Archive for the ‘community’ Category


Natural and non-natural information and smart niches

December 3, 2018

The distinction between natural and non-natural information is highlighted by Laurence Kirmayer, that on my opinion helps to define the smartness concept in modern artificially enhanced systems. Particularly smartness is created by a loop – from self-organised individuals’ meanings, values and actions the data are aggregated and patterned using algorithms to form collective knowledge, and then these data are offered back as new affordances, action cues for the individuals. The human action niches are based on developing non-natural information cues and affinity to certain cultural memberships.

Grice (1957) distinguished between natural and non-natural forms of meaning, emphasizing the latter in most of his work. Natural meaning is a relation between two things that are correlated. Smoke ‘means’ fire because tokens of smoke reliably correlate with tokens of fire. Similarly, (certain kinds of) spots mean measles (understood not as the popular category but as the biomedically recognized infection with a particular virus). Non-natural meaning instead depends on the capacity of individual agents to exploit explicit and implicit social‘ conventions’(in the wide sense of locally shared norms, values and moral frames, expectations, ontologies, etc.) to infer the intentional states of other agents and thereby engage them or engage aspects of the environment with them. Red traffic lights, in virtue of convention (and law), ‘mean’ stop, and hence afford (and mandate) stopping — and this is made possible by the specifically human mastery of recursive inferences, both explicit and implicit, that agents make about other agents (Tomasello, 2014).

Different kinds of information (Piccinini, 2015; Piccinini & Scarantino, 2011; Scarantino & Piccinini, 2010).

‘Natural information’ obtains when a token informational vehicle x of kind X (that is, a sign, a pattern of neural activation, or what have you) carries natural information about some information source y of kind Y just in case there are reliable correlations between X and Y . Natural information, in other words, cannot misrepresent, for it is non-semantic; it is not the kind of thing that can be simply true or false.

‘non-natural information’ (or as we prefer to put it,‘conventional information’), pertains to semantic, content-involving representations that depend on social norms and cultural background knowledge. Non-natural information allows an agent to make a correct inference about some aspect of an intentional system, e.g., other agents, language and other symbolic systems such as mathematics, etc. Non-natural information is semantic in that it obtains in virtue of satisfaction conditions (e.g., truth conditions).

Kirmayer notes: “To operate with conventional affordances, agents must have shared sets of expectations — we must know what others expect us to expect.”

So smartness is not unconditional smartness but dependent of cultural constraints, it is a niche.



thesis: Learning and knowledge building practices for teachers’ professional development in an extended professional community

July 7, 2013

Kairit Tammets, my first doctoral student will defend her thesis at 21st of August.

Now her dissertation is available from here

Tammets, Kairit (2013) Learning and knowledge building practices for teachers’ professional development in an extended professional community.

The purpose of her PhD research project is to investigate the process of the learning and knowledge building (LKB) in the extended professional community that is supported with the socio-technical system.

Differences of scaffolding in communities and networks

December 29, 2012

I think that we expect that our empirical cases are like communities of practice, but it may be that not all the characteristics of such community are at present and they are rather knowledge collectivities or constellations of communities of practice, and eventually the Learning Layers project can help the target groups to create a real community of practice by aiding the shared knowledge-base to be developed.

Scaffolding in the community of practice is  a form of enculturation – an alignment (establishing the congruence) to the dispositional knowledge of the community .

Scaffolding in the constellation of communities or in project-based companies (in knowledge collectivities) is facilitation of finding who knows what in the network and how do they do it in the specific goal-directed context.

Does finding the network-partners meet the criteria for scaffolding concept? However, the personal nature of scaffolding in the network suits with the traditional understanding of scaffolding.


I have taken our last concept map, that we composed with Mart Laanpere and Tobias Ley and added the differences of knowledge communities and knowledge collectivities based on Lindkvist (2005) paper.

networked scaffolding - draft


Knowledge Communities and Knowledge Collectivities: A Typology of Knowledge Work in Groups

Lars Lindkvist

Linköping University, Sweden

Journal of Management Studies 42:6 September 2005



In the communities of practice that are ‘tightly knit’ groups (Brown and Duguid, 1998)

– the  ‘dense relations of mutuality’‘strong’ social bonds (because community of practice members trust each other both personally and regarding their competences),

– the negotiated, joint enterprise ‘defined by the participants in the very process’ (cognition is shared at high degree)

.- a shared repertoire including ‘routines, words, tools, ways of doing things,stories, gestures, symbols, genres, actions, or concepts . . .’, and

– shared understandings enable cohesiveness (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998)

A community involves both affect-laden social relationships and a substantial degree of shared ideational or cognitive communality, having emerged over a lengthy period of time (Etzioni, 1996).

Relevant knowledge resides in practice, not in the master. Mastery resides not in the master but in the organization of the community of practice of which the master is a part (Lave and Wenger,1991). In the communities of practice we are confronted with highly complex and ambiguous knowledge that can only be decoded through a lengthy period of actual practising. 

We are thus confronted with a kind of embodied knowledge or competence to behave. Communities rely on ‘dispositional know-how’ created out of practice and held by the community as a whole.

Neither the master nor the apprentice is conceived of as self-conscious and knowledgeable agents. Instead knowledge inheres situatedly in practice and creeps into and occupies the community members when they work together. In the communities of practice learners ‘do not receive or even construct abstract, “objective” individual knowledge; rather, they learn how to function in a community’ (p. 48). As a result they are being ‘enculturated’ (Brown et al., 1989) rather than educated. In communities of practice the apprentice, enjoying a legitimate peripheral participation, gradually approaches a status of full membership by both ‘absorbing and being absorbed’ in the culture of praxis (Lave and Wenger, 1991, p. 95).

In communities of practice, congruence with established practice or paradigms is what matters.


