Assembly required: self-employed workers' informal work-learning in online communities

  • Author / Creator
    Thompson, Terrie Lynn
  • It seems that for many people, spaces on the web are an integral part of their lives. This may include seeking out learning opportunities in online communities. There is plenty of buzz about these cyberspaces whether they are part of new social media configurations or commercialized product-related spaces cultivated by enterprises. It is important to explore how online spaces may—or may not—create new locations of educational possibilities for workers. The subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, fusion of these technologies into work-learning practices warrants attention.

    This research project focuses on online communities as sites of learning, with an over-arching question of: How do self-employed workers experience informal work-related learning in an online community? Community can describe a gathering of people online that is organic and driven by a shared interest. These online spaces may also be purposefully nurtured by professional associations, workplaces, or businesses. This research project focuses on these spaces—outside the auspices of formal online courses.

    I draw on Actor Network Theory (ANT) to explore how work-learning is enacted in online communities and the implications of the intertwining of people and objects in multiple, fluid and distributed actor-networks. I also use the notion of legitimate peripheral participation from Situated Learning theory to explore how different possibilities for learning are shaped by locations and trajectories within a work practice and larger community of practitioners. Data was collected by interviewing 11 self-employed workers and then “following the actors” as objects of interest surfaced.

    This dissertation is a collection of five papers as well as introduction and conclusion chapters and a background chapter on ANT. Findings explore notions of online collectives shifting to more networked configurations, the complexity of work-learning practices unfolding in multiple spaces, contradictions between Web2.0 rhetoric and practices as different associations with knowledge and novel ways of knowing are enacted, and questions about the politics of technology that emerge from uncertainties around delegation, invisible practices, and necessary literacies. Given the need to pull objects out of the background and into critical inquiry, I also explored how a researcher “interviews” technology objects as participants in a study.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2010
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.