I sat by the river and watched the fish swimming slowly among the rocks. I knew I didn’t need to be anywhere else doing anything else. I had no Internet connection. No one else was around. It is only by the peacefulness of these places that we know the chaos and conflicts of the other places.
I did do a bit of work this week. I’ve been thinking about how to create a game plan that allows us to join Programmes, Projects and Product, and the various teams and stakeholders. It represents the people involved, the value creation steps they’ll take, the outputs they produce, etc. So my next step is to find someone to present it to and validate it’s usefulness.
Product management in charities
I didn’t get as much done on my Interface, Integrate, Iterate emails about the roles and benefits of product management in charities as I would have like to have done, but I am making progress. I don’t think I’ll hit my target of completing them by the end of the month, but I’m still trying. Then I need some charity digital/product people to test them with and see if they make sense.
The end of blockchain
Not the technology, just the module I’ve been studying. We had our final lecture and I’ve started revising for the exam. Once that’s over I’ll have finished all the module study for my masters and achieved 40% of my grade, so now just the other 60% from my dissertation.
Some stuff I thought about:
I saw a poster for Citizen’s Advice in Torpoint which explained how in simple, clear language the one and only way to get in touch to get help. Send a text message (the simplest and most prevalent channel available) and they’ll call you back to arrange an appointment. The poster could of also had a phone number, and an email address, and QR code, and a web address, but none of that is necessary. Rather than offering lots of ways to get in touch, which could confuse people and then requires all those different systems to be joined up, much better to offer a single simple way into the service. I’d love to see the metrics on the SMS booking service.
Citizen’s Advice’s vision states “You won’t ever struggle to get help from us. Our services will be available when you need them in a way that works for you”, and this poster is a great example of how the vision a charity holds can work on the ground, in a real life situation.
What do charities compete with?
Wayne Murray tweeted about how charities are in competition with Netflix and pubs when trying to engage people. There are so many ways to look at this. It’s undeniably true that we all only have a limited amount of time and attention so if we spend it at the pub we can’t also spend it volunteering with a charity. If people consider supporting a charity as on par with watching TV and socialising, then maybe there is direct competition. But if donating time and/or money to a charity is an extraordinary act for most people, then maybe it doesn’t compete with ordinary activities. And if you look at it as ‘doing good for myself’ (relaxing, socialising) and ‘doing good for others’ (supporting a charity), then maybe they are both worthy activities that have their place, which may or may not be in competition.
Can a charity live without a website?
James Heywood tweeted an interesting question about whether a charity can live without a website, and what some of the positives and negatives of doing so might be. It made me think how interesting it would be to take two similar small charities and create different digital strategies with the same objectives, where one strategy uses a website and the other doesn’t, and see which performs best.
Mark Weiser wrote The Computer for the 21st Century thirty years ago. In it he predicts the success of wearable tech as a means of collecting and presenting data, and explains why Virtual Reality never really took off. His premise is that in order for computers to be fully adopted they need to become unnoticeable, to “weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”. Virtual reality takes people into the computer’s world rather than the computer coming into our world, so for all it’s usefulness it can never be as widely used as wearable devices which as easy to forget about but continue to do their computational work. Why does it matter? If he’s right, then maybe the idea serves as a guide for new and emerging technologies such as Voice, automated vehicles, blockchain, etc., and our adoption and response to it. The more a technologies blends into everyday life, the more it we be adopted.
Skills for the 21st Century
Online courses that that teach how to do something, e.g., take notes, write, produce newsletters, etc., are great but really what we need is learning opportunities for developing the top twenty skills for the 21st century.
Judgment and Decision Making
Fluency of Ideas
Complex Problem Solving
Education and Training
Management of Personnel Resources
Administration and Management
I think there might be a new project in there somewhere to figure out how to learn these kinds of skills…
It is generally accepted that emerging technologies act as enabling forces for economic, social, and business transformation (Cohen & Amorós, 2014; Paschen, Kietzmann, & Kietzmann, in press, in Morkunas et al, 2019). Morkunas et al (2019) predict that blockchain technologies will “challenge existing business models and offer opportunities for new value creation”, whilst the UK Government Chief Scientific Officer described distributed ledger technology as a “potential explosions of creative potential that catalyse exceptional levels of innovation“ that can “reform our financial markets, supply chains, consumer and business-to-business services, and publicly-held registers” (2016). If these predictions come to fruition then we can expect Distributed Ledger Technology and Blockchain to have considerable impact on business and the future of work.
