ABSTRACT

In an era where we can fl y from one part of the world to another in hours rather than the days, weeks, or even months it took to travel in the time of Descartes, the Hudson’s Bay Company, or even Einstein, and where video conferencing and other tools such as Skype and teleconferencing allow us to interact orally and sometimes with visual images across the globe, writing might seem a poor substitute to face-to-face interactions. Yet, a quick overview of the ways knowledge is created and shared today suggests that writing is far from being dead. Take, for example, online discussion forums that present a valuable venue for interaction among busy, working professionals and that are based only on written exchanges. In fact, these online forums are increasingly regarded as important venues for promoting learning across the boundaries of time, space, and formal organization (Ahuja & Carley, 1999; Butler, 2001; Gray & Tatar, 2004; Herring, 2004; Sproull & Faraj, 1995). Online forums provide propitious environments for knowledge sharing and learning as well as collaborating. As we saw in Chapter 7, the free and open source software developers have successfully developed complex software products relying almost exclusively on written exchanges.