Tagged: research Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 2:19 pm on June 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , research,   

    Using @IFTTT and Twitter to curate material for research projects 

    Two new projects I’m in the early stages of working on both necessitate engagement with phenomena that are developing rapidly. This poses an obvious question: how to identify relevant material and then archive it in a useful way? I’ve written a lot about the curation process before and I won’t rehash it here. Instead, I want to explain a new strategy I’m using. Every time I tweet with the hashtag #Distraction or #DigitalElites, the service IFTTT automatically saves the tweet to a text file in my DropBox. For those unfamiliar with it, there’s an explanation of how IFTTT works here.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 15.13.16

    This lets me share the item I’ve found, as well as briefly reflect on it. It also facilitates conversation at each stage of the project, adding to my engagement with the item I’ve shared. In doing so, I hope it will help avoid the ‘graveyard of links’ problem, where a vast archive of once useful material becomes intractable when it lacks context and hasn’t been filtered through prior engagement.

    • Martha Bell 8:23 am on June 19, 2016 Permalink

      Thanks for this, Mark. I’ve been trying to think through the issue of how to be able to categorise and keep tweets and FB posts for future review. So it is not tweets that I send so much as tweets that others have sent around one event. I started with hashtags but even then anything more than 6 or 7 becomes a real slog…although I am happy to do it… I have been screenshotting them and then transcribing them to an XLS spreadsheet in order of date/time and conversation. Incredibly time consuming. The hashtag I am working on at the moment has 174 tweets. I have done 3 so far. A rich source of response to an event and peer-peer comments, advice and information seeking… But, I have found that tweets are often dated in North American time (not my time zone) and also I have to scroll back through twelve months worth of tweets to get to my event if I ever lose my place (as the event was 12 months ago). Any suggestions for streamlining the process?

    • Mark 4:20 pm on June 20, 2016 Permalink

      Try Storify?

    • Martha Bell 9:26 pm on June 20, 2016 Permalink

      Thanks I will. I found your 2012 presentation about curation, which is very thoughtful and useful.

  • Mark 5:54 pm on May 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , empirical research, , research, , research participants,   

    “They were stalking the corridors, the lecture rooms, the offices…”: open research, ethics and impact 

    The Last Seminar by Stan Cohen must surely merit consideration as the strangest paper ever to appear in a Sociology journal. It tells the story of a gradual invasion of the university campus by those who are neither expected nor welcome: research participants. Encountering  strangely familiar figures in their everyday working lives, befuddled sociologists suddenly begin to recognise that those who have been the objects of past research have gradually returned to confront the researchers who sought to repress them upon completion of the research:

    Then Bridges, who I thought had been deliberately avoiding me, walked up to the desk at the end of a class in which he had participated with his usual intense stare.

    ‘You don’t know anything about it, do you? It’s all a game to you.’I asked him what he meant.

    ‘Prison’, he said, ‘You think because you’ve spoken to a few cons you understand it all. Well, you don’t, you just don’t.’

    He was slowly shaking his head. The tone was polite, but condescending. I’d heard that tone before.

    The ensuing confrontation is neither welcome nor pleasant. Those whose existence had been reduced to representational objects begin to subject the researchers to emotional torment, with their mere presence throwing the campus into disarray:

    Those of us who had done any empirical research were being infiltrated by our subjects. (‘Infiltrated’, is that the right word? I’m still not sure how to describe what was being done to us. Penetrated? Visited? Invaded?) I could not explain how this had happened but they were certainly here, taking revenge against us for writing about them.

    The story ends with Cohen’s narrator desperately bundling up his most treasured books before fleeing the burning campus as gun fire echoes in the distance. It’s a very strange story. But it asks an important question: what would involuntary confrontation with participants in past research look like? What would it feel like? How would a prior knowledge of such future rencountering (re)shape our practice? Certainly these are not new questions. But it would be difficult to find a text which considers them quite as dramatically as Cohen’s.

    This is something I’ve thought a lot about in the context of researching the asexual community. I first encountered the notion of asexuality through two new friends who identified as asexual. As I got curious about asexuality – partly because I didn’t ‘get it’ and partly because of its conspicuous absence within the sexualities literature I’d encountered at that point – I started to search online. I very quickly found asexual discussion forums, blogs and youtube videos. I found a website that an asexual PhD student (who eventually switched topics to research the history of asexual identity) had setup in order to help encourage and facilitate what was, at that point, a fairly insubstantial amount of academic research on asexuality. In short: an awful lot was happening online.

    It soon became obvious that the internet had been integral to the emergence of an asexual identity and the formation of something which, for lack of a better term, we might call an asexual ‘community’. However the internet was also crucial to the formation of an extremely loose but nonetheless identifiable asexual research community – e-mail, mailing lists, blogs, discussion forums allowed   geographically dispersed individuals with common interests to communicate. This has eventually led to some face-to-face meetings: a seminar at the University of Warwick, a conference panel at the Sexualisation of Culture conference, the formation of an interest group of the National Women’s Studies Association and numerous conference sessions which have emerged from this.

    There’s a risk of overstating the point but there is, nonetheless, a clear homology here and it’s a really interesting one. In a way it represents a reshaping of the field of research – the same trends are identifiable in the formation of groups of researchers as can be seen in groups of the researched. It might be the case that asexuality represents an outlier but, even if this is so, it’s helpful because it foregrounds a change which might be difficult to identify elsewhere if it is manifesting itself more gradually. The institutional and territorial gap between researchers and the groups they research – the concern of Cohen’s story – is being radically narrowed by the internet in general and social media in particular. There are some striking examples of this within asexuality studies, such as the formalisation of the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network’s gatekeeping function and the Open Letter to Researchers written by the Asexuality Awareness Week committee, but I find it difficult to see how this could become anything other than a broader trend. Some elements of Cohen’s parable could seem anachronistic given the sensitivity and awareness which many social researchers, particularly insider researchers, exhibit in relation to this ‘gap’. My intention is simply to frame this recognised issue in terms of the many ways in which the technological innovations which are driving this process can be drawn upon to negotiate it proactively. By this I mean things like:

    • Single author or multi-author blogging
    • Tweeting about research
    • Setting up a tumblr blog about research
    • Podcasting (interviews, talks)
    • Facebook pages
    • Videocasting (interviews, talks, documentaries)
    • Live streaming events
    • Engaging with community blogs

    These are possibilities which often come up in terms of ‘impact’ and ‘public engagement’. But I think these are often sterile concepts, redolent of top-down imperatives and an audit culture – it also risks subsuming the specific publics of the researched who have a stake in the content of that research under the general ‘public’ with whom we are ‘engaging’.

