Saturday, March 05, 2011

Reading :: Knowledge Capitalism

Knowledge Capitalism
By Alan Burton-Jones

As new economy books go, this one is a bit long in the tooth. Burton-Jones, who heads an Australia-based consultancy, published it in 1999. That's centuries in Internet time - and yet Burton-Jones does a great job of explaining some of the characteristics of the post-industrial society, identifying some of its trends, and discussing how the firm outsources non-core functions to different markets: flexhire, mediated services, dependent contractors, and independent contractors. Since I have been studying the latter lately, this discussion was especially helpful to me: I see multiple points of contact with coworking. I also appreciated the care in which Burton-Jones documented his evidence for the discussion.

Let's start with the key notion of "knowledge capital." The author starts by distinguishing between goods and services - although he concedes that the distinction is becoming harder to draw. But "as manufacturers outsource non-core functions to specialist service organizations, employment in services increases and employment in manufacturing declines" (p.4). The difference between goods and services has become harder to draw, though, because although the traditional definition of "service" is something that is consumed as it is produced, not all services fit that definition, "particularly those that can be electronically time-shifted" (p.4). So "as both goods and services become more knowledge and information intensive, the distinction between them is becoming both less apparent and in many cases less relevant. Knowledge is becoming the defining characteristic of economic activities" (p.4, my emphasis). So "the central tenet of this book is that knowledge is transforming the nature of production and thus work, jobs, the firm, the market, and every aspect of economic activity" (pp.4-5). He urges us to understand knowledge better (p.5), drawing distinctions such as knowledge-about vs. know-how, explicit vs. tacit, and stickiness vs. absorptive capacity (p.7).

To drive the point home, the author provides statistics: "In 1900, less than 18 per cent of the total workforce in the USA were engaged in data- and information-handling tasks. By 1980 it had risen to over 50 percent. ... On present trends, over 80 percent of the workforce are likely to be involved in information-handling tasks by 2020, of whom a higher proportion than at present are likely to be engaged in knowledge-building and decision-making activities" (pp.8-9; but see Brown and Hekseth for a more skeptical view of such predictions). The author provides a table illustrating give stages of IT from the 1960-2000, with focus changing from centralized file handling to local and global networking (p.9). Along with that focus change has been a change in the economy, and the author identifies three economic trends: symbolic goods, demassification, and boundaryless empire (pp.12-16). And he identifies a significant trend away from job orientation and toward career orientation - that is, industry-wide standardization (e.g., a standard word processing package used by secretaries across all companies) has led to less firm-specific knowledge, leading to more circulation among jobs. "In effect, careers owned by individuals will progressively replace jobs owned by firms. By the same token, firms are becoming less dependent on the idiosyncratic knowledge of particular workers, when the same/similar knowledge can be obtained more cost effectively, either through automation or on the open market" (p.20). (Some readers may be reminded of Castells' notion of generic labor here; Burton-Jones does cite Castells' work, but doesn't specifically draw on Castells' work on generic labor.)

So, the author argues, we're entering an economy based on knowledge (p.20). He identifies four regional variants (p.20), but believes that they will converge (p.22).

In the second chapter, the author explores the question of how the firm will develop in the knowledge economy. During the Industrial Revolution, firms internalized functions to aid efficiency and effectiveness, and transactions within the firm increased (p.25). During the 1970s, digital technologies reversed this trend, and firms began decentralizing operations, saving costs and reducing administrative complexity" (p.25). Through the 1980s, organizations became "leaner and flatter," and "as a result, the commercial firm of the late 1990s is less inhibited by geographic, industry, or technical boundaries, employs fewer people on a full-time permanent basis, and often has fewer tangible assets" (p.25). So: in the knowledge economy, how do transactions changes? Which transactions stay in the firm vs. the market? (p.26).
Knowledge-based theory predicts that economic activities containing high levels of explicit non-firm-specific knowledge ... will move into the market (externalization). Conversely, those with high levels of tacit and specialized knowledge will remain in the firm (internalization). Firm-specific knowledge embodied in routine functions can be expected to reduce, due to automation. Routine firm functions requiring little firm-specific knowledge, such as office cleaning, equipment maintenance, and security, are already commonly outsourced. (p.32)
Again, we can see parallels with Castells here, but Burton-Jones sharpens the distinction a bit. He also notes that firms are moving away from proprietary systems and networks to standard ones (think Google Apps for Your Domain). "These factors tend to imply an overall shift toward proportionately greater market-based coordination" (p.33).

