Project-centered personal learning environments in e-research and open social innovation

Working in the field of open social innovation, and most especially when one considers institutions as platforms for civic engagement, it is almost unavoidable to think of the personal learning environment (PLE) as a useful tool for conceptualising or even managing a project, especially a knowledge-intensive one.

Let the definition of a PLE be a set of conscious strategies to use technological tools to gain access to the knowledge contained in objects and people and, through that, achieve specific learning goals. And let us assume that a knowledge-intensive project aims at achieving a higher knowledge threshold. That is, learning.

The common — and traditional — approach to such projects can be, in my opinion, simplified as follows:

  • Extraction of information and knowledge from the environment.
  • Management and transformation of information and knowledge to add value.
  • Dissemination, outreach and knowledge transmission.

These stages usually happen sequentially and on a much independent way one from another. They even usually have different departments behind.

This is perfectly valid in a world where tasks associated to information and communication are costly, and take time and (physical) space. Much of this is not true. Any more. Costs have dropped down, physical space is almost irrelevant and many barriers associated with time have just disappeared. What before was a straight line — extract, manage, disseminate — is now a circle… or a long sequence of iterations around the same circle and variations of it.

I wonder whether it makes sense to treat knowledge-intensive projects as yet another node within a network of actors and objects working in the same field. As a node, the project can both be an object &mash; embedding an information or knowledge you can (re)use — or the reification of the actors whose work or knowledge it is embedding — and, thus, actors you can get in touch trough the project.

A good representation of a project as a node is to think of it in terms of a personal learning environment, hence a project-centered personal learning environment (maybe project knowledge environment would be a better term, but it gets too much apart from the idea of the PLE as most people understands and “sees” it).

A very rough, simple scheme of a project-centered personal learning environment could look like this:

Scheme of a project-centered personal learning environment
Scheme of a project-centered personal learning environment
[Click to enlarge]

In this scheme there are three main areas:

  • The institutional side of the project, which includes all the data gathered, the references used, the output (papers, presentations, etc.), a blog with news and updates, collaborative work spaces (e.g. shared documents) and all what happens on social networking sites.
  • The inflow of information, that is data sources, collections of references and other works hosted in repositories in general.
  • The exchange of communications with the community of interest, be it individual specialists, communities of learning or practice, and major events.

These areas, though, and unlike traditional project management, interact intensively with each other, sharing forth information, providing feedback, sometimes converging. The project itself is redefined by these interactions, as are the adjacent nodes of the network.

I can think at least of three types of knowledge-intensive projects where a project-centered personal learning environment approach makes a lot of sense to me:

  • Research.
  • Open social innovation (includes political participation, civic engagement and awareness raising).

In both types of project knowledge is central, as is the dialogue between the project and the actors and resources in the environment. Thinking of knowledge-intensives projects not in terms of extract-manage-disseminate but in terms of (personal) learning environments, taking into account the pervasive permeability of knowledge that happens in a tight network is, to me, an advancement. And it helps in better designing the project, the intake of information and the return that will most presumably feed back the project itself.

There is a last reflection to be made. It is sometime difficult to draw or even to recognize one’s own personal learning environment: we are too used to work in projects to realize our ecosystem, we are so much project-based that we forget about the environment. Thinking on projects as personal learning environments helps in that exercise: the aggregation of them all should contribute in realizing:

  • What is the set of sources of data, bibliographies and repositories we use as a whole as the input of our projects.
  • What is the set of specialists, communities of practice and learning, and major events with which we usually interact, most of the times bringing with us the outputs of our projects.
Scheme of a personal learning environments as the aggregation of knowledge-intensive projects
Scheme of a personal learning environments as the aggregation of knowledge-intensive projects
[Click to enlarge]

Summing up, conceiving projects as personal learning environments in e-research and open innovation can help both in a more comprehensive design of these projects as in a better acknowledgement of our own personal learning environment. And, with this, to help in defining a better learning strategy, better goal-setting, better identification of people and objects (resources) and to improve the toolbox that we will be using in the whole process. And back to the beginning.