    These are powerful tools which, increasingly, require little to no technical expertise to master. Martin Weller talks about these technologies as being ‘fast, cheap and out of control’:

    Fast – technology that is easy to learn and quick to set up. The academic does not need to attend a training course to use it or submit a request to their central IT services to set it up. This means they can experiment quickly.

    Cheap – tools that are usually free or at least have a freemium model so the individual can fund any extension themselves. This means that it is not necessary to gain authorisation to use them from a budget holder. It also means the user doesn’t need to be concerned about the size of audience or return on investment, which is liberating.

    Out of control – these technologies are outside of formal institutional control structures, so they have a more personal element and are more flexible. They are also democratised tools, so the control of them is as much in the hands of students as it is that of the educator

    In adopting fast, cheap and out of control tools we make the research process newly open and, in doing so, help ameliorate the methodological and ethical difficulties which can result from too wide a gap between researchers and the groups they are researching. Using these tools proactively helps ensure that changes in the broader field of research which are, by definition, unpredictable can be negotiated more actively than would otherwise be the case. Incorporating them into ongoing practice can also, somewhat paradoxically, lead to much greater impact than could ever be achieved by deliberately seeking ‘impact’ as a compartmentalised activity. The digital footprint which open research leaves manifests itself in a discoverability by activists, journalists, practitioners and policy makers which would be difficult, if not impossible, to cultivate through other means. But this discoverability is also achallenge – ethically and methodologically – one which I think Stan Cohen would have found very interesting.

  • Mark 5:42 pm on April 9, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , , research, ,   

    Why should academics blog about their research? An answer in pictures 

    Thanks to Jacqueline Bartram who drew these great cartoons as I was talking at a Hull event last yearabout academic blogging. Why should academics blog about their research?

    It provides a home for things you reluctantly cut from your publications:


    It allows you to get early feedback on ideas and try them out for the first time in public:


    It allows you to exchange early thoughts with others working on the issues that concern you:

    It allows you to share your struggles with others who are going through the same thing:

  • Mark 6:02 pm on September 4, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , , , research, state, ,   

    the origins of digital capitalism  

    From The New Prophets of Capital by Nicole Aschoff, loc 730-744:

    At the same time, society’s greatest inventions and innovations of the past two hundred years— rockets to the moon, penicillin, computers, the internet— were not bestowed upon us by lone entrepreneurs and firms operating in free markets under conditions of healthy competition. They were the work of institutions: CERN and the Department of Defense created the internet, while Bell Labs— a subdivision of AT&T, freed from market competition by federally granted monopoly rights— generated transistors, radar, information theory, “quality control,” and dozens of other innovations central to our epoch. 25 Nearly every advance in science, technology, and mathematics emerged from people working together at universities supported by government funding. Creativity and innovation come from many places. Companies produce influential innovations, but so do other institutions that operate outside the confines of the profit motive, competitive markets, and the bottom line.

  • Mark 9:03 am on March 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , research, ,   

    Life in the Accelerated Academy, part 2 

    The idea that a part 2 to yesterday’s post would be less rushed seems rather naive in retrospect. Feeling rushed in the morning is different to feeling rushed in the evening but it is nonetheless feeling rushed. Much of my motivation for the Accelerated Academy project comes from a desire to understand this aspect of my daily experience in a sociological way. It’s not quite linking ‘personal troubles’ to ‘public issues’ however because I’m aware that I like speed. Much like the experience of rushing reflects something more than my own psychology, so too do the pleasures which can be taken in acceleration. Here are some suggestions about what they are:

    1. Time-pressure can be a symbol of status and flaunting it can represent one of the few socially acceptable forms of conspicuous self-aggrandisement available.
    2. Time-pressure can reduce the time available for reflexivity, ‘blotting out’ difficult questions in a way analogous to drink and drugs.
    3. Time-pressure can facilitate a unique kind of focus in the face of a multiplicity of distractions. If we accept that priorities are invested with normative significance (i.e. they matter to us in direct and indirect ways) then prioritisation can be pleasurable. This can take the form of people who rely on deadlines to ensure things get done. More prosaically, it can undercut procrastination by leaving one with finite temporal resources to utilise for non-negotiable obligations.
    4. Time-pressure can leave us feeling that we are living life most fully. If the good life is now seen as the full life then living fast feels like living fully.

    I think this conveys the feeling I’m trying to conceptualise more effectively than I can using the abstract words which are the only tools too many years of higher education have equipped me with:

    It’s a feeling that provokes ambivalence but does so in a way that can be thrilling. C Wright Mills once wrote that “My plans have always exceeded my capacities and energies”. This is a sentiment that resonates with me in the sense that it describes my own experience. But I think there’s more to it than that. There’s some latent moral force to this resonance, as if part of me thinks that a life of which this was not true would be in some sense a life wasted. I’m not sure if I believe this reflectively but something in me endorses it nonetheless. Part of me believes that a failure of one’s plans to exceed one’s energies would point to a failure of imagination, an inability to keep pace with the possibilities for creative activity afforded by digital capitalism.

    I find myself fantasising about working on one thing at a time. If I play the game, mark myself out in the right way then I could win funding and immerse myself in one project. But I’m not sure I really want this. I may think that I do but all the evidence I have suggests that at the first sign of frustration or boredom, I would seek out new distractions to which I could commit myself, justifying this as structured procrastination – perhaps we are veering into individual psychopathology after all… more to the point though, even if I did this and committed myself to it, would it be possible any longer? The schemes I’d be applying to demand impact strategies which presumably have to be put into practice. There is monitoring and assessment, consultation with mentors and demonstration of progress. The Rortyean image of unstructured immersion in creative work reveals itself once more to be a fantasy, at least under present circumstances.

    The further problem is that, as Ana Canhoto pointed out in a comment on part one, Rorty’s image of slow academia is still the one held by many non-academics. Friends, family, partners fail to understand the relentless pressure to do more, ascribing situational demands to individual pathology (and perhaps this leads to a tendency for all three groups to be composed heavily of other academics). The three most desirable jobs in Britain are author, librarian and academic. It would be interesting to know how much respondents to this Yougov survey know about the conditions of working life faced by authors, librarians and academics. Perhaps authors are free – if social media is my most practical escape hatch then being a writer is my most desirable one – in the way that only the truly precarious can be, with it becoming effectively infeasible to live full time as a (non-superstar) author, all the more so if one has dependants. Is it a desirable freedom?

    In many ways, I’m probably as free as I’m going to get right now. The problem is that embracing that would mean stasis. It would mean wanting to hold things in their current place. It would mean foregoing the pleasures of acceleration. It would mean, crucially, investing myself in circumstances that are by their nature transitory. This is the dilemma of acceleration: any resting place we find, any point of respite from speed, by its very nature cannot be assumed to be anything other than temporary. The stable career trajectories, as well as their associated life narratives, which Richard Sennett announced the end of in the early 90s involved a different temporality: a slow and steady movement through life (and the firm). Could acceleration be something that we seized upon as an alternative? Defining ourselves through perpetual motion, identifying with going somewhere even when the ‘somewhere’ perpetually shifted?

