I was invited to make a presentation about my newest research project at Institut für Bibliotheks- und Informationswissenschaft (IBI) at Humboldt University in Berlin last week. It is always good to discuss your research with new people. At the moment I am struggling with the delimiting and how to proceed with the actual data collection as I am going to study how researchers are representing them selves online in different environments, not only in scholarly blogs which have been my focus earlier.
As a researcher today you leave traces in all sorts of digital settings and you can apart from just presenting yourself engage in conversation, produce or create output and use data or information. The flora of possible online tools and environments where a researcher is made visible is developing from the simple University homepage to social media activity in for example Twitter. The list of different tools or activities include social networks sites particularly for researchers like ResearchGate and Academia, social bookmarking and sharing also through reference managers like Mendeley or Zotero, or writing in blogs and creating other content online. Things you do as a researcher earlier not as traceable suddenly is making traces. How does these new possibilities relate to scholarly communication and the choices you make as a researcher. Researchers are part of communicating and producing knowledge and making research available and visible for others, but it´s not all about sharing but also to get the merits. My project is dealing with these new forms of representing yourself as a researcher/scholar/academic online and the connection to credibility and trust. The differences between disciplines in traditional scholarly communication and how you publish results is known, and there are huge differences in how science or research is performed. The difficult thing I feel now is to identify a way to choose a discipline (or epistemic culture) to study. Sometimes it’s just to make the choice and “get your hands dirty” – like one of my supervisors told me in the beginning of my PhD studies when I were in the same doubts of “making the wrong choice” and hesitated to just get going with the data collection…
Yesterday Ruth Mueller presented her research at our Information Studies Research Seminar, the talk was entitled “Publications, authorship and academic work: Relating communication and research practices in the life sciences”.
Drawing on interviews with postdocs in the Life Sciences Ruth discussed how publications and authorship have an effect on how academic work is performed. I found it very interesting with the discussion about what values are part of the academic work and how this in turn influence the choices of the postdocs, e.g. that the authorship value of being first author is sometimes overshadowing possible collaborations since articles are the capital you have as a postdoc to develop your career. Ruth talked about how the postdocs act in the present because where they are heading. In life science authorship is strongly formalized and different contributions are placed in certain order and the first author is extremely relevant for career development. This makes postdocs feel uneasy of collaborative work and keeping it to a minimum. The micro struggles that each postdoc have in their work because of attributing authorship, hinders collaboration. At the same time there is an understanding among the postdocs that a good research environment is based in the absent of competition. The competitive situation is both pressing the speed of doing research and making it quantifiable in output. That way individualism is more favored but at the same time this makes researchers feel uneasy. The shift that can happen (or is happening?) is from the larger or unorthodox questions, which becomes less valued in a type of epistemic knowledge that can be produced in this kind of environment or context. Ruth also pointed how the movement of Slow science have noticed this tensions in doing science. The postdocs in her study was critical to the situation at the same time the thing you have to be aware of when doing science is the currency that somehow drives the research. There are no easy answers…read more about Slow science in University Affairs.
And find Ruth’s publications at her webpage as a postdoc at the Research Policy Institute in Lund.
This is how my desk looks like at the moment…will this somehow become an article soon? Sometimes you wonder how that can happen. I’m trying to make this chaos to become something readable.
I recently read an article by Melissa Gregg and have been thinking of her approach on academic blogging. The title is Banal Bohemia: Blogging from the Ivory Tower Hot-Desk and she discusses how PhD students and junior faculty bloggers differs in the way they uses blogs from senior academics. Her point of departure is subcultural theory, which I never heard about before I read this, and it’s interesting to see a similar idea like mine as the starting point for her discussion. That is, it is similar in the sense that blogging practices is situated in other cultural practices. For Gregg that means that the blogging academics she has studied uses the blogs as a way to handle the pressure that they feel in their work as academics. The blog community forms a place, a subculture, for the blogging researchers were they can discuss the changing conditions in an institutionalised academia which have changed for the worse. Gregg says “blogs offer parables of these wider shifts, a suite of ideological narratives for explaining and understanding what is happening”. Even if I can see Gregg’s point I haven’t at all seen that kind of discourse in the blogs that I have studied. Some (most?) of the blogs in Gregg’s study are anonymous and I have myself specifically chosen blogs were you can identify the person behind it. Maybe that is the big difference? However, I find the notion of blogs as “an embryonic site for labour politics” intriguing.
