Monday, October 29, 2007

More on Blogging as Scholarly Communication

As the vice-chair (will chair next year) of our University Library's promotion and tenure committee, I have been gathering up evidence to use in a discussion about blogging as scholarly communication. This will be a very interesting challenge since we have a very traditional culture. While it will be a long, uphill effort I still feel strongly that the topic needs to be brought to the table.

A couple items I have come upon in building my argument includes an April post on Peter Suber's Open Access News blog regarding scholarly communication and blogging. Peter is an independent policy strategist for open access to scientific and scholarly research literature, is a Senior Researcher at SPARC and the Open Access Project Director at Public Knowledge. Based on his blog experience:
  • The process is much faster. A few hours to a few days to create a post, then a few hours of intensive review, then a day or two in which the importance of the reviewed work becomes evident as other blogs link to it. Stuart's comment came 9 hours into a process that accumulated 217 comments in 30 hours. Contrast this with the ponderous pace of traditional academic communication.
  • The process is much more transparent. The entire history of the review is visible to everyone, in a citable and searchable form. Contrast this with the confidentiality-laden process of traditional scholarship.
  • Priority is obvious. All contributions are time-stamped, so disputes can be resolved objectively and quickly....
  • The process is meritocratic. Participation is open to all, not restricted to those chosen by mysterious processes that hide agendas. Participants may or may not be pseudonymous but their credibility is based on the visible record. Participants put their reputation on the line every time they post. The credibility of the whole blog depends on the credibility and frequency of other blogs linking to it - in other words the same measures applied to traditional journals, but in real time with transparency.
  • Equally, the process is error-tolerant....Because the penalty for error is lower, participants can afford to take more creative risk.
  • The process is both cooperative and competitive....
  • Review can be both broad and deep. Staniford says "The ability for anyone in the world, with who knows what skill set and knowledge base, to suddenly show up ... is just an amazing thing". And the review is about the written text, not about the formal credentials of the reviewers.
  • Good reviewing is visibly rewarded. Participants make their reputations not just by posting, but by commenting on posts. Its as easy to assess the quality of a participant reviews as to assess their authorship; both are visible in the public record.

    More recently, Kevin Smith at Duke details how two scholars have recently undertaken to write major pieces of scholarship about scholarly communications issues in blog form. He writes:

    "Not only are these two projects interesting because of their topics, they also represent important experiments in the kind of collaborative scholarship that the digital environment makes possible."

    Somehow it just makes some sense that librarians should be leading the way in recognizing the role that blogging plays in moving our profession forward. Having P&T committees that see and place some value on blogging is as good of a place as any to start. Sphere: Related Content

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    One-Hour TV Ad for Second Life

    Last night's episode of CSI:NY turned into a one-hour commercial for Second Life. At first, I thought there was going to be a casual mention, but a chunk of the episode was within SL. A few observations about the episode:
    • Linden Labs was very forthcoming with the first life identities of several avatars.
    • CSI was able to track down the IP addresses of avatars and map them to physical locations in real time.
    • There was a character named the "White Rabbit' who knew the current SL location of all avatars. It sold the information for 30,000 Linden dollars ($125).
    • The CSI folks were able to change their avatar's appearance and clothing amazingly fast. They didn't even need to go shopping.
    • Their avatar participated in a gladiator event and move more like something in XBox360 rather than anything I experienced in SL.
    • One SL avatar was able to use the system to launch a virus attack that penetrated CSIs firewall.
    The tie-in was a virtual CSI experience / contest being promoted in Second Life. I am sure Linden Labs developed/bartered the entire site for the TV time. The scenario of the contest:

    Tragedy has struck Chefanista's, a neighborhood deli in the Bronx. The door is open, but the crime scene tape says closed. Read Anthony E. Zuiker's description of a murder, and then explore the virtual crime scene in world. Uncover what happened and why, and submit your explanation to Zuiker himself via the CSI: NY message board. Mr. Zuiker will announce the winner on December 1st.
    Sphere: Related Content

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Facebook v. MySpace: A Socio-Economic Divide?