    In part 3, I’ll talk about social media and craft, given that this is what my talk was originally intended to be about.

    • Jan Henderson (@HealthCulture) 4:28 am on March 26, 2015 Permalink

      I don’t find any mention of Steven Ward’s ‘Neoliberalism & the global restructuring of knowledge & education’ on your blog, but I assume you already know it (although it’s possible he’s an obscure American sociologist). He comments on something that relates to the idea you mention here — how those outside academia are unaware of the time pressure academics feel these day. His point is that to the extent people are aware of the audit society nature of academia (and medicine), they find it only logical. Why should the professions be immune from what the rest of the workforce experiences?

      (Sorry for how lengthy this quotation is.)

      “[T]he transformation of knowledge and other public professions under neoliberalism is not unlike that experienced by most occupations within the primary labor market over the last few decades. Within this transformation occupations, such as those in the automobile, airline or steel industries, that once offered stable and permanent work, life-long employment, fringe benefits, union scale and contractual protection have become victims of neoliberalist political and economic policies. … [T]his does not mean that the public professions themselves are necessarily dying out only that their guild-like power to control their own fate is being seriously challenged. NPM [new public management] in practice is only an extension into the public domain of the new managerial and business policies and practices that many workers have experienced for several decades as a response to the ‘realities of the market’ and the ‘inevitabilities of globalization.’ With the extra insularity that working in public bureaucracies created, professionals often saw themselves as somehow outside of the labor process or at least shielded from its more onerous effects. The professions, with their historic monopoly on expertise and political power, have also largely seen themselves apart from and elevated above other occupations and the uncertainties of the labor process in general. It was, after all, that independence that allowed the public professions to operate in a public regarding capacity and to propagate the ideals of ‘inner dedication’ in the first place. As these occupations slowly became reshaped by neoliberalism and its cries of competition, choice and globalization, public professions rarely did anything to show their solidarity or to offer assistance. Indeed, in some instances their mutual funds and retirement plans seemed to buy their acquiescence or at least silence. This has created very little sympathy from other occupations about what is now happening to the public realm and public professions. After all, why should they be trusted when all other workers are monitored, evaluated and often fired at will? Why should these professional groups not be transformed into ‘productive labor’ by being exposed to the same policies and processes that have now long affected most other workers in the so-called new economy for decades?”

      I would take “inner dedication” to include the priority given to the intellectual pleasures of academia in Rorty’s time. Things certainly have changed in my lifetime.

    • Mark 9:00 am on March 28, 2015 Permalink

      That’s very interesting (and another book to add to the list) – it seems like a form of ‘negative solidarity’: we suffer so why don’t they?

      It occurred to me recently that the discourse of fulfilment through work (and the corresponding sense of failure if one can’t experience this) has emerged at the same time as the growth of managerialism and the (partial) deskilling of the professions. What interests me is how to make sense of the interface between the discourse about work and the changing experience of work in a sociological way.

  • Mark 10:11 am on October 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , research, ,   

    The Mobile Apps in Research Summit 2014 

    On December 4th 2014 The University of Birmingham will be hosting the second Mobile Apps in Research Summit. We are excited to announce that delegate registration is now open.

    This year’s Summit includes some discussion-based workshop sessions, by popular demand, as well as presentations, panels and networking.



    Panel: Supporting apps in research – what UK universities need to do

    Workshop Sessions: delegates may attend either A or B

    –               Session A: When is an app the right thing for your research?

    –               Session B: Designing data gathering apps

    Workshop Sessions: delegates may attend either C or D

    –               Session C: Can research apps be commercialised?

    –               Session D: Make an impact – evaluating your app in the real world

    Panel: The Future of Mobile Apps: Ubiquitous apps, appcessories, and the Internet of Things

    Closing session: shaping the Mobile Apps in Research Summit 2015

    There will also be a networking lunch with the chance to meet developers who have experience in creating mobile apps based in academic research. There’s an increased focus on outputs this year, including responses and solutions from the workshops, partnerships for collaboration, and consultation on the future of the Summit for 2015.

    For the full programme and to register visit our website http://www.appsinresearchsummit.com. Tickets cost £15 including lunch. Follow us on Twitter for updates @appsinresearch.

  • Mark 6:45 pm on June 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , research, ,   

    Art, research and sociology’s promiscuity 

    I’ve just come back from two days talking, thinking and occasionally getting frustrated by the question of the relationship between art and social research. This is something I’ve been curious about for ages. Here are some reasons why:

    • I think the communicative repertoire exhibited by most sociologists is profoundly limited and I think of performance, in the broadest sense of the term, as something which deserves serious consideration to this end.
    • Dialogues with artists about their practice (as well as about art more abstractly) can be incredibly helpful in recognising non-linear creativity and incorporating this recognition into ongoing practice.
    • An engagement between art and sociology can help drive innovation in methods, particularly in relation to the sensory and the possibilities which ubiquitous digital devices afford for mobile social research.

    These dialogues might involve an exploration and renegotiation of the boundary between sociology and art. However I find the possibility that some might deliberately or otherwise collapse the boundary rather worrying. Social research ≠ art. Artefacts of art practice ≠ data. Exploratory liminality ≠ research questions. Conflating these things precludes the creative exploration of the differences and commonalities between them. It does a disservice to both sociology and art. My concern is that what Andrew Abbott describes as sociology’s difficulty with excluding things – its lack of any intellectually effective means of expelling topics which have come to occupy sociological attention – might, in time, lead to a slide from considering the relationship between art and sociology to an enthusiastic attempt to conflate the two.

    • Kip Jones 9:01 am on June 15, 2013 Permalink

      ‘Moving our work to arts-based procedures is not a series of isolated acts; it requires an adjustment in how we approach everything in which we engage—including writing for academic publication. …My current writing, which is continual, reminiscent of my blog, and isn’t afraid to allow motifs to develop across publications and over time through a body of work [is but one example]. In terms of structure, its composition is influenced more by the arts (frequently music, but also painting), than academic writing. The ever-present constant is that it allows room for the reader to participate [following Bourriaud’s (2002) relational aesthetics]. I expect the reader to have questions, even doubts. As a writer, I leave a trail or clues to some of the answers, rather than routinely relying on argument or debate’. – Jones, K. (2012) “Short Film as Performative Social Science: The Story Behind “’Princess Margaret’”.
      Ch. in Popularizing Research, P. Vannini, Ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

    • emcgeeney 10:12 am on June 26, 2013 Permalink

      Reblogged this on New Frontiers in QLR.

