Wednesday, January 30, 2013

danah boyd ASTD Tech Knowledge Key Note #astdtk13

These are my liveblogged notes from ASTD Tech Knowledge 2013 Opening Keynote kicking off today January 29, 2013 in San Jose, California.  Apologies for typos and incoherence.

danah boyd
Microsoft Research
Networked Learned: How Tomorrow’s Workers Will Challenge Today’s Organizations

Thinking through organizational change that matters.

She has been tudying teenagers for the last decade: from Friendster to Facebook to fragmented apps today of Instagram, Tumblr, etc…

Interested in the inflections where technology meets with society

What is the culture around the production of new technologies?

How technology sector has radically changed its way of working.

Transformation happening around the boundaries of organizations. We used to think of people working in contained organizations.

Young people are saying this makes no sense.  In a networked world why would you only talk to people in your org? Why not talk to everyone?

Young people assume information flows faster. Where you don’t keep secrets from people who can help you. This is confusing and counter to organizations.

Young people find ways of challenging the status quo of how boundaries work.

Technology Sector
In last 15 years, a shift in how programming happens and how it’s changed the industry.

Back in the day you read a book on programming and you followed the rules. And you slowly understood the code through simple implementation.

She studied computer science – where they had a formal planning process.  How will I use this code in the future? Compiling code took time – you made sure your code was perfect.  It was very formalistic.

About 10 years ago, the way people coded changed.  It didn’t take hours to compile. Young people were taking code from all over the place and shoved it together. And they didn’t know how it worked. Building collages of code.  Frankenmonsters of code.

This was alien to software engineering. This is not how you’re supposed to code.
Now you have ecosystems where people share code (GetHub) – the process of sharing has become part of the process of building.

Code is now a social, communal, collaborative process.  This practice of sharing has created reorgs in major start ups.

You will find co-working spaces – tons of people from competing companies sitting side by side and working together.  People who “shouldn’t” be talking together because they work for competing orgs…There are no cubes – open space to encourage conversation.

Companies do this because sharing knowledge builds up everyone. This is disruptive!

Geeks are really social in term sof engaging in certain activities.  They don’t stay at organizations for that long. The average tenure in Silicon Valley is around 3 years. They switch jobs to learn new skills. Because they are highly social networked.

A lot of this is happening off hours – outside the core of the workforce. In NY there are “data drinks” – the social networks become the fabric of the tech industry.

Outside of tech sector, the idea of people moving from company to company, spending hours after hours to network, sharing code – is

How do they understand the world of public vs. private.

4chan (the underbelly of the Internet – not for work! A community that creates deeply problematic content – but also fun content. Started by a 15 year old boy).

In order to look at 4chan, you can only see what’s on the front page. Once they scroll off the front page, they disappear and are gone forever. He did this because he was in his bedroom and didn’t want his mom to know. It became part of the culture for 4chan. And this is where the meme started – lolcatz.    People repost, reown, modify.

Rickrolling started on 4chan – “I got rickrollled!”

A culture of pranking and punkstering.

Anonymous emerged out of 4chan in response to Scientology.

These people are trying to hack the ATTENTION ECONOMY. They mess with the flow of attention in society.  They play with the status quo and play with the boundaries of Internet culture.

Remix culture – let’s take Monty Python Holy Grail and mix it with Star Wars. Oblivious to copyright, but finding ways to engage and play online.

Teenagers on Twitter, Instagram, with millions of followers. They’ve created an ecosystem that exceeds the adults.

These teenagers live in a world where they are not let out of the house.  So young people are trying to find some place where they have control – where they have control in public.  Finding a space where they have some level of power.

They see the Internet as their own.

We see teenagers going public, but this doesn’t mean they’ve given up their privacy. Privacy is not control of information; it’s the ability to control a social situation. It requires understanding the social situation well enough to control it.

Ability to achieve privacy in these spaces.  They want to be in public, but to not always be public.