A firm or a project group, merely represent boundary objectsa method of interconnecting communities ‘by which a set of practices manages itself as a constellation of practices’ (Wenger, 1998, p. 247). The designated ‘constellations of interrelated communities of practice’ (Wenger, 2000, p.229) are:

– sharing historical roots,

– having related enterprises,

– sharing artefacts,

– having the proximity of interaction

– having overlapping styles of discourses


Goodman and Goodman (1976, p. 494) discuss temporary systems as a ‘set of diversely skilled people working together on a complex task over a limited period of time’. In temporal networks (project communities, loosely tied communities) – ‘the collectivities of practice’ (Lindkvist, 2005) – the shared understandings and knowledge are not so well developed.

Projects comprise members representing different specialties with different knowledge bases and ways of interpreting experiences. In such contexts there is thus a very limited overlap of knowledge bases, and little time to erect communal knowledge during the lifetime of a project. There is hardly time to learn together long enough to develop communal knowledge, and neither do project teams tend to become ‘tightly knit groups’ or ‘communities’ in a social-structural sense.

A ‘knowledge collectivity’ is an organization that is able to operate on ‘distributed’ knowledge. Instead of being shared among community members, the knowledge base is highly dispersed and individualized among collectivity members. Rather than relying on ‘decentred’ knowledge, project groups must be able to operate on knowledge that is radically dispersed, distributed or individualized, being impossible to gather or comprehend for any single, overseeing mind (Becker, 2001; Hayek, 1945; Tsoukas, 1996).

In such distributed contexts, it is important that members know ‘who knows what’ in a ‘transactive memory’ fashion (Wegner et al., 1991). This makes it possible for them to use each other as external memories, facilitating for example knowing where to start the search process when problems turn up within projects. Knowledge is then activated and exchanged, in a spontaneous manner, at the point of time it is needed.

Instead of erecting and codifying a communal knowledge base as in the communities of practice, firms relying on such a largely informal ‘network memory’ infrastructure thus tend to let knowledge ‘stay in place’ and encourage people to learn how to search for relevant knowledge (Lindkvist, 2004).

When circumstances change fast, people should not look too much inwards and backwards, to ‘our’ identity and history (as in communities of practice). Instead they should look outwards, to what customers want, to the task at hand and forward at what might be achieved. Individual learning in such contexts will to a great extent reflect the goal-directed problem-solving trajectory people engage in.

In comparison with the knowledge community, greater reliance is placed on individual agency in the knowledge collectivity. Relying on their knowledge of ‘who knows what’, they approach others with their problems and their ideas about possible solutions, hoping that the experience, knowledge, intuitions or criticism of others would help them change their way of thinking about their problems, entering new, more promising lines. The fact that others have been around for a long time, or know the narratives, is no guarantee for relevant knowing. Often newcomers may know more than old-timers, and quickly learn what these know.

By using each other as external memories and partners in the co-evolution of knowledge, project members are able to engage in deliberate, goal-directed, trial-and-error processes (Lindkvist and Söderlund, 2002).

As discussed by Potts (2001, p. 418) markets are experimental spaces, ‘spaces where existing knowledge is coordinated and where new knowledge is tested’. We may think of problem-solving processes within projects as taking place within such a ‘marketplace’, where ideas compete for attention and where individuals continuously look for new ideas and criticism that might help them solve their problems. While their fellows in the knowledge community are ‘enculturated’, the individuals in the knowledge collectivity are subjected to specified goals, granting them unrestricted ‘entrepreneurship’ as to how these may be reached.



Placing positive extremists at the well-connected nodes

February 5, 2010

I found an interesting empirical paper about networks.

Daniel W. Franks, Jason Noble, Peter Kaufmann and Sigrid Stagl
Extremism Propagation in Social Networks with Hubs
2008; 16; 264
Adaptive Behavior

Even when negative extremists are twice as prevalent in the population, opinion convergence to the positive extreme can regularly occur if positive extremists are placed on network hubs.

A positively skewed degree distribution increase extremism transmission in a social network.

We suspect that the creation of some well-connected nodes (hubs), along with the creation of many poorly connected individuals, is responsible. Extremists located at these key nodes are connected to more agents, and more parts on the network. Thus, their influence is more frequent and wider reaching, making it less likely that certain parts of the network remain socially isolated from the extremist’s opinion.

A positively skewed degree distribution increases opinion convergence towards extremes, and encourages opinion convergence on a single extreme under a wider range of conditions than topologies that were not skewed in their degree distribution.

However, extremists take advantage of non-extremists at hubs, as a means of transmitting their opinion.

Non-extremists are initially less confident about their opinion than extremists.
Thus, extremists have more influence over non-extremists than non-extremists have over extremists (and more influence than non-extremists have over each other). Once an extremist has spent time influencing a non-extremist at a hub, the former non-extremist will transmit the opinion throughout the network. Because agents at hubs are well-connected, it is likely that they are connected to an extremist. In the real world, extremists might purposely attempt to influence people in high status positions.

Valente (1995) investigated some effects of propagating innovations first to more “strategic” nodes of the network, showing that an individual’s network position can affect innovation diffusion in a social network.

Valente, T. (1995). Network models of the diffusion of innovations. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

By placing positive extremists at the well-connected nodes (i.e., nodes to the tail-end of the degree distribution) we found that when the network converges on a single extreme, it is always to the positive extreme.

This is because when positive extremists are placed on key nodes they are able to directly influence more agents (as they would have more direct connections) and have a higher chance of having a random connection that allows them to influence a different social network neighborhood.

The importance of social position for social influence was highlighted by the result that, when positive extremists are placed on hubs, all population convergence is to the positive extreme even when there are twice as many negative extremists. Thus, the position of an opinion in the social network is more important than the initial proportion of individuals with the opinion.