  • Mark 4:26 pm on November 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , research, ,   

    Pretty much everything you need to get started on social media as an academic contained within… 

    • My getting started with social media bundle has pretty much every training resource I’ve ever produced in it.
    • Some collections of other people’s stuff about Twitter, blogging and podcasting.
    • All my Prezis from social media workshops.
    • The LSE Impact Blog’s Twitter list and Twitter guide. Go through the former list, follow anyone who seems interesting and Twitter will subsequently make a lot of sense.
    • For some more theoretical and exploratory perspectives on the role of social media within the academy, see my academia 2.0 bundle.
    • Lots of papers and articles about scholarly publishing and open access, which I’d argue is the context within which academic social media use needs to be understood.
  • Mark 2:15 pm on August 14, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , interview situation, research, semi structured interviews,   

    Internal conversations and natural language use / question for qualitative researchers 

    Much of my thesis centers around the notion of internal conversation. Leaving aside broader theoretical issues (what it is, how it works and why it’s important etc) it also poses an obvious epistemic question: if you’re using interviews then how can you claim to gain knowledge of people’s internal conversations? I’ve never thought this was much of an issue but I have always recognised it as a legitimate question to be asked of any empirical research that operationalizes the concept.

    However I find myself, currently knee deep in transcription while also writing my methodology chapter, wondering whether it’s actually a pseudo-problem. In my interviews my participants constantly report, unprompted, on their internal conversations. I’m not comfortable posting data on my blog but here are some examples of the kinds of constructions (i.e. as opposed to the actual internal conversations subjects refer to) I’m talking about:

    • So I’m like “why should I do this if that’s how she’s going to be with me?”
    • I’d do it for a few years, then I’d be “right, I know how this works, I can move onto something else now”
    • And I was like “ah, i see what’s really going on here”

    There is obviously much more to the internal conversations of the people than these examples suggest. However I think it’s important to recognise that when you talk at length to person a about topic b, they will frequently report on internal conversation c when it is relevant, exists and they feel comfortable recounting it. This seems quite naturally really: if you are recounting past events to a present interlocutor, it would produce strange truncated accounts if inner speech was categorically expunged from the description as a whole.

    Does this ring true of other people’s experience conducting semi-structured interviews? I’m a bit shocked this point hadn’t occurred to me previously and now I’m wondering how far to pursue the line of argument.

    I’m also cautious that there’s a risk of reducing actual interview conversations to their empirical recounting in the interview situation. Furthermore, the participants who seem to do what I’ve described above the most are also the most communicative more broadly. For instance they’re the ones who will tend to describe social interactions through recounting both sides of a dialogue (e.g. I was like “X”, then she was like “Y”, then he butted in and was “Z’) which is perhaps why I hadn’t picked up on this earlier. Do those who practice other forms of reflexivity naturally recount internal conversations in external speech? Do they do it more/less? Do they do it differently?

    • Mike Karim 5:12 am on October 17, 2012 Permalink

      (I caught your name and research in MA’s Reflexive Imperative and thought to look you up…)

      The question, “how can you claim to gain knowledge of people’s internal conversations?” is spot on. I’ve been preparing for a pilot study, and that question almost instantly confronted me. I’ve felt some relief by attending to informal conversation with others and identifying some comments that indicated similar statements like those you cited.

      Having said that, though, that sense of comfort hasn’t proved a thing. So, in some convo’s with some cog anthro people around Fuller, I’m consistently hearing the advice: attempt to engage the informant/respondent in a way that elicits how they practice reflexivity. All of which makes great sense: except, as you observed, it is the communicative reflexives that routinely give utterance to their internal conversations. So, yes, the semi-structured interview does promote the declarations of internal conversations.

      I don’t think there’s a pseudo-problem here, but I would be surprised if an empirical recounting were possible!!! Meanwhile, I’m looking into other ways with which to elicit reflexive data from the autonomous, meta’s, and fractured. For now, though, I’m won’t be surprised if I end up relying upon interviews.

      All the best,

    • Mark 9:05 am on October 18, 2012 Permalink

      Hi Mike, thanks for your comment. It’s particularly welcome given I’m actually writing my methodology chapter at present – drop me a line if you fancy a chat at some point, my e-mail is mark AT markcarrigan.net 🙂

  • Mark 10:54 am on July 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , research, , ,   

    “Should I be conscious of the language I use on Twitter?” 

    The panel (below) responds at this Digital Change GPP event earlier in the year.

  • Mark 11:08 pm on July 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , research, , , ,   

    What about the authors who can’t pay? Why the government’s embrace of gold open access isn’t something to celebrate 

    Sometimes I worry that Twitter is an echo chamber, reflecting my own prejudices back at me and shielding me from contrasting views. On other occasions though, I find this same characteristic immensely comforting. Such as when reading that the government has officially embraced the recommendations of the Finch report and finding that other PhD students and early career researchers were just as dismayed by this news as I was. Leaving aside the broader issues pertaining to gold open access, which in practice simply redistributes costs within a broken system without challenging the underlying commercial premise, there’s one particular question posed by this chain of events which is the cause of my current dread about the future of academic publishing: what about the authors who can’t pay?

    I fear that academic publishing could come to resemble the perilous landscape that PhDs and ECRs are only too familiar with at present. The competition for post doctoral funding is ever increasing, leading to continual inflation of the things you need on your CV to stand a chance, yet without funding it’s very difficult to actually achieve these prerequisites. Or in other words: the best way to get post doctoral funding is to already have it. Could we see something similar happening with publications? If authors are dependent on their institutions and/or funding bodies to pay the substantial fees required under gold open access then those who already have a job and funding will find it easier to publish and thereby increase their chances of getting another job and more funding. Much as the post doctoral funding climate creates virtuous cycles, so too will the publishing climate, as a whole swathe of early career academics will find themselves untroubled by article processing charges. From their perspective, open access of this form will be great: it doesn’t pose problems and it means their research is freely available. On the other hand, what of those who find themselves excluded? If your funding is patchy or non-existent how can you compete? Is it even going to be possible to be an independent researcher in any meaningful sense?

