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Dissertation Abstract and Update

A number of wonderful, attentive, concerned friends and family members have asked for a dissertation update, and here it is. Thank you for thinking of me! Now all of you who wanted to know but were afraid to ask can know too. The latest short abstract is:

In the fall of 2005, drivers in a small midwestern city began crossing over an interstate on a new kind of bridge. The bridge beneath them looked like other bridges carrying city streets over the interstate, but this bridge could bend. It couldn’t bend like Gumby, but it could bend like steel. Building the deck of this bendable bridge involved a state transportation department, a university research lab, and several private contractors. Given the complexity of construction projects, the challenges in doing innovative construction work, and the potential pitfalls of collaboration projects, the success of the bridge is surprising. This dissertation explores how the team managed to build a bridge with a remarkable new kind of deck.

Existing scholarship provides insight on the problems that plague projects and collaborations and identifies many mechanisms to help meet these challenges. My analysis suggests that the bridge project avoided possible problems common in projects such as (1) loose coupling among actors in a project limiting the information sharing that occurs and (2) procurement processes that encourage builders and clients to see one another as adversaries through (a) social language and its associated attention to others, (b) the flexibility and localized control loose coupling affords, and (c) the motivating influences of affect. This study will combine and extend theories about social capital, creative projects, and loose coupling in order to better understand the nature of collaborative projects involving multiple communities of practice and how those projects can be successful.

I’ve written at least 68 good pages and probably about 50 not-so-good ones that will eventually work their way, in part, into the good stuff. I have a few (< 10) interviews remaining, and that means more time in analysis. I'm on target for my personal deadline of a spring/summer defense and am actively seeking new opportunities beginning summer or fall of 2009.

So, what do you think ?

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