Seminar at Humboldt University and thoughts about getting started

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…

Slow science and academic work – Information Studies Research Seminar

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.

Utopian practices

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.
utopian practicesOne 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.

Visualising the Public Sphere

I took part in an interesting workshop last week which was co-arranged by VKS and the Philosophical department at Gronigen University. The discussion spanned over a wide area of topics but with the common theme of how we could understand social, political and physical interactions and how that becomes visible in the public space. Anne Beaulieu talked about “Network realism: studying knowledge production around public databases of images”, Martijn de Waal presented ideas on “Urban screens and the Public Sphere”, Paul de Laat tried to connect two of his research areas with the title “Not so Public After All”, Judith Vega introduced “The visualisation for everyday life: pertinent or impertinent in regard to the public sphere” and Paul Wouters discussed the lessons learned from CYSWIK (Can You See What I Know), a two-day multisectorial workshop on knowledge visualisation. It is almost always fruitful to bring together people from different disciplines and see how the different approaches can hook together and form a bigger picture. One problem that where brought up for discussion was how new is new media? Is there new problems in this area or is it the same kind of problems only in a new setting? It all boiled down to that it is a matter of emphasis. A lot of people are using the digital media and the “user-generated” media and are treating it as something new and that is something we as researchers have to take into consideration.

This morning I was again listening to the Swedish radio and overheard their programme “På nätet” (on the net). They have apparently a series of five episodes about our social life on the net and today it was about blogquakes (“bloggbävning”, like a combination of blog and earthquake). The participants talked about the idea that the blogs are making the world more democratic, is it or is it not? This is the discussion that always comes back when talking about blogs and maybe a bit boring in a sense, but connected to the workshop above it suddenly makes more sense. The social practices in the public sphere that are now also present on the web is dynamic and changing and interesting to study further and especially by joining different approaches and disciplines ways of dealing with the problems or questions as research topics.

CYSWIK Pre Valentines Reception at VKS


Yesterday it was a Pre Valentines reception at VKS (that is the reason for pink balloons) with an exhibition where I presented a poster, and there was of course also a number of interesting talks (programme). I liked the idea from Architects of Interaction where they had created a book which should work as a toolbox when you work with interactive work methods:

One other talk from one of my collegues Charles at VKS, was about joining Quantum Physics and the ideas of Otlet and Knowledge Organisation. He is exploring these ideas together with Richard Smiraglia and maybe Richard will write more about their “idea collider” in his blog eventually:

Yet another talk was from an artist, Esther Polak, who described how she as an artist used GPS to make peoples everyday life visible.
It was all done under the umbrella or label CYSWIK (Can You See What I Know?). Here artists and researchers are joining together and I think it is a great way to start a discussion about the visualisation of knowledge:

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?