One consequence is that we're now seeing a reconvergence of ownership and control: "Sole proprietorships, small partnerships, and private companies involved in service activities and low-scale production generally have both their ownership and their decision making concentrated in a few key individuals," so "ownership and control are typically united" - in stark contrast with larger firms (p.40).

In the knowledge-based firm, Burton-Jones expects the following:
  • The firm's principal functions will be "knowledge coordination, protection, and integration"
  • "Transactions involving high levels of specialized and tacit knowledge will be internalized"
  • "Transactions involving high levels of explicit knowledge will be externalized"
  • "Ownership and control will converge"
  • "The links between education, work, and learning will converge" (p.43)
Due to these trends, Burton-Jones argues that "by the year 2000 at least 30 per cent of the American workforce are likely to be working under ... non-standard [non-full-time, non-permanent, non-employee status] arrangements" (p.46). He shows the trend with a table of non-regular employment across countries, 1973-1993 (p.48). And he argues that the nature of employment contracts is changing from relational to transactional contracting:
  • output-based performance
  • results, not time
  • location-independent (p.52)
"For the core knowledge workers in the firm, the focus will increasingly be on team or firm performance," he concludes (p.52). Most employees will be incentivized to maximize personal productivity for personal gain, not corporate goals; relations between employees and firm will be more arm's-length (p.52). He develops a Knowledge Supply Model[TM] - yes, he trademarked it - in which the Firm (a core group surrounded by an associate group surrounded by an affiliate group) is surrounded by the flexhire market, the mediated services market, the dependent contractors market, and the independent contractors market (p.58). These four markets perform different functions. For instance, independent contractors
provide support for functions requiring high levels of tacit and/or explicit knowledge, but low levels of firm-specific knowledge. Such support typically involves technical, professional, and specialty services. The value of the knowledge provided by this group, in terms of its potential impact on firms' operations, is high. The frequency of demand by the firm for such knowledge is typically lower than for that supplied by dependent contractors.

Members of this group include self-employed individuals (both incorporated and non-incorporated), micro firms, and small businesses. They are usually not dependent on any particular firm for their major source of income. Members of this group frequently form independent business networks comprising a mixture of individuals and firms. (pp.60-61).
Burton-Jones expects all types of contracting "to grow at the expense of all forms of direct employment" (p.64). In the subsequent chapters, Burton-Jones explores each of the markets. Although he has interesting things to say about all of them, let's focus on Ch.7, which discusses the independent contractors market.

The independent contractors market includes independent contractors, micro firms, and business networks (p.131). "The independent contractor is one whose income is ordinarily derived from multiple sources and is not normally dependent upon the maintenance of a relationship with one or a few specific clients" (p.132). They are involved in "contracts with firms that are 'arm's-length,' explicit, transaction oriented, and measured by outputs or results, rather than inputs" (p.132). Increasingly, they handle work involving a high order of knowledge and skills, but unrelated to day-to-day operations of the firm. "Small businesses are likely to be better qualified to provide such skills than the general market and to compete effectively with larger outsourced specialists, particularly when the independents' lower overhead structures provide a cost advantage" (p.133). Stunningly, "over three-quarters of those in self-employment in the West have no direct employees" (p.133). And this brings us to business networks, in which individuals and small businesses network with each other, forming non-contractual, nonhierarchical relationships (pp.137-138). Such networks involve "trust, informality, redundancy, commitment, and interdependency" (p.138). They involve "horizontal, cooperative relationships" in which "knowledge exchange is frequently ad hoc, informal, and designed to assist with problem solving" (p.141). Indeed,
future knowledge entrepreneurs are likely to grow their businesses through cooperating with other resource owners rather than by seeking to employ them. ... For those in the fast-growing knowledge-intensive industries such as IT and in the professions generally, self-employment is already more prevalent business growth already occurs through loose groupings of associates or partnerships, rather than vertically organized business structures (p.143)
Is there a better description of what I've been seeing at coworking sites?

In Chapter 8, Burton-Jones reminds us that the firm itself is being redefined as well. Non-core functions are externalized, but the core is internalized, refined, and concentrated. This process is redefining the firm: it "is becoming physically smaller, but intellectually larger, as it reorganizes its use of externalized and internalized resources" (p.151). Or if you prefer: all edge. That means: less physical infrastructure; greater use of workers' personal resources; workers as suppliers rather than employers; more financial agility (p.152). Such characteristics imply a limit to the firm's growth (p.154). The firm is becoming a knowledge producer (p.155), an integrator of knowledge (p.156). He predicts a structural convergence between business networks and firms (p.190).

