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.