology and the ramifications this view has on successful use of technology in design and construction.

Approach: This is a discussion paper reviewing over a decade of research that connects  three streams of research on architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) teams as these teams grappled with adapting work practices to new technologies and the opportunities these technologies promised.

Findings: From studies of design and construction practices with Building Information Modeling and energy modeling, the authors show that given the constructed nature of  models and the loose-coupling of project teams, these team organizational practices need  to mirror the modeling requirements. Second, looking at distributed teams, whose interaction is mediated by technology, the authors argue that virtual world visualizations
enhance discovery, while distributed AEC teams also need more traditional forms of 2D abstraction, sketching, and gestures to support integrated design dialogue. Finally, in information exchange research the authors found that models and data have their own logic and structure and as such require creativity and ingenuity to exchange data across systems. Taken together, these streams of research suggest that process innovation is  brought about by people developing new practices.

Originality: In this paper the authors argue that technology alone does not change practice. People who modify practices with and through technology create process innovation. 

The Potential of Networked Solidarity

This chapter argues that the concerns of propaganda, voice, and democracy that characterized the rise of communication and media studies as disciplines were anchored in a set of twentieth-century liberal ideals that presumed the key role that information plays in people’s lives. This chapter argues that media and communication scholars need to update their theories for the twenty-first century. Both the election of Trump and the ‘Brexit’ referendum in the UK are case studies how twentieth century ideas about information, media and democracy are no longer sufficient to anchor contemporary media and communication scholarship. This chapter suggests a corrective by means an early twentieth century thinker who has not been used widely in media and communication, Emile Durkheim. By reintroducing the metaphor of organic and mechanical solidarity, this chapter argues that empathy and social cohesion might be alternates for intellectual anchors for our field for the future.

  • Neff, Gina. “The Potential of Networked Solidarity: Communication at the End of the Long Twentieth Century” in Pablo Boczkowski and Zizi Papacharissi, eds. Trump and the Media. MIT Press.

Agency in the Digital Age

Recent advancements in technology challenge our fundamental notions of human power and agency. Tools and techniques including machine learning, artificial intelligence, and chatbots may be capable of exercising complex “agentic” behaviors (Dhar, 2016). Advanced technologies are capable of communicating with human beings in an increasingly sophisticated manner. Ranging from artificial chat partners through the commercial algorithms of social media to cutting-edge robots, these encounters with interactive machines often result in a complex and intimate relationship between users and technologies (Finn, 2017). For instance, people now may have their own virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Other commercial technological agents “help” people find new movies on Netflix or friends on Facebook. Robotic companions, like Huggable developed by Cynthia Lynn Breazeal at MIT, can read human emotions and react to them accordingly. Chatbots have long evoked reactions from people that can be used therapeutically for psychological counselling and now these tools are being rolled out as apps to help people cope with anxiety and depression (Lien, 2017; Neff and Nagy, 2016). Such developments present a quandary for scholars of communication. Does the agency of the people and, increasingly, of things that we chose to communicate with matter? This question prompts us to urge communication scholars to develop a better definition of agency and more clarity on how agency is enacted in practice within complex, technologically-mediated interactions.

  • Neff, Gina & Nagy, Peter. “Agency in the Digital Age: Using Symbiotic Agency to Explain Human–Technology Interaction” in Zizi Papacharissi, ed. The Networked SelfHuman Augmentics, Artificial Intelligence, Sentience. Routledge. 

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