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So, you're a cowboy astronaut millionaire? Welcome aboard.

Greetings, Emerging Tech collaborators, I'm Jim O. It is my great pleasure to participate in this unique project, and hope our exchange over the next few months will be productive for all. By way of brief introduction, I have been working as a Geographic Information Systems professional in various capacities since the year 2000, and am currently serving as Operations Manager at a specialist research/historical data firm serving the environmental site assessment industry. I am a returning student and chose this particular course for the opportunity to combine three topics (STC, Web 2.0, and the I35W bridge) that are both personally interesting and professionally applicable. If I find some time between coursework and the office, I'll be trying to get out to play or watch some hockey, or maybe just get out of the city for a day.

My technological background includes extensive coursework in and application of desktop GIS technology, and I consider myself a well-versed user of the web and PC software. I've been an active user of all sorts of online applications (message boards, AIM, eBay, mapping apps, gaming, social networking, Google Reader,etc...) since the mid to late 1990s, but my attention to the new developments has lapsed over the past two to three years, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to get back up to speed on the latest and greatest.

To the reading...

As an individual with my own ambitions but also in the role of a semi-corporate manager, this week's chapter of Connect! presents an interesting dichotomy of ideas. The conceptual shift to web work and “bursty? productivity, away from traditionally structured modes of doing business, offers an ideal of personal development and lifestyle freedom that does not require sacrificing the expected financial and professional rewards of the existing knowledge work infrastructure. The concept reads rather like a renewal of the initial promise of telecommuting, with a more tangible chance for wide adoption via the ever-improving tools and accessibility of the web. From a personal standpoint, I would consider that to be very appealing. At the same time though, underlying the enthusiastic language of Connect!, it strikes me that the bursty protocol demands much from any would-be practitioner.

Being connected at all times is relatively simple, but the demonstration of authenticity (pg. XV & 10) without personal contact presents a new challenge. Translating a history of successes and experiential learning (ie, failures) and demonstrating technical, problem-solving, and innovational credentials authentically to a truly global audience, all the while protecting other aspects of personal identity, is no basic task. Third parties to these past successes and failures (ie, employers and clients) often have vested interests in preventing exposure of either. Even under Web 2.0, a website, blog, or profile can not rewrite itself to spin these factors for each potential reader's unique perspective, and simple interpretation of language can create widely differing (mis?)understandings of any single point or experience. Great diligence is thus required simply to establish and maintain an authentic web worker identity, toward the greater goal of keeping an opportunistic door open. Skipping over the additional concern of personal financial and professional risk for the sake of space, all of this also assumes a web worker who does have some experience or capabilities to share in this environment of open collaboration. What then is the role of the entry-level person without experience, credentials, or technical expertise? Are they to exist as lurkers until they agglomerate enough knowledge to fully participate and sustain themselves as web workers? One might easily come to the conclusion that the knowledge work path is still requisite in establishing a foundation for most individuals interested in making the transition to web work.

A point too on the other side of the coin: the employer's perspective. Not all web workers will go off to pure independence through entrepreneurship and freelance work. Many if not most are sure to remain within some form of corporate environment. Moving to a bursty model of productivity for even a part of a company's workforce introduces new risks and challenges at the organizational level, possibly adding to or even conflicting with the risk and challenge for each individual. Zelenka touches upon some of these organizational downsides in Connect!, but in my opinion the Carr blog raises the point more directly: “Implicit in the ecstatic visions of Web 2.0 is the hegemony of the amateur.“ No matter how many voices are out there offering support, advice, content, and data, accountability does have to be maintained, or projects will fail. Failure costs time and money, and corporate tolerance for either is limited at best. More importantly though, professional judgement and ethical standards of practice exist at the end of the decision-making ladder, and somebody's signature will go on the end product (contract, report, policy document, or whatever). With legal and professional liabilities overarching our entire culture, a web alias or a .com address is simply not a viable substitute for the actual knowledge work upon which final decisions must be made and products generated.

Last, I'd like to put the above in relief against something I noticed in Connect!. In the introduction (pg. XVII), Zelenka identifies the book as a “manifesto and practical guide for the working world...?. Manifesto is a relatively strong term, and I believe it does reflect the author's core purpose in regard to furthering the idea of the bursty web worker. However, later on (pg. 21), after other comparatively minor caveats throughout the text, she adds:

“One style is not better than the other, but the bursty style is likely to be undervalued because it looks unproductive and because it can be unproductive. There are no guarantees that your bursty experiments will always or ever succeed and you may lose credibility...?

While certainly realistic, this also looks rather like a large hedge to me. Regardless, nothing is black and white, and I think these two remarks from the text help illustrate the inherent uncertainty of everything under the Web 2.0 umbrella.

Thank you readers, and I look forward to seeing your other takes on the blog.
Cheers-
Jim

Comments

Hello. My name is Amber. I am not quite as versed in the tech world as you, but I hope to be. About Zalenka, I believe the end point she made was the busy-bursty approach, would you agree? She did state "Most people will find that they need to use busy and bursty styles at different times. In uncertain and ambiguous situations, there's no way to know whether what you do is going to lead you down a useless road or not" (p. 17). I really liked your blog. You were very articulate and had the readings well understood. I thought you came across a little harsh at first but the more I read, the more I understood and agreed. You are one of a few people in this class with quite a bit of knowledge. I very much appreciate you sharing it with us.

I thought you might want to know who "anonymous" was if they comment on your blog.

You make some great points about the liabilities of this sort of approach. Given the professionalism stages of most students, I'm particularly interested in the questions you ask about how newbies are to break in to this sort of work. I'm thinking I should write about my own experiences soon for you folks, since this is a work style I migrated to very gradually over the course of about five years. Hmmm.

Hello Jim, I saw on the Moodle that you have pointed out where we could get free online version of Wikinomics and Bound by Law, and then Krista discovered that Everything is Miscellaneous is available online as well. Thank you for pointing those out!

From reading your blog, it seems as though your work is very, very interesting! I like how you tie your work into this course. What I remembered the most from reading your blog is when you wrote: "Not all web workers will go off to pure independence through entrepreneurship and freelance work. Many if not most are sure to remain within some form of corporate environment. Moving to a bursty model of productivity for even a part of a company's workforce introduces new risks and challenges at the organizational level, possibly adding to or even conflicting with the risk and challenge for each individual." Change can be very scary as it involves new risks and challenges. I remember during a class I took last semester when we had a guest speaker, the guest speaker said that change is needed to keep up with the advances in this world. I think change is super scary sometimes, and then I think back to my class motto in high school: "Take a risk." . . . and it makes me feel better and more confident at times.