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St Andrew's Day round up of links and events: part 1.

This is my forking moment for the month.  A couple of weeks' work on other projects, university business and time spent choosing a dining table has left me with a myriad different ideas, links, articles and events to try and rationalise... they are the spaghetti which this post will straighten out and wrap up for easier consumption.  Blog post as fork, creating bite-sized parcels for later consumption.

Enough of the metaphor, onwards...

I've read few more eloquent discussions of the links between social media and events in the cause of getting on with things that this post from Marc Bowker's (@marcbowker) blog.  It builds on the #begoodbesocial event I wrote about a few weeks back, but what Marc's managed to do is breath life into his notes on the evening's importance.  Of course, having actually attended the event Marc is at a distinct advantage, so his words carry far more credibility that mine anyway.

An important quotation (referencing Glasgow Twestival), which sits at the heart of why this interests me:

I had been tweeting a growing personal network of people within my vicinity for months in the run up to the Twestival and then bang, the event finally arrived. I turned up, wrote my Twitter name on my sticker and attached it to my chest, as had all the other attendees. Within an instant, I knew the person I'd been tweeting to the other day, week or month. Barriers were immediately broken down, the ice was certainly broken and we could chat to each other about our tweets and rapidly move on to something else. These people were no longer simply on my computer screen but were now physically in my network. I knew who I warmed to, who I wasn't sure of and who I thought I'd like to get to know you better.

The people who attended could just get on with the business of the event, which consolidated their online networks and brought them into the physical world.  Technology, events, social media, networks, social capital: love it.

More on Twitter, this time from Alan Rusbridger: Guardian editor-in-chief and general hero to right-minded clear thinking people the world over.  He delivered a lecture in Australia on the approaches media organisations are taking towards 'the future – the Guardian's is firmly an open and collaborative one', which you can read highlights of here (and follow a link to the full thing).  It's primarily focused on the attitudes media organisations should (?) have with social media, but the power of networks comes through in many ways - such as on Twitter:

13) It creates communities

Or, rather communities form themselves around particular issues, people, events, artifacts, cultures, ideas, subjects or geographies. They may be temporary communities, or long-terms ones, strong ones or weak ones. But I think they are recognisably communities.

Towards the end of the extract he uses the phrase 'open media' in place of 'social media', presumably helping take the argument beyond the novelty of it being social towards an awareness of the mindset which exists behind it.  There is open media, which encourages collaboration, and there is closed media which is monolithic and doesn't encourage debate.  I shall now use Twitter to seek out references to 'open media'...

Twitter has little to say on the matter just now.

Google and Wikipedia are little help.

...I might have to read the full lecture.

But wait, for here is Dr Ben Goldacre with his thoughts: he brings our attention to tweets, rather than tweeters.  To this end, a measure of something's worth and its value is how many time it's been retweeted.  There is also the opportunity to seek out people who are 'obviously vaguely likely to have a vaguely similar outlook'... so is this an argument against the web's powers of serendipity?

Goldacre goes on to enthusiastically outline a model of working with this information...

i think a lot more could be done using network analysis techniques (go, nodeXL nerds!) and other tools to try and divine algorithms and heuristics for sifting out stuff that's worth reading, doing observational work on existing public datasets rather than following the model of active rating services like http://www.reddit.com/r/science and others.

How does this apply to festivals?  I guess it follows the lead of Festbuzz, working with the information which people are generating anyway to track and work with the data stream of tweets just waiting to be mined.  His argument shies away from limiting the analysis to reviews posted on a single site, yes?  ...except of course that it all revolves around Twitter.

In the process of compiling the Seminar Which Hasn't Happened Yet Because of the Snow I read an earlier post about my wish to pursue the PhD in an open and collaborative way.  Thus it came to pass this week that @aleksk posted a link to 'The economic case for open access in academic publishing' from Ars Technica.  I asked Aleks (Krotoski, up there in the heroes league) what the results of openly publishing her thesis online had been, to which she replied '@dsrjarman don't know if related, but it's been requested enough at my alma mater that it's been added to the #britishlibrary's collection :)'.  Great work - and so on to the article...

- The focus is on academic publishing in peer reviewed journals, with the costs associated with this being closely tied to the process of peer-review; printing paper copies is not a big expenditure in the overall business model.  Editorship, marketing, content management and typesetting are also costly.
- Income is primarily through subscriptions: academic (68-75%) and industry (15-17%; US figures I think).  On this basis 'open access publishing' is a grave threat to the whole business model.
- But we also get to hear about author fees charged to those seeking publication... and the mark ups they are required to pay if they go down the open route.  Take up is 'negligible', unsurprisingly.
- Open access journals are discussed: they often publish more quickly, can be less selective, sometimes achieve higher numbers of citations and charge sponsors and authors.  Whether these will be sustainable approaches remains to be seen.
- The cost moves from subscribers to authors, yet JISC concluded that a country such as the UK would see big financial benefits from a switch to this model.  The industry objects, yet Ars Technica's author isn't too keen on their arguments.
- The concluding comments discuss the self-interested attitudes of key players, a tragedy of the commons argument.  And yet, authors of these articles are in fact often granted rights to 'archive and distribute' pre-print versions of their work -if only they knew it, if only there was a way of co-ordinating their efforts.

Well, I share that argument wholeheartedly.  But not just with the end results, the process is key as well.  To that end I'm wrestling with whether or not I should post my seminar slides - when the seminar eventually takes place.  The information will be in the public domain anyway, so what's the difference between performing it and posting it up?  Will anyone ever read the notes... unlikely.  Will I be jeopardising future opportunities to publish the work... I doubt it, and am not particularly fussed either way when the ideas are still so fresh and unformed.

I have a colleague who works closely with me on my teaching, marking and research ideas.  She is a very valuable asset to our university and is very keen to contribute to research discussions and potential lines of thought.  And so she briefly introduced me to the work of Gilles Deleuze - who has a long entry on Wikipedia.  Now... this was said in relation to serendipity as a theoretical framework, although tragically the Wikipedia article doesn't allude to this: I am thus bereft of any source of information, no?

The search for a theoretical underpinning is now becoming foremost in my mind.  Having accumulated ideas, examples and debates, I'm happy that there's something going on here worthy of further research.  The PhD is however all about contributing knowledge and needs a theoretical base.  Current favourites are based around:
- Networks
- Social capital
- Serendipity
- Urban theory

And at that point I shall bring this post to a close.  I have more to say, but that'll come in the next instalment - I need to read more first.

St Andrew's Day round up of links and events: part 2.

PhD ideas: 25 November 2010