    In a climate where freelance, part-time and fixed term contracts are increasingly the norm within academia, the extent to which the government’s announcement is retrograde cannot be overstated. Such a radical increase in the dependence of researchers upon their institution has profound consequences for those who do ‘make it’, leaving aside the many who seem likely to be wholly or partially swept aside for the reasons discussed above. With funding bodies increasingly focused around narrow priority areas, often tied to short term political whims to a truly abominable degree, themselves falling into homology with priority areas within universities, naturally aiming to increase their success in winning funding from these bodies, what becomes of research that falls into a non-priority area? What becomes of independent research full stop? Will their be funding available to cover author fees? Will their be conditions attached to it? How will the inevitable rationing work? Even assuming the best will and highest managerial accumen in the world, these yet unanswered questions paint a picture of the future university which I find far from appealing. What of the willingness to dissent and speak up at a time when economic instability looks set to continue indefinitely? With academics even more reliant on universities, as one of the two potential sources of author fees, will they be willing to resist? Or will the disciplining of academic labour, already entrenched in multifaceted ways with many personal consequences, simply continue?

    • claytonbingham 3:01 am on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      You have hit on something very important that I worry about a lot…I think that the near-term solution is ensuring that either libraries don’t lose their budgets or it is reallocated to departments via research departments…This will ensure that some funding is available for authors publishing in OA journals.

      It is interesting to speculate on how this may augment the politics on campus and make various departments even more top-heavy politically than they already are…

    • claytonbingham 3:02 am on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      Reblogged this on and commented:
      You have hit on something very important that I worry about a lot…I think that the near-term solution is ensuring that either libraries don’t lose their budgets or it is reallocated to departments via research departments…This will ensure that some funding is available for authors publishing in OA journals.

      It is interesting to speculate on how this may augment the politics on campus and make various departments even more top-heavy politically than they already are…

    • Mike Taylor 4:46 pm on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      You haven’t done your research. There are lots of OA venues that are free to authors as well as to readers; and among those that ask a publication fee many (such as the PLoS journals) offer a no-questions-asked waiver to authors who do not have funds for publication.

      This is a non-issue.

    • Mark 9:10 pm on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      You say ‘many’ but could you cite some examples beyond PLoS? Furthermore could you offer some examples specifically relevant to the social sciences and the humanities? I’m aware that some gold open access journals offer waivers, I’m just sceptical about how generalisable this will be as the model expands and becomes more integral to the economics of scholarly publishing. The fact you seem to think both that I’m unaware that open access extends beyond author pays models and against open access in principles makes me think that you either didn’t read my post and/or are reading it through a pretty narrow ideological prism. My problem may very well be a “non-issue” but the evidence and argument you’ve cited to this end amounts to nothing more than observing that not all open access involves fees (I know and not really the point here) and observing that PLoS offers waivers. I’m very worried about the impact this will have on early career researchers in humanities & social sciences and I’d LOVE to be convinced I’m wrong about this. But you’ve not really come close to doing this, just said some largely irrelevant stuff and then declared it a ‘non-issue’.

    • Mark 9:14 pm on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      I think it’s the politics of this that fundamentally concerns me. It’s impossible to predict the technical details at this stage but given the general trajectory of higher education, particularly for social science and humanities, over the last decade, increasing the dependence of academics on institutions and funding bodies (while living commercial publishing, in principle, untouched) is a glaringly obviously bad thing.

    • Mike Taylor 9:29 pm on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      Mark, I beg your pardon — I am a scientist and am writing from a scientist’s perspective, where fee waivers really are widely available: see for example the BMC journals as well as PLoS. I’d not realised you’re in the humanities, and concluded you’d “not done your research” on the basis that you didn’t mention PLoS — which of course is not really relevant to you.

      I don’t know much about humanities, but IIRC SAGE Open is the main open-access megajournal in that area — correct? If so, their current gold-OA fee of $195 seems very reasonably, and they say Authors who do not have the means to cover the publication fee may request a waiver [click on “Submission Guidelines”].

    • Mark 7:06 pm on July 17, 2012 Permalink

      Thanks for apology, I thought your initial post was unnecessarily dismissive and I realise now it wasn’t intended to be 🙂 I’ve been obsessing over this for the last 2 days (I gave a lecture on scholarly publishing & open access today) and I’m a bit tired of talking/thinking about it at this stage to be honest…

    • Seb Schmoller 7:30 pm on July 17, 2012 Permalink

      ALT’s peer-reviewed journal Research in Learning Technology – a niche field, I guess – is Gold Open Access, with no article processing fees for the moment. [We switched it from traditional to Open Access in January this year.] This is not to dismiss the issues that Mark raises.

    • dratarrant 2:43 pm on October 16, 2012 Permalink

      “If so, their current gold-OA fee of $195 seems very reasonably, and they say Authors who do not have the means to cover the publication fee may request a waiver [click on “Submission Guidelines”]”.

      Excuse my ignorance of this but is this $195 a personal contribution by the author i.e. from their wage packet? And who judges whether or not someone is worthy of a fee waiver? As an employed ECR (for now!) I am by no means struggling financially but to have to pay even the apparently ‘reasonable’ (I don’t consider this reasonable when I want to publish just one paper, let alone more, so I can be competitive in this job market!), $195 from my own money seems ludicrous to me. In essence I am returning the wage I got to write the paper in the first place for my work to be public, which should be a right anyway! It seems wrong that any author should have to pay out of their personal finance to have work published when they have already worked hard on it. Maybe I am wrong on this, but I think Mark makes very important points relevant to science and humanities more generally.
      Any correction to y points or constructive development on these ideas appreciated.

    • Mike Taylor 10:31 am on October 18, 2012 Permalink

      Excuse my ignorance of this but is this $195 a personal contribution by the author i.e. from their wage packet?

      That is a possibility, but I imagine it’s extremely rare. The general expectation of Gold OA journals is that publication is part of the cost of doing research (just as library subscriptions are) and that the money comes from the same pool that’s used to buy lab equipment or other necessities of research.

      And who judges whether or not someone is worthy of a fee waiver?

      That’s down the the publisher. But in my experience “I have no institutional funds to cover this publication” has always been sufficient reason to obtain a waiver. To return to the example of PLoS, it’s explicitly part of their philosophy that no-one should be prevented from publishing with them by financial issues. (I don’t know whether the same is true of SAGE Open, but we can reasonably hope it would be so.)

      $195 from my own money seems ludicrous to me. In essence I am returning the wage I got to write the paper in the first place for my work to be public, which should be a right anyway!

      I whole heartedly agree.

  • Mark 3:52 pm on July 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: research, , , web technology tools   

    The problems facing a digital research culture amongst PhD students and how universities can solve them 

    The recent Researchers of Tomorrow study highlights an interesting trend relating to current doctoral students using digital technology as part of their research. Though I haven’t read the full report yet – yes, I do recognise the irony in this given some of the other findings – I wanted to get some thoughts down while they’re fresh my mind. I’m fascinated by the disjuncture between the use made of digital technology by my generation of researchers in their private lives (“in 2009 the majority of Generation Y doctoral students self-identified as being in the category of ‘elite technology users’ in their personal lives”) and  a seeming reticence about using such technology in their public lives as researchers. This isn’t a new finding (though it’s an important empirical contribution to our understanding) and, though it may seem counter-intuitive if you are yourself of this generation and connected with many others online, it’s worth considering the role that confirmation bias might play in creating this impression i.e. it’s easier to notice all the people you know who use these tools as part of their research than the far greater numbers who don’t. This disjuncture demands explanation. If Generation Y researchers are en masse tech savvy and tech positive then how might we explain some of the findings in this report?

