Met with Liz Lawley last week in Rochester to talk about the possibility of putting together an NSF grant to fund a new resource center for academic studies and research of microcontent publishing, AKA blogging. She also suggests the possibility of a “Center of Excellence,” but when I hear that, I think of the new Bioinformatics center of excellence here at UB or similar efforts. It also does not allow as much, I think, for the virtuality of such a center. Of course, it’s all in a name.
The real question is what could such a resource offer, both to the academy and to the practical world of those who are out there “doing.” I see it as partially an incubator and partially a bridge.
On the one hand, it could help build a library of knowledge about the things both the wider blogging world and academics would find interesting. This ranges from snippets of code and tutorials, to research on HCI and design of user interfaces, to explanations of how things like citation analysis, hyperlink analysis, and the like might be employed. As such, it could become a center of conversation, and hopefully allow for more complex and collaborative projects–as opposed to what seems to be the norm of individual attempts and a sort of grass-roots hope for a “lazy web.”
Secondly, it could act as an organ of communication between the traditional academic world and the blogging frontier. By this, I mean that there is a lot of excitement and experimentation already going on in the blogosphere, but the mainstream of even Internet researchers seems relatively oblivious to its niceties. The hope would be to provide tools and explanations to social scientists, but to scientists and academics who might be able to leverage these technologies to better create and disseminate knowledge.
I want to do this regardless of funding. The truth is, it can be done–as have many great projects–without funding. Funding provides, as always, time. With a gaggle of funded graduate students and the possibility of time for me and others interested in the areas (along with some of the requisite “harder” costs that are always a part of research), we would be far more assured of success. A February deadline, however, looms.