Open Social Innovation

Innovation, open innovation, social innovation… is there such a thing as open social innovation? Is there innovation in the field of civic action that is open, that shares protocols and processes and, above all, outcomes? Or, better indeed, is there a collectively created innovative social action whose outcomes are aimed at collective appropriation?

Innovation

It seems unavoidable, when speaking about innovation, to quote Joseph A. Schumpeter in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy:

The fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from the new consumers’ goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new forms of industrial organization that capitalist enterprise creates.

In the aforementioned work and in Business Cycles: a Theoretical, Historical and Statistical Analysis of the Capitalist Process he stated that innovation necessarily had to end up with existing processes, and that entire enterprises and industries would be destroyed with the coming of new ways of doing things, as the side effect of innovation. This creative destruction would come from, at least, the following fronts:

  • A new good or service in the market (e.g. tablets vs. PCs).
  • A new method of production or distribution of already existing goods and services (e.g. music streaming vs. CDs).
  • Opening new markets (e.g. smartphones for elderly non-users).
  • Accessing new sources of raw materials (e.g. fracking).
  • The creation of a new monopoly or the destruction of an existing one (e.g. Google search engine)

Social innovation

Social innovation is usually described as innovative practices that strengthen civil society. Being this a very broad definition, I personally like how Ethan Zuckerman described social innovation in the Network Society. According to his innovation model:

  1. Innovation comes from constraint.
  2. Innovation fights culture.
  3. Innovation does embrace market mechanisms.
  4. Innovation builds upon existing platforms.
  5. Innovation comes from close observation of the target environment.
  6. Innovation focuses more on what you have more that what you lack.
  7. Innovation is based on a “infrastructure begets infrastructure” basis.

His model comes from a technological approach — and thus maybe has a certain bias towards the culture of engineering — but it does explain very well how many social innovations in the field of civil rights have been working lately (e.g. the Spanish Indignados movement).

Open innovation

The best way to define open innovation is after Henry W. Chesbrough’s Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating And Profiting from Technology, which can be summarized as follows:

Closed Innovation Principles Open Innovation Principles
The smart people in the field work for us. Not all the smart people in the field work for us. We need to work with smart people inside and outside the company.
To profit from R&D, we must discover it, develop it, and ship it ourselves. External R&D can create significant value: internal R&D is needed to claim some portion of that value.
If we discover it ourselves, we will get it to the market first. We don’t have to originate the research to profit from it.
If we create the most and the best ideas in the industry, we will win. If we make the best use of internal and external ideas, we will win.
We should control our IP, so that our competitors don’t profit from our ideas. We should profit from others’ use of our IP, and we should buy others’ IP whenever it advances our business model.

Open Social Innovation

The question is, can we try and find a way to mix all the former approaches? Especially, can we speak about how to have social innovation being open?

In my opinion, there is an important difference between social innovation and innovation that happens in the for-profit environment:

  1. The first one, and more obvious, is that while the former one has to somehow capture and capitalize the benefits of innovation, the second one is sort of straightforward: if the innovation exists, then society can “automatically” appropriate it.
  2. The second one is the real cornerstone: while (usually) the important thing in (for-profit) open innovation is the outcome, in social innovation it (usually) is more important the process followed to achieve a goal rather than achieving the goal itself.

Thus, in this train of thought, open social innovation is the creative destruction that aims at making up new processes that can be appropriated by the whole of civil society. I think there are increasingly interesting examples of open social innovation in the field of social movements, of e-participation and e-democracy, the digital commons, P2P practices, hacktivism and artivism, etc.

I think that open social innovation has three main characteristics that can be fostered by three main actions of policies.

Characteristics

  • Decentralization. Open social innovation allows proactive participation, and not only directed participation. For this to happen, content has to be separated from the container, or tasks be detached from institutions.
  • Individualization. Open social innovation allows individual participation, especially at the origin of innovation. This does not mean that collective innovation is bad or avoided, but just that individuals have much flexibility o start on their own. This is only possible with the atomization of processes and responsibilities, thus enabling maximum granularity of tasks and total separation of roles.
  • Casual participation. Open social innovation allows participation to be casual, just in time, and not necessarily for a log period of time or on a regular basis. This is only possible by lowering the costs of participation, including lowering transaction costs thus enabling that multiple actors can join innovative approaches.

