In Paris, a couple of weeks ago, I presented a paper on how boundary objects afford engaged behaviours and thus engaged behaviours allow strategising activities. The presentation elicited half a dozen questions, all useful.
One of the biggest problems is my anecdotal discussion of boundary objects, probably because when I collected my data, I noticed them but without enough detailed analysis or reporting of them. So I need to identify their categories, attributes and functions. Boundary objects seem to be stuff shared between different stakeholders to a project. Definitions of boundary objects include Star and Greismer’s (1989) initial referral to one as “an analytical concept of those scientific objects that inhabit several intersecting worlds,” the “intersecting” implying a shared overlap between the different worlds of the object holders. Boundary objects are adaptable and robust, “adaptable to different view points and robust enough to maintain identity across them“. I think what they mean is that when people who different things meet, this stuff that they share helps them also share meanings, value, knowledge and indeed to create new knowledge – the excitement of meeting at the boundaries, of pushing at the boundaries of your own discipline and of learning from another discipline. What categories of boundary object push you into another discipline?
Categories according to Star & Greismer again are four: repositories, ideal type, coincident boundaries and standarised forms. Later Levina and Vaast (2005) identified boundary objects as either designated (you’ve got to use them) or objects-in-use (more informal stuff that people develop as they go along).
I haven’t got a research question for this paper but perhaps there’s something about whether particular categories of objects span particular boundaries, and whether particular categories afford engaged behaviours better at some boundaries than at others. How do you get a research question?
Levina, N., Vaast, E. (2005) The Emergence of Boundary Spanning Competence in Practice: Implications for Implementation and Use of Information Systems. MIS Quarterly 29, 335-363.
Star, S.L., Griesemer, J.R. (1989) Institutional Ecology, ‘Translations’ and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39. Social Studies of Science (Sage) 19, 387-420.