Personal Honours Project - Week 1

With the Hackathon coming and going in a flash, week 1 of Honours Project was a go. On the Monday, we were introduced to the module by our lecturer Chris Lim who would be overseeing us through our final year. After a short but sweet presentation we were left to do our own personal work while we waited to be seen for tutorials. 

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I continued fine-tuning my project proposal that I would be presenting to Chris later in the week. I would eventually sit down with Chris on the Thursday to discuss my idea.

The 'phase 0' section of the proposal outlined my initial thoughts about the project as well as my rationale:

Working title: A platform that stems from the ideas of communities of practise and allows users to build temporary communities by coming together to tackle problems proposed by users.

Description: Stemming from the idea of communities of practise, an application that allows users to create short-term communities surrounding specific interests they have experience with or a passion for. Users would submit questions based on their interests that would help promote the sharing of ideas between users and provoke conversations about the subject.

Rationale: By studying what is considered a ‘21st century community’ and using the idea of communities of practise, I would like to create an app that helps promote the sharing of new ideas and provoke conversations between users about specific interests that they have a passion for.

A community is described as “a group of people…having a particular characteristic in common”. 21st century communities differ from traditional communities in the sense that they now can be primarily digital and are global due to the creation of the internet instead of being limited strictly to local areas. However they still share the same values as traditional communities do - there are differences in opinions, they promote conversations and they have common interests and goals. 

A community of practise is a group of people who share a concern, a set of problems or a passion about a topic and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an on-going basis with other users. Whatever way they gain knowledge surrounding the topic, users find that they tend to become informally bond to each other by the value that they find through learning together. It also helps develop a unique perspective on the topic as well as accumulate a body of knowledge.

According to Wegner, McDermott and Snyder in their book Cultivating Communities of Practise, knowledge lives in the Human Act of Knowing and engaging their expertise in the interest is an active and inventive process that is just as critical as their store of knowledge itself. To develop expertise however, practitioners need opportunities to engage others who face similar situations - sharing experiences helps to create knowledge. 

With communities now being digital, they have access to a variety of platforms that can help them discuss a variety of topics. For example, we have huge social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr which allow users to get contact with different users globally and voice their opinions on matters. However these platforms can be almost like “shouting into the void” as there is no organisational structure for various interests.

Overall Goal: To create a platform where people can express their interests in a range of topics and have meaningful discussions to share their knowledge. 

After my tutorial with Chris I was at a slight loss and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the size of the task I was going to be undertaking this year. I emailed him a draft of my project proposal for him to have a read following our tutorial and asked him for any further guidance on where to go and what to consider next. This was extremely helpful as he sent me back a list of question he had about - not only about the concept of communities of practise but also about the differences between a physical and a digital communities and whether or not this will have an overall affect on how knowledge is exchanged. 

With a bit more direction than before (and calmer nerves) I began to plan my next two weeks to ensure that I successfully answer all of the questions I needed to answer.