In the last chapter, he emphasizes the "learning imperative": "work and learning are becoming increasingly interrelated and interdependent" (p.199). "Education," he says, must become a global business rather than a public service (p.204).

He also warns:
A fundamental characteristic of the knowledge economy is the way that it will empower and simultaneously isolate the individual. The implications of this 'splendid isolation' need to be taken into account in explaining and promoting ways to handle changing economic conditions. Learning, rather than being educated, for example, will be foreign to many people. Others will find the prospect of an independent workstyle a daunting prospect. For those unaccustomed to operating without supervision, the message has to be one of encouragement and support, both to take control of their own careers and to suggest independent sources of counselling and assistance. For others it will be a case of encouraging and publicly rewarding knowledge entrepreneurship. (p.232)
Again, is there a better description of the support aspect of coworking?

Overall, this book was helpful in at least three aspects. First, Burton-Jones provides a broad, well-grounded discussion of structural changes in work brought on by the increased importance of knowledge work. Second, he provides a well developed taxonomy of externalized markets for talent, and his discussion of independent contractors in particular is helpful, providing remarkable insights into the independent contracting and coworking characteristics I've been studying. Third, his 1999-era sources give me ideas for finding and handling similar but more contemporary sources. Overall, an excellent and insightful read.

Friday, March 04, 2011


So next week is a big week. I'll be speaking twice - and actually, I'll be trying not to speak too much because I'm more interested in what you will say.

RISE. On Monday, I'll appear in a RISE session called "Hold on Loosely: How Loose Organizations Work." It's at Link Coworking, 10am. There, I'll warm things up with a slide show, then lead a discussion about how people perform work that's very loosely organized: independent contractors, remote workers, specialists in cross-functional teams, and other adhocratic work arrangements. Since Link is a coworking space, it's a fantastic place to discuss these sorts of issues. Bring your stories about working in nonhierarchical arrangements, even if that just means working out of coffee shops.

SXSWi. On Friday, I'll lead a SXSW Interactive Core Conversation, also titled "Hold on Loosely: How Loose Organizations Work." Isn't that a coincidence? But it will not be the same session. In this context, we'll be drawing people from across the country to drill deeper into this idea of loose organizations. We'll be tackling specific questions about loose organizations, such as their strengths, their challenges, and their best practices. If you saw my presentation on coworking at SXSWi last year, you'll be primed for this discussion. If you didn't, why, take a look at last year's slides. I'll bring the paper and sharpies; you bring best practices from your freelance work, telecommuting, community organizing, startup, or coworking space. (Especially your coworking space, since the Coworking Unconference will be in town.)

Both presentations will generate a lot of feedback, which I'll plan to post on this blog. So come back after SXSW. And don't hesitate to follow me on Twitter at @spinuzzi - I'll announce there when the summary is up.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Reading :: Networks and States

Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance
By Milton L. Mueller

A few years ago, I read Milton Mueller's excellent book Universal Service, which became an important resource in my 2008 book. So when I saw this book, I was intrigued enough to pick it up. I am, of course, glad that I did, because the book is terribly relevant. For instance, as I was reading Mueller's discussion of how countries can exert control over their citizens' Internet access, Mubarak cut Egypt's Internet access.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Mueller is interested in Internet governance, like Cowhey et al (a book he cites), and how it interacts with citizens' freedom, like Benkler (another book he cites). Mueller's a clear-eyed realist with a strong understanding of how governments and regulations function, so he avoids - and critiques - the excesses of some who believe that the Internet will simply cause people to be more free. Rather, he says, he's interested in the question of global Internet governance; "the problem of Internet governance has produced and will continue to produce institutional innovations in the global regulation of information and communications" (p.2). The Internet, he says, puts pressure on the nation-state in a number of ways:
  • "it globalizes the scope of communication"; (p.4)
  • "it facilitates a quantum jump in the scale of communication"; (p.4)
  • "it distributes control" so that control is "no longer closely aligned with political units"; (p.4)
  • "it grew new institutions"; (p.4)
  • "if changes the polity" because lower costs and higher capabilities of group action mean that "radically new forms of collaboration, discourse, and organization are emerging" (p.5)
Mueller sets about examining how "these factors are transforming national control and sovereignty over communication and information policy" (p.5). He overviews a set of literatures that address these changes:
  • Networked governance: "Governance networks are defined as relatively stable articulations of interdependent but operationally autonomous actors," he explains. In this literature, "Networked forms of organization are said to consist of looser affiliations of organizations and individuals that rely on regularized interaction to pursue cooperative goals. The bonds that hold the nodes together, so the theory asserts, are based on the reciprocal benefits that can be achieved by affiliation and cooperation - not on a division of labor defined and enforced from above" (p.6). Mueller sees this literature as speaking to how "networks that combine state and nonstate actors can overcome some of the limitations on government based on territorial sovereignty" (p.7).
  • Commons-based peer production: "Peer production describes how producers of open source software or content such as Wikipedia rely on nonhierarchical, largely voluntary collaboration techniques within a nonproprietary legal framework and a ubiquitous networked infrastructure" (p.7). He relates this literature to how ISPs respond to security threats.
  • Multistakeholderism: "the opening up of state-based international organizations to participation by 'stakeholders' besides governments" (p.7). He adds: "It might be described as the pluralization of international institutions" (p.8).
Mueller finds these ideas useful, but approaches them critically (p.8), testing each to see what it can contribute to the question of global Internet governance.