Policies

How do we foster decentralization-individualization-casual participation? how do we separate content from the container? how do we atomize processes, enable granularity? how do we lower costs of participation and transaction costs?

  • Provide context. The first thing an actor can do to foster open social innovation is to provide a major understanding of what is the environment like, what is the framework, what are the global trends that affect collective action.
  • Facilitate a platform. It is not about creating a platform, it is not about gathering people around our initiative. It deals about identifying an agora, a network and making it work. Sometimes it will be an actual platform, sometimes it will be about finding out an existing one and contributing to its development, sometimes about attracting people to these places, sometimes about making people meet.
  • Fuel interaction. Build it and they will come? Not at all. Interaction has to be boosted, but without interferences so not to dampen distributed, decentralized leadership. Content usually is king in this field. But not any content, but filtered, grounded, contextualized and hyperlinked content.

Some last thoughts

Let us now think about the role of some nonprofits, political parties, labour unions, governments, associations, mass media, universities and schools.

It has quite often been said that most of these institutions — if not all — will perish with the change of paradigm towards a Networked or Knowledge Society. I actually believe that all of them will radically change and will be very different from what we now understand by these institutions. Disappear?

While I think there is less and less room for universities and schools to “educate”, I believe that the horizon that is now opening for them to “enable and foster learning” is tremendously huge. Thus, I see educational institutions having a very important role as context builders, platform facilitators and interaction fuellers. It’s called learning to learn.

What for democratic institutions? I cannot see a bright future in leading and providing brilliant solutions for everyone’s problems. But I would definitely like to see them having a very important role as context builders, platform facilitators and interaction fuellers. It’s called open government.

Same for nonprofits of all purposes. Rather than solving problems, I totally see them as empowering people and helping them to go beyond empowerment and achieve total governance of their persons and institutions, through socioeconomic development and objective choice, value change and emancipative values, and democratization and freedom rights.

This is, actually, the turn that I would be expecting in the following years in most public and not-for-profit institutions. They will probably become mostly useless with their current organizational design, but they can definitely play a major role in society if they shift towards open social innovation.

Ana Rivoir: National Strategies for the Information Society in Latin America, 2000-2010. The case of Uruguay

Notes from the PhD Dissertation defence by Ana Rivoir entitled Estrategias Nacionales para la Solciedad de la Información y el Conocimiento en América Latina, 2000-2010. El caso de Uruguay (National Strategies for the Information and Knowledge Society in Latin America, 2000-2010. The case of Uruguay), directed by Mila Gascó.

Defence of the thesis: National Strategies for the Information and Knowledge Society in Latin America, 2000-2010. The case of Uruguay.

Despite the revolution of the Information Society, its impact is meagre in Latin America, due to the digital divide, to meaningful use, to social appropriation, etc. How have public policies responded to that?

After year 2000 we see the flourishing of the so-called “digital agendas” in several countries in Latin America. Initially, they are criticised for too much focusing on infrastructures. Besides the technological approach, there is, though, a more complex approach where ICTs are seen as a driver of development, having a role in social change, and where policies have a more comprehensive approach focusing on inclusion, and articulated with other public policies. In the complex approach, indeed, the issue at stake is not the “telecommunication market” but many other actors converge in the arena.

This research deals with the transition from one (technological) approach to another (complex) one in Uruguay during the decade 2000-2010. Specifically, it is stated that Uruguay did that transition because it adopted, in 2005, a more human development-centred approach.

There is a powerful international context, with several summits in the region (Latin America and the Caribbean) either directly related with the Information Society or with Human Development (e.g. Millennium Goals).

The first agenda, Uruguay En Red (UER), is not achieved due to contradictory design, lack of leadership, an environment of economic crisis. The strategy for the Information Society in Uruguay 2005-2010 or Agenda Digital Uruguay is very different to the former one. There is a deep influence of the Millennium goals; goals are simpler, though more focused on technology; difficult to measure; new bias towards a “complex approach”. That is, despite the agenda being simplified and seemingly technological, its development is of the complex kind.

