Leicester is the fifth institution I have worked at. It is a great place to work and the people in my department (the Institute of Learning Innovation) are fantastic. We have a vibrant community of PhD students and visiting scholars. So I feel very much part of the University of Leicester. However, there this sense of community is secondary to the sense of community I feel with my wider network of peers through social media such a Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, the blogosphere and Skype. I love the variety of connections I have across these media, the comments and the banter, the intellectual debate, the serendipitous learning through links others provide or via blog posts. Indeed my last blog post on haptic technologies was prompted by a blog post by David Hopkins, which I came across this morning on Twitter.

These technologies have truly transformed the way I work and even the way I think. Ideas are sparked through the postings of others, comments on my blog help develop my ideas and in turn spark new thoughts. The dynamic and immediate communication is so much more valuable than developing ideas through the torturously slow journal publication route, it can take years for publications to be published and then at best only a hand full of people might read the article and it is highly unlikely than anyone will comment or provide feedback on the piece. Through social media we now have an amazing way of co-constructing knowledge, we feed off each other.   

I wonder if any research has been done on how this has changed the nature of research? There is of course the book ‘The Digital Scholar – how technology is transforming scholarly practice’ by Martin Weller, in which he argues that there are three characteristics associated with being a digital scholar: open, networked and distributed.

Cristina Costa’s thesis (The Participatory Web in the context of academic research: landscapes of change and conflict) applied a Bourdieun theoretical lens on the concept of digital scholarship. The thesis focused on the use of participatory media to promote digital scholarship and foster innovative approaches in the communication and dissemination of research. A narrative inquiry methodology was used, along with the use of Bourdieu’s concepts of social capital, habitus, field and violence as a theoretical lens to understand the research findings.

I think we need more research into the nature of digital scholarship and its role in developing research ideas. We need to better understand how social media are influencing our ideas and what are the implications for the taking forward of our research field. 

7 Responses to “Connectedness”

  1. Cristina Costa Says:

    in story telling mode me…

    Technology has not only changed my work, it has facilitated a much deeper change in me.

    I say that is because whilst technology has assisted this process, it has been the people I have been privileged to interact with that have made a big difference in my existence. To that we (the webheads in action) used to call “humanware”. I think it’s a lovely word… and I think we still lack vocabulary (or at least at I cant find the words in any of the languages I speak to express the real effect it has had on my experience without feeling like I am preaching or trying to sell it :-) )

    After finishing my MPhil on online Communities of Practice I had the opportunity to present that work - which by the way look like a better piece of work back then than it does now to me - to E. Wenger. Never in my wildest dreams I thought he would be interested in my work - and if he was or not … well - but he did attend that online seminar and he asked me what it was about that community I had studied and in which I had participated. And I remember saying: because one becomes of them, You belong, you see yourself as a webhead.

    I think that technology facilitates connection; people congregate and work together, and that give us the strength we need to try something different/new. All of this because we find a place where we belong … but that is often an alien place to those who are not exposed to those environments, and, more importantly, whose dispositions do not lean towards a more communal and networked way of working…

    we definitely need more research on this! ;)

    again, apologies for the ramblings. :D

  2. Gráinne Says:

    Excellent points! Like ‘humanware’ and ‘webhead’ Also think it relates to Salomon’s notion of distributed cognition and Perkin’s concept of ‘Person Plus’.

  3. Cristina Costa Says:

    need to read about Perkin’s concept. Any links?

  4. Gráinne Says:

    It’s in Salomon’s 1993 book on Distributed Cognition - great stuff, way ahead of its time, totally explains many aspects of our interaction with social media. See this on it

    because thinking and learning involves not only the person but also her surround, the ability to think and learn ably depends more on the “access characteristics” (kind, representation, retrieval, constructability) of important information, as opposed to where it is stored (i.e. in a brain or a book).

    Roy Pea’s concept of “distributed intelligence,” which is the idea that we should reconsider human cognition as distributed beyond the person, that it can also include other persons, symbolic media, environment and artifacts

  5. Cristina Costa Says:

    some links about the webheads in action:

  6. Cristina Costa Says:

    thanks for the links. great stuff. will look at them tonight ;)

  7. Learning to Teach online Says:

    […] to some of the discussions Professor Gráinne Conole has started around presence and deeper sense of connection online environments are able to convey. This obviously only makes sense to those who really immerse […]

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