The network does not have to have a power-law distribution for this result to stand. However, the network must have multiple hubs, and social networks are known to produce such hubs.


social search ecology

October 21, 2009

Few days ago Hans Põldoja told me that Riina Vuorikari has been using the ecology concept in her social retrieval studies. It gives some input to the model of ecosystems (learning ecology). Specifically it shows that the reuse of traces that users leave to ecosystem is not so prevalent part of web-culture. Still, this behaviour may be used for cross-border translation between communities.

Ecology of social search for learning resources
Vourikari & Koper

In this paper they use attention metadata to model the ecology of social search.

An interesting part of the paper summarizes new search options:

Explicit search: comprises the traditional search box with text and filtering options based on multilingual metadata.

“Find by subject” offers browsing through pre-defined categories.

Personal search: Looking for bookmarks from one’s own personal collection of bookmarks

Novel exploratory search systems that assist users in obtaining content that meets their information needs include social navigation and collaborative recommender systems.

Social navigation involves using the behaviour of other people to help navigate online.
Social navigation types are: Interest indicators, which can be acquired either directly from the user (e.g. rating) or indirectly (e.g. time spent on an object).
Community browsing: these are social navigation features such as accessing resources through tagclouds and specific lists of most bookmarked resources, but also “pivot browsing” which means using tags or usernames as a means to reorient browsing.

Collaborative recommender systems use explicit ratings to find like-minded users (Adomavicius and Tuzhilin, 2005).

Rafaeli et al., (2005) introduced a system to harness the social perspectives in learning where the learner could choose from whom to take recommendations (friend or algorithm).
Koper (2005) used indirect social interaction in choosing a path that allows successful competition of a learning task.
Farzan and Brusilovsky (2005) studied social navigation and found that adding the time spent reading each page provides more precise insight into the intention of the group of users and more accurate information about pages selected from search results.

Secondly, they describe an interesting coordination system underneath the ecology of search that is based on three relations that might lead the people. I would think interpreting the personalized perception and actualization of such relations as search affordances.

Social bookmarking and tagging creates a triple (user, content, annotations) which indicates user’s relationship between resources, users, and tags (Golder and Huberman, 2006, Marlow et al., 2006, Sen et al., 2006). Such underlying structure allows flexible social navigation (e.g. tag-item, tag-user, user-item), but could also be a source for collaborative recommender systems by linking like-minded users not only through resources, but also through tag-based interest sharing (Santos-Neto et al., 2009).

The use of social information (annotations – interest indicators) in navigation was smaller than i expected, still the traditional search culture prevails. However, social search as a way of using community traces appeared.

A model was created of data to study how processes are interlinked (i.e. ecology).
The model shows that the annotation (i.e. Interest indicators) play an integral part in creating a social search ecology and offer more diverse ways to discover resources.
The search taking advantage of Social Information Retrieval methods yield more relevant resources with less effort from the user. Despite this edge, users have a strong search preference for Explicit search methods (2/3 of all executed searches).
Most often users discover cross-boundary learning resources as a result of Explicit search, and when the resource is deemed relevant, they bookmark it in the Search result list.

Conclusion: We show that users are more efficient with Social Information Retrieval
strategies, however, Community browsing alone does not help users discover a wider variety of cross-boundary resources.


Swarming to write narratives in hybrid ecosystem

July 9, 2009

Recent month i have been trying to write together with Mauri Kaipainen about the “Narrative ecology” course results. In principle, we come up with some theoretical baseline how writing narratives happens in new hybrid ecosystems, and how it may be represented ontologically and used for detecting more about the new standards of writing stories in Web 2.0.
Finally it has to be a book chapter, but since it is not ready it is about a time to show some of it.

Swarming to write narratives in hybrid ecosystem
Kai Pata
Mauri Kaipainen

1. Hybrid narrative ecosystem

1.1. Defining hybrid ecosystems

For describing what we mean by storytelling with participatory media, the concept of hybrid ecosystem is useful. The term conveys two ideas. First, hybrid refers to the property of the world that is achieved by active hybridization of physical spaces with digital media spaces (eg. blogs, microblogs, wikis, social repositories and -networks). These borders can be blurred or eliminated whenever purposeful, allowing embedding artifacts across borders for creating an augmented and more interactive reality. The second key term is that of an ecosystem with its explanatory subconcepts ontoplace and niche.
Individuals develop places when they add various artifacts such as images, impressions, historical content, marketing information to augment certain geographical locations, and increase their ability to perceive places as meaningful spots individually. Place is assumed to have not only geographical coordinates but also ontocoordinates, that is other defining characteristics for a place (Kaipainen, et al., 2008). Ontocoordinates enable to identify ontoplaces that are unique for each individual. The concept of ontoplace refers to the context of events, objects, emotions and actions of an individual in the place, and includes both natural, e,g, geographical elements as well as conceptual constructions. Individuals with similar cultural background form communities that may have a similar perception of ontoplaces because they are involved in similar activities or share common meaning making principles. We use niche concept for determining such shared ontoplaces and -spaces.
Niche concept is used in biology for describing an abstract space in which certain species has optimal living conditions for performing all actions related to their life. Hutchinson (1957) defined niche as a region (n-dimensional hypervolume) in a multi-dimensional space of environmental factors that affect the welfare of a species. These environmental factors (eg. optimal temperature amplitude or daylight period) may be related with geographical aspects (eg. latitude, altitude) or may be determined by other non-geographical aspects (eg. chemical components of the soil, specific prey objects of other species in the area etc.). Niches appear as generalizations, they become evident if many similar individuals live, interact and evolve in certain conditions. Each individual is constantly adapting itself to the niche of the species.
In our discourse we look individuals who share certain joint activities as a community. We determine a community as an equivalent of the species. This community is influenced by the various environmental factors in hybrid environment. Different artifacts, perceived action possibilities or people available in the physical or virtual places create environmental factors for the communities that determine their possibility of taking community-specific actions. Environmental factors influence individuals physically as well as emotionally or cognitively. The determination of ontocoordinates of ontoplaces individually by community members creates conditions for the emergence of niches with shared ontocoordinates that facilitate taking certain community-specific actions. For example, Hoffmeyer (1995) coined the term of semiotic niche to signify the semiotic spaces that are actualized by certain organisms in species’ specific semiotic processes when interacting with their environment. Magnani (2008), and Magnani and Bardone (2008) use the term cognitive niche to mark the distributed space that people create by interrelating individual cognition and the environment through the continuous interplay through abductive processes in which they alter and modify the environment. Niches represent generalized ontoplaces and -spaces for communities – groups of individuals with similar cultural background and perception. It must be noticed that niches may have but do not necessarily have geographical coordinates in real world.
An ecosystem is a unit of interdependent species, which share the same habitat. Another view to the ecosystem is niche based – one habitat may provide various partially overlapping or separate niches for species to coexist. In our case hybrid environments form a particular habitat in which various communities create and alter their activity niches. The niches for writing hybrid narratives appear if individuals who share some common Web 2.0 storytelling culture determine for themselves ontoplaces in the hybrid ecosystem and use them as triggers of their narratives. It must be noted that such facilitating niches for storytelling appear in hybrid environments when several people find, use or embed digital contents for perception and action as part of their daily interaction with the hybrid ecosystem. On one hand, narratives created in this ecosystem may have geocoordinates connecting them with physical world. On the other, in the virtual environment, narratives possess ontocoordinates, thus determining optimal abstract niches for storytelling. By adding their contents to the environments, participants create the evolutionary feedback loop to the niche (Magnani & Bardone, 2008; Pata, 2009; 2010). Participatory media environments together with real places can be conceptualized as a hybrid ecosystem, provided that participants of social media have ecological dependence of the particular set of “tools” that they use as their niche for taking action. The concept of tool here should be interpreted as it is used in an activity theory (see Leontjev, 1978), which considers various artifacts (eg. digital narratives, images), software (eg. social software tools) and language (eg. user-created ontologies, tags) as mediators of action. Ongoing narrative activity by many individuals in hybrid environment influences and shapes the characteristics of available niches in the ecosystem and allows a habitat for communities.

