But I could equally have given this post the title – People lose their identities in cybermush – which is an idea expressed (if not in those exact words) by Jaron Lanier in a conversation that he has with Aleks Krotoski about the failure of Web 2.0 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIwikI7IVYs .
Turkle and Lanier’s work has come into focus for me this week for two reasons.
First – they both focus on the same concerns that I have been discussing with Carmen Tschofen for quite a few months now – i.e. what is the impact of connectivity on the individual. The paper we are writing is almost ready for submission now.
Second – they were pointed to by Martin Weller as part of his work in Week 3 of ChangeMooc – http://change.mooc.ca/week03.htm
Martin Weller has been sharing his work on Digital Scholarship and in particular ‘open scholarship’. In the changemooc website he writes…..
Although I have tried to avoid some of the more rabid evangelism one often encounters with new technology, it is fair to say that in general I regard digital scholarship as an improving force in scholarly practice, and that it provides ways of working that are often an improvement on existing methods. But it is not without its drawbacks and areas of concerns. In this section we will look at some of these, and consider which ones have the greatest significance and validity.
…. and asks
- It is worth considering the nature and tone of some of these criticisms (criticism of Digital Scholarship), often based on anecdotes and lacking in evidence. Is this simply a case of the evidence not existing yet, or does it reveal something about the nature of the discussion?
- Of the criticisms listed which ones do you feel are most significant?
- Beyond the ones I’ve listed do you think there are other areas of serious concern which should give us pause to reflect in the adoption of digital scholarship approaches?
Weller – in Chapter 13 of his book – summarises these criticisms as follows:
- Moving beyond the superficial – many successful Web 2.0 services essentially allow a very simple function, for example, sharing a photograph. Can we use the same techniques for deeper, more difficult tasks?
- Understanding quality – this is not just about maintaining current quality, as this may not be appropriate in many forms, but appreciating when different levels of quality can be used.
- Managing online identity – there is a tension for scholars and their students in gaining the benefits of a social network, which thrives on personal interactions, while not compromising professional identity.
- Ownership of scholarly functions – there is also a dilemma regarding how much of scholarly discourse and activity we give over to cloud computing services and whether the benefits in terms of widespread use and (often) superior tools outweigh the potential risks.
In the work that I am doing with Carmen, we focus on issues relating to identity, but identity in relation to the learning of individuals rather than professional identity – although there is clearly some overlap. What concerns us is that connectivity, as Sherry Turkle states, can become addictive, can make us too busy to think and can lead to simply sharing what is easy to share (superficiality), rather than ideas that are more deeply considered. Turkle tells us that ‘solitude energises and restores’ and that ‘alone’ is OK and is not the same thing as lonely. These are some of the ideas that Carmen and I have been discussing in more depth and have included in our paper.
I can’t speak for Carmen, but in terms of Digital Scholarship – I have been having difficulties in relation to this work I have been doing with Carmen. I work really slowly. It takes me a long time to read, digest ideas and sort out my thinking. None of it ever comes easily. So, I have been working on these ideas since February of this year. Originally our discussions were about autonomy, but gradually our thinking shifted to a deeper levels of enquiry and understanding and after one submission of the paper which was returned, our focus shifted again. Clarifying and articulating the essence of our ideas and concerns has been a lengthy process. In the meantime, because we both follow conversations on the Web, we know that if we don’t get a move on our ideas will be out of date before we can publish – the conversation will have moved on. So there is this tension between seeking depth and understanding, and keeping up. Of course I appreciate that some (maybe many) people are clever enough to get to depth and understanding quickly, but I am not one of them 🙂
And then there has been the whole question of whether we should go down the publication/peer review route. Both of us work independently so we are not subject to the pressures to publish research exacted by many institutions, but having spent quite a few months on this work, it seems like a lot of effort if it is not going to be read by anyone. We could publish on our blogs, but I know that I don’t get what I would consider enough visitors to my blog (certainly not the daily hundreds that Martin Weller talked about), and blogs are not cited as much as papers. So the best option for me is an open peer reviewed journal – but even with these there is a delay between submission and publication. Whilst this might not be as great as for traditional journals it might still be too slow to keep up with current web conversations.
So for me there is a great tension between avoiding the superficial, seeking quality and depth, and the demands of open digital scholarship.
And of course I am aware that even after all this our paper may not be accepted 🙂