Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Guest Blog: What the Hell is A Johari Window, and other Questions. featuring Lawrie Phipps and a little bit of Dave White.

Lawrie was on holiday when I posted this.  He got
up to donut-eating and other mischief.
This post began with Lawrie Phipps’ curiosity about an instrument called the Johari window.  It’s still mostly Lawrie’s words, with some of my (Donna’s) thoughts, and a bit here and there that is either an argument with or an agreement to something that Dave White said.

Fundamentally, we are wondering about the utility of the Johari window, and about how it might  be used to reflect and elicit feedback for individuals who see their practice as being more ‘resident’ as originally defined in the First Monday paper by Dave White and Alison Le Cornu, and more recently in the Visitors and Residents Info Kit at Jisc InfoNet.  

Readers may recall that I do go on a bit about the Visitors and Residents project.  I agree with Lawrie that the V&R model is increasingly considered a useful way of thinking about how we behave online. Recall that in its simplest form it posits that there is a continuum of users online exhibiting behaviours ranging from ‘visitor’ to ‘resident’.

I quote below from our InfoKit:

Visitors:  “When in Visitor mode, individuals decide on the task they wish to undertake. For example, discovering a particular piece of information online, completing the task and then going offline or moving on to another task...In Visitor mode individuals do not leave any social trace online.”  

Residents: “When in Resident mode the individual is going online to connect to, or to be with, other people. This mode is about social presence...Resident behaviour has a certain degree of social visibility: for example, posting to the wall in Facebook, tweeting, blogging, or posting comments on blogs. This type of online behaviour leaves a persistent social trace which could be within a closed group such as a cohort of students in a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)/Learning Management System (LMS) or on the open web.”

In Academia there are various forms of currency and value associated with practice, including publishing in peer reviewed journals, being invited to give keynotes, and a variety of metrics including those of research assessment frameworks and public engagement.  These more traditional practices are now accompanied by less well-established modes of scholarly communication and networking, via digital tools, practices, and places such as blogging and Twitter.  There is manifest  tension between the struggle to establish one’s scholarly bona-fides in traditional ways, and taking advantages of the benefits of new modes of credibility, many of which are expressed via the web, and are not universally recognized as either scholarly or valuable.  (Dave talks about shifting notions of credibility and academic currencies in the short film here.)

An emerging theme around discussions of value is the role of “presence,” especially in an academy which is being played out increasingly on a digital backdrop. Many individuals in education have changed the nature of their relationship with their host institutions or departments through stronger (and sometimes aggressive) online presences, and many others are seeking to develop in this area (Phipps, 2013). As an individual’s online catalogue of artefacts grows, such as blog posts, images and tweets, so does their network of readers, followers and where appropriate collaborators. As a direct result of their online presence the nature of building and maintaining relationships changes. In a post-digital academy, where presence may be seen as having value, understanding how an online persona is perceived is important, especially if one considers that opinions and judgments will be formed often with no direct interaction with the owner of the presence.

One method for exploring and mapping forms of presence is the Johari window.  This technique was developed by Luft and Ingham (1955) and is used to help individuals understand their relationship with self and others.

The window use four sections, shown below and in the original model it also used 57 adjectives that were used by an individual to describe themselves and by others to describe the individual.  

Known to self
Not known to self
Adjectives used in the original model
Known to others
Blind Spot



Not known to Others

Users of the window choose 7 or 8 of the adjectives to describe themselves. Colleagues or friends then also choose 7 or 8 to describe the user. The mapping and duplication will dictate the open, hidden and blind spot window size.  Therefore, terms that individuals come up with for themselves that are also chosen by colleagues would go in the “Open” section, which is for that area that is known to yourself and is known others. This includes behaviours, knowledge, skills, public history etc.  Terms selected by colleagues or friends but not by one’s self would go into the ‘Blind Spot’ section is that area that is known to others but not oneself. This might include very simple things, but may often bring deeper issues to the surface.  Terms picked only by the individual, but not by colleagues/friends go into the ‘Hidden’ section is that area which is known only to you.

The unknown area is that area that is neither know to yourself, or others. It may also be thought of as the area with potential.  It is left blank, to inspire discussion, encourage reflection.

The Johari window has uses in both individual development and team development.  In these contexts, many see the objective as being to enlarge the Open area.  The assumption here is that having a larger Open area means that  people know more about you, and you are self-aware, and that openness should make collaborating and effective team work easier.   This valorization of Openness asserts that teamwork requires self-disclosure, and personal give-and-take.  The more one shares about one’s self, the more the Hidden area shrinks.  In theory, more feedback can also decrease the Blind Spots.  The Johari window model posits that people with many characteristics listed in the Open area are easy to talk to, communicate effectively and may be good in group dynamics. The opposite would therefore be true of those with smaller windows.

So perhaps individuals who consider themselves at the residency end of the continuum may wish to use a process based on the Johari window as a reflective tool to understand how they are perceived by peers, how they are situated within the communities they value and areas they may wish to exploit. In a workshop context, they might also come up with additional adjectives relevant to online interactions, if they find the original list doesn't capture what they need to communicate.

I would additionally note, this model assumes benefits of openness which might bear some disentangling.  Anyone who is familiar with my Twitter presence and the content of my blog here knows that I agree with the positives around open practice on the web, but not everyone does, and there are disciplinary and individual difference of opinion about the utility and risks involved in resident-style online communication.  I have blogged before about the utility of mapping as a way of reflecting on practice. In a workshop context, people mapping their online practices with the help of a Johari window exercise could generate a potentially useful conversation about how people perceive the pros and cons of open practice on the web. Examining their personal practices via Johari mapping (and also via V&R mapping) can begin to reveal fears and ambitions individuals might have around non-traditional, web-based, resident modes of scholarly production.

References that are not online resources:
Luft, J.; Ingham, H. (1955). "The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness". Proceedings of the western training laboratory in group development
Phipps, L,. (2013) Individual as Institution. Educational Developments 14:2

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