School of Information Sciences

iSchool Colloquium Series

Hosted by the iSchool and the Digital Libraries & Cyberscholarship Colloquium Series


James Howison, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University

When: Friday, September 18, 2010, 2:00 - 3:00 pm
Where: 501 IS Building

Layered Collaboration: What can free and open source software development tell us about the future of informationalized work?

Abstract: Loosely associated individuals, linked by information and communication technologies, are undertaking economically significant activity without the institutions of traditional organization or markets. Through an arc of participant observation, archival replication and formalization, this research develops a theory of layered collaboration and the emergence of complex work. It presents evidence that the production of community-based Free and Open Source Software is far more alone than together; it is far more often individual work done "in company", than it is teamwork per se.  When tasks appear too large for an individual they are more likely to be deferred until they are easier, rather than be undertaken through teamwork.  These results are explained through a sociotechnical theory that links motivation, organization and particular affordances of technology.  The theory enables a systematic approach to understanding the extent and limits of FLOSS development as a model for the future of work.

Bio: James Howison is a post-doctoral fellow in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on the organization of distributed collaboration and he is a co-PI on a three-year NSF funded project, awarded in 2009, to examine the socio-technical ecosystem of scientific software developers.

James holds a Ph.D. from the Information School at Syracuse University, awarded in May 2009. His dissertation, which won a Graduate School dissertation prize, brought together the study of motivation and organization among community-based Free and Open Source software projects. His publications include articles in IEEE Computer, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications, Software Process Improvement and Practice as well as Knowledge, Technology and Policy. He has presented at the International Conferences for Information Systems (ICIS) and Software  Engineering (ICSE) and the Academy of Management. He was selected as a participant at the ICIS doctoral consortium in 2007 and the NSF-funded workshop on the Science of Socio-technical Systems in 2008. He has been invited to speak at O'Reilly's eTech, OSCON and FOOcamp conferences.

Born in Scotland, James grew up in Australia, earning his undergraduate Economics degree from the University of Sydney.  He pursued masters study in Software Engineering at the University of New South Wales before transferring to the Syracuse Ph.D. in Information Science and Technology in 2002. Prior to returning to graduate school James worked in information systems implementation with KPMG management consultants and as a consultant with Control Risks Group, an international crisis management consultancy. During his PhD he worked with Charles River Venture Capital providing research on opportunities in the open source software space.


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