Networked participatory scholarship
This article explores the ways scholarship in higher education have changed in response to technology that supports online social networks. The authors call this new approach to scholarship Networked Participatory Scholarship (NPS).
- From digital scholarship to Networked Participatory Scholarship
- The shared history of scholarship and technology
- Emergent techno-cultural stimuli exerting pressure on scholarly practice
- In the dominant culture
- Amongst scholars
- Within scholarly journals
This paper is specifically focused on scholars (faculty, instructors, researchers, etc.) in higher education and their scholarship work (which includes teaching and research). As of 2012, many of these scholars have been reluctant to use online social technology in their work because doing so is either punished or not rewarded by their employer. That is, it does not help the scholar gain tenure and promotions.
Despite the reluctance, scholarship is changing as scholars use online social networks and technology to ‘share, reflect upon, critique, improve, validate, and further their scholarship’ (Veletsianos and Kimmons, 2012, p. 768). The authors call this new approach Networked Participatory Scholarship (NPS). They are using tools that aren’t just for scholars (such as YouTube, Twitter, and Quora) as well as tools that are designed for them in particular (such as Cloudworks, Academia.edu, and Mendeley).
A change in scholarship in line with changing technology isn’t new. When the printing press was invented, scholarly work at first became more accessible to people, but then the proliferation of publishing reduced its accessibility because there were so many publications that really only universities could purchase a wide variety of them. That ultimately influenced the role of the scholar.
Collaborative work and academic culture
Although this paper does not debate of technological determinism, it’s important to note that there is a question about which influences the other — is culture changing because of technology, or the other way around?
The authors cite Dron and Andersn’s work about collectives, but I think they mean to refer to sets. With Dron and Anderson, collectives are aggregate intelligence such as tag clouds or recommender features on websites. The authors go on to discuss examples such as Wikipedia and other open-source efforts, which I believe Dron and Anderson call sets. Either way, their point is that scholars are making use of blogs, Facebook, and other social networking tools to work collectively and that those activities ‘may not reflect the culture of university scholarship [but] they might very well reflect aspects of the dominant culture, which then gains power, via the tool, to influence scholarly cultures…. [There] is an interplay between [the dominant culture, technology, and subcultures] by which changes in the dominant culture or technology may either reflect or influence transformation in the subculture in a complex and negotiated manner’ (Veletsianos and Kimmons, 2012, p. 770). They also mention briefly how some scholars are interested in NPS as a way to connect ‘their research with their identities’ (Veletsianos and Kimmons, 2012, p. 771).
Shift in theories of mind, knowledge, and pedagogy
Scholars are reconsidering their theories of mind, knowledge, and pedagogy to consider more sociocultural and networked learning theories, and this changes their practice as they apply the ideas of Vygotsky, Lave, Wenger, Siemens, and more to their work (for example, open resources and MOOCs).
With that shift in practice also comes a new look at how artifacts are reviewed and valued, which brings the discussion to peer review. What is the value of peer review? Is it still needed for quality control? And is it still the fairest way to ensure quality? At least two journals (Nature and Shakespeare Quarterly) have tried to open the peer review process by making journal articles open to online commenting and critique, with dismal results. Academics didn’t participate in that review process because it didn’t ‘count toward tenure’ (Veletsianos and Kimmons, 2012, p. 771).
Setting aside peer review, scholars are increasingly interested in publishing in open journals, and with that comes a new set of tools for measuring quality, value, influence, and reach: metrics that show how many times an article has been viewed, cited, and so on.
Re-evaluating how artifacts are reviewed and valued also means looking at the role of learning management systems (LMSs) in higher education. Are LMSs best for online learning? There is some movement away from them, and online learning courses are changing from being mostly like groups (to use Dron and Anderson’s categories) to being more like nets (again, Dron and Anderson). When they are more like nets, the ‘course materials are made available to participants… who then have the ability to self-directedly create networks with other participants to achieve shared learning goals…. Individuals define their participation and learning goals, and course activity occurs in distributed online fora…. in self-defined ways…. [which is different because it is] positioning knowledge around social connections rather than around content, enabling scholars to re-envision teaching, instruction, their role as teachers, and the ways that knowledge is acquired in modern society’ (Veletsianos and Kimmons, 2012, p. 771).