1.2. Representing hybrid ecosystems

Next, we will discuss some methods of representing various coordinates of hybrid ecosystems. The initial idea of bringing place-information to the active use in participatory media environments was to associate contextually meaningful information and metadata with the geo-coordinates of the places. For capturing, storing, retrieval, analysis and display of spatial data GIS as a computer-based system was developed. It was discovered soon that the methods of mapping geographical space by GIS geo-coordinates do not match the way people think about their world. For this reason, Jourdam Raubal, Gartrell and Egenhofer (1998) suggested that integrating a model of how people conceptualize and perceive places into GIS would enable to use GIS to make important decisions about places. They suggested that physical features of objects in places, actions that people take at places, narratives that are related to the places, symbolic references of the places (eg. names, metaphors), cultural factors of the place and the typologies of places given by people could be used for advancing GIS. They presented a methodology to model places with affordances that they saw as user-centred perspectives of the place. However, this technical innovation did not get much attention because for every person places contain different action and emotion potentialities, and manually annotation of this action- and meaning-specific metadata directly with places would have reduced the community-based applications of hybrid places.
The recent emergence of different participatory media has brought in ways of describing the conceptual nature of content collectively. One of the most popular methods is so called tagging, that is, adding descriptive terms associated with content by members of the community, and the complementary addition of geographical position information. Tags are related with meaning and activity dimensions of the communities. Using tag-based search, certain dimensions of the virtual places could be discovered and brought to the active use. Some social software environments (eg. now enable the simultaneous use of tags and GIS information for mapping digital contents location-based to real world. Yet, many commonly used software types (eg. blogs, wikis) still lack this possibility. Using tags and GIS concurrently has opened another, more flexible way how communities can mark their meaningful places with artefacts independently of other communities, and interact at the physical locations with the virtual contents left by other communities. Geotagging systems make it possible to create locative content by mobile devices, situated both in real and virtual environment (Tuters & Varnelis, 2006). Locative content is media content applied to geographical places, any kind of link to additional information set up in space together with the information that a specific place supplies, which is triggering real social interactions with a place and with mobile technology (Tuters & Varnelis, 2006; Hanzl, 2007, Kaipainen & Pata, 2007). With positioning technologies e.g GPS-chips built in telephones, or by searching locations on digital maps (eg.,,, people can gain access to of the place-related digital artefacts. They can use them for learning, playful activities, marketing and other ways.
As to our approach, we take that the proper model of hybrid narrative ecosystems consists of a hybrid geo-conceptual-temporal ontospace. Hybrid ecosystem functioning at individual and community level causes the emergence of an ontospace. To ground this concept, on a general level we adopt the concept of ontology from IT systems, in the broad sense referring to specification of conceptualization (Gruber 1993) of the content dealt with, or to the manner of existence of the content, pointing at the old philosophical traditions related to ontotology. However, we find it difficult to apply the standard ontologies of IT, e.g. OWL, to the purposes of hybrid ecosystems, because their hierarchical and rigid nature does not support the emergence of new narrative tracks (we need to define tracks first) as we propose. Assuming that tagging involves the actual conceptual structure of the metadata, as with the activity of storytelling, the resulting ontology needs to be ‘soft’, that is, not fixed a priori but evolving in the course of the activity. Moreover, we assume that the created patterns or tracks are ontologically fundamental, that is, we want to allow that they can constitute new ontological categories.
As a consequence, we rather choose to apply in hybrid ecosystems the ontospatial approach of Kaipainen et al. (2008). This approach describes the domain of inquiry in terms of descriptive feature dimensions (ontodimensions) that altogether constitute an ontological space (ontospace), also referred to as soft ontology. In this model, the number of ontodimensions is not fixed, but can vary dynamically, allowing new defining features to emerge in the process.

