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Enabling virtual communities of practice: A study of Swedish-Indian collaboration
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research.
2013 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper uses the ‘communities of practice’ and

‘situated learning’ (Lave & Wenger 1991, Wenger,

1998) approach to understand knowledge building

in transnational collaborations in ICT development.

It is based on around 70 interviews in two

companies where offshoring of qualifi ed IT work

from Sweden to India is done in virtual teams. The

aim was to see whether the communities of practice

approach can be applicable to work which

transcends the limitations of distance and engages

employees with vastly different cultural and

educational backgrounds, such as in Sweden and

India. A basic prerequisite is an aim to create a community

consisting of both Swedish and Indian employees, for

example expressed by the transnational team having

one team leader, responsible for both offshore and

onsite employees. However, a community of practice

cannot be created, but needs to evolve, and learning

only happens when the old-timers accept the newcomers

as members of the community, peripheral in the

beginning but on a trajectory to become full members.

In offshoring relations this is often disturbed by the resistance

of the onshore employees to offshoring as a

phenomenon. Prejudices about foreign cultures may

play a part as well as detecting that the cultural and

educational differences actually are large.

The life of the community of practice evolves

through two processes: participation and reifi cation.

Participation refers to interaction with one’s colleagues,

and in ordinary teams it is affected by who is

included in and excluded from different interactions.

In virtual teams, access to and use of communication

technology is crucial for enabling the participation of

all members of the team. Language problems can obstruct

participation in Swedish-Indian virtual teams.

The concept participation also covers the everyday

talk that establishes the members as not only carriers

of professional knowledge but also human beings for

each other. Giving space to this kind of talk is essential

for situated learning in virtual teams.

Reifi cation refers to codifying the life of the community

in artifacts, often in documents - in IT work the

products and all the documentation around them, as

well as other documents which concern the life of the

community. Documentation plays different roles in

Swedish and Indian IT organizations, and this complicates

the creation of a community of practice and

situated learning.

However, with evidence from different teams, the results

of the study show that these obstacles can be,

if not removed, at least moved to different degrees.

When this happens, the Indian newcomers not only

learn about the technology, but different kinds of organizational

learning also takes place. The paper discusses

the possibilities and limitations of the situated

learning approach to study learning in transnational

virtual teams.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Communities of practice, IT offshoring, national cultures
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-208958OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-208958DiVA: diva2:655473
WORK - Continuities and Disruptions in Modern Life, 21 - 23 August 2013, Turku, Finland
Swedish Research CouncilForte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Available from: 2013-10-11 Created: 2013-10-11 Last updated: 2013-10-18Bibliographically approved

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Salminen-Karlsson, Minna
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