This essay attempts to reach an answer to the question ‘What is the role of DLT and blockchain in the future of work?’ The question is explored through looking at recent literature for a definition of the future of work, how emerging technologies, specifically Distributed Ledger Technology and Blockchain, are expected to affect the nature of work, and which sectors are likely to be most impacted. The discussion considers examples of the use, issues and challenges for DLT and blockchain in the top three affected sectors. In drawing a conclusion about the role of DLT and Blockchain in the future of work I argue that emerging technologies have an amplified impact where more than just a single technology is applied, and that DLT and blockchain are likely to have a greater impact on some sectors than others.
What is the future of work?
Work in the 21st century is entering a Fourth Industrial Revolution, a revolution built on an increasing number of emerging and interacting technologies that is “more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen” (Schwab & Samans, 2016). ‘The future of work’ is a current and ongoing debate about how every occupation in every sector is undergoing a fundamental transformation as a result of the impacts of emerging technologies and digital transformation. The debate is wide-ranging, with far-reaching consequences, spanning from the offer of benefits for employers and employees augmented by technology (Grabowski, 2018) to mass economic disruption from the loss of jobs (Ernst et al, 2019). While some jobs are threatened by redundancy and others grow rapidly, existing jobs are also going through a change in the skill sets required to do them (Schwab & Samans, 2016). Some sectors can expect greater change than others.
What factors will affect the future of work?
Along with the changes to work and working life brought about by technology there are wider trends such as globalisation of labour markets through the diffusion of outsourcing and offshoring, and job polarisation (Berg et al, 2018) that impact the future of work debate. For the purposes of this paper we cannot consider all of these factors and will instead focus on the potential impacts of emerging technologies in general, and Distributed Ledger Technologies and Blockchain specifically as we try to understand what role they may play in the future of work. However, one closely related trend that is worth discussing is the increase of flexible working arrangements as shown in Figure 1. The graph from the World Economic Forum shows 44% of respondents stated that the changing nature of work was the greatest driver for change across all industries. This matches with the findings from Berg et al (2018) where the two most important reasons for crowdworking were to “complement pay from other jobs” (32%) and because they “prefer to work from home” (22%). This suggests people are looking for more flexibility in their working life and turning to technology to enable it.
Figure 1: Demographic and socio-economic drivers of change, industries overall
Source: The future of jobs: employment, skills, and workforce strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum.
Which technologies will affect the future of work?
The World Economic Forum report lists the nine technologies it’s respondents considered drivers of change (Fig. 2). Noticeably, DLT & Blockchain are not specifically listed as technologies that are expected to drive change. It could be argued that DLT & Blockchain technology has yet to achieve the maturity and adoption necessary for a study of this breadth to recognise its potential impact. This is backed-up by the British Standards Institution report which states the challenges of Blockchain adoption as including: “lack of clarity on the terminology and perceived immaturity of the technology, perceived risks in early adoption and likely disruption to existing industry practices, and insufficient evidence on business gains and wider economic impact” (Deshpande, 2017). DLT and Blockchain should be expected to impact the future of work, but perhaps those expectations are not arising just yet.
Figure 2: Technology drivers of change, industries overall
Source: The future of jobs: employment, skills, and workforce strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum.
If Distributed Ledger Technologies and Blockchain are not yet impacting businesses and the future of work in a generic way like mobile and cloud are, then which specific industries are being affected by DLT and Blockchain?
Which sectors are likely to be most affected by Blockchain?
The Global Blockchain Benchmarking Study (Hileman & Rauchs, 2017) (Fig.3) shows how blockchain is at use by different industry sectors, with the banking & finance industry the highest user, followed by government & public goods, and then insurance. Those sectors which use Blockchain the most stand to be the most affected by its use, and so it is these sectors that we should expect DLT and blockchain to play more of a role in shaping the future of work.
Figure 3. Sectors currently using blockchain.
Source: Global Blockchain Benchmarking Study
The following discussion looks at the role DLT and blockchain may play in the future of work in the top three sectors identified in the Global Blockchain Benchmarking Study, including examples and considering some of the challenges and issues.
Distributed Ledger Technology and Blockchain in the Banking and finance sector
The finance sector is being disrupted by DLT and blockchain (Buitenhek, 2016., Natarajan et al, 2017, Treleaven et al, 2017, Hassani et al, 2018). This seems undeniable. Blockchain technology serves a finance use case very well, offering as it does an immutable record of transactions and means of solving the double-spend problem (Nakamoto, 2008). Services such as Corda which “enables businesses in Banking, Capital Markets, Trade Finance, Insurance and beyond to transact directly and in strict privacy using smart contracts, reducing transaction and record-keeping costs and streamlining business operations” (Corda, 2021) demonstrate how large corporations in highly regulated industries are beginning to adopt blockchain technologies.
