I received NSF funding (starting summer 2011) for this project with Paul Leonardi (UC Santa Barbara) and Bonnie Nardi (UC Irvine), a three-year $1.4M collaborative endeavor.
We begin this work with the recognition that, in the wake of advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs), a growing number of people are "becoming" practitioners in their field despite being separated from a relevant occupational group or community of practice. In other words, increasingly, people are undertaking occupations absent day-to-day physical interactions wtih practicing others who can teach them, provide information to them, or model behavior for them. This new reality calls into question existing theories of socialization and learning practices that highlight the importance of collocated interaction and in situ knowledge transfer. We call the process by which individuals learn work practices and how to "be" a practitioner under such circumstances remote occupational socialization. By exploring how individuals are socialized into new occupations in this new context, our work investigates issues at the forefront of modern work in a digitized, highly interconnected world.
We collected data on five occupations in which remote occupational socialization is occurring: graphic design (in Poland and India), automotive engineering (in India and the US), banking (in Brazil), financial management (multiple US locations), and Internet entrepreneurship (in Mexico and the US). Our comparative, field-based research design, which features semi-structured interviews of remote workers and relevant others, will allow us to examine the interplay of organizational environments, socialization tactics, and ICT use.
Our team has three PIs: Paul Leonardi, Bonnie Nardi, and me. Additionally, in Brazil, we are joined byProfessor Eduardo Diniz of FGV (Fundação Getulio Vargas). Doctoral students working as research assistants on this project include UT students Stephanie Dailey (College of Communication, now an asst prof at Texas State San Marcos) and Dan Sholler, Eryn Whitworth, and Melissa Ocepek (School of Information); UC Irvine students Ruy Cervantes and Caitie Lustig (Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences); and Northwestern student Casey Pierce (School of Communication, now asst prof at U of Michigan).
Our work is made possible by funding from the National Science Foundation under grant IIS-1111237. We thank William Bainbridge of the NSF for providing this support and for his enthusiasm for this work.