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B OUNDARY O BJECT T HEORY Adam Worrall LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development Dr. Michelle Kazmer 4/22/10.

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Presentation on theme: "B OUNDARY O BJECT T HEORY Adam Worrall LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development Dr. Michelle Kazmer 4/22/10."— Presentation transcript:

1 B OUNDARY O BJECT T HEORY Adam Worrall LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development Dr. Michelle Kazmer 4/22/10

2 Background Theorists Intellectual Traditions B OUNDARY O BJECT T HEORY

3 Theorists Susan Leigh Star – Assistant Professor of information and computer science, UC-Irvine Worked with Rob Kling and others on impact of tech/computing on society – Trained in sociology with Anselm Strauss – PhD in sociology, UC-San Francisco (1983) James Griesemer – Assistant Professor of philosophy, UC-Davis – PhD in conceptual foundations of science, Univ. of Chicago (1983) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development

4 Theorists James Griesemer – Chair of philosophy, UC-Davis – Has not worked with Star or contributed further to boundary object theory 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development

5 Theorists Susan Leigh Star – UC-Irvine, UC-San Diego, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Santa Clara Univ., Univ. of Pittsburgh – Contributed to theory and research in science and technology studies social studies of science / scientific communities computer-supported cooperative work artificial intelligence social informatics library and information science – Classification / categorization / information organization – Information behavior – Passed on, March /22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development

6 Intellectual Traditions Symbolic interactionism / “Chicago school” of sociology – Ecological approach – Strauss Grounded theory Social worlds (Strauss, 1978) Sociology of scientific practice / science and technology studies – Latour, Callon, Law’s “interessement” Other contributing fields – Distributed artificial intelligence (early on) – Library and information science (more recently) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 6

7 Concepts Social Worlds Translation Boundary Objects Coherence B OUNDARY O BJECT T HEORY

8 Social Worlds Include (p. 122) – One or more “primary” activities – Locations “where activities occur” – Technology to carry out activities – Organizations “to further … activities” In established social worlds Vary dramatically in size, boundaries, visibility, structure, topics Study not just discourse of social worlds, but also activities, memberships, sites, technologies, organizations “Intersect … under a variety of conditions” (p. 122) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 8 (from Strauss, 1978)

9 Translation Interessement (Latour, Callon, Law) – Translating “concerns of the non-scientist into those of the scientist” (Star & Griesemer, 1989, p. 389) – Establishing of “gatekeepers” or “obligatory points of passage” (Law) (Star & Griesemer, 1989, p. 389) – Based on viewpoint of this one gatekeeper scientist Translation – “The task of reconciling [the] meanings” of objects methods, and concepts across multiple social worlds (p. 389) – Ecological approach Multiple gatekeepers, viewpoints, “passage points” (p. 390) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 9

10 Boundary Objects Cross the boundaries between multiple social worlds Used within, adapted to many of them “simultaneously” (Star & Griesemer, 1989, p. 408) “Adapt to local needs” within social world but “maintain a common identity across sites” (Star, 1990, p. 46) May vary in permeability, fixedness Can be abstract, concrete, both, or in-between 4/22/10 10 LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development

11 Types of Boundary Objects Repositories – Libraries, museums, etc. Ideal types – Species, atlases – “Abstracted from all domains” Geographic spaces – California, Florida, FSU campus Standardized forms – Fill-in forms Within broad categories, subtle differences 4/22/10 11 LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development (Star & Griesemer, 1989)

12 Examples of Boundary Objects Trained environmental biologist Freshmen majoring in biology Graduate student in civil engineering Library Library is a repository Use of library will be quite different by each group Social worlds different despite common interest It acts as a boundary object between their social worlds 4/22/10 12 LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development

13 Examples of Boundary Objects Trained environmental biologist Freshmen majoring in biology Graduate student in civil engineering Church One of the freshmen and the graduate student go to the same church It acts as a boundary object between their social worlds 4/22/10 13 LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development Church is most likely a geographic space

14 Examples of Boundary Objects Trained environmental biologist Freshmen majoring in biology Graduate student in civil engineering Endangered frog Interests likely different Habitat Digestive system Design of culverts and passageways Species of endangered frog acts as a boundary object between social worlds An ideal type 4/22/10 14 LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development

15 Coherence The degree of consistency between different translations and social worlds “An indeterminate number of coherent sets of translations” are possible (p. 390) Boundary objects play a critical role “in developing and maintaining coherence” (p. 393) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 15 (Star & Griesemer, 1989)

16 Coherence Convergence – More recent development ( ) – How well “information artifacts … are fitted to” the communities of practice that create and work with them (Star, Bowker, and Neumann, 2003, p. 244) – Restatement of coherence Starting with boundary objects themselves Focus less on translation process, more on result Uses communities of practice instead of social worlds – Has some issues (discussed later) (See also Bowker & Star, 1999, pp ) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 16

