Sunday, March 1, 2009

control, participation, transparency

On a tangent, while speaking at AWT's Austin Women's Business conference on Friday, I mentioned that the female hormone oxytocin leads women to "tend and befriend" under stress more than the well-known "fight or flight." This was clear at the conference-- lots of friendly support, even without stress to trigger said response. I've never presented to an all-female audience; it was tangibly different.

I talked about the changing nature of work with Jenn Deering-Davis, a doctoral student at UT Austin and also co-founder of Appozite. Jenn has a unique data set of interviews exploring the impact of continuous connectivity through "information and communication technologies" (e.g. iPhone, Blackberry, email, Twitter, etc.). Jenn talked about changes with respect to 'the individual'; I addressed 'the collective' (workplace) and provided a social psychological framework to unify our ideas.

Our gist was: technology--and our philosophy of using technology-- has reshaped how, when, and where we work, altering our notions of:

  1. Control
  2. Participation; and
  3. Transparency

Specifically, control -- in terms of our fundamental need to predict and control in order to make sense of the world and our relationships; participation - in terms of belongingness and our need to be connected, whether through active or passive involvement; and, transparency, our desire to be seen as we see ourselves-- or rather to figure out how we see ourselves, through the blurring lines of time and self (work vs. personal).

I know this framework holds, given its empircal roots in social psychology. However, I proposed that while these needs and desires endure, they will - and are already starting to- take on new meaning; ironically, more social meaning.

For example, as we leave behind static repositories to manage information (e.g. email), we see ourselves managing information in dynamic streams that we selectively engage in, telling us who's doing what (e.g. Facebook). We engage in belongingness as business, strengthening relationships with co-workers, competitors, brands, and anonymous others with whom we share interests in various memes. Regarding transparency, we're constantly blurring previously concrete boundaries around ourselves-- for example, shifting from an individual to a relational self (see diagram below from Aaron, Aaron, Smollan, 1992). We see a lot of this on Twitter right now, as individuals identify the balance between their professional and personal lives (e.g. JetBlue vs. LionelatDell vs. Jeremiah Owyang).

It was a fun talk - Jenn's data is rich and her evolving interpretation, insightful. Let me know if you're interested in hearing more about our talk.

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