Abstract accepted for Dynamics of Virtual Work symposium

Pleased to find out that my abstract ‘Reconceptualising professional learning within emergent digitally-mediated work practices’ has been accepted for the forthcoming symposium of the Dynamics of Virtual Work research network.

Abstract: In many domains work has become increasingly complex, reliant on expertise distributed across a range of specialisms and involving novel problems at the boundaries of human knowledge (Boisot et al, 2011). In parallel, the unfolding digital transformation of work is catalysing new formations and constellations in the workplace that challenge traditional patterns of individual agency, organisation, power, responsibility and learning (Littlejohn and Margaryan, 2013). New forms of organisation mediated by digital technology include crowdwork, networked science, nomadic work and other types of distributed work (Bietz, 2013; Nickerson, 2013; Nielsen, 2012). These developments are having a profound effect on society and work, but are yet to have a significant effect on how professional learning is conceptualised and organised. Contemporary work practices require new forms of professional learning that align with the new spatial and temporal reconfigurations of workplaces, new work cultures, new networks of knowledge, and new requirements pertaining to the development and use of digital technologies. Conventional forms of professional learning such as formal training enable large numbers of people to reach a specific level of competency; however these forms of learning are unlikely to meet the learning needs of people in these new work contexts. Established forms of professional learning have largely not taken advantages of the opportunities around how people collaborate to learn, emergent knowledge networks, multiple ways in which people and knowledge resources can be brought together to enhance learning, and how digital technologies can extend access to these learning opportunities and resources. A fundamental rethink of how professional learning aligns with current trends in work, technology and society is required. In this presentation, I will discuss key implications of digital reinstrumentation and the emergent work practices for professional learning. Drawing on four concepts from learning sciences, sociology of work and technology-enhanced learning – self-regulation (Zimmerman, 2006), objectual practice (Knorr-Cetina, 2001), networked learning (Milligan, Littlejohn and Margaryan, 2014) and charting (Littlejohn, Milligan, and Margaryan, 2012) – I will outline some ways in which learning within emergent digitally-mediated work practices may be reconceptualised and fostered.


Bietz, M. (2013). Distributed work: Working and learning at a distance. In Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (Eds.). Technology-enhanced professional learning: Processes, practices and tools (pp. 28-38). London: Routledge.

Boisot, M., Norberg, M., Yami, S., & Nicquevert, B. (2011) (Eds.) Collisions and collaboration: The organisation of learning in the Atlas Experiment at the LHC. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2001). Objectual practice. In Schatzki, T., Knorr-Cetina, K., & Savigny, E. (Eds), The practice turn in contemporary theory (pp. 175-188). London: Routledge.

Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (2013) (Eds.). Technology-enhanced professional learning: Processes, practices and tools. London: Routledge.

Littlejohn, A., Milligan, C., & Margaryan, A. (2012). Collective knowledge: Supporting self-regulated learning in the workplace. Journal of Workplace Learning, 24(3), 226-238.

Milligan, C., Margaryan, A., & Littlejohn, A. (2014). Workplace learning in informal networksJournal of Interactive Media Environments, special issue ‘Reusing Resources – Open for Learning. [Online] file:///Users/ama11/Downloads/325-2585-1-PB%20(2).pdf

Nickerson, J. (2013). Crowd work and collective learning. In Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (Eds.). Technology-enhanced professional learning: Processes, practices and tools (pp. 39-49). London: Routledge.

Nielsen, M. (2012). Reinventing discovery: The new era of networked science. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Zimmerman, B. (2006). Development and adaptation of expertise: The role of self-regulatory processes and beliefs. In Ericsson, A., Charness, N., Feltovich, P., & Hoffman, R. (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of expertise and expert performance (pp. 705-722). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Key factors in the design of social services

We are currently working on the development of an interface to support charting collective knowledge, I have been thinking about the key factors that are important in the design of social services. Here is the initial list:

  1. Social object – What people care about together. Jyri Engeström argues that social services that fail to understand and articulate the social object(s) that mediate the ties between people (their users) do not succeed (bibliography)
  2. Strength of ties – How strongly people care about one another. Ties can be weak, strong or temporary
  3. Familiarity – Do people know about one another’s existence, are they networked with one another
  4. Similarity – How similar are people (eg in terms of interest, goals). What do they in common that’s relevant for what they are looking for?
  5. Difference – How different are people? What aspects are different that make it relevant for people to know one another or to link with one another in order to achieve what they need. Differences are not sufficiently emphasised in the way social tools currently support connections between people. Focusing only on similarity is problematic in that it reinforces homophily. Identifying similarity is easy, but what would algorythms based on difference be? More fundamentally, would people use a service that recommends them the opposite of what they think they want/expect. And how different can something be before people are no longer willing to even consider it (bibliography)

Any other factors?