In general, the new strategy goes in line with the rest of the region and the international context, with technological goals but complex achievements. These achievements especially relevant in the field of e-Government but partly leaving aside participation and empowerment.

The complex approach, though not in the design, is effectively achieved in the implementation of the different policies. This is due to the different design from the former UER to the later ADU, which makes it easier to execute digital policies. An important observation to be made is that the complex approach is fostered by broad participation of actors, but it is not a necessary pre-requisite.

It is evidenced by this research that two models (technological, complex) do exist and it would be advisable that international organisms (e.g. ECLAC) made it explicit in their handbooks and reports on how to design and assess Information Society policies.

Discussion

Tamyko Ysa: are we using a policy-network approach or a issue-network approach in this research? are we seeing two approaches of public policies, or the difficulties to carry on a given policy, are we measuring policy designs or are we measuring outcomes? how are outputs and outcomes related? How do we know that policies in Uruguay were affected by the regional or the international arena, and not the other way round?

Jacint Jordana: Despite the thesis having a multidisciplinary approach, it maybe lacked a “core” theoretical framework. Some statements should have been put in context in relationship with other macro indicators (changes of government, GNP, etc.). More “dialogue” between the many indicators gathered in the thesis would have been a rich improvement.

Joan Subirats: The thesis is initiated in 2000 where we used to speak about “strategies” to foster the Information Society, but do we need such strategies 13 years after? Is there a real capability to design such a comprehensive policy that can span all the related issues of the (immense) Information Society? What kind of debate nurtured or accompanied the design of policies and strategies to foster the Information Society? Would it be possible to replace technological/complex with instrumental/systemic? Another analysis that could have been made is not only the degree of change in Uruguay, but also in neighbour countries, and to compare the different degrees of change and the reason for these differences (if any). Why, for instance, is human development so absent in e.g. Europe, especially in comparison with Latin America.

Ana Rivoir: The always changing topic of analysis made the theoretical framework also a changing issue. That is one of the reasons why a solid framework was very difficult to weave. Notwithstanding, it is very likely that a multidisciplinary approach should be replaced by a disciplinary one, to avoid the continuous changes of the matter of analysis.

About the possibility that the concept “strategy for the Information Society” might be outdated, we are just now witnessing the debate around “broadband agendas”, which is but the same thing with a different name. Thus, it still makes a lot of sense to speak about policies or strategies to foster the Information Society, with this name or with another one.

Concerning the different authors, it can be stated that at the beginning of the period 2000-2010, there was not much acknowledgement or even awareness about the relationship between Information Society and Human Development. This changed later, and even a good amount of literature is written to explain not only that there is such a relationship but also how it does happen.

Oriol Miralbell: Social networking sites and exchange of knowledge

Notes from the PhD Dissertation defence by Oriol Miralbell entitled Webs de xarxes socials i intercanvi de coneixement. Anàlisi de l’adopció i ús dels membres de les comunitats virtuals professionals del turisme (Social networking sites and exchange of knowledge. Analysis of the adoption and usage of members of tourism professional virtual communities), directed by Francesc González and Jaume Guia.

Defence of the thesis: Social networking sites and exchange of knowledge. Analysis of the adoption and usage of members of tourism professional virtual communities.

The thesis aims at analyzing how knowledge is exchanged in social networking sites, with a focus on professional virtual networks in the field of tourism.

Main topics of the thesis or theoretical framework:

  • Social virtual networks: Barry Wellman makes the difference between open and diffuse networks, and dense and limited groups. The former ones usually imply freedom of participation, while the later are more centralized and hierarchic, with stronger and fixer relationships.
  • Knowledge transfer: that happens in virtual communities and communities of practice. In the later, the existence of a leader is important, as is the inclusion of the “periphery” of the network. Knowledge transfer is also related with informal learning and personal learning environments. Downes and Siemens base connective knowledge networks in openness, autonomy, diversity and interaction.
  • Social networking sites. O’reilly defines the web 2.0 as a way to leverage the collective wisdom and where the user takes control of their own information. Social networking sites enable the exchange of knowledge, managing one’s relationships (interactivity), creating a public profile by articulating a list of contacts (autonomy), or sharing lists of contacts with other users (openness, diversity).
  • Exchange of knowledge in virtual communities: confidence, loyalty, emotional identification, reciprocity and commitment are fundamental for the exchange of knowledge in virtual communities.
  • Usage and adoption of social networking sites: there are several aspects (cognitive, contextual, etc.) that explain how people adopt technology. Davis, Bagozzi and Warshaw developed the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), which is what based this research.

