We have spent some time with WWITMan, a distributed CoP, and we have had a look at the issues that arose from our time with them. We have seen many of the CoP characteristics and seen something of how they apply in the distributed world, but the two most striking themes to emerge from Stage One are:
The importance of developing relationships; and
The importance of shared artefacts.
The emergence of social issues (in the form of relationships) and shared artefacts maps on to the Participation/Reification duality described by Wenger (1998). The shared artefact is an example of reification, and the relationships that are developed between the community members encourage participation. It is important to note that the process of developing relationships and the artefact, and the process of working with the artefact underpin everything. The process of creating the artefact and working with it facilitate further participation (Figure 7).
Figure 7: Mapping WWITMan to Wenger (1998)
We have already learned a lot from our time with the UK core, but this is only part of WWITMan. As we are interested in the functioning of an internationally distributed CoP, we really need to spend some time with the US core, too. We will accompany the UK core on one of its regular visits to America to visit its colleagues in California, then we will be able to follow up on the insights and issues that arose from Stage One of our study. In particular, we want to pay close attention to the importance of the social issues in the form of developing relationships and the role of the shared artefact—for example, its stimulative roles, its role as a boundary object, how it is propagated across different media, and the knowledge it might have embedded in it.