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Discourse interns use to make sense of work and professional life in organizations Mark Aakhus William Voon Rutgers University
The Setting • Interns were asked to write about dilemmas they experienced at work and in professional life • They completed an online form composed of 5 questions • What is the situation and what is the dilemma? • What question do you have about handling this dilemma? • What advice may others typically offer to solve this dilemma? • What do I think should be done in this situation? • How has this situation influenced your beliefs about how communication works at work or in professional life? • Research Question: • What do they talk about when writing the updates? • What are the implications for understanding knowledge management?
Data • 6 Semesters of contributions • Corpus of 1,168,765 words • 1,626 updates, 471,780 words • 7,661 responses, 696,985 words
Approach to Analysis • Focus on “Topics” in Updates to assess what interns talked about • Top nouns from Intern Corpus • Content words are simple indicators of how interns represent their experience • Comparison with top nouns from Business Corpus • Analysis of Topics - “Key”ness of terms • Compare Topics with Intern Corpus • Compare “Quadrants by Popularity” with Intern Corpus • Distribution of Topics by Top Nouns and Keywords • “Popularity” of topics containing nouns/keywords • Focus on “Questions” in updates to assess interns orientation • Analysis of Question form • Analysis of Modal Verbs
Top nouns in Intern Corpus Noun Total Updates Responses
Do interns engage in “business” discourse? • Since interns were based in organizational settings, we use “business discourse” as a point of comparison to understand intern’s discourse. • Compare top nouns with Mike Nelson’s Business English Corpus, top 100 most key words list (http://users.utu.fi/micnel)
Top Nouns – Intern versus Business Corpus Intern Corpus Business Corpus
Interns’ use of “business” terms • Interns use some of the top terms from the business corpus • work, time, people, thing, company • Tend not to use ‘business of business’ terms • business, market, services, product, price, system • Instead they use terms that emphasize interpersonal relations • boss, job, supervisor, internship, situation • This suggests that the interns do not frame their experience in terms of the business of business.
The Interpersonal Dimension • Frequent words in updates when further analyzed in terms of unusual frequency relative to the corpus further reveals an orientation that: • Attends to the Interpersonal • Attends to the interns immediate social environment • Attends to struggles with superiors and peers
“Key” terms in Topic - relative to Corpusderived using Wordsmith Tools
“Key” terms in Topic – Top versus Bottom-half Top-half Bottom-half
Questions about Dilemmas • The questions interns pose about dilemmas signal their orientation. • Questions were examined by looking at word choice in the questions they posed about the dilemmas they reported. • How is the question set up (e.g. who, what, where, when, etc.)? • What modal verbs are frequently used?
Ways interns pose questions– Analysis of the Question element Question Frequency
Types of questions interns pose about their dilemmas • Questions are dominated by “should” • Even “how” and “what” questions collocate with should • Modal verb frequency – “should” outnumbers “could” • Suggests a “rule” rather than a “possibility” orientation
Discussion • Interns orientation toward the interpersonal • Represented by the content words (nouns and verbs) they use to write their dilemmas • Evident frequency of response to updates with topics containing key nouns. • Frame interpersonal in terms of tensions • Seek appropriate and definitive advice more than alternatives/options • Use conversational, vernacular expressions to talk about work • They don’t use “business of business” terms • They tend not to use theoretical terms from the communication discipline • Networks, proxemics, face, cognition, etc.
Implications for KM • System Design: • Provision of different update elements help contributors articulate various "facets" of the tacit, thus facilitating its explication. • Methodology: • Demonstrated a methodology to analyze a "body" of discourse. The approach could readily be extended to analyze the discourse of a "Community of Practice" to articulate aspects of their "Common Knowledge". • Further Research: • Analyzing patterns of participation with what is "talked" about in online discussions, insights could illuminate the issue of "inclusion" and hence the broader dilemma of knowledge sharing.