A model was designed to see what was the utility of social networking sites for knowledge exchange, based on the TAM model.

Social networking sites help in solving some barriers usually found in the field of tourism: high competition and lack of collaboration, atomization of the sector, lack of knowledge, etc.

More than 80,000 virtual communities [1] members out of 28 communities in several social networking sites (Linkedin, Facebook, Ning) were identified and a sample of users was selected to be surveyed about usage and perceived utility. The main characteristics of the sample is higher education, a majority of people in the 30-44 y.o. range, professionals of the tourism or knowledge sector, not very high earnings, proficiency in the use of ICTs. Facebook is the SNS more used, followed by Twitter and Linkedin, though Linkedin was much more used in relationship with the average SNS user, that is, tourism professionals use linkedin more than the average population. More than half of the users had friends as their contacts, but besides this, the level of trust in the network is very high. It is believed that SNS are adequate for sharing knowledge but not as good for creating new knowledge.

We can state that autonomy, diversity and openness favours interactivity among members and thus increase the usage of SNS. SNS are perceived more as places to get in through with people and share knowledge, rather than spaces for collaborative learning. There is a low perception of generation of new knowledge. Thus, features of SNS should be improved in terms of generation of knowledge (if that was their purpose). Notwithstanding, there is a positive perception of SNS often times based in high rates of trust in these platforms. Hence, SNS could be used for collaborative work between members of the tourist sector.

Discussion

Some questions from the committee:

  • Agustí Canals: was there any validation of the questionnaire?
  • Agustí Canals: what is the relationship of the model and demographic data?
  • Agustí Canals: is this research representative of other fields or, at least, other knowledge-intensive fields?
  • José Luis Molina: how does the model relate to personal knowledge management?
  • José Luis Molina: how does the model would vary taking into account only specific regions of the globe?
  • Esther Pérez: what are the reasons behind the choice of the model of acceptance of technology?
  • Q: does the model fit better in some specific geographic areas rather and other ones? what about different ages?
  • Q: how should the model evolve to fit the pace of change in reality?

The questionnaire was validated: there was a pre-survey with a very small sample, the questionnaire was corrected and then the new questionnaire was used in the final survey.

The direct interaction of the researcher with many of the surveyed networks leads him to believe that there are not many differences in the usage and perception of utility of SNS for tourism professionals in different regions of the world… but language. Indeed, problems are shared, attitudes are similar and practices do not differ much from different SNS and/or social networks.

It is worth noting that the personal relationships factor is crucial in the usage of SNS. Knowledge is defined very different and is thus difficult to measure, but personal relationships have common structures and this is what usually shapes social networks.

TAM was adopted because of its wider use in many other researches.

People of different ages may end up using SNS in different ways, but the core of professional virtual communities, which is knowledge and relationships would still be the same. That is, forms may vary, but content would still be the same.

Generation of knowledge not only happens when it is actively pursued, but also serendipitously, in sharing ideas, information or other knowledge.

iPad for Researchers and Scholars: the leap to enhanced reading

For the last 15 months I have owned an iPad, which I use for many purposes but, mainly, for my academic activity. Every now and then I am asked or find myself involved in a debate on why and how to use an iPad (or, in general, tablets) for research. Although an offtopic in this blog, this post here will save me lots of typing and talking elsewhere.

For the sake of the context, I must say that I am a social scientist working in the crossroads of the Knowledge Society and development, especially in what is related with individual empowerment (education) and social empowerment (governance). I teach at a 100% online university, which means that all my working tools are a computer, some common software and access to the Internet. My professional life is mostly digitized, and gathered in my personal research portal. I mostly do not work with paper and mostly do not work offline. I am quite a fast typist (my liveblogging sessions a proof of it) and have a very light (circa 1,000g) while powerful laptop which I can take anywhere without hesitation. I do not own any Apple computer and do not plan to own one in the nearest future (i.e. I am not an Apple fan).

