Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rambling first thoughts...

I've been trying to think of a dissertatin topic, and think I may have one. I just wrote a letter to a professor in Minnesota, and after writing it, thought that maybe this might fit the bill...

Here is part of the letter.


I'm actually working on a doctorate in Instructional Technology, and I've been reading about self-organizing systems. The old/current model is one of a centralized design, development, and implementation. A mangaer, or team of leaders decide what needs to be done, and then hires the designers and builders, and farm out the work. But the work is guided by the management team. The rewards generally go to the few higher ups.

In self organized systems, there are no managers. People just do a few simple tasks, and, sometimes surprisingly, the results are just as good as the projects performed in the more classical style. This kind of self-organizing happens in nature quite bit, for example the flocking of birds, the structures that termites build, etc.

I think geocaching is a great example of a self-organized system. Sure there has been some guidance from what might be called 'management', the site director, etc. But for the most part, the labor has been done by a legion of untrained, unsupervised, unpaid volunteers. But the end result is actually quite sophisticated.

I think it also raises some interesting questions. For example, if the geocachers are doing something that the Forest Service would rather they not, who does the Forest Service talk to? If there is no clear ‘management’, or ‘owner’, how do you negotiate with the entire community? The website manager would seem to be the logical choice, but can the website really negotiate change within the community? There is no training set up, so they can’t re-educate their members. There is no way to garnish wages if a community member refuses to follow the new guidelines. And yet the whole outfit still seems to be running so smoothly.


Anyway, I'll have to think about this some more, and see where it leads me.