Another theme! The process used here is the same as the one from the Buddy Boundary Work theme, but due to time and space constraints (for the homework assignment), I won't break down my "source code(ing)" in as much detail. I will not go through examples of the codes for this and for the next (and last) larger theme in the Meta Be Bold mini-project; instead, I'll simply list the codes here and let you find your own examples in the data, though I'm happy to expand upon things and give examples later on if I'm asked in the comments to this post.
  1. Physicality: Sections illustrative of the impact of distributedness and/or co-location on interactions, including the simulation of physical presence in order to compensate for its absence.
  2. Parallels: Originally a subset of Physicality called (the equally non-descriptive) “links and attention,” this code refers to the multithreaded nature of attention that online interaction affords, and appears largely in the use of hyperlinks throughout the various documents.
  3. Nowness: This code refers to a sense of immediacy and a high consciousness of temporality, likely caused by the knowledge that, with unplanned online interactions, being with someone else is an opportunity to be seized. The prevalence of improvisation falls partly under this code, but is also related to the co-creation code.

The uniting theme is improvised multitasked physicality. I must thank Joi-Lynn Mondisa here for convincing me of the importance of explaining this theme, since it's something I take for granted after spending so much time online myself. To paraphrase Sumana at 17:32 in our "interview" transcript: "I was thinking that I needed something INNOVATIVE AND NEW AND EXCITING to say, but that is not what a research writeup is for; the subject should be nearly boring to the writer and new to the audience."

I shall describe a few examples from "the data" that fall under this theme, and let you decide for yourself how you'd have coded them. (Note how I'm using quotes around "the data" after our discussion about boundary work? I want to keep pointing out that we're choosing to call it "data," that the notion of what's "data" and what isn't is also a social construct.)

  • The heavy use of emoticons for social lubrication during points of clarification that could potentially lead to tiny bits of tension, even if we know each other well. Example: 17:04 in the transcript.
  • Simultaneous conversation threads during the conversation in IRC, sometimes delineated by naming your conversation's recipient before saying a phrase during times the intended destination of the phrase can be ambiguous (see the bottom of page 14 of the first journal entry for a brief discussion).
  • Simultaneous "conversation threads" during in-person data analysis amongst my research group in class. In the "buddy boundary work" post, I discussed how "while Patricia and I were engrossed in face-to-face conversation, Joi dove into the etherpad and started making notes... we periodically jumped back and forth between in-person dialogue and taking notes in the etherpad as our own fancy struck us."
  • The generation of the document (a photo of Sumana's usual workspace, which is also her living room), which is done "in the background" during the end of our IRC conversation, around 17:38 on page 13 of the first journal.)
  • The interweaving of multiple attention-threads that show up in the "observation," which is Sumana's etherpad writing while she's sitting in Berlin. She's writing a document, but she's also pausing to talk with people who walk by her in the hotel lobby... but she's also poking back into the chatroom of the document and noting, to anyone who may be watching online, that she is having (or has just had) waved to someone walking by in-person. (Biella Coleman's paper, "Hacking In-Person: The Ritual Character of Conferences and the Distillation of a Life-World,"  has a great and far more thorough depiction of this sort of virtual/physical duality during a hacker event similar to the one Sumana was at during the time of the "observation.")


Now to a discussion of the theme. First, working online, we don't have physical cues to communicate with, so we devise virtual cues that serve many of the same functions. For instance, Joi asked about the purpose of writing in parentheses (which you can see here, as well as in 16:49 on page 5 of the first journal.) In this context, parentheses serve as "asides" -- the same function that cupping one's hand to one's mouth, leaning over, and saying something sotto voce would serve in an in-person conversation. She also noted the "representation of physical movement through writing" (such as  “mchua nods”) and wondered whether it was "important to portray a visual representation even in online communication."

I don't think so, or at least I wouldn't phrase it that way. The intent is not to replace or duplicate physical cues, but to create a shared sense of presence. Physical presence is something we all have experience with, and we are sitting in a physical location even when we "are" online, so physicality is something we'll frequently analogize or refer to or seemingly simulate because it builds a common understanding amongst us of what's going on. This is the "physicality" part of "improvising multitasked physicality."