Ontodimension is one dimension in ontospace that can be perceived and followed when collecting and storing artifacts in hybrid ecosystem. Such dimensions may be perceived only by one individual or by many individuals. The more strong ontodimensions are perceived the more probable is that they are followed and used in new narratives.

Note. It is the way how we can later connect it to the swarming behaviour (making and following the signal trace means basically that people notice ontodimensions and start accumulating/monitoring these ontodimensions).

As another crucially important feature for modeling hybrid ecosystems is that the model does not assume any a priori hierarchical structure, but considers all descriptive features to be of equal ontological importance. It is the observer’s perspective that priorizes the ontodimensions and determines the perceived order.

The ontodimensions that a person has previously noticed as meaningful, and used in his/her actions, will narrow his/her perception and help to focus only on certain ontodimensions of the ontospace. If noticing such dimensions is common for more than one individual, these ontodimensions become community-specific. Ecologically, certain ontodimensions start to facilitate some community specific actions more than the others, and enable to form an abstract community specific niche. Niche is a community specific and community determined part of an ontospace. Niche is a meaningful place for the community, and we may call it an abstract ontoplace of the community. Ontoplace for a community is optimal for certain activity, beyond a mere geographical place.
The niche as a community place in hybrid ecosystem is never stabile and static but is always in the stage of evolvement as the community members perceive and use various ontodimensions.

An ontospace is a means to relate the existence of entities of a domain to each other and to the domain to which they belong in terms of similarity, in turn defined as proximity in the ontospace. Formally, coordinate system O=(x1,x2,…xm) defines m-dimensional ontospace A of domain D. Each entity i of domain D, for example §, is represented by an m-tuple Ai=(ai1, ai2,…aim) , were aij stands for the salience value of property j that can be determined or specified for entity I in the data collection process. Altogether, Ai constitutes the ontocoordinates of entity i and expresses the position of i in ontospace A.

The virtue of this formalism is that aij§ can represent any type of description, be it a tag, or the geoposition, or a time stamp of an event, and they can be blended and referred to in various hybrid ways.

In addition, it allows the description of stories as a trajectories across the ontospace.

Furthermore, we can represent an ontodimension as an affordance, which enables to give another, ecologically interpreted explanation of how people perceive and interact with the hybrid ecosystems.

1.3. Embodiment of hybrid ecosystems

The ways people interact with the hybrid ecosystem – augmenting artifacts and accessing virtual information associated with places – extend the human capabilities of action and perception. Perception in hybrid ecosystem involves expectations and meanings (Gibson, 1979) and is a continuous, active and embodied process (Gibson, 1979; Michaels, 2003; Zhang & Patel, 2006). Varela, Thompson & Rosch (1991, p. 149) associate the capacities of understanding with biological embodiment, but are lived and experienced within a domain of consensual action and cultural history. They coined the term embodied action to point at the idea that cognition depends upon the kinds of experience that originate from having a body with various sensory-motor capacities. They also emphasized that that these individual sensory-motor capacities are themselves embedded in a more encompassing biological, psychological, and cultural context. The authors assumed that sensory and motor processes, perception and action are fundamentally inseparable in lived cognition (p. 172-173). Using the term enaction they focused on two points: 1) perception consists of perceptually guided action, and 2) cognitive structures emerge from recurrent sensory-motor patterns that enable action to be perceptually guided (Varela et al., 1991, p. 173). The enactive cognition framework (e.g. Maturana & Varela, 1987; Varela, et al., 1991) emphasizes cognition and knowledge as active construction of a subject, rather than passive representation of an external reality. From the viewpoint of writing stories in hybrid environment this assumption is important. The narratives of the hybrid space are not representations of events that are described by digital means. The stories emerge as part of the places and are constantly enacted in various ways, depending of the ‘reader’ of the story. Communities may compose locative narratives, which will perceptually guide this community, but also the other communities.
Ecological psychology (eg. Gibson, 1979) can be applied as a theoretical framework to explain how people conceptualize and perceive hybrid places. Ecologically oriented approach regards perception more as a direct process of translating environmental action potentialities into action. Information processing according to this view states that when a given stimulus from the environment is frequently coupled with a given response, the information derived from that stimulus will become associatively enriched with response produced cues that then will help to discriminate this stimulus from other ones coupled with other responses (Hommel et al., 2001). The most important claim of the ecological perception theory is that neither the properties of the place nor the physical properties, action goals, memories, or emotions that people have beforehand, would alone suffice to provide the interaction potentialities for the place.
Gibson (1979) originally coined the term affordances for marking this complementarity of the environment and organisms (Gibson, 1979, p. 127). He (1979, p. 129) wrote: “An affordance is neither an objective property nor a subjective property; or it is both if you like. An affordance cuts across the dichotomy of subjective-objective and helps us to understand its inadequacy. It is equally a fact of the environment and a fact of behaviour. It is both physical and psychical, yet neither. An affordance points both ways, to the environment and to observer.” Affordances are not properties, resources nor features of the environment. Instead they are “relations between particular aspects of animals and particular aspects of situations” (Chemero, 2003, p. 184). Coupling happens between the place-related and culturally defined affordances, and internal personally relevant goals, emotions and memories of previous interaction. It is the very mutuality between actor and environment that constitutes the basis for the actor’s perception and action (Albrechtsen, Andersen, Bodker, & Pejtersen, 2001). Barab and Roth (2006) assume that in the perception-action cycle of coupling each new action potentially expands or contracts affordances as active interaction possibilities of the place. Magnani (2008), and Magnani and Bardone (2008) note that human and non-human animals “modify” or “create” affordances by manipulating their cognitive niches. According to Heft (2001): “we engage a meaningful environment of affordances and refashion some aspects of them… These latter constructed embodiments of what is known – which include tools, artifacts, representations, social patterns of actions, and institutions – can be called ecological knowledge. Ecological knowledge through its various structural, material culture, human setting manifestations becomes an integral social and cultural part of ‘the environment’, with these social and cultural affordances constituting effective, largely material, forms of knowledge with their own functional significance, cultural transmission, and adaptation implications.”
Affordances emerge when people use social software tools, collecting stories in the geographical places, developing and embedding digital artifacts or interacting with the augmented space. The term of affordance marks the dynamic process by which people in the course of action accommodate themselves with their surroundings and simultaneously shape these surroundings. For example Bruner (1996) refers to such an accommodation process when cultural identity is found by meaning making and writing narratives. Affordances appear for every individual differently, but as long as individuals are part of certain communities and cultures, they evoke similar sets of affordances (Pata, 2009). In the present context we may consider affordances as abstract dimensions of the space by which activity and meaning niches of the communities may be described (Pata, 2009; 2010). Affordances of the hybrid narrative ecosystem emerge in the course of storytelling. The sets of affordances that many individuals perceive and use in storytelling will reveal the potential storytelling niches of the hybrid ecosystem.

