Friday, 29 April 2016

Thoughts On Network Theories

Whilst reading the Reader for this part of the module, in particular the information given on Robert Axelrod and his Game Theory, I was reminded of a network I was involved in that was a game, the name of which I can no longer remember. It was an online adventure game and I used to play it with my best friend. We each had our own character and we had to find each other in the world we had chosen to live in. We could send messages to each other and make alliances with each other and other players. It then meant that we could turn on our allies and destroy them or we could help each other to become better. It was very much an example of succeeding at another's expense or fully cooperating to the point of maximum benefit to all of us. "Tit for Tat" was not a very successful strategy here because there were so many people participating in the game that it would be difficult to find that person again and there were so many people of a much higher level which meant one could not "Tat" them in return for their "Tit". My professional network is much like this game. If we don't cooperate then our job doesn't get done, or the ship doesn't sail, or something dangerous happens. As I demonstrated in my previous blog, there are cases when crew members use other crew members in order to get something extra which damages the bonds of the network and causes a reason to stat "Tit for Tat". 

My personal networking is somewhat different. However, my professional network and personal network often overlap. Due to the nature of my job, I mainly communicate via Facebook and a lot of the people I work with are also on my Facebook account because we have become friends. Therefore, I always have to be careful of what I post and what is posted to me on my Facebook wall because something may get back to work that I want to keep private. My social networking is obviously much simpler as I generally use one medium to communicate with friends and colleagues. My networking within Twitter and Instagram is minimal because it is still very new to me and I am still getting used to it. On Facebook, one can be formal or informal depending on what the situation calls for and one must always be careful of how one wants to be perceived by others, as I talked about in a previous blog on the subject of being judged by employers. Someone is always the friend of a friend and that means that whatever one writes has a very high risk of getting back to someone who could either damage or further one's career. Networks via the internet, chat forums, Facebook, Blogs, Wiki's, Wikipedia, Twitter, Instagram, etc., are so vast that they link the entire world together. I have contacts all over the world on my Facebook and through my own contacts I am linked to all of their contacts too. Grace explains the planet of Pandora as "a global network" (Avatar) and that is exactly what the internet is. No matter what websites one uses, we are all involved in this global network.

In relation to learning networks and having read the extracts from George Siemens, Lave and Wenger and Crisp, J. Turner it raised some questions for me. I am curious to know how being introverted affects one's ability to learn through other people's experiences? If one's level of desired affiliation, social needs and connection are low then how does one learn through other's experiences? Does being introverted impair one's learning?

In my place of work, I am generally the most experienced cast member. With 12 contracts in 8 years it is not really surprising! I am 8 years older than when I first started and there are now new dancers arriving in my casts that are on their first job or their first cruise ship experience. I am often asked for help and advice because I have a vast knowledge of my field and they have very little. They learn from my experience and then discover more from their own experience. I have noticed that the new people who do not ask the older are usually a certain type of person, the kind that knows everything already, and has perhaps few friends. On the other hand, people like me, who are older and more experienced, find it difficult at first to connect to new young people because they are not able to understand my way of life because they have never experienced it and I am lost in understanding theirs having not been living onshore since I was 19. Once they have experienced living on a ship for a while it is much less difficult to connect socially with them because they have then also lost their strong connection to life on land. Also, being very experienced does not mean that I cannot continue to learn from their experiences as they may have experienced something that I haven't yet had a connection with, either from myself or from another person. We do not only learn from those that are more experienced than us but also for those who are less experienced. Their view of the situation may be different or something new might have happened to them that has not happened before.

Does living on a ship make connecting to people more difficult? Yes I think that in some ways it does. For example, a lot of my colleagues like television programs and celebrities and songs but when they start talking about them I have not got a clue what the are talking about! They found it unbelievable that I did not know what a Kardasian was and I was amazed that they cared so much about these people! However when they go home for the first time, they experience what I always experience because suddenly all their friends at home are talking about some new celebrity or singing along to a new song and they don't have a clue about it because they haven't heard about it yet due to being on board the ship. 
Also there is the struggle to communicate with people. I notice a huge difference in that between my age and younger people. When I left I was using snail mail mostly to talk to my friends back home. It was the cheapest form of communication but it takes time. There was not yet what's app and WiFi was almost non existent! Now it is far easier and cheaper to stay connected with friends onshore because of the improvement in technology. People are in constant knowledge about what everybody else is doing so one is able to have a connection to their everyday life through web 2:0 applications. 

Does people's need for privacy prevent networks from expanding? 
It must because how can a network function without constant updates and more knowledge. An example, a ship cannot sail without fuel and the ship cannot get fuel without first informing the on shore office that the require fuel and the office then informing the fuel company that the ship needs fuel. Then the fuel company has to inform the fuel truck that they need to deliver fuel then they have to inform the tank that they are delivering fuel for the ship. But all of that is irrelevant if the ship hasn't communicated as to exactly where it needs the fuel to be. If all of that doesn't happen, then the ship won't be sailing and they will have no need for dancers which then puts me out of the job. By keeping the ships need for fuel private, everybody working in these networks will be out of the job and the network has failed.

