This week’s session at the #change11 MOOC is focusing on Digital Scholarship. Professor Martin Weller is leading this session and I’m excited to see how the week unfolds. Importantly, Martin’s new book, The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice, has just been published by Bloomsbury Academic both for purchase and for free under an open access format.
I became familiar with Martin’s work within the last year or so. Within this time frame I have been increasingly interested in how academics are repurposing technology tools to improve teaching and research. At the same time, I’ve been studying how traditional research/teaching practices are defining the use of technology, and how technology aligns with or conflicts with cultural values. I was quickly drawn to Martin’s work, and I’m glad that I now have a book to recommend to my colleagues who are looking to understand the issues surrounding digital scholarship.
So… stay tuned… I hope to post some of my thoughts here during the upcoming week, but if you are interested, feel free to tag along through the #change11 site or through the other networks in which conversations are happening (e.g., on Twitter through the #change11 hashtag or on the Open Study change11 group).
I just came across Nancy White’s discussion of her contribution to the 2011-2012 Change MOOC organized by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier (through Stephen’s announcement). Draft schedule here. I thought that Nancy’s description of her session sounded wonderful – so wonderful actually, that I wish that we had all shared our session descriptions with each other prior to designing them so as to create more synergies between the weekly sessions. There’s always room for re-design however, and I’m sure the #change11 organizers wouldn’t mind (smile)!
I am sharing my session description below, and even though I have tried to draw links to other sessions, you will see that task #2 is asking participants to make connections to other parts of the course in a very specific and personal way.
I would love to hear any input that you may have about this!
Scholars’ online participation and practices (April 30-May 6, 2012)
George Veletsianos, Instructional Technology – University of Texas at Austin
Within the openness movement, we have seen increasing calls for scholars and educators to employ open digital practices. For instance, enthusiasts argue that networked technologies such as blogs, social networking sites, microblogging fora, and other emerging social media can help democratize knowledge production and dissemination. During this week, we will explore how academics co-opt and appropriate technology in their day-to-day professional lives, with specific emphasis on social networking technologies. We will discuss faculty members’ experiences and practices when they adopt online social networks (e.g., Twitter) and online scholarly networks (e.g., Academia.edu) for professional purposes, and investigate whether their online participation is (re)defining academic work (i.e. teaching and research).
My work in this domain has started with a desire to understand faculty member’s digital practices. Professor Weller’s research (2011), which was also presented in this MOOC, has set the foundations for this investigation. Thus, the digital scholarship movement influences and informs my work. In this context, I have studied the relationship between scholarly practice and participatory technologies, and sought to understand (a) what faculty members’ do in online social networks, (b) what their experiences in these networks are like, and (c) what issues and pitfalls we might face when suggesting the use of social media for faculty members’ professional practice. This is an important topic of study because (a) digital scholarship is gaining increasing interest, and (b) a large percentage of higher education faculty have adopted, are considering the use of), or have rejected social networking technologies for professional practice, Importantly, the field is in dire need of empirical data to be in a position to critically evaluate claims with regards to the benefits that social technologies might afford academic practice (i.e. teaching and research).
During this particular week, we will consider whether the rise of online social networking within academic circles is a result of technological or cultural shifts, and investigate the purposes, goals, and pitfalls of networked participation. For instance, we will ask: What are academics doing in online public spaces? What are their intentions and what are their fears? Are faculty members’ altruistically sharing information on social media for the benefit of the community in which they belong? Or, is information-sharing a self-serving activity? Are academics sharing information in order to assist the profession grow intellectually, or are they attempting to develop a “brand” around themselves? Are we seeing the rise of the “public scholar” or the rise of the “celebrity scholar?” A critical evaluation of academics’ participation in digital spaces matters because an understanding of these reasons will allow us to gain a better sense of how and why online social networks are used in the ways that they are. Whether we recognize it or not, we are part of a complex techno-cultural system that is ever changing in response to both internal and external stimuli, including technological innovations and dominant cultural values. An understanding of the cotemporary forces that shape academic work is necessary for enhancing education and scholarship.
