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April 28, 2008

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I thought of your homophily post at the weekend, and the comment I'd made.
I was doing a number of things on the computer over the weekend, which made me realise that I'm probably not as limited in my contacts as I thought that I was.
Leaving aside the fact the PC didn't go on at all on Saturday as it was sunny, and my garden needed weeding!
However, a friend contacted me to ask if I'd moderate a forum - computer self help being the subject; I then had to do some sorting out in a community that I'm helping to set up - two in fact, for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas - one primarily for volunteers in country; and one for supporters, returned volunteers, out going ones etc). I then spent quite a bit of time doing moderating and tweaking a rather large email list that we've just migrated from Mailman to Google groups - that's looking at Old Girls School Stories of the early 20th Century. So, quite a range, really; that was all before I started to look at "work related" communities, blogs & wikis!

In healthcare at least it seems that various disciplines prefer to learn from those of the same specialty or educational background (docs, nurses, etc). While this approach spares the need to admit lack of familiarity with a subject, explain specialty specific acronyms, or a clinician's perspective, it does isolate us from the wonderful ideas of other professions.

I live in 3 worlds: healthcare, information systems, and education. All have great ideas yet individual (and at times conflicting) views on the same subjects.

How do I bridge the gap? By reading blogs like this one and several others I can point healthcare folks to options, spread some ideas, and translate some terms and concepts to more familiar language and examples.

Thanks for all you do to bridge gaps and promote collaboration and communication!

Bill

Emma--sounds like your horizons are expanded!

And Bill, I hear you on how people seem to stick with their various disciplines in healthcare. This seems to be true in a lot of industries, which I think is unfortunate. I think your strategy of trying to comment across blogs, etc. is a good one. Some of us have to be the bridges, right? :-)

I'm new to commenting on other people's blogs, but in the spirit of the 31 day comment contest I'll add my 2 cents worth.

As an educator, elementary level, my peers and I spend time in discussion on how to improve literacy, numeracy and conceptual math. We also spend a considerable amount of time in discussion on the needs of our students. While we discuss these seemly education-only related issues the discussions always have a bigger scope. How will the issues we worry about prepare these children for their future?

We design curriculum using co-operative groups, project-based learning, UDL (Universal Design for Learning), integrate technology into whatever we can, fighting privacy and safety issues along the way because not only are these good educational practices, but they are teaching skills needed in the "real world" - the workplace.

Why is it that the two groups, educators and business do not collaborate more? Is it because education at the turn of the century was based on a "mechanistic" theory that had a factory-based focus and now teachers run from such an educational model and they fear it might somehow return if business were to collaborate with education? Is it because educators are dictated to - in the elementary and high school level at any rate - by government, whether it be national, state or here in Canada, provincial? Educators are not always happy with this interference and maybe they tend to stick together rather than dialog with business due to the fear of being "dictated" to again by another group who will add to the continuing lessening of educators' autonomy over their own curriculum and assessment.

I'm not really sure why the collaboration isn't there, but what there is, is a strong awareness we are preparing our students for the work world as well as for post-secondary education.

Maybe, with the incredible rise in the use of Web 2.0 tools the dialog will begin to bridge with some of us commenting on other's blogs as we all become more comfortable using the Web to communicate and share ideas.

Michele, This was a great piece to get us thinking more about homophily.

I did some reading on social capital a long time ago, and I'm glad you brought that up. I think the contrast of different types of social capital makes sense, but when I think about cases of, for example, different ethnic groups living in the same neighborhood, or Bill's doctors and nurses in the same clinic, I see that many (most?) members of a group may not feel a need for bridging, or consider the cost of bridging too much for the potential benefit.

While working in minority language projects in Guatemala I remember some research on the concept of cultural brokers. This idea focuses the bridging social capital into a relatively few bicultural members of society who facilitate interchange, perhaps a minority teacher or entrepreneur. Bill and yourself might be examples as well of cross-disciplinary brokers. Global Voices Online uses a similar idea with their bridge bloggers.

Bridging behavior makes you slightly odd to folks on both sides of the divide, so it's not such a popular job. People might admire you for what you do, but don't necessarily want to emulate you: learning languages and hanging out with Others is too much to ask; they'd rather you just explain the other side to them.

What's funny to me is that (seems to me) social networks get started by these bridge or broker types, who enjoy experimentation and mixing it up (bridging-broker-birds of a feather?). Then, as the networks grow, the dynamic changes. Each newcomer faces a larger, more established looking community, and organizational culture creep starts.

Well, you've got me thinking about this some more, so I've got my next few posts cut out for me!

Tom, that concept of "cultural brokers" is something that Amy Gahran mentioned in a comment on one of my other homophily posts. She said that the thinks that xenophiles, who spend time in different cultures and love them, are the "bridgers" and that perhaps their skills are the skills we'll all need to develop in order to really thrive in a global economy. I think she's right, but what's interesting is that I doubt it will get adopted as being a critical skill because of the fact that the communities that are having the discussions seem to be so insular in the first place.

I also think you make an excellent point about communities sort of being taken over by bonders when often they are created by bridgers. I know it's the nature of the beast, but at the same time, it seems like it's something we have to actively fight against.

Looking forward to your future posts on this!

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