DOCAM conference at UTS – Proposal accepted

Digital-engagement: The Context of the Text.Docam Conference

The unbounded document is a product of the new paradigm where humans work in duality of environments: the real world and the digital networked environment. To the vast majority the digital networked environment is regarded as analogous to the real world but there are clearly differences as illustrated in the unbounded document and the stresses it creates which are forcing human adaptation.

In order to minimize risks and maximize the potential of the unbounded document it is crucial that we understand the engagement process of humans with digital networked technology. This paper reports on empirical research into digital engagement and how the inherent nature of the individual drives and determines the unbounded document. Issues arising from the duality of environments in which humans now operate are discussed by drawing on concepts from a range of theorists.


The unbounded document is a unique consequence of the digital age where documentation is decontextualized into easily accessible and searchable formats that have unquestionably provide substantial benefits to both individuals and society in general. Unlike traditional documentation, which has a certain static permanence and integrity the unbounded document is fluid: a result of hardware, software and wetware synthesis. This synthesis of human and non-human elements has created a complex and evolving system that cannot be contained or curtailed in traditional ways, particularly as humans increasingly use technology in their cognitive processing. The creation, storage and retrieval of documentation can therefore no longer be considered in isolation. We have to consider or at the very least understand the process of these morphing, evolving and ephemeral synthesized units. In order to understand this an ecological approach to tool-use has been adopted (Gibson, 1979; Smitsman, 1997).

Digital networked technologies do indeed conform to the general definition of tools used by humans since they involve manipulable objects that alter the environment in order to achieve a goal. However digital networked technologies are also an environment in which the human operates which confounds issues. Drawing on the work of a range of theorists (Castells, 1996, 2010; Deleuze & Guattari, 1987; Heidegger, 1977a, 1977b; Lyotard, 1984; Mayer-Schönberger, 2009) this paper briefly discusses the duality of environments that is increasingly imposed on humanity as a result of technology rollout . Most first world individuals must now operate in both the real-world environment, which humans know and understand, and the newly created digital environment that challenges a number of basic human concepts such as value exchanges, memory, time and space. The consequences of these differences are simultaneously affecting multiple aspects of our lives such as education and leadership methodology (Spencer-Scarr, 2013, 2014a, 2014b).

This paper is based on original research into human engagement with digital networked technology and explores how the uniqueness of individuals’ personality influences and determines their engagement with the technology. It also looks at how awareness and understanding of the engagement process can assist in the resistance and appropriation of technology to the individuals’ advantage. The paper also touches on continuing research into utilizing digital networked technology to enhance the evolutionary process in order to maximize the individuals’ outcomes through self-managed digital engagement.

Digital engagement not only determines how we relate to the technology but also how it relates to us. This complex relationship affects not only the unbounded documents that we create but also what and how they are stored and retrieved. Digital engagement is at the heart of the scaffolding we create for societal and individual memories: Memories that we will retain through our handling of the data and documentation.

As we are inexorably drawn into creating our online identities and scaffolding our memories through technology driven changes such as decontextualized unbounded documentation we run the risk of being managed by technology rather than proactively using it to advance our evolutionary process in this newly emerged digital environment.


A grounded theory approach was used for data collection, which employed mixed methods. This involved three video recorded interviews of each participant as well as a standard Five Factor Model personality test: Additional NOE-PR-I tests were used on identified fully engaged participants to provide deeper insights. All participants were ICT professionals with academic background ranging from year 10 to post graduate. The gender spread was slightly weighted to males and the age spread was 21 to 62.


This research is Humanities based but of necessity it is interdisciplinary. Supporting research has been drawn from a wide range of disciplines from anthropology to neuroscience, psychology to philosophy. This diversity has been essential in order to understand this new environment, human personality and how humans engage with technology.



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Spencer-Scarr, Diane. (2014b). Long Tail Leadership: Understanding Soft Power Affecting Organizations. In H. Rahman & R. Dinis (Eds.), Organizational Agility, Intelligence and Resilience. (pp. 355). USA, Hershey PA: Business Science References – IGI Global


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