    • Take-up of most institutionally-provided and open web technology tools and applications is low among doctoral students overall
    • Generation Y doctoral students are more likely than older doctoral students to use technology to assist them in their research
    • Generation Y doctoral students tend to use technology applications and social media in their research if they augment, and can be easily absorbed into, existing work practices
    • Levels of use of social media and other applications helpful in retrieving and managing research information are steadily rising among Generation Y doctoral students, but those applications most useful for collaboration and scholarly communications remain among the least used
    • Fellow students and peers are the major influence on whether or not Generation Y doctoral students decide to use a technology application and are their main source of hands-on help

    I’m particularly interested in the third and the sixth point. The ubiquity of digital tools in personal lives easily gives rise to a pragmatism about their incorporation into working life – their appeal, or lack thereof, will stem from how apparent it is that they can be incorporated into existing practice and either enhance or transform that practice. In essence, the key question is: “what’s in it for me?”. In a world of tablet computers and smart phones – not to mention funding shortfalls, pressures to publish or perish and anxieties about exactly what comes after the PhD – immediate practical utility is central. As the Jisc research shows, vastly more respondents use citation or reference management tools. Although the relative longevity of these tools vis-a-vis others on the list likely plays a part, it’s also the case that this is undoubtedly down to the ease with which the utility of such tools can be immediately apprehended. Due to the opportunity costs (i.e. if I do x I can’t do y) involved in taking what training opportunities are provided, where they are provided (which is another issue), appealing to PhD students necessitates framing the session around clearly definable practical goals i.e. “how to blog about your research” or “how to produce an academic podcast” rather than “technical training for Platform X”. The other aspect which explains the popularity of reference management tools relates to point 6 i.e. there are network effects (which cross different groups within the university) that will condition an environment which is conducive to using the technology in question.

    It’s an improvement when research technology is a concern of the library rather than the IT services department but there are still fundamental inadequacies with centralised provision of digital services and training within universities. Firstly, a distance from academic departments unavoidably translates into a distance from the day-to-day practices of people within those departments. Secondly, a distance from academic departments unavoidably translates into a distance from the professional networks within those departments. These are not insurmountable obstacles: it’s possible to frame training in terms of practice reasonably effectively by talking about what researchers in general within professional group X do. Likewise it’s possible to proactively offer assistance to people who are taking up these technologies, putting them to novel uses and support their practice in a way which leads, organically, to the innovation spreading. But nonetheless it seems blindingly obvious to me, as unfashionable as it is to say it in our interdisciplinary era, that the academic department is the natural unit for research technology. This is not to claim that the infrastructure should be organised at that level (the suggestion is patently absurd) or that people doing this work inside departments should be insulated from similar concerns elsewhere in the institution. It just seems increasingly obvious to me that if it’s a strategic priority to encourage adoption of digital tools by researchers, practical initiatives are going to struggle to succeed – for precisely the reasons I’ve discussed – unless resources are allocated to support developmental activity on the part of those already using such tools and embedded in existing networks within academic departments.

  • Mark 4:20 pm on July 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , epresses, research, , , sydney university, , university presses   

    Scholarly Publishing and ePresses – Interview with @agatamontoya about the new university presses in Australia 

    A podcast I did with Agata Montoya, an editor at Sydney University Press, as part of my Digital Change research. If you want to find out more about these issues, you should check out these articles by Agata: here and here.

    • Dale Reardon 2:04 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink

      The player doesn’t appear to be present for the podcast.

      Can I download the file as an alternative?

    • Mark 9:47 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink

      fixed 🙂

  • Mark 12:31 pm on June 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: collective identity, , digital research methods, online ethnography, online research, research,   

    Online Communities and Digital Research Methods: a cautionary note 

    One of the most exciting things about the internet from a sociological perspective is the impact it has on the formation of communities – groups who might otherwise be too geographically dispersed are able to come together, often elaborating some degree of collective identity from the dialogues which ensue as they gather in this ‘virtual’ space. Furthermore the same process which enables the community to form also enables it to be studied. Online communities represent potent sites in which digital research methods can be used to study groups who, again, might previously have been too geographically dispersed to be studied and/or would not even be recognisable as a group prior to their coming together online. From the perspective of someone who has done this sort of study (in my case on the asexual community) it really can be quite exciting. However I’m increasingly aware of the risks inherent in such approaches which, as digital research methods solidifies as a distinct specialism, look set to grow.

    1. The actors you find in online communities are, well, actors. The specificity of their personhood is not reducible to their participation in the community. The community might be hugely significant to them or, conversely, it might not be significant at all – more likely any given individual will occupy some point on this spectrum. Exactly what point this is remains, unavoidably, an empirical question. It is a mistake to infer past motivations and history on the basis of present participation in an online community. 
    2. Similarly participation of individuals in an online community is not reducible to their activity as actors. Someone might read a forum daily, never posting, yet define the contours of their identity in terms of what they read. Thanks to Jon Hickman for pointing this out to me: lurkers are participating too! It is a mistake to reduce participation in an online community to observable ongoing activity. 
    3. Online communities regularly have ‘offline’ out growths and the two spheres, which can seem distinct from the perspective of the researcher, might in reality interpenetrate in complex and messy ways. Granted it might be difficult to study the offline aspects of the community but be creative! It is a mistake to reduce online communities to the collective activity which takes place online. 
    4. The fact that online communities allow geographically dispersed individuals to congregate around a given shared characteristics often leads to the formulation of some apparently shared identity. Furthermore, given the nature of the online vehicles which host such communities, this shared identity often pervades the ‘online space’ itself. However just because people participate in a community doesn’t mean they partake in a shared identity. This seems an obvious point but, I fear, it is easy to ignore because it is often this apparently shared identity which motivates the research into a given group online. It is a mistake to infer a collective identity on the basis of prima facie empirical evidence: this is often an artifact of the research design and/or the process which allowed the community to form. 
  • Mark 11:21 am on June 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , blogging for researchers, research,   

    “Why do you find blogging useful as a researcher?” 