2. Writing narratives in hybrid ecosystem

2. 1. Appearing new storytelling standards in Web

New technology, such as microblogging (eg. Smallplaces in Twitter; Twiller, mobile text-messaging (eg. Novel Idea or blogs has been used to write stories. A typical application is segmenting and serializing the story into small tweets and making it available to broad audience. Jay Bushman has been experimenting in developing re-imaginings of famous authors’ stories into the microblogging format (eg. The Good Captain aiming to create embedded fiction between the streams of nonfiction that is constantly arriving to our daily lives. His goal is to blur the line between the real world and the story world (reference). The common “space” characteristic of the stories and human geography is reused in hybrid ecosystems. On one hand, human geography is filled with emotions about places, on the other, stories contain a set of geographical data and play a key role in shaping people’s geographical imaginations (Crang, 1998). Using this characteristic extensively, some authors (eg. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, “The Shadow of the Wind” have embedded their novels into the real geographical locations and provide itineraries for exploring the novels parallel in real and virtual world to enable for the readers embodiment of the fictional story as part of city reality.
All these are examples of reintroducing old formats of fiction in the new hybrid ecosystem. In our experiment, instead of bending old novel format into the hybrid ecosystem, we wanted to explore the new evolving narrative formats of this hybrid space. For example, Crang (1998) has noted that different modes of writing may express different relationships to space and mobility. Kurland (2000) provides the following general characteristics of traditional stories. They have plot, a geographical setting, where and when story takes place, and characters who are involved into the plot by taking actions. The plot of the story usually involves conflicts and its resolution. Stories are generally read and appreciated only in their entirety, to understand the story we must follow the complete unfolding and resolution of the plot. The structure of the story may be linear progressing from unfolding the conflict, rising action, climax and resolution. Alternatively, the patterns of actions and interrelationship of characters may occur throughout the story. The author of a story plays often an active role in the story either as the first person narrator who participates in the story as an observer, minor character or even the major participant or the third person narrator who stands outside the story itself and can be all-knowing and might describe action from many character’s viewpoint, evaluating people and actions in the story. These characteristics of novels are culturally deeply rooted in our minds and may reappear in the transformed shape if different modes of writing are used in hybrid ecosystem. In the experiment we aimed at collecting evidence of new standards how narratives appear in hybrid ecosystem.

2.2. Swarming as a bio-metaphor for writing narratives

While looking for the models to depict the nature of storytelling in hybrid ecosystems we arrived to another biological phenomenon – swarming (Bonabeau, et al., 1999; Kennedy, Eberhardt & Shi, 2001). Many activities in hybrid ecosystems can be characterized as swarming phenomena. Swarming refers to self-organizing behavior in populations such in which local interactions between simple decentralized agents can create complex organized behavior. A swarm is a community in which every agent is only responsible for its individual actions, but the actions altogether cause shared intelligence to emerge. Such swarming systems can accomplish global tasks and form complex patterns through simple local interactions of autonomous agents. Individuals in swarms have ecological relations to the collective. They maintain their individuality and viability in case if the collective swarm intelligence and viability emerges (Sauter et al., 2005). Swarming relies on using the environment as a shared memory, and on reading information both from the environment and from the swarm members’s signals to maintain individual wellbeing. Thus, swarming is one of the main mechanisms how hybrid ecosystems function and evolve. In other ways swarming mechanisms can be viewed as the creation of an ontospace, and extracting certain signal ontodimensions from this space.

The particular activity that is focused on as an example of swarming in this study is writing narratives in a hybrid ecosystem. A hybrid narrative ecosystem can be described like viewing foraging ants through a prism. The foraging example was taken because it provided a generalized model for the various behaviors that have been observed in social software environments when people create and use textual and visual artifacts. “A central place food foraging” is a swarming behavior that consists of two main phases: an initial exploration for food, followed by carrying it back to the nest (Sudd & Franks, 1987). The foraging ant is randomly searching to explore new area. If an ant collides with some food it picks it up and leaves a certain pheromone on the trail. If foraging, each ant is alert for this pheromone as a food marker that may have been left by other ants in the trail for finding food. They are always moving towards the direction where there is a greater concentration of that pheromone.

Note! This may be related to the trajectory and gradient in ontospace)

However, the pheromone dissipates over time. If there are not enough ants collecting food and dropping pheromone on the way home, the trail may disappear. The system of diffusion and evaporation leads of a competition among food sources for available ants, because the number of ants is limited and the trails need a steady walking of ants along them to stay stable. The shorter the distance of a feeding place to the nest, the shorter is the trail, the more often ants walk from nest to feeder and back per time unit. This leads to a stronger positive feedback loop and race conditions among the feeders, selecting for the nearest one.

Note! This may be related to the trajectory and gradient in ontospace, why movig towards gradient is more effective behaviour.

The pheromones similar to those signaling about food may also be used to allure ants from the track. An enemy trying to conceal the search target, may spread false signals to attract the ants to a location of little interest. To avoid this trap, the signal is responded only if it reaches to certain threshold value (Marshall, 2005).

