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Christina's LIS Rant
Monday, November 28, 2005
  Extending and reapplying Ye and Kishida's view of learning in OSS communities to the blogosphere
Extending and reapplying Ye and Kishida’s view of learning in OSS communities to the blogosphere

I blogged earlier about the prevalence of legitimate peripheral participants (aka lurkers) in various online communities.  A type of community in which peripheral participants play an important role is open source software (OSS) communities.  Although all participants in these communities by definition have equal access to the source and to make contributions, not all have the ability, time, or motivation to do so.  In fact, over time researchers of OSS communities have divided up participants into roles.  Researchers differ on the names and numbers of roles, but there are common themes.  There are participants who simply download and use the software.  Others who report bugs.  Others who only fix bugs.  Others who are developers.  Finally, there are generally core members or project leaders who have some sort of ownership or leadership role (See Ye and Kishida section 2.1).

Participants join OSS communities to get software; but, also, in fact, to learn how to program.  They essentially look inside the black box to see the gears working and are involved in distributed apprenticeship with the core members.  Furthermore, there is role transformation in OSS communities whereby software users become developers (Ye and Kishida, p.1).  Also, and importantly, the passive users provide incentive to the developers to continue to work on their program.  Ye and Kishida say, “Passive Users play a role similar to that of the audience in a theatrical performance who offers values, recognition, and applause to the efforts of actors” (p. 2).  Participants are encouraged to actively contribute to gain reputation and recognition, to practice the art, and to learn by doing
The viewpoint of learning as a motivation that intrinsically drives people to get involved in OSS development and that extrinsically rewards them with higher social status and larger influence in OSS communities is in parallel with a tradition of Eastern culture. Intellectual property is a very new concept in Eastern culture; instead, scholars have long pursued intellectual prevalence by commanding high recognition and respect from the people, especially the ruling class and intelligentsia, through the free distribution of their writings. Writings are treated as the heritage and public assets of the whole society and they are free to all. More importantly, all writings are open to interpretation. In fact, most scholars build their own theory and knowledge by commenting and annotating the writings of earlier scholars while they are reading. Although comments and annotations are often the products of the scholars’ own efforts of understanding, assessing, and learning the writings produced by others, they become free learning resources and inspire further modifications and interpretations. The hallmark of an established scholar is the authority of interpreting the writings of a well respected ancient scholar (e.g. Confucius), and only those who can integrate the ideas of their ancestors and contemporaries alike and convince others with their freely distributed writings can acquire such status. (section 5.4, emphasis mine)

So combine the above with Efimova’s legitimized theft (Efimova et al 2004) (reminder:  she also talks about learning by doing, seeing the process, time-shifting apprenticeship – using blogs on the intranet for this distributed apprenticeship).

My points: 1) motivation to blog – also to learn by doing, learn via being part of the conversation 2) do we draw people into the blogosphere like we should?  Do we allow role transformation from reader to active blogger? 3) still about blogs bcs. reputation and recognition are there with your comment/post (not wikis) 4) like OSS, low barriers to becoming a blogger, perhaps some barrier to becoming an oft-linked-to blogger?

References
Efimova, Lilia, Sebastian Fiedler, Carla Verwijs, and Andy Boyd. 2004. Legitimised theft: Distributed apprenticeship in weblog networks. In I-KNOW 04.

Ye, Yunwen and Kouichi Kishida. 2003. Toward an understanding of the motivation open source software developers. In ICSE '03: Proceedings of the 25th international conference on software engineering, 419-429. Washington, DC: IEEE Computer Society. DOI: 10.1109/ICSE.2003.1201220
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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