    I asked this question on Twitter a couple of days ago in preparation for a Blogging for Researchers workshop I’m running at the University of Warwick. I’ve included some of the answers I received below. I’ve also collated a collection of resources here. Part of the reason I asked this question was because I wanted to avoid inadvertently prioritising my own particular style of research blogging and increase my awareness of how other researchers use blogging. However I found it striking how similar the experience of others is to my own here, namely the role a blog can play as an ‘ideas garden’ helping to articulate and develop your thinking in a much more immediate way than other public forums allow.

    William McGovern @will1mcgovern
    its all about the networking and showing the willingness to be open to approaches whilst expressing an interest#intentional

    Dr Karen McAulay @Karenmca
    If blog read widely enough, get helpful comments in response. That apart, is useful marker to record progress.

    Ian Milligan @ianmilligan1
    Very welcome! Also, you can tell right away if a post worked or not, gives you good active/passive feedback to improve.

    Terese @missing_words
    blogging about a particular topic helps iron out my thoughts, which means i can articulate my ideas on topic better after

    Elaine Aldred @EMAldred
    I know what I say is going to be seen. Makes me think about how I use words. Making mental connections.

    Dr Sarah Quinnell @sarahthesheepu
    discipline for regular writing, public engagement I.e communicating beyond economy, thought forming, informal peer review

    Eric Ritskes @eritskes
    I find it helps break down my ideas/research into smaller, more accessible pieces & language for wider community engagement.

    Christina Haralanova @ludost11
    I like to use it as a journal — small findings, small peaces, to keep me updated on where I was, and where I am heading to.

    Ian Milligan @ianmilligan1
    Blogging distills my ideas down, leads me to accessible language- and my posts now grow into conference papers. V. positive!

    Rachel R. Engler @rachelrengler
    recently wrote up a magazine article/Writing style is VERY diff from academic wrk.Great lesson. Blogging could help w style.

  • Mark 3:21 pm on May 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , research, research agendas, , ,   

    Continuous Publishing, Open Research and Impact (part 2) 

    Part 2 of this post. I had to stop writing because the battery on my phone was dying. Though the fact that I can write part 1 of the post (on my phone in a coffee shop in Manchester while waiting for a train) and write part 2 of the post (from a desktop computer in Coventry later that evening) and this constitutes my preparation for a talk the following day is a practical example of what I’m driving at with the continuous publishing notion.

    • At the level of the individual, continuous publishing doesn’t in principle represent any additional workload. One of the most frequent questions I’ve encountered when running social media workshop is “how do you find the time?”. Increasingly all my research related blogging and tweeting is part of the research process itself, rather than something external to it. I use blog posts in particular as a notebook within which to record and develop thoughts. I have a large collection of notebooks from the first half of my PhD filled with often illegible notes and an iPad filled with mindmaps. The only difference with how I now use my blog is that the entries are indexed, easier to read and available to the wider world.
    • Two important consequences flow from this. Firstly I take more care about articulating ideas because others can read them and, furthermore, it’s easier to do this because my typing keeps up with my thoughts whereas my handwriting often doesn’t (at least not if I’m trying to ensure their legibility later). Secondly categorising and tagging my posts inculcates reflexivity about the research process. It helps elaborate a sense of research agendas, as well their different sub strands, which is useful in a purely intellectual sense, as well as being helpful for forming practical publishing projects that can flow from them. It also inculcates reflexivity about your work flow: prior to consciously embracing continuous publishing, my experience of research involved a cycle between an (overly) chaotic process of putting together raw materials & threading them together and an (overly) structured process of fitting these into the formal requirements of journals, publishers, the PhD etc. Now it feels much more unified. I understand the different things I do more, the conditions amenable to them and how this all fits into a coherent sector of my life ‘research’ as distinct from other sectors. It helps put research in a box, though not in a way that feels restrictive. It also helps you work from anywhere and fit the fragments together in a unified way at a time that’s convenient for you.
    • I think there’s a general and often quite vague fear about sharing on the internet which I”ve encountered a lot when running workshops. I don’t share it. Perhaps I’m being hopelessly naive but, in my mind, if you share your work in some venues, why not share it in others? I don’t think the internet is filled with nefarious academic predators waiting to steal your ideas as soon as you let your guard down. I do however think it’s filled with an enormous range of academics, far more diverse than any network you can encounter in face-to-face settings, who are just as eager to find direct and indirect interlocutors as I assume you are. Even if there are risks I think they’re manifestly outweighed by the benefits which accrue from open research. I passionately believe sharing can and should be a default option. It’s an impulse implicit in the act of publishing and, in so far as we are hesitant about it, I’d suggest that’s a consequence of social structures relating to academic careers, auditing and scholarly publishing perverting the practice of intellectual craftsmanship: making cultural products and sharing them.
    • In technical terms I think all you need to do continuous publishing is a blog and a twitter account. Link the two together and you posses an incredibly potent publishing platform which is free and entirely within your own control. Use twitter to follow people whose work you find interesting and who, perhaps, will find your work interesting. Once you post twitter updates for your new blog posts and discuss them with others, an audience will quickly begin to develop.
    • In doing so I think you maximise your online footprint and impact flows quite naturally from this. People know what work you’re doing, will often refer others to you, it helps publicise your books & papers and you become known for working in your area. It also helps bridge the gap with the world outside the academy. The greater your social media footprint, the easier it is for journalists (and anyone else for that matter) to find your work and to make contact with you. In turn the greater your social media footprint is, the easier it is for those who encounter the ensuing media coverage to find you online by searching for your name and/or your research topic. It’s an incredibly potent form of disintermediation which, I suspect, has yet to really effect the academy in the work it is likely to with time.
  • Mark 2:00 pm on May 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , mr_hopkinson, pedagogical innovation, reflective dialogue, research, , , visual metaphors   

    Using visual metaphor to explain how stuff works: what theorists can learn from beatboxing? 

    In this video the Beardyman, UK beat boxer renowned for his use of live looping, collaborates with the visual artist mr_hopkinson to visually describe the practice. As someone who is fascinated by this kind of music but had never understood how it works, I was incredibly impressed by the articulacy of the visual message. The video communicates embodied practical knowledge through a metaphor which communicates the essence of the practice: using the technology at a given moment to assemble and coral an army of performance fragments (fragmented performers?) which can be arranged into a performance over time which is much more than the sum of its parts. While I’m obviously not suggesting that social theorists try and take up beatboxing (the image makes me shudder) I do think there’s a prodigious creativity in this video’s use of visual description which can, in an indirect way, be learned from.

    Although vivid metaphorical language can be found in some areas of social theory, it is far from consistent and, in my experience, there’s little reflective dialogue about how such communicative techniques can and should be used effectively. Too often visual metaphors in social theory simply don’t work. Likewise, when they do the lack of deliberate reflection about the pedagogical dimensions to their use often means that their success in illuminating ideas to people already inhabiting that conceptual landscape goes hand-in-hand with the emergence of further barriers to people outside that approaching coming ot understand the ideas within it. Which I write having finally got my head around Deleuze after years of being scornful. Given the increasingly imperilled place of theory in the academy, there’s an important conversation to be had about rhetorical and pedagogical innovation.