Chapters 2 and 3 are some of the most valuable chapters for me, because here Mueller attempts a taxonomy of networks. "Network has become a trendy term," he acknowledges, and asks: "When we talk about 'networks' are we talking about technologies, or societal organizations, or both? Or are we simply projecting the latest metaphor into any and every kind of social relationship we can see?" (p.17). Mueller introduces three cases in Chapter 2, then uses these in Chapter 3 to separate and taxonomize two uses of "network" in the social sciences: a formal analytical technique ("network analysis") and a theory or metaphor of social organization (network as an organizational form) (p.31). These can interact powerfully, he argues (p.31), but "they need to be carefully differentiated and kept distinct" (p.32).

He first describes network analysis (p.32), and cautions us: "Note that this method finds 'networks' anywhere and everywhere. ... The fact that this analytical method can be pplied to anything does not mean that the world is more networked than it used to be, nor does it necessarily herald the existence of some new kind of society or organizational form" (p.33).

In contrast, the notion of network-as-organizational-form is "more complicated," developing out of many disciplines. Mueller further taxonomizes this understanding of network:
  • Production networks. "In economics and economic sociology, network has come to mean a mode of governance that differs from managerial hierarchies and markets" (p.34). He explains how "In the 1980s, theorists began to observe looser affiliations among multiple firms - outsourcing, franchising, research alliances, and other semi-autonomous relations - and to discuss how this phenomenon fit into the market-hierarchy dichotomy" (p.31). Although "the initial tendency was to describe them as hybrid organizational forms somewhere 'between markets and hierarchies,'" sociologist Walter Powell argued that they constituted a distinctive organizational form "based on the relationship rather than the transaction" (p.34).
  • Peer production. In contrast, the peer-production view of networks is of "networks as a form of organization for production," in which an infrastructure of "ubiquitous, powerful networked information technology ... dramatically reduces the cost and magnifies the scope of establishing relationships based on the reciprocal benefits of association" (p.35). Mueller cites names that are familiar to readers of this blog: Adler, Benkler, Raymond, Rheingold, Shirky. Although "Benkler's concept of peer production sounds very similar to Powell's network organization," Mueller argues, the two are distinct: "the linkages between participants are usually not based on what Powell calls the relationship; in other words, interpersonal familiarity and trust. The relationship can be relatively autonomous and automated" (p.36). Mueller says that "one can think of peer-to-peer networks as a massively scaled-up, technologically driven version of the network organizational form - Powell on steroids" (p.36) and concludes that "peer-to-peer networks occupy an extreme space in any typology of network organizations. They might be considered a pure form or ideal type that reflects the full capabilities of the Internet" (p.37).
  • Political networks. Here Mueller turns to network literature in political science. In this literature, "Originally, policy networks were conceived as relatively small and stable sets of corporate actors drawn into regularized interaction around a set of laws and regulations in a specific sector" (p.38). Such networks were seen as "an unconsciously formed clustering pattern" (p.38). Later, the concept was "broadened to include looser kinds of relationships, known as issue networks," and later "transnational advocacy networks (TANs)" (p.39).
In later literatures, networked forms of organization and policy networks were melded (p.40; cf. Ronfeldt et al. on the Zapatista netwar).