So, how does an iPad or a tablet fit in this context at the professional level?

Enhanced Reading

Reading it not anymore what it used to be.

Reading used to be sitting with a bunch of papers. Maybe a pen would be handy to scribble some notes on the margins, underline some sentences. Maybe not on the margins, but on a piece of paper. Maybe even on a notebook. You would stand up to look up something on the dictionary or the encyclopaedia. And that was it.

Now reading is, for starters, not knowing what you will be feeling like reading. Maybe it will it be a couple of academic papers, maybe it will be correcting some assignments, or proofreading a paper of yours. Or them all: some trips are long and you want to carry everything with you. What is the weight of 500 pages? And the weight of 5 MB?

Besides the dictionary, or the encyclopaedia, you might search for a description of Aztec god Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli or you might even want to see how Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli looks like; you can wonder how Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray would sound like when playing before Jack Kerouac or just listen to a live performance by Gordon & Gray; or you can imagine Jon Krakauer’s Stampede Trail or locate it on a map and pay a visit to it.

Now combine everything said above: picture yourself with a dozen papers; reading all them at the same time (those papers with interesting bibliographies…); underlining and taking notes on them; writing some other notes on a separate file which you can tag and categorize and store and search and retrieve; accessing on the go the authors’ personal websites and their curricula and their list of published works; writing a short e-mail to them asking them for a pre-print of a difficult to find paper; forwarding your annotated copy of the paper to a colleague; or copying and pasting a table of data on a spreadsheet to plot some graphics (why hadn’t they in the original paper?).

And that is enhanced reading.

Picture yourself doing all that sitting (or standing) on the train. Or sitting on your couch.

And that is a tablet.

Why not an eReader

I tried several eReader devices based on e-ink before trying the tablet. There are two main reasons why an eReader is not an option for me:

eReaders are very slow for academic papers reading. They may be fair enough to read a book (whatever its kind) whose content has been repaged for your device and for you to turn the pages sequentially, once a minute or two.

But if you are reading a PDF, A4-sized, with footnotes or endnotes and definitely with a bibliography, you will find yourself turning pages very often. Mainly because it is not optimized for the eReader. And also because the eReader is not prepared (yet) for continuous and quick page-turning. And if you want to compare different papers in parallel, the exercise of exiting a paper, opening a new one, closing that one and going back to the former one… that is simply not bearable for the common human being.

The second reason is that, usually, e-readers lack everything that is not strictly for reading purposes: browsing the internet, writing an e-mail or running an application (notebook, spreadsheet, etc.) are not usually supported by e-Readers. And if they are… aren’t we already talking about a table?

An eReader is mainly to read and to read plain text. But academic reading, enhanced reading, is much more than that.

Why not a laptop?

First of all, there is weight. Even if we assume that your laptop does not weight much more than your average tablet (which is quite an assumption), the iPad, one of the heaviest ones, is similar in weight as a 200 pages hardcover. You are already used to handle that weight. The best ultralight laptop will normally double that weight (and cut to a half the autonomy, BTW): if you think a hardcover edition of a book is heavy, try holding a pair of them for more than a while.

Second, there is comfort. Let’s speak only about reading for a while: for reading purposes, the extra keyboard in the laptop and the tactile screen in the tablet make a huge difference. Not only a keyboard is almost useless when reading — almost because you just type scattered notes ‐, but it is only uncomfortable: it takes extra space (and weight) of your surroundings (remember the crowded train: I spend, on average, 2h on it, daily) and key operating is much more difficult than simply touching a screen.

Besides weight and comfort, there is a third aspect, very subjective, but that I have tested several times, and is friendliness.

I’ve been to several “serious” meetings where people brought their laptops to take notes while I tapped and typed on my iPad. Unbelievable as it might sound, laptops all raised suspicion on whether their owners would be taking notes or reading e-mail or checking their preferred social networking site. On your iPad “of course” you are taking notes. Laptops are for writing and working and iPads are for taking notes, and you are supposed to take notes during a meeting.

