Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Designing an 'Electronic Village' of Local Interest on Tourism: The eKoNES Framework

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Designing an 'Electronic Village' of Local Interest on Tourism: The eKoNES Framework

Article excerpt

Introduction

In recent years, virtual community fabrics have matured to the extent that allows the establishment of novel virtualities and new concepts, which characterize on-line communities by function and scope rather than technological character. Examples include the virtual classroom and the electronic city. In the majority of these cases, the distinction is drawn around functional rather than technological characteristics. A novel virtuality, which has recently received substantial attention, is the electronic village of local interest. The electronic village is a virtual organization (e.g., many on-line communities) tightly linked to a physical space and empowered with some sort of collaborative technologies to stimulate social activities. In the literature, such virtual constructions are known to act as catalysts to local community social and economic life (Carroll et al., 2001).

In the context of on-going collaborative research and development, we are developing technology and tools for building local electronic villages as unified collaborative spaces for managing electronic services of a local virtual community of practice (Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Our approach makes a sharp distinction between an electronic village of local interest and the notion of the 'global electronic village'. The distinction amounts to the fact that the former concept emphasizes a tight coupling between virtual and local physical activities and offers a wide range of opportunities to develop alternative forms of productive social relations between members. Some of the design issues confronting the construction of electronic villages of local interest are common to other types of virtual communities of practice and include community management (i.e., discovering, building, and sustaining community), information sharing, virtual assets management, collaboration, social interaction, and knowledge management. However, since electronic villages are expected to function as catalysts towards added-value products and services, there are additional issues to be addressed, pertaining to a variety of organizational and technical aspects.

To this end, eKoNES is a collaborative R&D project that seeks to extend the conventional connotation of an electronic village so as to provide an operational model of a virtual organization with strong social links between members and an explicit focus on managing distributed collective practices for constructing information-based products. In this paper, our interest is to present a functional archetype of an eKoNES village and describe how it can be used to stimulate: (a) a sense of community amongst members through a network virtual organization (Santoro, Borges, & Rezende, 2006) and (b) a type of software factory (Greenfield & Short, 2004) facilitating collaborative assembly of new information-based products and services.

The paper is structured as follows. The next section reviews current and emerging trends in virtual organizations, community-based new product development, prevailing architectural models, and the premises of communities of practice. Then, we describe eKoNES as a community of practice and its current deployment in the tourism sector. A case study is used to depict how eKoNES squads engage in the practice of negotiating and assembling vacation packages. The assessment section summarizes useful insights based on end users' experience with the current pilot application and reveals conditions for commercial uptake of the eKoNES concept. The last two sections are devoted to highlighting some of the innovative premises of eKoNES and the paper is wrapped up with a summary of key contributions and some concluding remarks.

Related Work and Research Focus

The present work links with two main thrusts of related efforts broadly focusing on virtual communities of practice and practice-oriented tools and technologies for distributed collaborative work. …

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