“Hiding in plain sight.” Teenagers know that they can’t control the access to the content, but they can control the access to meaning (by using in jokes) – danah shares a story of a teenager of Facebook (whose mom is also on FB and comments a lot in a lame, mom way). So instead of posting the sad song lyrics to show how sad she’s feeling, because she doesn’t want her mom to overreact she posts lyrics to Life of Brian “Always look on the bright side of life.” Her mom thinks she’s having a great day; her friends get the joke and send her txt messages.

So how do we think about the 21st century?
Loose ties that get reinforced. People making sense of a networked public.  This is a radical shift.

15-20 years ago we organized by groups….now we’re organizing through networks. 

Success in today’s workforce is about being networked in a way that makes sense.  How do you build relationships that help you sustain the right kinds of connections?

In traditional higher-ed, the elite college in the US – not a place to learn skills. Professors give horrible lectures on esoteric subjects. They teach so they can do their research. Why people go to those institutions is really about social networking. Negotiating the dynamics of the dorm room – you start to build relationships that help sustain the elite connections of our country.

But this has gotten messier now with social media. Young people find their network of people like them even before they get on campus. So they’re rebuilding homogeny. This is dangerous as a long term practice.  We see people on social networks connected with people who are MOST LIKE THEM.

On LinkedIn you see this.  Google’s application form you fill out all the people you already know at Google.  They are asking “are you like us?”  Because they might stay longer with them, too.

People recommend people who are like them.

So we are reinforcing homogeneity.

We need to train people about thinking how DIVERSE their networks are.

Start up networks in the late 90s – they got to know each other but no reach beyond their world.

We see certain industries contract…how do you take your skills and apply them to a new sector, outside of your field?

As new educational technologies are coming into your landscape – MOOC, automated instruction.  Making learning more accessible to a larger group of people. But we lose the ability to build networks. When you’re learning together you’re building relationships.

As you build skills, how to you build social networks and relationships?

Kids who live at home in college – we’re losing the weaving of networks and connections.

When we see young people experiementing with networks – we want to encourage them.  Help people connect with networks. And yet young people are told not to meet strangers.

We need to meet people who are NOT LIKE YOU in order to build and learn.

Building out relationships through social networking is not just an HR issue – it’s connected to your ability to become a lifelong learner. Exposing people to other people who know what they don’t know.

Grow your networks to expose you to possibilities.

How to help people build skills and make connections?

We may need disruption to help grow things (e.g., outsiders coming into your organization).

How do we prepare learners for the skills of the future, but also how do we prepare them to engage with the ecosystem?

Questions from the crowd

Mobility – teenagers have very little control over their time.  Mobile phones don’t give them mobility (because their lives are so scheduled), but it provides interstitial connection. Provides social grooming – they’re saying nothing, but maintaining a meaningful relationship because they can’t be together (“hi. What are you doing.” “nothing” etc.)  Kids aren’t allowed to run around time anymore.  You’re reliant on your parents to drive you around. Even if you’re allowed out, your friends probably aren’t. So teenagers are more organized around PCs or mobile phones. 

Go through your Twitter list and see who you’re following. And then go out there and find someone who is radically different than you. Make sure your network on twitter is full of different voices. It shapes how we think, keep it broad.  

Diversity within workforces – more diverse teams outperform less diverse teams.  More diverse teams perceive themselves to be underperforming homogenous teams. AND they perceive themselves to be less happy.  So how do you explode out diversity, even when it makes you uncomfortable.

Strategies to help your employees move beyond their network? (The woman who asks this question works in tech sector and says her org hires people from same colleges/universities – so her challenge is to help them broaden their network).  Idea: Here are a list of people on Twitter to follow that are ALL different.

Coding Freedom – a book about the hyperindividualistic culture of programmers and open source software – the tension.
How do we incentivize people collectively vs. individualization?
Can you get a team to buy in to be collectively evaluated?

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