2. List of Readings
Hall, R. (2010). Open Education: The need for critique. Blog entry retrieved on August 12, 2011 from http://www.learnex.dmu.ac.uk/2010/07/27/open-education-the-need-for-critique/
Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73.
Veletsianos, G. (in press). Higher Education Scholars’ Participation and Practices on Twitter. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.
Weller, M. (in press). The digital scholar: How technology is changing academic practice. Bloomsbury Academic.
Plus two other papers that I am not yet able to share publicly, but will be available by the time this session arrives.
3. Suggested Activities
Task 1: What do academics do on _________________ ?
The intention of this task is to describe academics’ participation on a number of social technologies (e.g., Twitter, Quora, Google +, Linkedin, Blogs, etc). The goal is to evaluate participation and understand (a) how technology and its affordances influence participation, and (b) professional roles influence participation and use of technology. This is essentially a mini research task.
Your “description” can be done individually or collaboratively. It can also take any form that you are comfortable with. For instance, it can be an essay posted as a blog entry, a video narrative, a digital story, or a concept map. You should include support for any claims that you make. For instance, you can use empirical data or references to the literature (or other writing) to support your claims.
Task 2: Create a concept map that explains how the topic studied this week relates to and/or contributes to further understanding the topics studied in preceding weeks.
This is post #4 of my StellarNet Fellowship (see posts 1, 2, and 3). The purpose is to examine practices undertaken by academics and educators in networked publics. These practices fall under the general heading of “digital scholarship” and these individuals have been called “digital scholars” or “open scholars.”
I am preparing to leave Cyprus, and this is my final fellowship entry. In this short entry, I’d like to discuss the spaces in which digital scholarship is becoming visible and what this visibility means for expertise and impressions. On the one hand, we have seen an increase in specialized technology tools targeting scholars. For instance, here is my academia.edu profile and my mendeley profile. On the other hand, we have seen general purpose tools that have been appropriated by academics and used in ways that further their teaching and research. Examples include such spaces as Facebook and Twitter (e.g., #PhDchat), but also YouTube, personal blogs, and iTunes. Some examples of open activities taking place in these spaces include:
- – Book and manuscript authoring in public (while sharing ongoing drafts). This includes both individuals who have earned their PhDs, but also individuals who are working on their PhDs and are using online spaces to reflect and network on PhD-related topics.
- – Debates on issues pertaining to theory and research
- – Crowdsourcing videos, thoughts, solutions to problems
- – Sharing clips from classroom teaching
These activities contrast to academic notions of expertise. While experts are sometimes perceived to be those individuals who “have the answers,” the experts that I have been following are willing to share drafts of their work in public and work through the issues that they are studying with the help of others. The trails that they leave on the web show may show how their thinking and work developed and improved over time; yet, individuals who are not immersed in this culture have often asked me: “How would others perceive me and my work, if they just happen to see my blog entry from June 2010 and nothing else, when in June 2010 I was just starting work in this area?” That is a valid concern; and perhaps one that may be felt more by those who are just beginning their career or those who do not have a wide and persistent following. In the world of the open web, it’s not just our activities that matter, but also how our activities are perceived by others. To this extent, the scholars that I’ve been following have not only been sharing content, but they are also seeking to manage the impressions of others. Furthermore, activities aimed at impression management are undertaken not just on content that the individual posts, but also on content that others post. For example, in the words of a participant from a related project, “it’s my facebook wall, and if you write something I don’t like, I’m going to delete it.” It’s becoming increasingly clear I think, that participation in these communities (a) assists academics in improving their work (e.g., by receiving feedback on drafts), (b) enables them to become part of various academic subcultures, and (c) is used by academics as a way to further their career and their position. One may question why item C matters. Reasons for sharing matter because an understanding of these reasons will allow us to gain a better sense of how and why online social networks are used in the ways that they are. Such an understanding aligns with recent calls for educational technology research to investigate the social, political, cultural and economic factors that influence technology use and non-use (e.g., see Selwyn, 2010).
