Category Archives: research

Assessing the Value of Corporate Blogs: A Social Capital Perspective

The following co-authored article appeared here: 0361-1434/$26.00 © 2010 IEEE
2 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION, VOL. 53, NO. 4, DECEMBER 2010

—CRAIG BAEHR, MEMBER, IEEE, AND KONSTANZE ALEX-BROWN
Abstract—This three-phased study examines corporate blog use, specifically the impact and value of blogs on organizational social capital and knowledge sharing at Dell Inc., a global computer manufacturer. The impact of social-mediated Web 2.0 technologies on organizational social capital has received limited attention in scholarship,possibly because of the inevident connection to measurable economic value and newness of the technology. Our findings indicate the corporate blog can be used as a sustainable forum leading to a shared understanding of organizational roles, increased sense of group cohesiveness, improved work processes, and fostering of professional and personal ties between employees in the organization.

Knowledge is embedded in the collective workforce of an organization and is highly dependent on human interaction to share and attribute value to that information. With the increasing level of information a worker encounters on a daily basis, the task of capturing tacit knowledge, properly contextualizing it, and distributing it across an organization has stretched the limits of human capacity. With the emergence of participatory technologies, organizations have invested in software and web-based tools for information and knowledge capturing, sharing, and reuse. They also allow for improved interaction, collaboration, and accessibility of structured and unstructured data in varying degrees of formality. Using these tools to capture and disseminate organizational knowledge can depend greatly on the social capital of the organization, through the informal relationships, networks, and communities formed by its workers.

Many corporations are using blogs, wikis, knowledge bases, and social networking sites as routine parts of their business operations. Examples such as Jammer, Twitter, Facebook, and various Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECMs), such as MOSS 2007, that include blogging and microblogging applications are ubiquitous in today’s workplace. Rockley notes that ECMs have evolved to include management of unstructured content and data such as email, blog posts, wiki entries, and even personal profile pages of social networking sites [1]. Manovich adds that metadiscourse and metacontent, such as tag clouds and social bookmarking capabilities, have also become important parts of these technologies [2]. Collaborative authoring is also collaborative knowledge sharing—along with legacy content, we have come to expect feedback, cross-posting, discussion, and comments as an essential part of the genre.

Blogs, as social networking tools, have become widely used in social and corporate settings. Blogs are websites (often participatory) that feature regular commentary and related content on a specific subject, which is usually presented in reverse chronological order. Blogs can contain textual, visual, multimedia, and even interactive content. Blogs have been studied as social genres that allow individuals and groups to share dialog on a specific subject. Miller and Shepherd argue the social blog genre has value through its immediacy, formal features, brevity, self-expressive content, and community development and involvement [3].While the blog’s initial function was primarily social
in nature, more recently, organizations have begun using blogs as networking and information-sharing tools, internally for employees and externally for customers and vendors. In organizational contexts, corporate blogs are more focused on knowledge sharing and information reuse. They emphasize efficient information delivery to large numbers of individuals and serve as a common knowledge
base. Tørning states that this type of blog serves as a “knowledge repository for getting information and for learning processes” [4, p. 2]. Workers must intrinsically invest in this communication technology, use it, contribute to its development, and see potential value in their efforts, from either an individual or an organizational perspective. The resulting products can create social capital within an organization, which connects the value of knowledge sharing to its impact on organizational efficiency and, ultimately, innovation. From a management perspective, integration and sustainability of these information products depend heavily on measuring and proving proving their bottom-line value to the organization.

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Trustworthiness and Objectivity in Varying Epistemological Assumptions

Trustworthiness in research tends to be discussed in extremes by the proponents of different research approaches, philosophies, and epistemological assumptions. In the below graphic, I attempt to show what I term the micro and macro levels at which trustworthiness can be achieved. For this post, I decided to take a deeper look at aspects of trustworthiness on the macro level, epistemological assumptions in particular, while only hinting at issues at the micro level. As micro-level trustworthiness I define the trustworthiness of the actual research article including but not limited to the content. Examples would be the researcher’s own ethos, adherence to established notions of organization, arrangement, form, format, layout conventions, and mechanics as well as perceived honesty, disclosure of limitations, treatment of human participants, etc., all are important elements contributing or detracting from trustworthiness. At the macro level, the focus is on epistemological assumptions, adherence to or deviance from traditionally recognized research approaches, the research institution the researcher is associated with, in general, the larger context the research is situated in. Continue reading Trustworthiness and Objectivity in Varying Epistemological Assumptions

Impact of the Corporate Blog on Social Capital

ATTW Presentation Abstract

Co-authored with Dr. Craig Baehr, Associate Professor, Texas Tech University

This study critically examines the results of a series of recent studies of corporate blog usage at Dell, Inc., a global computer manufacturer. The studies explore ways to assess the impact of blogs on organizational social capital. The corporate blog was introduced as one tool within a wider communication and collaboration-enabling Web 2.0 technology infrastructure, serving as a medium to capture and archive tacit knowledge, network, and share this collective knowledge, and to create a discussion-based community. Blog users were highly trained knowledge workers in geographically dispersed areas, including those in different time zones, remote employees, and those on frequent business travel. This kind of research is becoming increasingly important to organizations using participatory technologies to collect, share, and reuse information in innovative ways and to explore methods of measuring the social capital and the overall net value that these technologies create for organizations. To date, the impact of Web 2.0 technologies on internal organizational social capital has received little attention, possibly, because of the less evident connection to measurable, economic value for the organization. Our findings recommend innovative and practical ways of looking at measuring organizational social capital as a form of ROI. Defying easy measurement, social capital requires multiple indicators used and derived from the organizational context in which such a system operates. Measuring basic analytics such as page hits, time stamps, and number of posts only skims the surface of assessment and value of these products. Rather, this research advocates the use of a more holistic approach that considers this broad range of indicators, including structural, relational, and cognitive factors, which can lead to a more comprehensive assessment of social capital.

Subjectivism vs. empiricism―how does the conflict play out in Technical Communication?

How is knowledge created and who has the authority to speak? Are there truths that simply wait to be discovered or are the truths we perceive as such socially constructed? Research, as an epistemological process, not unlike everything else we do, must be understood in context, i.e., it cannot be conducted, discussed, or evaluated in isolation as if there were no perceived reality or system of order influencing it. While Nietzsche accounts for truths in general as allusions that we have simply forgotten to be allusions, and Aristotle based truth finding on syllogistic logic, Whatley, a religious apologist, uses science and logic for religious arguments to give them weight because he realized that that was the way to persuade the scientist. Continue reading Subjectivism vs. empiricism―how does the conflict play out in Technical Communication?

“Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions…” Nietzsche

What is your attitude toward empiricism? Is it possible to understand socially constructed knowledge through statistics? Or is empiricism more than statistics?

Passion and reason – Blyler and Charney. While Blyler passionately argues for radical, critical research, Charney takes the path of advocating a more rational, moderate, multi-method approach to research; one that acknowledges the shortcomings of each method in isolation, yet does not devalue any method in its entirety. During the reading of the passionately written, citation-heavy article by Blyler, I frequently was reminded of Foucault’s definition of discourse (read: rhetoric) as epistemic and as a form of social action. Blyler really calls for a sort of metadiscursive research approach that seems to have the ability to shed all discursive practice in which the researcher is embedded. To me that sounds super-human. Enter Nietzsche, alleging all truths to be allusions, a ‘fact’ (LOL) of which we are completely unaware, and, thus, rendering Blyler’s passionate call for the seeking of more accurate truths, founded in the realization of subjectivity and subject participation, also an allusion. Sigh. Continue reading “Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions…” Nietzsche