17 Propositions All relational Boundary Objects Across Social Worlds Role of Boundary Objects in Translation, Coherence B OUNDARY O BJECT T HEORY

18 Boundary Objects Across Social Worlds They “inhabit several intersecting social worlds … and satisfy the informational requirements of each of them” (p. 393) They also “are weakly structured in common use, and become strongly structured in individual-site use” (p. 393) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 18 (Star & Griesemer, 1989)

19 Boundary Objects Across Social Worlds 1.Boundary objects are structurally weak enough to inhabit and be used across multiple social worlds, but become structurally strong when used within individual social worlds. If X is a boundary object, then X is structurally weak in common use across social worlds and is structurally strong when used by and in each of these worlds. 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 19

20 Boundary Objects Across Social Worlds 2.Successful boundary objects satisfy the informational requirements (needs) of each of the social worlds they are used within; more successful boundary objects should satisfy more requirements from more social worlds. The more informational requirements X satisfies, and the more social worlds these satisfied requirements are from, the more successful X is in its role as a boundary object. 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 20

21 Role of Boundary Objects in Translation, Coherence Their structure “is common enough to more than one world to make them recognizable, a means of translation” (p. 393) Their “creation and management … is a key process in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting social worlds” (p. 393) “The central cooperative task of social worlds which share the same space but different perspectives is the ‘translation’ of each others’ perspectives” (p. 412) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 21 (Star & Griesemer, 1989)

22 Role of Boundary Objects in Translation, Coherence Such translations are usually “performed in order to craft [boundary] objects” (p. 412) Mismatches between overlapping meanings and representations “become problems for negotiation,” requiring careful managing of boundary objects, their meanings and representations, and the interfaces they provide between social worlds (p. 412) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 22 (Star & Griesemer, 1989)

23 Role of Boundary Objects in Translation, Coherence 3.Boundary objects, which are recognizable across social worlds, should facilitate translation and support some level of coherence between these worlds. If an object is recognizable across one or more social worlds, and thus acts as a boundary object, then that object should facilitate translation and support coherence—to some degree—between those social worlds. 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 23

24 Role of Boundary Objects in Translation, Coherence 4.A successful translation and negotiation process is one that supports and maintains a high level of coherence between social worlds. The translation process is more likely to be successful if a high level of coherence is supported and maintained between social worlds, and vice versa. 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 24

25 Role of Boundary Objects in Translation, Coherence 5.A high level of coherence should result from carefully managing the creation, crafting, meaning, and representation of boundary objects and the interfaces they provide between and across social worlds. The more carefully the creation, crafting, meaning, and representation of boundary objects and the interfaces they provide between and across social worlds are managed, the higher the level of coherence will likely be. 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 25

26 Note on Convergence Can substitute in Propositions 3-5 – Coherence and convergence – Social worlds and communities of practice 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 26

27 Theory as a Whole Chain-link, concatenated (Meleis, 1991, p. 227) Explanatory (p. 229) Inductive, grounded Did draw some on deductive, constructive reasoning Macrotheory Grand theory (Glazier & Grover, 2002), but near middle- range due to “substantive focus” (Meleis, 1991, p. 228) B OUNDARY O BJECT T HEORY

28 Limitations Viewpoints Flexibility / Negotiation Trust Convergence B OUNDARY O BJECT T HEORY

29 Viewpoints May be “constrained by the availability of information and its associated story-telling perspective” (Fujimura, 1992, p. 172; see also Lee, 2007) Fujimura contended the viewpoint / social world there was the most data about would be unavoidably central to any study Need to include data on as many as possible – Can’t include all in one study (impossible) – Multiple studies; representative samples (where possible) 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 29

30 Flexibility Fujimura (1992) : too flexible – Need to standardize methods, meanings, practices more quickly, both locally and globally Lee (2007) : not flexible enough – More conflict around, chaotic negotiation of boundaries, meanings – “Boundary negotiating artifacts” (p. 318) that do not cross boundaries “with relative ease” (p. 325) Agree more with Lee – New concept probably not necessary – Active, chaotic negotiation, flexibility important to consider 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 30

31 Trust Van House (2003) – Calflora subset of UC- Berkeley Digital Library – Found social and information worlds well integrated, translated between – However, still barriers to sharing data Potential misuse of data by others Additional work needed to make data presentable, understandable, accountable for Conflicts with those from other fields, worlds – Trust an issue that boundary object theory did not directly include 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 31

32 Convergence Star, Bowker, and Neumann (2003) applied “information world” to result of convergence process Concepts of social and information worlds share similarities – Introduces potential cyclical elements However, their definition of information world different to Chatman’s – No shared activities, information behaviors, social norms / social types Coherence more compatible with other theories, does not predict or require a cycle 4/22/10LIS 6278 Seminar in Theory Development 32

33 Questions, comments? Thank you!


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