However, blockchain is not without its weaknesses of security, scalability, and efficiency (Dinh & Thai, 2018) which present considerable challenges in a banking and finance setting. Adoption of new technologies is always dependent on multiple factors, but perhaps it is precisely its disruptiveness that presents a challenge to the adoption of DLT and blockchain in the finance industry. As Tapscott and Tapscott (2017) state, the finance industry suffers from being “centralized, which makes it resistant to change… but the solution to this innovation logjam has emerged: blockchain.”
Let’s consider a case study of how one start-up is using blockchain to provide a disruptive microfinance solution.
Blockchain in Microfinance
“As the fintech landscape evolves at an unprecedented speed, Mastercard provides the infrastructure and assets to help fintech innovators grow and ultimately bring more people into the digital economy,” said Amy Neale, Senior Vice President, Fintech & Enablers. (Mastercard, 2021). One of those innovators is Brazil-based Moeda Seeds, a digital banking, payment and micro credit services powered by blockchain. “Since its founding in 2017, the company has used blockchain technology and has focused on the unbanked and under-banking population in Brazil“ (Moeda, 2021). They use blockchain technology to decrease lending costs, allowing microfinance lenders to send money directly to the recipients without the need for various middlemen (Hofer, 2018).
Microfinance Institutions, like Moeda, are organizations that provide small loans to borrowers who typically lack collateral, steady employment, or a verifiable credit history and therefore do not have access to traditional commercial banking (Coli et al, 2021). The use of Blockchain technology in microfinance introduces a number of benefits that are difficult to achieve through traditional financial institutions and technologies, including:
Transparency for investors to monitor repayments.
Reduced transaction fees by removing the need for intermediary organisations.
Builds an immutable and publicly available credit history for each lender (Adebaki, 2019).
In the case of Moeda, blockchain plays a role in the future of work for the Brazilian farmers, enabling them to fund their businesses without the need for traditional finance mechanisms such as capital or credit history.
Distributed Ledger Technology and Blockchain’s role in Government & Public Goods
Distributed Ledger Technologies and Blockchain have a role to play in government by performing a range of activities, including:
verification of documents such as licenses, proofs of records, transactions, processes or events such as birth of a child,
movement of assets such as transferring money from one entity to another after some work conditions are met,
asset ownership registers such as land registries, property titles and other types of ownership of physical assets and
management of identities like e-identities for citizens and city residents. (Ojo & Adebayo)
Blockchain can be used to address inefficiencies in government systems to increase the effectiveness of public service activities (Ojo & Adebayo). An example of this can be found in the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology’s proof-of-concept for providing physicians with a means to obtain licenses to practice in multiple states. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, built on blockchain, not only offers advantages for the physicians but also strengthens public protection by enhancing the ability of states to share investigative and disciplinary information (Thomas, 2018).
The challenges around government departments adopting emerging technologies such as blockchain include justifying the use of public money and whether blockchain serves sufficient use cases. Estonia has been testing blockchain for limited use cases such as land registry to improve data integrity but has clearly stated that investment in other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence is a greater priority (Govchain, 2019).
Distributed Ledger Technology and Blockchain in the insurance industry
DLT and blockchain continue to be explored in the insurance industry as a means of achieving the vision where “data is linked automatically to digital contracts which can trigger automated processes. Everyone trusts the accuracy of the data and can share it easily. World-class encryption provides the necessary security, and there’s a clear, immutable audit trail to underpin end-to-end underwriting and claims governance.” (EY, 2017). EY’s Insurwave, a blockchain enabled marine insurance product, aims to “deliver major gains in transparency, efficiency and auditability in the insurance value chain.” (EY, 2017). Replacing traditional databases with a blockchain creates immutable records allowing for better risk assessments on the part of insurers and quicker claims payouts for shippers. The operational efficiency gained by such solutions reduces the cost of moving information within and between companies. However, an issue to be faced by the insurance industry as a whole is how to work with regulators to ensure legal requirements and regulations evolve in line with new use cases for the technology. Clearly this is a policy issue rather than a technology one but could stand in the way of blockchain solutions becoming the standard across the insurance industry.