Now the "multitasking" part. The absence of physicality leads to different options for multitasking than are present in the physical world. Text chat is often simultaneous broadcast, which is very much like playing in a jazz ensemble. You're playing, but you're also simultaneously listening to and reacting to others. You seldom wait in a strict turn-taking procedure; you're frequently queuing up a response, typing what you want to say, while the other person spews their own text onto the screen. We almost need to do this, or it would take forever to communicate; most people talk far faster than they type, so online text conversations have adapted to become even more synchronous than realtime audio speech. In the digital world that FOSS culture often inhabits, politeness is not exhibited by waiting for your turn to speak or act; your waiting is invisible. Instead, politeness is not letting somebody else block on a response they need from you. They don't care what else you're doing so long as they get what they need at the time they need it.

Finally, the "improvising" part: in order to be polite according to this definition of "not blocking others," madcap improvisation often takes place. I mentioned in the code description that "with unplanned online interactions, being with someone else is an opportunity to be seized." Once you slip into the online world of FOSS, no matter where you "are" at any given moment, you're always looking for ways to get what you need right that moment, and ways to give others what they need right that moment.

Let's bring this all together with an example that might seem counterintuitive at first, and we'll start it with a question: if politeness in the FOSS world is about not blocking others in the immediate present, why is there such an emphasis on leaving traces behind? For this, I'd like to go back to the interview data at 17:10 on page 8 of the first journal. You don't have to go back and look there directly, though -- the basic thing we are are seeing is a use of links as optional side-routes to follow either in parallel (during the conversation itself) or at some later point in time. Here is my blow-by-blow:

Sumana's posting of the link is a spontaneous response to my displayed ignorance of the topic ("improvising").  By doing this, she creates multiple possibilities -- imagine a "choose your adventure book" path branching out in front of me. At this point, I can either slip off for a moment and skim the link Sumana's just handed me in the background while she continues to type ("multitasked"), or I can read it later. The important thing to note is that from Sumana's perspective, both of my choices look identical; she doesn't have cues as to what my eyeballs are doing on my screen, so if I'm reading it but still get back to the chat quickly enough to respond to her as if I were not reading it, and can give her the presence cues ("physicality") she's used to, she won't feel slighted or ignored. It actually doesn't matter to her whether I read it the link at that moment or not, though it's now a known bit of context; I've been provided with the link and the opportunity to learn more, and it's up to me whether I take that opportunity or not (it's impossible to take them all). If my ignorance of the program she mentioned persists, it's now a conscious choice.
I've been doing the same thing throughout this entire series of blog posts with asides (in parentheses like this) and copious links to other blog posts, other references, Wikipedia articles, and so forth. You get to determine your own trail through, your own interpretation, your own recrafting. The informal writing style and direct address I'm using here is also a conscious choice; you're more likely to rework things that don't feel "finished," that feel colloquial, that (literally) speak to you. I'm not using the passive voice ("the data was analyzed"), but rather going in the opposite direction of attributing actions to specific people ("Joi dove into the etherpad") in the hopes that you'll see the possibilities of painting yourself into the picture of this project as a self-directed actor. It's a way I hang out a "come on in, the water's fine!" welcome sign -- and note how this sentence is a physical signal-analogy in and of itself? The boundaries continue to blur.
To answer the question I started above: if politeness in the FOSS world is about not blocking others in the immediate present, why is there such an emphasis on leaving traces behind? Well, if politeness about allowing others to improvise and multithread/multitask while retaining a sense of connectedness, we need to make sure our own improvisations don't block others, particularly when we are multitasking off on a thread that our collaborator is not on. We thus leave "physical" cues ("nodding") in our place, but we also leave props -- that's what many of these traces and links are. They're props and stand-ins for our presence, since our presence is intermittent. This isn't unfamiliar in academia -- have you ever gotten slides from a class or presentation that you missed, or emailed a paper to someone to continue a discussion after a conference? Then you've done the same thing that FOSS communities do all the time, every day, often without even thinking about it.
Finally, a side note on the relation of this theme to "default to open," a FOSS cultural maxim that's beyond the scope of this project to explain. Fortunately, Chris Grams has already explained it well, so I don't have to. By leaving props out in the open, we increase the chances that people will stumble upon them and find them useful and thus use them, the way a bench out in a park will be more likely to be sat on than a bench in someone's living room. More improvisations. More possibilities for threads. More abundance.