That is all for now, but if you are interested stay tuned. I’ll be sharing a longer draft of this work soon. In the meantime, if you have questions, please feel free to post them!
Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73.
This is post #3 of my summer Fellowship. The purpose is to examine practices undertaken by academics and educators in networked publics. These practices fall under the general heading of “digital scholarship” and these individuals have been called “digital scholars” or “open scholars.”
Though research in online spaces is gaining increasing acceptance, it has also gained notoriety recently. A story in the Chronicle of Higher Education last week raised ethical concerns about a Harvard study that included about 1,700 Facebook profiles as its data source. The sticking point was the use of data that should have been private, but was considered public.
Online research involving public data (like the one I am conducting for my Fellowship) is becoming increasingly common. The question becomes, what is public and what is private? Can researchers treat all information posted online as public? If it’s public, is consent to use that information for research purposes still required? Offices of Research Support have adopted policies guiding researchers to the ethical use of public data (though as you will see below, these policies do not fit all molds). My institution’s Review Board for example states that the following does not constitute Human Subjects Research:
Public and/or published data sets, accessible without restriction (e.g., password not needed*), and containing readily identifiable information and where individuals can reasonably expect this information to be available to the public (examples include letters to the editor, blogs) (source)
As such, research involving information posted publicly (e.g. on Twitter, YouTube, etc) can be used for research purposes without informed consent. The problem with the Harvard case was that the individuals mining the data were accessing data that were restricted (i.e. not public), and thus should not have been used without first securing informed consent.
The more difficult questions that I’ve been grappling with in my use of public data for research purposes are the following:
- Let’s assume I have a public twitter account, a researcher downloads a set of status updates for analysis, and I later delete those posts. Does that mean that the researcher can no longer can use it in his/her research? Does that mean that I have “withdrawn my participation”? Or is the data still considered “public” just by virtue of it being public at one point in time?
- Consider the case where my profile is private and someone whose profile is public re-tweets one of my status updates. Can a researcher archive the public re-tweet and use it in his/her research, even though the tweet originated from a non-public account?
These are important questions to consider. Both academics and students need to equip themselves with a greater understanding of their rights and responsibilities when conducting research in online spaces such as social networking sites.
As far as my data sets are concerned, I’ve gone at great lengths to anonymize and de-identify them (e.g., by rewriting narratives/tweets/etc and having a second researcher check whether the meaning changed and deleting any identifying information). Re-writing narratives is an acceptable, even encouraged, strategy, in various phenomenological circles (e.g., Kuiken 2001 and van Manen, 1997) and in this instance it also serves ethical purposes.
I timed this entry to appear while I am flying across the Atlantic Ocean en route to Europe. During the next month or so, I will be in Cyprus under a STELLAR Mobility Fellowship. STELLAR (Sustaining Technology Enhanced Learning at a LARge scale) is a European Union initiative to foster Technology Enhanced Learning dialogue and collaboration between the young generation of researchers and experienced researchers. While I’ve worked with colleagues from Cyprus in the past, I haven’t had a chance to spend dedicated time working there, so this will be a good chance to explore and learn with others.
My STELLAR project focuses on educators’ and researchers’ participation in online networks. I will be analyzing a large data set relating to online participation and I will be working towards completing a set of manuscripts dealing with online practices, challenges, and activities, in an attempt to understand the meaning of online participation for the today’s “public” educator, scholar, and researcher. Anecdotal evidence suggests that scholars’ absence from online networks can be detrimental to teaching and scholarship, but empirical evidence as to educators’/researchers’ online practices is missing. This research is closely aligned to ideas of openness (open participation, open scholarship) and digital scholarship.
I hope to be able to post more about the project (and these topics) soon, so please feel free to tag (and comment) along!
