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Vol 57 No. 6 | Mar. 2005
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Vol 57 No. 6 | Mar. 2005
Geography Professor Named Finalist for AAG's Nystrom Award

Christine L. Jocoy, an assistant professor of Geography at CSULB, has been selected as a finalist for the J. Warren Nystrom Award by the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in recognition of her research on the promotion of corporate learning and innovation through spatial relationships.

Jocoy has been invited to present a paper based on her 2004 doctoral dissertation from the Pennsylvania State University at the special AAG Nystrom session to be held April 5-9 in Denver, which will select from one to four award winners. She also has been invited to submit her study for the AAG's journal, The Professional Geographer.

"The Social and Spatial Contexts of Corporate Learning: Practices for Balancing Diverse and Shared Knowledges" traces the interactions, practices and decision-making involved in the daily operations of a company as perceived by its employees. The case study investigates networks of individual learning practices and the roles played by firms and regions in shaping those practices within an innovative company.

"Being a Nystrom finalist and session presenter is an honor," said Jocoy, who worked for several years as a cartographer for the National Geographic Society. She came to CSULB after earning her M.S. and Ph.D. from Penn State. She earned her B.A. from New York's Vassar College.

"There are several theories about how various industries cluster in certain areas, such as high technology in Silicon Valley or the aerospace industry in Long Beach," she said. "The co-location of firms in the same industry or closely related industries helps facilitate interaction that contributes to learning and innovation. Essentially, it allows people to develop common conceptual frameworks about what other people know so that they can communicate more easily. This paper looks at the kinds of geographic or spatial relationships that promote corporate learning and the relationships that help businesses to come up with innovations."

Her research suggests that there's more to creativity than working in the same place. "I looked at the linkages a company has to other places and examined the idea that pipelines of information feed core groups of people working together," she said. "It's all about balancing diverse and shared knowledges."

In "Spatial Contexts," she argues that while learning happens during face-to-face interaction between individuals, it is generated from many dispersed sources and multiple contexts. "Knowledge production is a continuously negotiated balancing act between cohesive and disparate contexts," she wrote. "I illustrate this with examples from an innovative firm that attempts to balance the interaction of both diverse and shared knowledges to produce new knowledge."

Sharing ideas is essential to success, Jocoy believes, but it is not just a matter of sharing information: it is the ability to facilitate and benefit from that sharing. "There has to be an environment in which members feel free to work together," she said. "Learning depends on making people feel comfortable with crossing boundaries. There are barriers not only between places but between departments in a single corporation or even between floors in a corporate headquarters. The key is overcoming them."

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