Quality discourse: flourish or whither?

George Siemens post ‘blog malaise’ raises some really interesting questions about the ‘worth of knowledge’ in today’s context. 

The fact is, today’s information currency finds its value in connections. And Google is the banker. If you want society to know you exist, you need to be found by search engines.    

If you want something chances are the first thing you will do is google it. He goes on:

What happens when brilliant researchers conduct brilliant research but publish it in closed journals? The researcher or the research may likely not reach the awareness of individuals who find information through search engines (though, with Google Scholar, this will likely change somewhat). Voices of authority (as seen from the perspective of an average information seeker) are determined by how accessible and how prominently connected they are.          

Which suggests that there is a shift in what counts in terms of authority and how that’s determined. I think this raises profound issues for us as academics. I am very aware of this from my own perspective through a number of things recently. Firstly as we finalise our RAE submission what counts there is the weighty peer reviewed journal article and each individual’s indicators of esteem. But this doesn’t capture the rich ways in which many academics are now communicating - through blogging and by sharing presentations on slideshare. Which is the more valid representation of academic knowledge? Secondly I’ve written up some of our learning design research in a couple of book chapters recently and now feel slightly frustrated that I can’t make that material available electronically because it goes against the publisher’s copyright. Thirdly I am aware that using social software (such as writing blogs, sharing references via social bookmarking, or making presentations available on slideshare) exposes an individual’s work to a far wider audience than would be possible via traditional means. All this seems well and good, providing a vibrant environment for sharing of ideas. However it seems that we are currently in a transition period. A lot of the more educationally focussed researchers I admire and follow are currently not in the blogosphere, which means there is a divide between 1) traditional academic communication and 2) social networking academic communication. Will we eventually reach a situation where the rest of academia see the benefit and importance of social networking tools and switch to using them as a standard means of communicating their ideas or will there always be those who favour the traditional methods? If the later happens will a lot of good intellectual thinking tied up in subscription-based journals or books get lost in the large noise of easily accessible “blogspeak”?  

5 Responses to “Quality discourse: flourish or whither?”

  1. Tony Hirst Says:

    So maybe as someone who still keeps up with the literature, bloggers such as yourself will be able to act as a bridge?

    Maybe in the same way that Stephen Downes produces a daily commentary on some of the highlights from the edublog world, there’s an opportunity for someone to do the same reporting highlights from the best of te print journal world to the blogosphere?

  2. Gráinne Says:

    Yes that might have to be the compromise - the disadvantage of that approach however is that it would be my take/interpretation of the literature which might not be an accurate reflection of the original material!!!

  3. Sarah Stewart Says:

    Very interesting post, Grainne. However, I have been wondering a lot lately about the future of social networking and wonder if there’s likely to be a swing against the openness of social networking, especially for academics ie posting material on blogs and slidecasts will be unacceptable. I don’t know-what do you think?

  4. Gráinne Says:

    yep good point sarah - its the pros and cons of technologies thing again. I think there are a lot of issues around social networking as well as positives - and i am sure there will be some high profile cases where people trip up, post something inappropriate or use material they haven’t got copyright for. Information overload and disjointedness are also potential problems. But like all technologies before I suspect the current wave of social tools will find a niche - adapting to different individuals’ needs and preferences.

  5. Mriga Williams Says:

    I think the way research activity is counted should change as the number of approved heavy weight journals is few when compared to the numbers of educators. The expectation that all will publish and so be accounted for REA is not realistic.

    Maybe this use of social networking can be applied to academic networking - for example like The Networked Learning Community. Can we look at contributions to such activities as part of REA? Should each educational institution use blogs to develop and collaborate of projects and ideas and innovations? For unless the tutors understand the value of using the blog they will not be successful in using it effectively as a learning and teaching strategy.

    I have also been involved in a module where blog was used to not only discuss issues but along with their responses to other blogs the students presented the work within portfolios as part of assessment.

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