Does the need to be seen as better than another prevent networks from being mutually beneficial to each other? In terms of dancers, I believe that this is a big issue. We are always competing against each other so letting a girl better than one's self know about a certain audition via a social network could damage one's own chances of getting the job. However, not letting the girl know means that she cannot even attempt to get the job. If only one person knows about an audition then there is no audition and the practice of auditioning becomes useless and the companies have not enough dancers, no performances, no money and eventually there is no company left. 
This issue even exists when working in a company. Every dancers has heard the stories of understudies pushing the lead down the stairs or putting glass in their pointe shoes so that they take over as the lead. It benefits the "understudy" in the short run but once it is known that she or he is that kind of a person, everybody else refuses to work with them so ultimately they lose out on the work. 
Jealously is a very human emotion but it is one most people try to suppress at all times because it is not only damaging to the person who is causing the jealously but it is damaging to the person who is feeling these emotions; socially, professionally and personally. 

Can social networking with one's colleagues cause problems? I have experience of this, luckily it wasn't permanent friction. My previous cast mate and I became friends and were connected by Facebook. She took another contract when I had come home from a different contract for a holiday. She was in rehearsals when she became injured. She was then sent home for a time to recover. On the day she was sent home I received an email for emergency embarkation. I accepted and it appeared on my Facebook that I was going on a certain ship. This girl noticed and asked me why I was going on that ship when there was only her at home from rehearsals and she was suppose to be going back. I did not know at the time the situation because I had been given none of the reasons for this emergency except that there was a problem with one of the girls. It got to the point where she was angry with me for accepting a contract to the point that I had to tell her to take it up with the office if she thought that it was her that had been fired and I had been hired in her place. At that point she realised that this was not my fault and she apologised for getting angry with me. If I had not been connected with her on social media, or if my company had told her she was fired in the first place, then this situation would not have caused friction between my friend and me. 

Generally, our community of practice as dancers is beneficial to us all and we use many forms of social media to participate in this network as well as face to face communication. During notes after tech runs we are engaged in our community of practice to improve the shows and learn from each other mistakes. Our reflection after rehearsals, tech runs and shows are all examples of cooperating in a community of practice. We do our best to improve the show as a whole. A quote that my boss always said to us was "you are only as good as you're worst dancer". It was something that stuck so as a dancer I was always trying to make sure I wasn't the worst and to help who ever was. As a dance Captain it was something I repeated to cast members in the hope that they would do the same and I actively tried to encourage the worst to be better and to help them as much as possible to improve. As a Production Manager, I tried to make everyone see that what ever one does reflects on the rest of us so to try to help each other as much as possible so that we worked together as a team and stuck together as a team professionally. I also had to encourage them that we were not isolated, we were part of the entertainment team and also a part of the crew. The community of practice on board a ship is not only limited to the theatre but the the entire ship and we have to participate in it at all times. 

I came across a blog whilst I was researching into Professional Networks. The post was written by Jon Bischke. He talks about specific networks being created for specific professionals. As he says, "what doctors want and need - is different from what other professionals want". He then goes on to talk about some other professionals that use different social media networks, other than linkedIn and Facebook, to communicate with other professionals within their community of practice and why they might chose these networks over Facebook and LinkedIn. These other applications have been created to specifically connect like people with like people and have better applications within their network to be used by the target groups. 
When will they make a social media network catering just for people in the dance industry? Have we reached our limit with Facebook ,Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn? Would it be better to have one Network specifically catering for the Dance World or is our community so large that we cannot be contained to only one Social Network? Is the lack of a social network specifically designed for the dance industry a reflection of our value to the rest of society?

Book: Essential Social Psychology (2nd Ed) 
Authors: Crisp, Richard J. and Turner, Rhiannon N.
Chapter: Chapter 11: Affiliation and attraction

Book: Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation Publication 
Authors: Lave, Jean and Wenger, Etienne  
Chapter: Chapter 4: Legitimate peripheral participation in communities in practice

Book: The evolution of cooperation
Author: Axelrod, Robert M.
Chapter: Preface

Title: Connectivism: A Learning Theory For The Digital Age
Author: George Siemens
Date: 12.12.2004

Title: The Rise of The "Social Professional" Networks
Author: Jon Bischke (@jonbischke)
Date: 28.06.2014

1 comment:

  1. It is hard to think of professional networks not being online - so the 'social professional' (Bischke, 2016, online) way of discussing this way to communicating. We take about netiquette - which relates to trying to understand situations from a distance. There are some useful reflections on your experience, and the cycle of productions/casting that is a part of your professional world. Look forward to hearing more about your work over the summer.