Does the discipline of CSCW need an Organizational Theory? I am probably the last person to comment on this area, but the panel had some interesting tidbits. The first discussion question and those that followed from the audience was where I really started getting lost. The backchannel for this discussion was even more helpful for me to appreciate what people were saying.
Panelists (Sara Kiesler, moderator)
Steve Barley, Stanford, Management Science and Engineering. He was absent but Kiesler provided an overview of his contribution, which is the idea of Grounded Theory. To me, it sounded like the scientific method. In one sense, it is the scientific method applied to qualitative research. The backchannel pointed me to this description of applying the theory (thanks, Liz!). For those hard core folks, there is a whole Grounded Theory Institute.
JoAnne Yates, Sloan School of Management, MIT. In Yates' opening remarks, she highlighted the importance of groups needing to talk to one another and learn from one another. The dialog must work both ways for groups to learn and change and grow. She talked about the idea that there must be balance between the technical applications, the studies, and the theory. I very much appreciate this idea: that people and groups need to balance their varied interests.
Williman H. Dutton, Oxford Internet Institute at the U of Oxford. He claims that CSCW already has theory embedded in it. Even more, he pats CSCW research on the back for being ahead of its times. Other social sciences are just now looking at the impact of design, while CSCW has been doing so since the 1980's. He also says that the field of CSCW needs to move away from design around supporting collaboration; to design that supports individual discretion on how they access the world - how much information they reveal as they access the world.
Robert E. Kraut, Human-Computer Interaction at CMU. Kraut talked about research they've done around how people are motivated. He also made a humorous comment that most CSCW research is "not very skillful ethnography."
Paul Resnick, School of Information, U Michigan. Talked about his conversion from no-theory to liking theory and discussed several organizational / social theories.
In the ensuing discussion, there were a few gems. Yates connected to knowledge management: my ears perked up when she mentioned the importance of the processes of Transfer, Transform, and Translate. She made particular mention of the importance of understanding people's interests and context.
Another of the panelists asked, rhetorically, "does technology change who you meet?" They were looking at IBM's Relescope (I can't find that name online), which is being offered to conference attendees. They have profiled people based on their previous ACM publications, and provide customized recommendations about which other attendees have similar interests. I took the question larger. There are many examples of tools that change how I have interacted with people. Blogging, to start.