Note! Can ontodimensions reinforce each other? In niches it is possible that niche dimensions may reinforce each other if they appear together. So if some ontodimensions appear simultaneously they provide a stronger signal to the narrator to add some content, to do action)

writing narratives as a swarm

writing narratives as a swarm

Figure 1. Swarming: Foraging behavior of ants and writing narratives in hybrid ecosystem.

As an analogue to ants’ foraging behavior, human storytellers in their hybrid ecosystem search for and are influenced by the attractor objects (eg. interesting aspects of the environment). When finding something of interest, the objects are captured in textual or digital image format using microblogging programs (, in mobile phones. Alternatively, digital cameras could be used and artifacts would be uploaded later. Microblogging environments enable to pull digital contents automatically also to the social repositories ( or social networks ( Stories uploaded from microblogging environment can be mashed using special tags, and pulled as RSS feeds to the other social software environments for monitoring. This may be done for extracting various stories from the collected artifacts individually or for the community. The artefacts can be locatively geotagged in microblogging systems (eg.,, and connected to stories either by simple linking, tagging with keywords or merging them and providing longer explanations in personal blogs. The attention of emerging story is caught by various trace-leaving techniques like mashing, pulling and aggregating, tagging for social retrieval, social awareness technologies or hybrid maps etc. These collected and personally meaningful artifacts with tags serve as signal trails for the narrators themselves to continue with certain story aspects, and also for other storytellers to contribute for this story or to trigger their own stories. The application of microblogging environments and social mashups with tags enables for other people an immediate access to the new signals of potential attractors, causing selective noticing in the hybrid ecosystem. Following the signal trail opens the possibility of accumulating more content for a particular story, especially if several individuals start to strengthen the signal. The more similar content is accumulated, the more attractive and visible the story trail becomes as a trace in the narrative ecosystem. This trace attracts other individuals and thereby reinforces itself. Strong signal trails may also be attacked and reused, for example by alluring the crowds away from the original trail with various similar signal baits. The initial story may thus become modified into many paths.

Adopting traces of other individuals of the swarm depends on analogy or closeness of the attractor narratives to one’s own. Various forms of collaboration may appear. One is agglomerating stories in the manner comparable to how termites build the nest (Kennedy et al., 2001). Termites build high dome-like termite nets following the swarming behavior. They take some dirt in their mouth moistening it and then start to move in direction of the strongest pheromone concentration. They deposit dirt when the smell is strongest. After some random movements searching for a relatively strong pheromone field, the termites will have started a number of small pillars. The pillars signify places where a greater number of termites have recently passed, and thus the pheromone concentration is high there. The pheromone dissipates with time, so in order for it to accumulate, the number of termites must exceed some threshold; they must leave pheromones faster than the chemicals evaporate. This prevents the formation of a great number of pillars. As termite pillars ascend and termites become increasingly involved in depositing their loads, the pheromone concentration near that pillars increases. The termites are attracted to let the dirt between the pillars that attract them from several sides.

Note! Can ontodimensions reinforce each other? In niches it is possible that niche dimensions may reinforce each other if they appear together. So if some ontodimensions appear simultaneously they provide a stronger signal to the narrator to add some content, to do action)

Termite arch-building contains two kinds of behaviors: cue-based and sign-based. In the cue-based case the change in the environment provides a cue for the behavior of other actors (eg. growing pillars provide such cues). In the sign-based swarming the pheromones are used as signals.
In the hybrid narrative ecosystem the tags (like pheromones) are glued to the soil material (geotagged content of the narrative pieres, text, images). This provides signals and makes story elements attractive. The artifacts that are marked with same tags or artifacts that contain certain significant elements for the storytellers will be noticed and integrated into stories. However, these stories are not linear, but can be viewed rather as story dimensions.

Note! Here we must write about moving along perceived ontodimension trajectory when they write or monor other people stories. Aso moving alog the gradient is interesting here?

Secondly, such artifacts from certain story dimensions that are available in the geographical locations will become gateways to other geographical locations where artifacts with similar tags have been embedded. Such geo-locative story dimensions form an ecological knowledge of the hybrid narrative ecosystems, influencing how people will interact with the environment.
New geo-locative stories are granular and consisting of little content portions. The story may become evident and appear as a result of accumulation of these portions. Popular social software tools often lack sufficient interoperability to provide automatic pingbacks between different software platforms that would enable to trace the story elements across the hybrid ecosystem.
The emergent story may not have a start and end. It is a flow of impressions that may eventually obtain a storyline, or even several story lines for different people. Yet, providing the visibility of stories as linear sequences and composing story plots is technologically unaided.

Note! Again place for ontodiemnsion trajectory?

Individuals tend to mutate their narratives as a result of ecological perception. Sometimes these may initially be mere errors that take place if individuals try to repeat an existing narrative in another virtual environment (for example if adding descriptions and tags to the Flickr images uploaded by means of Brightkite mobile microblogging). Also deliberate reinterpretation of artifacts takes place. Most often if the narrative is transformed from one environment to another (eg. from microblogging environment to the blog) authors tend to elaborate it. If artifacts are borrowed from one individual to another, the new person and different context will cause different perception of this digital entity. This kind of evolution of stories may eventually change the attractor tag concentration to the extent that the original story trace will be lost and the individuals would need to start the search for new narrative resources as new attractors.

Note! Moving from one trajectory to another, can we elaborate this

It is important to note that swarm-like collaboration does not assume an initially decided goal, but suffices for collaborative patterns to emerge. Cloning narrative pieces by analogy may also make the trace of the narrative more visible, similarly like pheromone traces are agglomerated due to the swarm activity. Thus cloning will “hype up” some stories.

