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Hopper, M. E. (2000, 2002 ). About E-Projects Square.

Phase 3 - 2000-Present
E-Projects Square
An expedition to survey e-projects...
Mary E. Hopper, Ph.D.
E-Projects Director

Expedition Question
Where are the viable E-Projects?
This research attempts to develop grounded theory and functional models
regarding the multitude of complex relationships among key factors within the
substantive, technical and organization contexts of electronic media projects.
The long term goal is to improve the viability of electronic media projects
by identifying and disseminating effective and sustainable strategies.
Changing the way  information is collected, integrated, compared and shared.
(See Handout: table comparing three phases/expeditions.)
(Note: Electronic media projects are referred to as "e-projects" or "projects",
particularly focused on projects in education and related areas.)
Little change, but just more of a sense of dubiousness.
Let’s hope there can be viable projects!
[See previous expedition, Education on the E-Frontier (EOTEF).]
Informal Ethnographic, Documentation Collection, Formal Qualitative & Quantitative
Continue approaching projects informally, and also return to more formal methods.
Finished research in 1993, but felt hit and run...
George Landow, "at least you came back" seemed critical.
Watching projects as they evolved over time mattered (i.e. longitudinal).
But Intermedia was gone...
...so I began to hang around MIT!
Many projects at MIT viewed as opportunities to further define the framework of concepts developed in this study.
After all, it was a great place to be..
there were some really big famous projects here!
In addition, I was particularly fascinated with why there
were so many advanced e-humanities projects at MIT?
Then the WWW came along somewhere in between,
Tim Berners-Lee and the WWW Consortium moved to LCS,
and then MIT became a REALLY good place to be!

Compare projects by focusing on the forest,
while also watching the trees.
Study significant national and international projects.
-Within project anatomy and relationships.
-Between project relationships.
-Across educational levels, ancestor media, and disciplines.
Data Type and Collection
No "official" study with formal interviews.
Watched projects to reflect on past findings.
Meeting with people and going to relevant events.
Informal collection of project documentation,
but hard to keep up with...like quicksand!
Collect and compare data from multiple sources,
working simultaneously bottom up and top down,
emphasizing negotiation and cooperation.
1. Extract information from aggregated data sets.
    -Gain Access to Mass Project Descriptions
    -Negotiate Use of Project Profiles
2. Gather information from published sources.
    -Systematically Construct Project Histories
3. Weight missing data to gather through targeted collection.
    -Integrate Case Studies of Key Projects
    -Advocate Longitudinal Research Studies
4. Pursue permission to include more focused data.
    -Identify Projects for Elaborative Description by Participants

   Value Added!
   As qualitative data is coded and aggregated,
   gradually quantitative data will result.
   This will be a key source of added value:
   comparative bench marks, indicators, and metrics.

Researcher Role
"No formal data collection is  misleading."
The level and amount of data vary relative to level of access to projects.
Able to get more detailed data by working on a projects as "participant observer."

Develop appropriate structures for describing e-projects.
Create and coordinate a collaborative community resource
where project participants can share knowledge.
Longitudinal and/or Historical Focus
(Study Projects Over Time and Between Project Relationships)
Longitudinal research is critical.
Mature projects go through many generations.
Older projects have histories in ancestor media that pre-date computers.
Projects are cyclic due to complex technology and funding cycles.
(I realize now that I came in on the down side. We’re entering an up side.)
Some projects are designed to achieve transient goals.
To evaluate success, the question is one of impact rather than survival.
The way to track impact is through relationships between projects.
This is one valuable measure of success for all projects.
(e.g. CT/Sherwood)

Establish a road map for electronic media projects by examining key factors
and relationships within and between past, ongoing and emerging initiatives.
Moore's law:  new computing environments will continue to emerge regularly.
Study cutting edge projects to discovernew issues as they emerge.

Technology in Data Collection, Analysis and Reporting
Informal HTML/WWW system for managing expanding set of documents.
Inadequate for publication--a huge site much not appropriate to publish.
This is a map of resources of the HTML resources. (e.g. people)

Design adequate technical solutions to collect, integrate, analyze and share data.
Step 1: Moving HTML/Web to Relational Database Prototype (MS Access)
Deliberate transitional step particularly good for data entry.
Mostly tables with serious size and functionality limitations:
a. inadequate for complex data structures to accommodate elaborative collection
and analysis of longitudinal and ethnographic data, as well as existing data sets.
b. incapable of supporting multi-user access for contribution and collaborative analysis.

Step 2: Convert Prototype to Multi-User Database on the Web
Coming soon to a browser near you: E-Project Square!

Results (Models)
Generalized Model of Projects (Scales and Adapts)

Represent projects as dynamic systems with
complex relationships that change over time.
The previous model reflected significant factors and
relationships, but was relatively misleading because
lower order factors and relationships were not represented.
It is a challenge to construct a model reflecting the
complex anatomy of key factors and relationships
among the substantive, technical and organizational
context of projects.
More accurate approach:


Summary and Discussion
For projects in distributed computing environments,
there was a theme of continuous change and expansion.
They must continue to change in order to survive.
The same problems emerged on a large scale when
distributed computing spread via the WWW.
E-projects are going to remain dynamic systems which are hard to manage,
and it isn't surprising that organizational issues will continue to abound.

Conclusions and Pointers to Next Phase of Expedition

It is important to develop  strategies to better understand
the structure and function of projects in order to improve them.
There are complex factors that effect the survival of electronic media projects.
It is imperative to learn how to construct viable projects.
We MUST describe and understand a system in order to IMPROVE it!
From the past..to the future!
The long term goal is to improve the viability of electronic media projects
by identifying and disseminating effective and sustainable strategies.
The project is about changing how information about electronic media projects
is collected, integrated, compared and shared among people involved in them.
(Handout: table comparing three phases/expections.)
E-Project Square is a collaborative expedition to understand
the wide variety of complex relationships among key factors
in the substantive, technical and organizational contexts
both within and between electronic media projects across
a variety of disciplines and industries as they change over time.
It will accomplish this by providing a powerful digital environment
for generating grounded theory about the structure and function
of e-projects using an elaborative strategy that combines a wide
variety of research methodologies.
© Mary E. Hopper [MEHopper] | MEHopper@TheWorld.com [posted 00/00/00 | revised 03/03/03]