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Being Post-Digital (or BEL activities in a PLE)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 February 2014

The Research Unbound Launch Event

The Research Unbound Web siteLast Friday I was an invited speaker at IRISS’s launch event of the Research Unbound project. As described on their home page Research Unbound  is “an online journal published by IRISS as a place for sharing research whether completed or in progress” with the aim of “linking research and practice in social care“.

The approach being taken is to encourage open sharing of research activities and practices through, for example, the provision of a blog platform (based on WordPress) which can be used by those working in sector.

I had been invited to give a talk on the role social media can play in three areas:

  1. Supporting dialogue with one’s peers
  2. Developing one’s professional network
  3. Enhancing the visibility and ‘impact’ of one’s research

The third area, in particular, can be helped by adoption of open practices, such as making one’s research available with a Creative Commons licence and ensuring that it is easily found through use of appropriate open access repository platforms.

But open access, I said in my presentation, is not sufficient; there are many papers hosted in open access repositories which have very low download statistics.  There are benefits which can be gained through use of social media. My talk was based on a paper on ” Using social media to enhance your research activities” which I presented at the Social Media in Social Research 2013 conference last year. An updated version of the presentation, which I gave at the Research Unbound launch event is available on Slideshare and  embedded at the bottom of this blog post.

BEL activities in a PLE

Since I have previously published blog posts about use of social media to support research activities (see the posts on “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities“and “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities – Workshop Session at the #DAAD2013 Conference””) I won’t repeat the contents of those posts here.

What did occur to me, however, was how social media technologies are now becoming embedded in everyday activities, in a wide range of locations and throughout the day.

I illustrated this point by asking how many people in the audience had a smart phone. The answer was all but one person of the 31 people attending the event. The vast majority had accounts on social media services and also used these services for work-related purposes. In response to my final question: “Who has used a mobile device for work-related purposes in bed?” I found that I was not alone, with many of the participants admitting to tweeting, reading email or work-related documents on their mobile phones, tablet computers or e-readers in bed.

The technology, I would argue, is being invisible. Many people are no longer interested in questions such as “What OS does your tablet run?” or “My tablet runs a dual core Atom processor. What about yours?“. Similarly many people are now indifferent about the social media services themselves- when did you last hear a discussion on whether, for example, an open source competitor to Twitter should be used?

We now seem to be moving towards a post-digital environment to use the term coined by Dave White in a blog post on “Postdigital: Escaping the Kingdom of the New?” published in 2009 on the TALL blog. In the post Dave argued that:

Too much time is spent arguing about the relative merits of digital spaces such as Twitter and Facebook. The key term here being ‘relative’. We are pitting digital against digital, new against new, a form of one-upmanship which distracts from the larger picture.

A Pub Learning EnvironmentI thought about Dave’s blog post the night before I gave the presentation, when I was in the Blackfrair’s pub with Ian Watson (from IRISS who invited me to speak at the conference) and Sheila MacNeill, formerly of Cetis and now working at Glasgow Caledonia University. While we were in the pub we caught up on what we’ve been up to since we’d last met and, as those with interests in educational technologies and future-gazing activities tend to do, shared examples of developments which we felt were interesting.

As I described it the next day we took part in “BEL activities in a PLE” or “Beer-enhanced learning activities in a pub learning environment“!

Now having a drink and a gossip with friends and colleagues is not post-digital, although there are parallels with the benefits which can be gained from use of social media.

Activity Social Media Pub
Supporting dialogue with one’s peers Joining in a Twitter discussion Joining in a conversation
Developing one’s professional network Being followed by someone on Twitter, looking at their bio and following them back Being introduced to new people and swapping business cards
Enhancing the visibility and ‘impact’ of one’s research Tweeting “Here my latest blog post on xxx bit.ly/xxx I wrote  paper on that. Give me your business card and I’ll email you a copy

But whilst a legal framework and social protocols have developed over an extended period for pubs this is not the case for social media. But what would happen if we were in an environment in which pubs were new, perhaps the prohibition era in the US had lasted until recently and had been extended across the western world, in the same way that social media extends globally?

If Pubs Were A New Invention

Let’s imagine a parallel universe in which President Obama’s election was welcomed across the globe and his first presidential act was to ban prohibition. Just as with the fall of the Berlin Wall, this led to changes across the western world, with pubs, bars and nightclubs being allowed to open. No doubt the risks would be highlighted by those who do not welcome change, and a risk register would be needed to address such concerns.

Risk Responses in the Fictitious Pub Environment
They might be used for pornographic purposes. Access to pubs requires signing form stating no illegal activities will take place.
Inappropriate conversations may take place. Recordings made of conversations, which will be analysed for inappropriate keywords.
Illegal activities, such as selling pirate copies of DVDs, may take place. Visitors searched as they enter establishment

In addition to the risks as perceived by those who do not welcome their introduction, there will also be risks as pubs become established and sustainable business models are needed once they move beyond the early adopters.

Risk Responses in the Fictitious Pub Environment
Visitors “social spaces” are “appropriated” for work-related purposes. Informal human protocols become established
Pubs seek to monetise the social environment though advertising, promotions, etc. Although some argue “if you don’t pay, you’re the product not the customer” eventually the need for pubs to make money becomes accepted.

In Dave White’s blog post he concluded

Maybe it’s time for a metamorphosis in approach, away from the digital, towards the postdigital.

True. And maybe the move towards the post-digital can be helped by an appreciation of the pre-digital. What do you think?


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

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3 Responses to “Being Post-Digital (or BEL activities in a PLE)”

  1. […] The Research Unbound Launch Event Last Friday I was an invited speaker at IRISS’s launch event of the Research Unbound project.  […]

  2. […] The Research Unbound Launch Event Last Friday I was an invited speaker at IRISS's launch event of the Research Unbound project. As described on their home page Research Unbound is "an online journ…  […]

  3. […] our launch event on 21 February 2014, Brian Kelly shared his practical wisdom on how social media can enhance your research activities.  Among his many hints and tips was Socialbro for managing and analysing your Twitter […]

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