  • Mark 3:59 pm on April 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , research, , ,   

    My notes on the digital scholar (chapter 1) 

    My summary notes of Martin Weller’s superb book The Digital Scholar, with my own reflections prompted by the book in brackets.

    • The resources involved in scholarship are changing in the digital age. This is not a case of new replacing old, as books and journals are as influential as ever, rather it is a diversification of the options available to scholars in the production of their work e.g. social bookmarking, blogs, youtube, wikipedia, slideshare, scribd, social networks, google alerts etc. After all, as the author observes, “books and journal articles still constitute a large part of the information sources I draw upon” and, furthermore, the output of the scholarship is itself a book. These have not been replaced, nor are they likely to be, they’ve merely been joined by a whole range of additional resources which are, in large part, freely available. Traditional resources for scholarship have been joined by “blog posts, videos, draft publications, conference presentations and also the discussion, comment and debate surrounding each of these(which I think is the most significant pathway through which digital media will transform scholarship: all this gray literature, the provisional outputs of scholarship, were being produced anyway, in so far as there are provisional steps before ‘final’ products of scholarship emerged. but firstly as these have been increasingly produced in a digital form, rather than say just being paper notes, and, secondly, as a communications infrastructure has facilitated the effortless sharing of these digital outputs, a formerly private, though not necessarily non-social, aspect of academic life is increasingly able to stand as a public resources. the more these are seen as legitimate and organic aspects of scholarship which HAPPEN to be produced and disseminated digitally, the faster the digital revolution of scholarship will take place)
    • As well as the diversification of options available to scholars, the way in which we access ‘traditional’ resources has changed. The quantity available online has increased hugely in a relatively short space of time (although there’s been less of a change in the free availability of such resources). 
    • While this proliferation of resources might be seen to pose a problem, conveniently the same underlying processes have given rise to a whole range of social filtering practices which are still in their infancy. The author’s twitter feed (which I can very much identify with) provides an extremely useful way of cutting through the cognitive challenges involved in make sense of this abundance, both through direct crowd-sourcing appeals and indirectly simply through the aggregative filtering activity of people in the network (which becomes ever more useful as you engage more with Twitter, even perhaps promising to become more so in future, as we still lack any real vocabulary for conceptualising collective filtering in a sophisticated way and, without this, our attempts to maximise its effectiveness in our own digital lives are going to be constrained to some extent).
    • The fact that this book has been published online under a creative commons license (which is pretty admirable, to say the least) means that “the boundary to what constitutes the book is blurred; it is both the physical object and its complementary material” which, in this case, encompasses “videos, presentations and blog posts, which relate to the book, with comments and reaction to these“.
    • Digital scholarship has a broader institutional and structural significance. As the author puts it, “ in a digital, networked, open world people become less defined by the institution to which they belong and more by the network and online identity they establish” and, as a consequence, “a well-respected digital scholar may well be someone who has no institutional affiliation“.   (I’d add that the diminishing material reliance on institutional resources discussed earlier also plays an important structural role here, complementing the cultural point I take the author to be making, which is why pay-for-publication open access is something which those who support the transformative potential of digital scholarship must think VERY carefully about).
    • Particularly because of these changes, the question of how to define a ‘digital scholar’ becomes a bit tricky: it’s not just academics who use digital tools and it’s not just anyone posting something intellectual online. The author offers a (working) definition of it as “someone who employs digital, networked and open approaches to demonstrate specialism in a field”.
    • The changes to scholarship which digital tools bring about shouldn’t be construed as purely an extrinsic matter relating to the quality and quantity of resources available. These factors, in combination, “provide fertile ground for the transformation of practice“.
    • One aspect of this is a consequence of the fact that “much of the scholarly process we have currently can be viewed as a product of the medium in which they are conducted”. These aren’t just arbitrary constraints e.g. many aspects of the journal production cycle are a consequence of the economics of printing and many characteristics of conference activity stem from the logistical demands of getting all these people together in one place for intellectual interaction. Crucially, many of these restrictions are removed once the process goes digital – it doesn’t mean that there are no restrictions (the digital scholar still exists within structured institutions and digital scholarly activity is still subject to material constraint, no matter how much less constraining these are then non-digital scholarly activity) but it does destabilize many of the assumptions loaded into traditional forms of academic activity e.g. “a journal article can be as long or as short as it needs to be, a journal can be published whenever the articles are ready or a continual publication of articles“.
    • This doesn’t necessarily mean that all such scholarly practices could or should be transformed. But it means that the potential for the transformation is there (working out when, how and why these transformations should take place is something which requires us to move beyond debates polarised by technophobic conservatism and naive boosterism about digital tech).
    • This transformation of practice must be networked. Not just because the easy/free distribution of content across global networks was key to the dramatic transformation that’s visible in many content industries and, it seems, will potentially lead to similar transformations in academia if it’s embraced (not just by individuals, institutional resistances among, say, scholarly publishers will be key here). Also because of the potentially radical effect it will have on scholarly practice, rather than simply the dissemination of products emerging from that practice. As the author observes, “Networks of peers are important in scholarship – they represent the people who scholars share ideas with, collaborate with on research projects, review papers for, discuss ideas with and get feedback from. Prior to the Internet, but particularly prior to social networks, this kind of network was limited to those with whom you interacted regularly”. Given inherent limits (of many sorts) to the number of active connections we can sustain, this had a whole range of effects on how scholars chose to spend their finite material and attentional resources, with ensuing consequences for the kinds of scholarships they engaged in and the outputs that emerged from it. Social network tools haven’t liberated scholars from such constraints but they have radically loosened them: “Without having to attend every conference in their field, it is possible for scholars to build up a network of peers who perform the same role in their scholarly activity as the networks founded on face-to-face contact. Whether these are different in nature or are complementary to existing networks is still unknown, but for those who have taken the step to establishing an online identity, these networks are undoubtedly of significant value in their everyday practice.”
    • The lack of costs involved in sharing within digital systems, as well as the culture of openness as a default which has emerged within them, has radical implications for the dissemination of scholarship. As discussed earlier, many of the characteristics of ‘traditional’ outputs of scholarship are a consequence of the printed medium i.e. “if the only means of disseminating knowledge is a costly print journal then the type of content it contains tends to be finely worked and refined material”. In contrast, “if there are almost cost-free tools for instant sharing, then people can share ideas, opinions, proposals, suggestions and see where these lead
Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc