Month: November 2006

To keep things in order

It is chaos in my head at the moment…threads of ideas that are leading in different directions on how to write a paper on studying blogs. I think one way to not drown in my own irrational thoughts is to keep order of my references:
so I started a library in CiteULike, all references are not there yet since I have a similar one in a closed service offered by my University, but I’m getting there.

Communities what is the difference?

Community of practice – from management and organisational research – is defined as a group people ”informally bound together by shared experience and passion for a joint enterprise” (Wenger & Snyder 2000). Using the whole community in work-related issues (a community can in comparison have any interest in common, here it is specifically the work, skills or professional actions that are in focus)

Community of justification – from neo pragmatism Rorty and from Habermas – I haven’t found a definition but I see it as a group that have an agreement that is expressed in the discourse and the negotiations happening forms the social interaction.

Discourse community– in linguistics but also more freely– System of social conventions. A discourse community has rules for the use of language.

The term is for example used as an analytical term by John Swales in genre analysis. “Swales presents six defining characteristics:
A discourse community:
1. has a broadly agreed set of common public goals.
2. has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members.
3. uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback.
4. utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims.
5. in addition to owning genres, it has acquired some specific lexis.
6. has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise.”

Discourse only can be used more free for our conception of reality as expressed by discourses. We can be part of several discourses. And of course Foucault and others use discourse in a more specific way.

Epistemic culture – introduced by Knorr Cetina – “those amalgams of arrangements and mechanisms…which in a given field, make up how we know what we know” The forms of writing and communicative conventions used in different epistemic cultures will have bearing on how CMC is used. It is about how you do your work and not necessarily connected to disciplines. Knorr Cetina sets up a framework, which is characterised by:
Objects being produced – how it is constituted
Types of experiments – the way you interrogate the objects
Relations between units in a field – the social organisation (e.g. patterns of publications)

Network – Social network analysis – a network can be formed by social relationships with nodes and ties. The nodes are then the individual actors within the network which are tied together by relations.

Tribes of science – Trowler and Becher in “Academic Tribes and Territories: Intellectual Enquiry and the Cultures of Discipline” – include a theoretical frame work for different disciplinary cultures, and breaks it down in accordance with the nature of the knowledge and the disciplinary grouping. Discuss the importance of disciplinary discourse for creating the cultural identity.

Wenger, E.C., & Snyder, W.M. (2000, Jan-Feb). Communities of practice: The organizational frontier. Harvard Business Review, 139-145.


I just remembered something from my seminars about molding an authority. That you use the blog to mold your authority in a certain subject. The visibility on the web is an important part of shaping your brand, but is there a divide which is not possible to overcome between the public person and the person in the scientific community? Where you can become an authority in the public discourse but not at the same time in the scientific discourse? That the ones sitting in th TV sofas is not always the ones appearing in peer reviewed journals? Jacob Nielsen in Usability research was mentioned as an example at the seminar…


Some notes about the landscape of science blogs 2006:
# The experiment with blogs in Physics at Quantum diaries end in 2005, some bloggers continue
# Seed Magazine starts in January with 14 blogs
# Postgenomic (PG), started in February covering life sciences (about 170 blogs)
# PG got sponsered by Seed
# PG expands to cover Science blogs in general (now about 400 blogs)
# Scienceblogs grows and have now 48 blogs under their umbrella
# Just a week ago PG get sponsoring from Nature instead…and changes it looks a bit
# Nature does a list of top 50 blogs in Science based on Technorati data

Thoughts from my seminar talks

Last week I talked at two seminars. One in London for the LON-LIS seminar series, which is organised by a friend of mine together with some other PhD students from both City University and UCL. And also a research seminar at Napier University to present what I’m doing. It’s always good to talk about and discuss your topic with new people. When you get questions you have to think through why you have chosen a certain way or there can be new angles added. What I find hard though is to remember afterwards what actually have been said. I tried to write down some of the questions that came up but now when I look at it it’s not that easy to write down the discussion. I will give it a try though and wont separate the comments from the two different seminars.

One thing that has been difficult for me is the distinction between practice and community. I tend to talk about both when I want to pin down my research aim:
The aim of my dissertation is to create a deeper understanding of how researchers use blogs in their research practice/in shaping a community of practice…???
I think it was good that this was pointed out. Is it more the community shaping and identity building that is my point of departure or is it the practice as such? I don’t have a straight answer to that…but I have to decide.

In addition my interest has until now been both the researchers practice and the openness and the relations to the public. Do I have to choose only one? Maybe not, maybe it is the blurriness between the two is the way to consider this further? Since my aim was to find the academic active researcher and what I found was a lot of people interested in science blogging about science it is very hard to separate the two.

One question that came up was if I had thought about looking at how the same content could be used differently in different publications. The example was the blog “Bad science” which is both published as a column in the Guardian and as blog posts in a separate blog were you can comment and have more added references. I haven’t though about it before and I haven’t seen so many examples of it. What you could maybe find is someone getting an idea for a paper from a blog post and then develops it to something else. The “Bad Science” column is probably quite unique.

It was also mentioned out of experience from one of the participants that readers tend to ignore that a group blog is written by a group of people and often treat them as one person. That is kind of interesting when it comes to control and editorship. The group blog is quite common.

There was also an interesting comment about the tension created when science is often treated as something objective and the very subjective world of blogging.

Can I use Social network theories as a tool to get a sample for further studies? I have the corpus of almost 400 blogs from Postgenomic. A network analysis of these blogs maybe could show more dense clusters of topically related blogs. This was something that appeared in Susan Herring et als work analysing the conversation patterns in a sample of blogs. Stephanie Hendrick is using GUESS in looking at language in its social/network context. A problem is of course that I need the real corpus with posts to be able to follow the links. Will it be worthwhile doing it?

We had a quite a long discussion about the definition of the blog. What makes it different from e.g. discussion groups and wikis? I would say that the blog much more is build upon one person. Even if you have a group blog it is not collaborative managing the same postings as in a wiki, and the discussion lists is based on a conversation around a certain topic. You can follow a thread and sort the postings in a totally different way than in blogs. In the blog the posting is in the middle. You can’t find the comments other than connected to the posting. It is more distributed in away. Do you want to find out what is being said about a certain topic you will have to follow links to several blogs. It is not a platform in that sense that you find it all in the same place.

In addition I find it interesting that often the question about the role of this kind of publishing is going to play in the overall picture of scholarly publishing. Is it even possible to think that it will be counted in the same league as peer reviewed papers, and what kind of content do you dare to put up without a qualitative system surrounded it? I can understand this kind of stand point. Still I don’t think that maybe that is the most important thing to think about in regards to blogs in research practice. For me it’s more about what they are used for at the moment. It will change. It is a very fluid setting. I will not be able to answer if there will be blogs as we know them today in a year. I think it is also rather interesting that the current publishing system is proclaimed as the one and only. It hasn’t been around that long…of course the start of journals in the 17th century is seen as the beginning but still the system that we now I would say stem only back to after the World War II and that is not very long ago…maybe I’m wrong and talk about it to easy. Why couldn’t it change when it already changed earlier during time passed? Still that is not my main focus. The interesting question to ask is why and how are blogs used. I though somehow naively that I would find more examples of blogs expressing the research process very visible, e.g. doing lab notes, discussing a certain problem of some sort. What I see now just having looked very superficially it’s more a mix. It’s a real mix! You have blog posts written for your peers and at the same time something directed to your friends or something written to make science understandable…

My concern is still how can I find a manageable number of blogs for further study?