2.3. Narrative swarming from ontospace perspective

If we talk about writing narratives in a community of an hybrid ecosystem, the niche ontodimensions are determined by the most frequently selected ontodimensions that people perceive (eg. food, buildings, graffitti, emotions, contrasts, happyness, particular software beyond others, particular geographical locations beyond others). Within this niche certain ontoplaces are more preferred than the others, and start triggering collaboration.

When writing hybrid narratives, each person moves along personal trajectory in the ontospace, creating particular ontoplaces. This trajectory is not predetermined with the story plot. This trajectory is currently observable for the others only by means of participatory surveyllance in social software, and not as a detectable path in ontospace.
Often the trajectory as a storyline is determined by and combines from a limited set of ontodimensions that the person highlights, and a small number of hybrid locations where the person walks in daily life. It usually fluctuates between the limited number of closely situated ontolaces in the ontospace.

The triggers of perceiving new ontodimensions and discovering new ontoplaces are received from monitoring the hybrid ecosystem where other people write narratives in the same niche. Such use of same sets of ontodimensions in the community causes narrative swarming phenomena that are observable as the emergence of closely situated ontoplaces in ontoplace.

NB! Evidences of the activity may be seen from the previous posts.

Here is just a table to compare how narrative swarming in hybrid ecosystem differs from writing a traditional story.

Comparison of traditional stories and narratives written in hybrid ecosystem by swarms

Comparison of traditional stories and narratives written in hybrid ecosystem by swarms


Hybrid ecosystem of narratives

April 12, 2009

Many (that i refer below) have already assumed that learning through developing and discussing narratives in social web spaces has become a new innovative form of learning.

We have developed and tested the course Hybrid ecosystem of narratives in Tallinn University as one approach to understand how narratives appear in hybrid (real + virtual + social) Web 2.0 space.

When we started this course we had no answer to the students’ questions about “what is this space that we (me and Anatole-Pierre Fuksas) have named the hybrid ecosystem of narratives. How it emerges, and how it develops through the interplay of various interactions, was to be investigated through the participatory design with these same students.

In the end of 2008 Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine summarized in the whitepaper: Web 2.0 storytelling: emergence of the new genre – web 2.0 storytelling in education serves as composition platform and as curricular object.

First, Web 2.0 storytelling is a useful composition platform whenever storytelling is appropriate. The second possible application for Web 2.0 storytelling in higher education is its use as curricular object.

They encouraged educators as follows: the best approach for educators is simply to give Web 2.0 storytelling a try and see what happens. We invite you to jump down the rabbit hole.

I refer only one interesting aspect what they mention about what web 2.0 storytelling: It is a distributed art form that can range beyond the immediate control of a creator.

So it is clear that the web 2.0 narrative courses are emergent and cannot be precisely planned using some clear design what people should do (because then we will violate the nature of the system itself). The courses must follow certain participatory and design-based approaches to capture what is true.

From the Learncom study “Pedagogical innovations in new ICT-facilitated learning communities” draft report ” Review of lifelong learning” by Kirsti Ala-Mutka (2009) i picked three innovative aspects of online communities:

– ICT­enabled communities are enabling different ways for learning (narratives, discovery, experimentation, observing, reflection),
– social support for learning (peer support, apprenticeship and situated learning, social acknowledgement of learning, social knowledge management),
– new ways to access and organize learning (applying community models for courses, organizations, linking communities to learning and education in new ways).

The report mentions Bruner’s (1996) cultural­phychological approach to education that emphasises narratives as vehicles for meaning making. He suggests that education should help those growing up in a culture find an identity within that culture, in order to be able to make meaning.

Narratives are essential in constructing an identity and finding a place in one’s culture.

Narratives are a powerful way of learning, providing means to situated oneself in the culture and make meaning.

Bruner, J.S. (1996). The culture of education. Harward Univesity Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The report refers to Mayer (2003) who found that conversational narratives combined with animations contributed to a personalization effect, where the students developed significantly more creative solutions than through conventional instruction and explanations. Secondly, Carbonaro et al. (2008) showed that multimedia storytelling allowed students to engage in learning by design.

Mayer, R. (2003). The promise of multimedia learning: using the same instructional design methods across different media. Learning and Instruction, 13, 125- 139.

Carbonaro, M., Cutumisu, M., Duff, H., Gillis, S., Onuczko, C., Siegel, J., Scheffer, J., Schumacher, A., Szafron, D & Waugh, K. (2008). Interactive story authoring: a viable form of creative expression for the classroom. Computers and Education, 15, 687-707.

The study points out that narratives serve as the mediators for externalizing tacit knowledge without writer’s full consciousness.

Recently i found an interesting paper to the same direction, where tacit knowledge was automatically collected from work narratives and used for composing certain more suitable narratives (community suggestions) that could be used in decision-making:

A computational narrative construction method with applications in organizational learning of social service organizations
W.M. Wang, C.F. Cheung, W.B. Lee, S.K. Kwok
Expert Systems with Applications 36 (2009) 8093–8102

Anyway, the boom of various narrative centred learning environments is evident and there is not enough information how people naturally use such environments.

I believe that if there is narrative ecosystem, there must exist something (narratives itself) that the communities will use as a feedback from these ecologies to adjust themselves to their ecosystem parametres.

How narratives function in the ecosystem as the ecosystem feedback and can the community have some analysis means to enhance this feedback within ecosystem?

After analyzing the course data I would say that storytelling has become part of our new way of sensing in hybrid environments.

Storytelling is a new form of hybrid sensing. Web 2.0 storytellers are extending themselves beyond their body borders and using this extended self as the tool. The hybrid stories enable to be more adjusted with the real and virtual hybridized surroundings, extracting dimensions for personal activity and emotions within which they can operate. People are constantly embodying themselves, entangling and detangling themselves to the hybrid systems, while enacting with it.

And at certain moments collaboration appears over the narratives binding persons in the ecosystem, forming certain food-chains, consumerism and other nice ecological phenomena that needs to be brought to light in new systems.

Some ideas are apparent in the dataset that we collected and extracted with the students: