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A Pragmatic Technology Analysis of Distributed Knowledge Practices Bertram C. Bruce Library & Information Science U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Outline Classical design & evaluation Pragmatic technology Examples: Alliance teams ENFI Inquiry Page

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a pragmatic technology analysis of distributed knowledge practices

A Pragmatic Technology Analysis of Distributed Knowledge Practices

Bertram C. Bruce

Library & Information Science

U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Classical design & evaluation
  • Pragmatic technology
  • Examples:
    • Alliance teams
    • ENFI
    • Inquiry Page
  • Implications for evaluation, technology studies, design

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

waterfall model
Waterfall model

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

waterfall process
Document the concept

Specify the requirements

Modularize (architectural design)

Design each part

Code the components

Test each component

Integrate the pieces

Test the system


Waterfall process

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

problems with the waterfall model
Problems with the waterfall model
  • Synergies of components
  • Problems hidden until full system test
  • Information ecology differences & changes
  • Don't know user needs in advance
  • Users don't understand the functions
  • User needs & situation change
  • Non-standard use

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

  • Spiral design
  • Overlapping phases
  • Subprojects
  • Evolutionary prototyping
  • Staged delivery
  • User-centered design

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

reverse the flow
Reverse the flow?

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

  • Technological change
  • Scientific discoveries
  • Demographic shifts

But, rigid concepts

=> an idea about ideas

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

action destiny
Action -> -> -> Destiny

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

Sow a character, reap a destiny.

–William James

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

pragmatist themes
Pragmatist themes
  • experimentalist philosophy
  • ordinary experience
  • means vs. ends
  • knowing — action
  • relationships
  • situation as a whole
  • logic — inquiry into inquiry
  • technology — means of resolving a problem

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

pragmatic technology
Pragmatic technology

technology as the means for resolving a problematic situation

-- Larry Hickman (1990), John Dewey's Pragmatic Technology

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

problems find technologies
Problems find technologies

technology => solves a problem

solution to a problem => technology

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

problem solving cycle
Problem-solving cycle

problem 1 => technology 1

technology 1 => problem 2

problem 2 => technology 2

technology 2 => problem 3 …

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

  • Technology studies: Alliance teams
  • Evaluation: ENFI
  • Design: Inquiry Page

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

distributed knowledge project
Distributed Knowledge project
  • Study of the Alliance/NCSA
  • New ways of doing science in distributed teams
  • Distributed Knowledge Research Collaborative

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

how does embedded knowledge become mobile
How does embedded knowledge become mobile?




Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

application technologies teams
Application Technologies teams
  • http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/alliance/partners/ApplicationTechnologies/

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

grand vision
Grand vision

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

  • EOT often shows the greatest impact
  • But it doesn't use AT enough, and AT doesn't use ET enough
  • Successes often emerge from user community and are fed back into the Alliance
  • Large structure w/o clear lines of control leads to politics, miscommunications, difficulty in planning, failures to collaborate effectively

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

enabling technologies teams
Enabling Technologies teams
  • http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/alliance/partners/EnablingTechnologies/

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

astronomy digital imaging library
Astronomy Digital Imaging Library
  • ADIL
  • developed and maintained by the Radio Astronomy Imaging Group
  • "collect astronomical, research-quality images and make them available to the astronomical community and the general public"

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

incorporation into practice
Incorporation into practice
  • Addresses existing problems
    • limited access to equipment
    • attribution for images
  • Reconfigurations
    • Worldwide collaboration
    • New modes of publishing

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

pasteur s death bed words
Pasteur’s death-bed words

Bernard is right; the pathogen is nothing; the terrain is everything.

– Oliver Sacks, Awakenings

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

implications technology studies
Implications: Technology studies
  • Adaptive structuration: substitution, enlargement, reconfiguration (Giddens, Poole, Contractor, …)
  • Longitudinal studies
  • User response, reception theory
  • Ecological analysis (Bruce & Hogan, 1997; Nardi & O'Day, 1999)

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

realizations of enfi
Text sharing


Socratic tutoring


Small group discussions


Collaborative writing

Devil’s Advocate

Distance networking

Twenty questions

Cross-age tutoring

Discussion of reading

Discussion of issues

Open discussion

Realizations of ENFI

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

classical summative evaluation
Classical summative evaluation
  • Quantitative only
  • Little attention to antecedent conditions or classroom transactions
  • Assumes fixed, knowable entities
  • Unable to address unanticipated effects
  • No model for diversity of realizations

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC


Not occasionally only, but always, the meaning of a text goes beyond its author. That is why understanding is not merely a reproductive, but always a productive attitude as well.

– H. Gadamer, Truth & Method

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

alternate realizations
Alternate realizations

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

evaluation questions
Evaluation questions

Summative: How well does it work?

Formative: How can it be improved?

Situated: What practices emerge as the innovation(s) are incorporated into different settings? =>

How well do they work?

How can they be improved?

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

responsive evaluation
Responsive evaluation

… orients more directly to program activities than to program intents; responds to audience requirements for information; and … the different value perspectives present are referred to in reporting the success and failure of the program -- R. E. Stake, 1975, p. 14

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

implications evaluation
Implications: Evaluation
  • Need to understand diverse realizations
  • Innovation begins with the user
  • Technology as a tool for its own re-creation
  • Situated evaluation (Bruce et al., 1993; Twidale, 1993)

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

what is the inquiry page
What is the Inquiry Page?
  • Partner project
  • Resource for inquiry teaching philosophy
  • Collaborative teaching & learning community
  • Lesson planning support and idea site

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

evolving uses
Evolving uses
  • Teachers share curriculum units
  • Project website: researchers, students
  • Student work
  • Community health care
  • Water quality: policy makers, industry, public, K12

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

design by use collaboration
Design by use: Collaboration
  • Create and share a unit
  • Dialogue spaces: listservs, web forums
  • Spin-offs
  • Comment feature on units
  • Multiple authors with separate logins
  • Distributed IP: Style sheets
  • Synchronous editing support

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

participatory inquiry
Participatory inquiry

Design through use or participatory inquiry aims to respond to human needs by democratic processes. Through creation of content, contributions to interactive elements, and incorporation into practice, users are not merely recipients of technology, but participate actively in its ongoing development.

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

equitable relations then tasks
Equitable relations, then tasks

renders the progress of expertise in a community secondary to a relational and epistemological practice of confronting differences so that its participants can come to understand how the beliefs and purposes of others can call their own into question.

Clark, "Rescuing the discourse of community"

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

implications design
Implications: Design
  • Design inseparable from use
  • User-centered design
  • Participatory design (Bjerknes et al., 1987)
  • Equitable relations
  • An idea about technology (Menand, 2001)

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

meaning of technology
Meaning of technology

only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared for doing the same thing in the future.

-- Dewey,Experience & Education

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC

la propension des choses
La propension des choses

In the traditional configuration (shi)…, tension is expressed by the curve of a roof…

François Jullien

Bertram C. Bruce, UIUC