I’m just spending a couple of days at a conference on ‘The co-production of knowledge’. Which is really an event about social media from a science and technology studies (STS) perspective. It’s proving to be a lively debate, with particular enthusiasm being shown for discussions of how social media can transform the communication of scholarly outputs and science research. At the moment I’m in a plenary session by Rob Proctor who is talking about this issue of science communication through social media.
Yesterday I sat through around 7 or 8 presentations on various topics. Sally Wyatt gave a lively talk on her work on what she calls virtual knowledge. At the core of this talk was a consideration or ‘manifesto’ for the emergence of new forms of knowledge in a digital age. She raised some really pressing questions about the association between different forms of knowledge. I admit to a few misgivings about the label virtual knowledge which tends toward a separation of online and offline forms of knowledge. This is a distinction that might form a bit of a barrier between forms of knowledge. It also perpetuates the idea that we can somehow separate the virtual from the actual, and suggests that there are somehow forms of knowledge that are not mediated. Which might be counterproductive to Sally’s really interesting observations about taking an open approach to knowledge formation.
There were a number of other presentations yesterday. This included two presentations on the economics of new forms of production in social media, by Tom Rogers, and open source software, by Wifak Gueddana. A paper on the use of open access publishing in Poland, by Dominika Czerniawska, opened up a lively debate amongst the audience on the problems facing publishing and the new difficulties that we face with the open access models. There was particular concern communicated about the exclusionary potential of the often proposed pay to publish or ‘gold’ model of open access publishing (see http://www.socresonline.org.uk for a really well designed open access model).
Finally on Thursday I sat through a session that included one paper, by Katalin Feher, that attempted to provide a conceptual model for new media. A very ambitious project that ended up with some looseness in the concepts being used but which nonetheless demonstrated some real discussion from its insights – plus it was encouraging to see an attempt at thinking across the issues associated with social media. And the day finished with two papers which in different ways discussed algorithms in culture. Mark Dang-Anh’s paper looked directly at the way that algorithms shape communications and social connections on Twitter. This paper presented some important points about how social networks are partly generated by algorithmic influences. And to close Elizabeth Van Couvering and Farida Vis discussed Amazon and the history of its development. This history showed how commercial organisations adopt features from social networking sites to generate value.