And the fact that laptops raise a wall (the screen) between the owner and the rest and the iPad does not (because it rests on your lap or almost flat on the table) makes a huge “emotional” difference. Really.

Related to that, working at home is also different. We scientists know that there is no big difference between reading a paper for work or for leisure. But there actually is a tremendous difference between reading that paper in your home studio sitting in front of your desktop, or reading it sprawling on your couch. Especially if you do not live alone and it’s Sunday. Believe it or not, my Sundays or afternoons are very different now.

On the other side, laptops — or desktops — are unbeatable for writing. But we were talking about (enhanced) reading, right?

The added value of the tablet

In my own experience, the main added value of the tablet can be summarized in some keywords: read, notes, train, couch, shoulder bag.

Having get rid of most my paper usage in the last years, with the tablet I succeeded in getting rid of all paper. Period. This means, specifically, getting rid of:

  • The annoying collection of separate sheets and stickies with casual notes you will never revisit but never dare to trash: the tablet keeps them all together, searchable and easy to transfer (to other people by e-mail, to more serious documents).
  • Printouts of readings with limited life-span (destroy after read): thousands of times more digital documents in your tablet than printed ones in your usual bag, immediate transfer, time and paper saving — and healthier back.

Even more important than working paperless, the tablet provides full mobility, especially if accompanied with an Internet connection (embedded 3G or using your cellphone as a hotspot). And full mobility means that the tablet is always in my shoulder bag. Instead of everything else. The laptop is something you consider bringing with you: the tablet is always with you, as a pen or a notebook used to be.

For those more curious, I’ve shared my setup (or most of it) in the following set of snapshots. Enjoy.

If you cannot see the slides, please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3713">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3916</a>.

e-Research: social media for social sciences (revisited)

On February 15, 2012, I am speaking at a research seminar at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute on how to use online tools on the process of doing research. This is a very slightly modified version of a former seminar that I did back in January — e-Research: social media for social sciences —, so all the things that were said there apply here: RSS feeds (and a feed reader) are your best friends, a personal website is not an option, adopt tools as you need them (not all of them in a row and without a sense of purpose), and be digital.

Since I began my crusade for the adoption of web 2.0 tools (now social media) to enhance research, I have evolved from the “you do need all this stuff” motto to “you do not need all this stuff… but a couple of things are a must”. So, I would really like to stress a couple of points:

  1. In a knowledge society, ICTs are a must. They are a train that you cannot let pass: you will either jump in or you will be crushed under its wheels, but there is no stepping aside. This especially applies for knowledge workers (e.g. scientists). Some people still see the use of some tools (blogs, twitter, RSS feeds) in science as rocket science: this is not even wrong. ICTs are to scientists what tractors are to farmers. Of course you can live without them, but it is very likely that you will be working with less efficiency and less efficacy.
  2. Yes, mastering ICTs and those always changing social media require a certain degree of digital competence, which is not innate and, thus, has to be acquired. As the Spanish saying says: there are neither hurries, nor pauses. But lack of digital competence should not stop you from trying to use social media for research (“those ain’t for me”), the same way you began with your elementary maths to end up calculating multinomial logistic regressions.
  3. Be digital. Just be it. If you are duplicating your tasks, you are not being digital (enough). Social media is about leveraging what you already did on your computer by putting it online. Your papers, your slides, your notes, your readings… if they’re on digital support, they can be online with minimum effort (if they ere not on digital support, please see point #1). I tend to say that e-Research is about making your “digital life” overlap 90% of your “analogue life”. There is an added 10% extra work, indeed, but it is worth doing it compared to benefits.

[click here to enlarge]

Downloads:

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Prezi slides:

Peña-López, I. (2011). e-Research: social media for social sciences. Research seminar at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute. February 15, 2012. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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Slides as a PDF:

Peña-López, I. (2011). e-Research: social media for social sciences. Research seminar at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute. February 15, 2012. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
logo of PDF file
Book chapter:

Peña-López, I. (2009). “The personal research portal”. In Hatzipanagos, S. & Warburton, S. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Social Software and Developing Community Ontologies, Chapter XXVI, 400-414. Hershey: IGI Global.

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About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. During 2014 I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.