A new sub site is added to the Lund University web presence, it includes the blogs that are written by researchers, students or others at Lund University. You will find a link from the top page of the university’s web site to the “Focus on Lund University” site. Here blogs and facebook groups as well as RSS for news are collected. My blog is of course in the list ☺ even though I am a bit slow on updating it…however to be more frequent is one of the promises for the new year.
I heard just now and interesting report on the radio from the conference Interact in Uppsala. The conference is about Human Computer Interaction and one of the keynote speakers, Kristina Höök, problematised the user concept. Can we talk about a user in the new digital development where we see people are as much producing as consuming? User feels to passive she says and suggets instead actors, players, creators or constructors. Her reflection was that we make it harder to be innovative if we think of a user rather than a creator when we design new digital tools.
I thought that was rather intriguing at the same time I have sometimes been thinking of my own project in terms of understanding a special user group. When I study why and how researchers use blogs I see that as part of being more aware of how to meet their needs in other situations of their scholarly process (and by we here I mean librarians or the research libraries for example), but maybe I should rather think of actors actually…
If you would have asked me six months ago I would have just shaken my head…but now I just tried out Twitter to see what it was after meeting Lilia. A couple of months later I have made some observations about scholarly activities on Twitter…
Somehow one way of using Tweets as a remembering tool of links is done in the same way as the early blogs that often were link collections of good web sites to remember or recommend to your community.
I found Bazerman’s Shaping “Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science” online fully available as a PDF file, which was great since it is hard to get hold on and I have to return my library copy now. As the title suggests he writes about written knowledge in science and studies the writing practices in different disciplines. His standpoint is constructivist oriented and praxis based and is looking at science as carried out by rhetorics. It is all in the writing you could say but not entirely so or at least you have to problematize what you mean by writing. To carry out his examination how written knowledge in the sciences is created he uses case studies and looks at rhetoric activity as the interaction of microevents where the choices are made by individuals and macrostructures where the context and social forms over time is shaping choices. You could also say that he intertwine the scholarly practice with the written discourse and don’t separate it to make specific writing rules etc. The writing is not only defined as the text and you can not tell what writing does by only textual analysis but Bazerman situates the text in the discourse community much in the same line of thinking that I understand Swales genre theoretical approach. Also with Bazerman is physics the main case study – although it isn’t the intention for Bazerman it is strange that physics always becomes the discipline to use as a “role model”, why is that?
Quite recently I stumbled upon the concept of unconference which is kind of a triggering idea. It is a way of meeting people which share the same interest that you do, but not in the traditional organised way of a conference but more chaotic and doing/creating something together. There is no spectators on a unconference, you have to participate and be active otherwise the whole idea fails. Some examples that have come in my way of this nice kind of sharing knowledge is:
Geek Girl Meetup – yesterday in Stockholm. I wish I could have been there it sure looked fun.
Bibcamp – a lot of librarians meet in Göteborg later this spring to discuss e-publishing and web stuff.
Reboot – about digital technology and change in Copenhagen each year, which in 2009 will be in late June.
What is utopian practices? I was at a conference yesterday were this question was asked, and the practices that are meant as being utopian is the practices that develop when art, design and science join together.
One important point in the end of the day was that we have to understand the process. We should study the black-box of the co-practiced work. To understand the process will be a good starting point for more collaboration and how it can be used. It was also said that to be able to use the collaboration for something in the end it’s incredible important with evaluation. A question was asked about how we evaluate the boundary objects that is created in these utopian practices?
The evalutaion was also what we discussed some of us afterwards, even though it might seem boring to bring that issue up after talking about the idea of sparkling collaborations and how visionary work can happen when joining these three together. If we want to bring the utopian practices one step further our idea was that the evaluation and how you can report what has been created in this co-practice must also be brought into focus.
The programme can be found at de Balies web and they will also in a couple of days put a video out with the presentations from the day.