So, Mueller concludes, we see two distinct meanings of network in the social sciences: as "a loose but bounded and consciously constructed organization based mainly on leveraging the benefits of reciprocity" (i.e., "network organization"), and as "an unbounded and decentered cluster of actors around repeated patterns of exchange or contact" (i.e., "associative cluster") (p.41). Mueller describes two dividing lines between these: "Network organizations have a well-defined point of access and must explicitly decide on criteria for including and excluding participants. Associative clusters lack both features" (p.42). Network organizations are designed; associative clusters are de facto and relatively stable. Importantly, Mueller says, associative clusters have no agency: any "governance is a byproduct of many unilateral and bilateral decisions by its members to exchange or negotiate with other members" (p.42). To understand Internet governance, Mueller says, "we need both concepts of networks as a form of organization, but we must not confuse them" (p.43).

Mueller provides a nice table describing his taxonomy of networks and comparing them by specific features (p.44). He also examines how associational clusters might move toward network organization and then to hierarchies: conflict or negotiation over the distribution of benefits (p.46). He argues that
we can identify four ways in which the network organizations and associative clusters formed around the Internet might lead to institutional change:
1. By formalizing and institutionalizing the network relations themselves
2. By states' attempts to impose hierarchical regulation upon networked forms
3. By states' utilization and adoption of networked forms
4. By changing the polity; namely, by realigning and expanding the associative clusters around governance institutions (p.46)
Moving on. In Chapter 4, Mueller deploys this network taxonomy to examine the UN's World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which represents "a clash between two models of global governance: one based on agreements among sovereign, territorial states; the other based on private contracting among transnational nonstate actors, but relying in some respects on the global hegemony of a single state" (p.55). In Chapter 5, he describes how WSIS "experimented with efforts to make international organizations more open and democratic by facilitating the participation of nonstate actors," leading to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) (p.81). In Chapter 6, he examines the IGF in more detail, particularly its embrace of multistakeholderism (p.107). And in Chapter 7, he examines the clash between two "IPs": intellectual property and Internet protocol (p.129).

Chapter 7 leads naturally into Chapter 8, about security governance. And although we may associate security with hierarchies, he argues, "the residues of hierarchy are becoming entirely dependent upon the network relationships of peer production to have any effect": Hierarchical actors must integrate into the "looser transjurisdictional, multistakeholder networks of operators" to do any work (p.173). And that gets us to Chapter 9, Content Regulation. Here, Mueller argues that the Internet "took the libertarian principle of 'absence of prior restraint' and globalized it" (p.185). A critical challenge, he says, is "a concept of freedom better suited to the system of large-scale, automated content generation, interconnected autonomous systems, and highly differentiated layers of access characteristic of the global Internet" (p.189).

Let's skip a bit. In Chapter 11, Mueller provides quadrants for understanding Internet polity. The axes are Transnational/National and Networking/Hierarchy; the quadrants are Denationalized Liberalism, Networked Nationalism, Global Governmentality, and Cyber-Reactionaries (p.256). And he argues that these quadrants can help us to understand what's going on right now. For instance, he says, "The nature of the political spectrum is profoundly changed when we are forced to make the territorial state a variable rather than a constant. ... The standard right-left spectrum does not provide reliable guidance on some of the basic institutional questions" (p.259). He provides various examples, then argues that we can't do without some form of "cyber-libertarianism," because cyber-libertarianism flags two problems:
  • who should be sovereign, the people accessing the internet or the territorial states to which they belong?
  • to what degree do "classical liberal precepts of freedom get translated into the context of converged media, ubiquitous networks, and automated information processing"? (p.268).
He argues that a territorial, democratic nation-state "doesn't scale to global proportions" (p.268), and "the answer to that dilemma may lie in the upper-left quadrant of the political space - a denationalized liberalism" (p.269). (Dedicated readers of this blog - if there are any - may detect some resonance with Phillip Bobbitt's work.)

Overall, the book was fascinating. I've spent a disproportionate amount of time on Mueller's frameworking on networks, since I thought he did a stellar job here and I'm quite interested in that aspect right now. But if you're more interested in Internet governance or global institutions or public policy, you'll find valuable things here as well. And if you're interested in how nation-states are being challenged by global communications, certainly the book is directly applicable. Definitely pick it up.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Are you here for ISAWR?

If you're here because you're considering voting for me for the ISAWR Steering Committee, welcome. Here's more about me:
Thanks for considering me. CS

Monday, February 28, 2011

Reading :: Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century
By Henry Jenkins with Ravi Purushotma, Margaret Weigel, Katie Clinton, and Alice J. Robison

I probably shouldn't admit this, but this book-length report is the first thing I've read by Henry Jenkins. But between the fact that I know his coauthor Alice Robison and the fact that the book's link (free PDF download) was tweeted by Howard Rheingold, I decided that I really ought to read it. I'm glad I did. This report provides a good overview of the changes we face in media literacy and how we might respond to those changes.