This essay started with a definition of the future of work debate as a response to emerging technologies and digital transformation, and considered which sectors are likely to be the most affected by the use of DLT & blockchain. The discussion looked at the use of blockchain in the finance sector, government and insurance industry, considering some current uses, challenges and opportunities. From looking at this we can draw the following conclusions:
DLT & blockchain will have a far greater role in changing some industries than it does in others. The effects will be greater in sectors where multiple organisations need access to the same data and for that data to be trusted as a single source of truth.
DLT & blockchain is likely to change the nature of the relationship between businesses, transforming aspects where a trust-based relationship exists. It has the potential to enable businesses to move away from centralised authorities.
All sectors and industries suffer similar challenges with the adoption of DLT & blockchain, including regulation, understanding and clearly defined use cases.
The effects on the future of work are likely to be considerably more profound where DLT & blockchain intersect with other emerging technology such as the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence.
Distributed ledger technologies and blockchain, as two of many emerging technologies, can be expected to have a contributory role in changing the future of work, and it’s clear how these technologies can be used in specific use cases, but it would be less prudent to conclude a general direct impact in the way that automation technologies, for example, can be expected to affect employment and the types of jobs available.
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I had some time to begin to think about the work our team will be undertaking over the next few quarters. Second to ‘what’ work we do is ‘how’ we do it. The upsteam and downstream coordination is an interesting challenge to ensure that change is introduced at the pace it can be adopted. I have a sense this is going to feel like slowing down from how we’ve been working over the past year but global optimisation is almost always better than local optimisation.
There have been a few conversations and situations this week where the underlying theme seemed to be about the stability and change experienced by a group of people. It seems paradoxical but at the same time completely obvious, to say that stability enables change to be accepted and adopted. Too much change, in these cases, in the membership of teams prevents effective and efficient progress. It stops ownership, accountability and responsibility in it’s tracks. I wonder if the need for the stability of teams changes with the number of teams that make up an organisation, so, can an organisation achieve its strategic goals if it has some stable and some unstable teams, and where is the threshold? How much instability can an organisation absorb?
I’ve been working on my assignment about what role blockchain might play in the future of work, and the one of the conclusions I’ve reached is that blockchain will have a far greater affect where it converges with other emerging technology such as artificial intelligence and Internet of things devices. This feels like a bit of a revelation to me. I see lots of talk about how AI is going to affect is in the future, what self-driving vehicles might do to transportation, etc., but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about the effects of all these different technologies when they are put together.
Business processes and social structures at work
On one hand, business processes are meant to codify and formalise the way things like decision-making work, to reduce variability and ensure predictability and perhaps even fairness. And on the other hand, social structures are built around influencing people, encouraging cooperation and collaboration to get the right decisions made. How do these two things intersect? Are they both necessary? Do they conflict? I’ve previously thought that hierarchies are good for authority and networks good for information flow, but what structures facilitate decisions?
I read a bit of this student guide to teamwork. It has some useful references and definitions such as Hughes and Jones (2011) defining “what makes a team something different from any other group of people” as sharing some defining characteristics: a shared collective identity, common goals, interdependence in terms of assigned tasks or outcomes, and distinctive roles within the team. I wonder if work place culture is sometimes anti-intellectual and that we get ideas about things like how teams work from something someone read on a blog post about a book that was based on one person’s experience rather than our understanding being based on research and expertise, so having easy references like this book help my thinking.
I’ve started reading Colin Wilson’s The Outsider. In it Wilson describes the outsider through the works of Kakfa, Camus, Hemmingway and others, as someone alienated from society by their own indifference, as a anti-hero who rejects civilised standards and his duty to society in pursuit of some kind of existential freedom. He says, “freedom is not simply being allowed to do what you like; it is intensity of will, and it appears under any circumstances that limit man and arose his will to live”.
I’m interested in the idea of the outsider in modern digital times. If Wilson was writing today would he still be looking at literature for descriptions of the experience of the outsider or would it be hacker culture, anti-establishment peer-to-peer networks, and social media? How does existential alienation from mainstream culture take place in an always-on inter-connected world? Does it manifest as self-imposed exile to the worlds of games, or absorption in tech-startup fantasies of utopia? So much to think about.
This week has been about working through ways and means of coordinating information from different sources to create a single cohesive picture. A big part of that is around bolstering our digital safeguarding response in the short term and figuring how the picture changes into the future to affect a longer term response.
I’ve also put a lot of time into scoping the next version of the product we’re developing, understanding what problems we should be solving and being specific about which problems we aren’t tackling. I’ve approached it in more structured way than how we scoped the current version, partly because I’ve had more time but also because we’ve learned a lot about our capabilities over the last few months so I have a better idea about where to focus my attention.