    The Sydney Morning Herald reports that HitWise research indicates that in the 10 weeks to October 13 the traffic to MySpace in Australia has dropped 5% while Facebook has tripled its traffic. The overall number of visits to social networking sites have also doubled in that period.

    According to Nielsen/NetRatings, since Facebook’s registration was opened to the public last year, the site has seen triple digit traffic growth, increasing 117 percent from 8.9 million unique visitors in August 2006 to 19.2 million unique visitors in August 2007. Facebook’s innovative features, the result of open their API to developers, are helping to drive the growth. This suggests that the momentum has moved in favor of Facebook as it picks up a larger portion of the new traffic while MySpace growth appears to have become static.

    This data would also support the argument that young people are leaving MySpace for Facebook in droves and that MySpace is becoming the latest victim of a hot trend. University of California, Berkeley, researcher Danah Boyd indicates that not all teens (in America) are leaving MySpace, they're splitting up along class lines. "Who goes where gets kinda sticky... probably because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class." Boyd studies social networks and youth culture and has made her observations based on formal interviews with 90 teens, informal interviews, and reviewing thousands of teens' profiles.

    The "goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes or other 'good' kids" are now going to Facebook," Boyd writes, and that "Facebook was framed as being about college...Facebook is what the college kids did. Not surprisingly, college-bound high schoolers desperately wanted in."

    Boyd also notes that back in May 2007, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. She saw this as an interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. MySpace is the primary way that young soldiers communicate with their peers. While Facebook is popular in the military, but it's not the choice for 18-year old soldiers, a group that is primarily from poorer, less educated communities. The officers, many of whom have already received college training, are using Facebook. Boyd asserts that the "military ban appears to replicate the class divisions that exist throughout the military. " Sphere: Related Content

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    The Library? Have You Heard of the Internet?

    There was an interesting scene in last night's episode (The Kindness of Strangers) of Heroes.

    In the scene, Claire Bennet is at the dinner table with her family. To get out of a family event to sneak off to see her boyfriend she comes up with the following excuse:

    Claire: "I can't. I have to go to the library for a research paper"

    Lyle (her brother, sitting on the other side of the table): "The Library? Have you ever heard of the Internet?"

    Claire: "Actually, the research paper is on libraries and how in the digital age they are increasingly becoming obsolete for our generation"

    What does it say when television shows start to bring up the issue of the relevancy of libraries?

    Sphere: Related Content

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Credit Sputnik for the Development of the Internet, Not Al Gore

    October 4, 1957 marks a significant time in technological history. It was this date fifty years ago that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I. The world's first artificial satellite was 23 inches in diameter, weighed 183 pounds, and took about an hour and a half to orbit the Earth.

    As a technical achievement, Sputnik changed everything.

    One of the U.S responses to Sputnik was the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in February of 1958 in a supplemental military authorization for the Air Force (Public Law 85-325, H.R. 9739). One of the initial purposes of ARPA was to research new technologies that may have been considered too risky for private industry to investigate.

    In 1969, ARPA created the ARPAnet as a tool to transfer research transfer between computers across systems. ARPAnet was the predecessor to the Internet.

    They designed a host-host protocol known as the Network Control Program (NCP) that allowed for the exchange of information between geographically separated computers. They also envisioned a hierarchy of protocols including Telnet and FTP built on top of NCP. Also established was the Request for Comments (RFC) open documentation that encouraged "notes may be produced at any site by anybody and included in this series."

    In Who's Who in the Internet, Biographies of IAB, IESG, and IRSG Members, (RFC 1336) Robert Braden is quoted:
    "One important reason it worked, I believe, is that there were a lot of very bright people all working more or less in the same direction, led by some very wise people in the funding agency. The result was to create a community of network researchers who believed strongly that collaboration is more powerful than competition among researchers. I don't think any other model would have gotten us where we are today."
    There may be a subtle lesson here for libraries and library system vendors regarding community and collaboration...

    Photo from the Smithsonian Institution Sphere: Related Content