- to enhance collaboration between academics
- to publish and share research
- to share knowledge with a broader audience (students, governments, industries, non-profits, the general public, and so on)
Clearly one of the challenges academia faces is to figure out a productive use of networks in terms of research practices. Usually I write more about the teaching aspects of the university and clearly there are many ways universities will employ networks. But I want to think specifically about the use of the web for research with a few goals in mind:
One might say that these have been answered, but the real challenge is that as the web continues to evolve and now converge with other networks, the practices we have established need to change as well. That is, from the inception of the web, one could find the appearance of academic journals: genuine, rigorously reviewed, academic scholarship available freely online. There were (and are) listservs that might facilitate collaboration. Similarly individual faculty and faculty organizations built websites where they offered information, policy statements, and so on (NCTE or MLA for example in English Studies). But how are we moving forward?
- mobile networks
- virtual worlds
- audio/video production
- public, collaborative learning
Conventional academic discourse lies with journals and conferences. For all the advantages of these modes, neither offers an ongoing, dynamic interchange. Listservs offer that, but, in my experience anyway, they don't really create a productive, collaborative space. Sometimes there are debates on listservs; sometimes there is sharing of information (e.g. does anyone know a good article about x"?). But there isn't a sustained building of knowledge there. I suppose there could be, but there isn't, probably b/c we all go off to write our individually authored articles and conference presentations.
In any case, the listserv is too large a community for collaborative work. Yes, tens of thousands contribute to Wikipedia, but they don't all work on the same article, right? So I don't know what the magic number is, but let's say I was looking for a dozen scholars in who were interested in the same things I'm interested in:
It's unlikely that we would all work on the same research project at once, but there would be a handful of project undertaken by individuals or small groups. There would be a public face to the group and a private project management site, like Basecamp. The public face would offer a steady stream of information as we shared what we were doing, what was going on in our teaching, what we were reading and writing. We'd be assembling streams of information from our blogs, twitters, flickr, YouTube, and so on--wherever we were post information. The result is a collection of information that is hopefully useful groundwork for more formal investigation and also a mechanism for fruitful collaboration between our classes.
Meanwhile, in a more private space we might be orchestrating collaborative classroom projects and sharing research, drafts, and other media: constructing our scholarly work. When it's complete, we publish it in traditional venues and republish it on our public site as well.