Why we need a better understanding of problems
I wrote about how sometimes we have a tendency to jump to solutions, and often technology solutions, without truly understanding the problem we need to solve. I wrote it as a talk for a charity meetup that didn’t happen but as its something I believe strongly about I thought I’d add it to my blog so I don’t lose it.
I’ve started using Stand-up template in the journal app that Ross has been building. I’ve made various attempts at daily personal stand-up/journaling but it feels different when its a dedicated app. The challenge, regardless of how they are written, is in getting value back out of what was written. I haven’t quite figured that out yet but it’s something I’m thinking about.
1000 digital tools
The Ultimate Digital Tools List reached a thousand entries. I’m still unsure what to do with it, other than my creator tech/business models idea, but I’ll continue to add to it in case it becomes useful one day.
I posted my fourth Twitter thread of things I’ve read recently. Although each one takes a couple of hours but I find it quite useful to look back over the things I’ve read to remind myself why I was interested in it and I hope they are useful for others too.
This week I thought about:
‘Meaning, ‘constructed or created from a diverse range of available things’, bricolage might be the term that describes an idea I have about mixing methods and techniques together. As a ‘digital bricoleur’ we could bring together daily stand-ups from Scrum, storyboarding from Design Sprints, service safari from Service Design, etc., and so construct working practices made up of elements from a diverse range of frameworks and methodologies, each solving identified problems (which is the hard bit).
Why are strategy and tactics seen as opposites?
Sometimes when I hear people talk about strategy and tactics I sense an implication that strategy, and strategic thinking are seen as impressive important things whereas tactics are dismissed as unimportant and not worthy of consideration. I think the real skill of strategic thinking isn’t just in the big ideas and ambitious aims but in how all things are connected. Good strategic thinking is realistic and integrates the details that will make the strategy happen. I feel like there’s a version of S.M.A.R.T. thinking for creating strategy rather than setting objectives.
This week I read:
A body of knowledge
I’ve become a little enthralled with the Digital Practitioner’s Body of Knowledge, not just it’s really well written (it isn’t) but because of the challenge of what it takes to create such a thing. Where would you start with creating ‘a body of knowledge’? How would you decide what to include and what not to? How would you keep it up to date?
Paradox and conflict
Chaordic organisations are “self-organizing, adaptive, nonlinear complex system, whether physical, biological, or social, the behavior of which exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos or loosely translated to business terminology, cooperation and competition.” So many interesting ideas to get into.
The theory of multiple intelligence’s
The theory of multiple intelligence’s challenges the idea that intelligence can be measure linearly (low to high) by a single metric of logical thinking, and we should approaching understanding our intelligence(s) as mixes of visual, social, spatial, etc., intelligence’s. It seems obvious when you think about, but where I think it becomes interesting is in the ways the digital working methods and techniques can be adopted that make greater use of this mix of ways of thinking an learning.
Technological convergence, also known as digital convergence, is the tendency for technologies that were originally unrelated to become more closely integrated and even unified as they develop and advance. For example, watches, telephones, television, and computers began as separate and mostly unrelated technologies, but have converged in many ways into interrelated parts of a telecommunication and media industry, sharing common elements of digital electronics and software. The concept is roughly analogous to convergent evolution in biological systems, such that (for example) the ancestors of whales became progressively more like fish in outward form and function, despite not being fish and not coming from a fish lineage.
Culture, technology, and process in ‘media theories’: Toward a shift in the understanding of media in organizational research
The concept of ‘media’ can provide an anchor point for developing organizational theories about information and communication technologies, materiality, communication, and organizational change. However, to date, organizational research often takes the meaning of the term media for granted. This article therefore explores various conceptions of media, outlining how such theories can be used for advancing the conception of media in organizational research. Using three ideal-typical branches of conceptions of media, we explore key concerns regarding media in existing literature outside of organizational research. First, the culture and power branch problematizes how cultural practices and power structures are inscribed through media; second, the technology and infrastructure branch emphasizes the inherent ‘eigenlogik’ of media technology; and third, the process and change branch explores how existing economic and aesthetic conventions in media persist over time. Using organizational media in general and enterprise social media in particular we discuss how each of these three ideal-typical branches offer pathways for organizational research. Specifically we argue for shifting the use of the term media beyond merely describing tools for communication as media theories offer insights for understanding the longterm consequences of materiality and ontological co-constitution within sociomaterial assemblages