What's the issue? As the report argues, "more than one-half of all teens have created media content, and roughly one-third of teens who use the Internet have shared content they produced." These teens are often involved in participatory culture: "a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal men- torship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices" (p.xi). Participatory culture includes affiliations, expressions, collaborative problem solving, and circulations (pp.xi-xii). Jenkins et al. see the mastery of these as "key skills and competencies" (p.xii), but they are concerned with three issues that need interventions: the participation gap, the transparency problem, and the ethics challenge (pp.xii-xiii). So the authors urge that we teach the following skills: play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation (p.xiv).

That's the overview from the Executive Summary. Let's dive into some of the more interesting parts of the report.

Jenkins et al. begin by defining participatory culture:
For the moment, let’s define participatory culture as one with
1. relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement,
2. strong support for creating and sharing creations with others,
3. some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices,
4. members who believe that their contributions matter, and
5. members who feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least, they care what other people think about what they have created). (pp.5-6)
They continue: "Participatory culture is reworking the rules by which school, cultural expression, civic life, and work operate" (p.10). For instance, "We suspect that young people who spend more time playing within these new media environments will feel greater comfort interacting with one another via electronic channels, will have greater fluidity in navigating information landscapes, will be better able to multitask and make rapid decisions about the quality of information they are receiving, and will be able to collaborate better with people from diverse cultural backgrounds" (p.13). The flip side, of course, is that many will not have access to such environments and therefore will not be able to develop such skills. The authors add:
As we think about meaningful pedagogical intervention, we must keep in mind three core concerns:
  • How do we ensure that every child has access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant in the social, cultural, economic, and political future of our society?
  • How do we ensure that every child has the ability to articulate his or her understanding of how media shapes perceptions of the world?
  • How do we ensure that every child has been socialized into the emerging ethical standards that should shape their practices as media makers and as participants in online communities? (p.27)
To address these concerns, the authors lay out "a framework for thinking about the type of learning that should occur if we are to address the participation gap, the transparency problem, and the ethics challenges" (p.27). That framework includes the core media literacy skills mentioned above: play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation. They address each of these, using examples to demonstrate what they involve and how they can be developed.

Let's drill down to some of the more relevant bits. Some readers of the blog might find this quote interesting:
This focus on teamwork and collaboration is also, not coincidentally, how the modern workplace is structured—around ad hoc configurations of employees, brought together because their diverse skills and knowledge are needed to confront a specific challenge and then dispersed into different clusters of workers when new needs arise. Cory Doctorow has called such systems ad­hocracies, suggesting that they contrast in every possible way with prior hierarchies and bureaucracies. Our schools do an excellent job, consciously or unconsciously, of teaching youths how to function within bureaucracies. They do almost nothing to help youths learn how to operate within an ad-hocracy. (pp.74-75)
The report cites a 2005 blog post of Doctorow's, which is unfortunately no longer there. But you may remember that the term dates back at least to 1970's Future Shock. Nice to see it getting some play; since Doctorow's blog post is gone, I can't tell whether he took the term from Toffler's book or invented it independently, although it sounds like the same usage. In any case, nice to see that it still has some currency.

In any case, Jenkins et al. develop this thought: Whereas school attempts to develop generalists, "The ideal of a collective intelligence is a community that knows everything, with individuals who know how to tap the community to acquire knowledge on a just-in-time basis" (p.77). Among other things, this point leads the authors to conclude that "In a world in which knowledge production is collective and communication occurs across an array of different media, the capacity to network emerges as a core social skill and cultural competency" (p.91). And
Learning in a networked society involves understanding how networks work and how to deploy them to achieve particular ends. It involves understanding the social and cultural contexts within which different information emerges, when to trust and when not to trust others to filter and prioritize relevant data, and how to use networks to get individual work out into the world and in front of a relevant and, with hope, appreciative public. (p.96)
So: lots of gold in this report. There is also some dross. For instance, the authors cite the notion of distributed cognition but don't seem to really come to grips with what that notion entails - they see distributed cognition as being a sort of skill rather than a way of understanding cognition as a whole (pp.65-71). But overall, the report pushes us to think through what a participatory-culture classroom might look like. Definitely find some time to read it.