While a lot of us embrace openness, there have been more and more discussion about its virtues in recent months. For instance, Frances Bell, Cristina da Costa, Josie Fraser, Richard Hall and Helen Keegan are discussing this issue during ALT-C 2011 in a symposium entitled The Paradox of Openness, Richard Hall has been contemplating this topic for a while, David Wiley has been thinking about the issue, and I have collected a few critiques in July 2010 when the topic started surfacing in the circles that I was following.
This is not to say that openness is inherently negative or positive: While early adopters have demonstrated the benefits of openness, these critiques help us be mindful about the future that we are creating, and help us develop tools, frameworks, and systems that enable democratic spaces and participation.
To that end, and extending the participatory scholarship work I started last year, Royce Kimmons and I will be moderating the following “Questioning our assumptions” session during the Open Education 2011 conference. The session focuses on openness in digital scholarship, but the arguments apply to openness overall:
Title: Does researcher participation in online networks democratize knowledge production and dissemination?
Description: An assumption of the open scholarship movement is that by participating in online networks, scholars can democratize knowledge production and dissemination. This feat is accomplished through openly sharing, reflecting, critiquing, improving, validating, and furthering their scholarship via publicly-availably online venues (e.g., blogs, Twitter, etc). To participate productively in online scholarly networks, however, scholars not only need to understand the participatory nature of the web, they also need to develop the social and digital literacies and skills essential to effective engagement with the open scholarship commons. Lack of digital literacies leads to a participation gap (cf. Jenkins et al., 2006), which, in the context of scholars, refers to those scholars who participate in networked spaces and are able to take advantage of digital literacies to advance their career vis-à-vis those who have had no exposure to participatory cultures or who do not have the essential literacies to engage in such activities online.
Understanding participatory cultures, developing digital literacies, and participating in online scholarly networks, however, does not necessarily mean that scholars will become equal participants in online spaces. Social stratification and exclusion in online environments and networks is possible. Indulging in idealized notions of participation and sharing may be misguided because interaction and collaboration may not be the norm across all individuals or scholarly subcultures. As Chander and Sunder (2004, p. 1332) point out while discussing what they term the romance of the public domain, “[c]ontemporary scholarship extolling the public domain presumes a landscape where each person can reap the riches found in the commons … [b]ut, in practice, differing circumstances – including knowledge, wealth, power, and ability – render some better able than others to exploit a commons.” Thus, in the case of open scholarship, issues surrounding the accessibility and use of scholarly networks by diverse audiences will arise and should be a matter of concern for participants when considering who profits from their collaborative work.
At the moment, the open scholarship movement largely reflects the values of the early adopters who already engage with it and includes notions of openness, sharing, and social-collaborative research. As with those in any community, scholars engaging in the open scholarship commons are susceptible to the risks of making decisions about the future of their community which may be arbitrary, prejudiced, or otherwise harmful to the community’s well-being. Thus, scholars should be vigilant and reflective of open scholarly practices as such practices continue to emerge and develop. Such vigilance should focus both on determining who profits from such practices and who is excluded from them, so as to combat both under-use by some (i.e. those lacking entry to or knowledge of useful networks) and over-use or exploitation by those with the wealth, power, and prestige necessary to effectively strip mine sources. While solutions to these problems may not be simple, we need to acknowledge, discuss, and act upon these issues proactively rather than retrospectively.
The University of Texas at Austin, along with numerous partners, has dedicated Lonestar 4, its latest supercomputer, to the scientific community for research purposes. Researchers around the world have already been using UT’s supercomputers for scientific exploration, and I was really excited to find out that social scientists have increasingly been inquiring about using the supercomputer for their data needs. To put the system’s capabilities in context, Lonestar 4 encompasses:
- 302 teraflops peak performance
- 44.3 terabytes total memory
- 1.2 petabytes raw disk
One of my research strands is focusing on educator and researcher participation in online networks (which is a topic closely related to digital scholarship), and I am in the process of investigating the opportunities provided by supercomputer to understand various facets of digital scholarship. Incidentally, I came across the following TED video yesterday that touches upon a similar idea, namely scientists participation in online spaces with an eye towards embracing open science and enhancing research outcomes and processes: