An Academic Resource for Microcontent

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.

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  1. alex
    Posted 1/9/2003 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    The most important thing to remember as a blogger, and sometimes the easiest thing to forget, is who you are writing for. If “lurking” is the activity of reading posts in a discussion without posting, the blog equivalent is “mumbling,” which is basically the equivalent of talking o oneself. This is exhibbited in design (e.g., if you don’t ise IE, I don’t care if you can read my site), but is most aparent in weblogs. I am big on making social behaviors transparent, but I think that the major criticism of the blogosphere–that it tends to contain a lot of navel-gazing–is a fair one.

    The reason this comes up is that I just received an email from a UB student who was curious about what I meant by “lazy web.^ While there are some of the widely read blogs that tend to overlink unfamiliar items, I swhould have provided an explanatory link like this one to make clear my meaning.

    The same correspondent highlighted some design issues that should be cleaned up.

    I am lucky this person got in touch. Despite trackbacks, comments, and various interblog discussions, blogs remain more akin to the web than to email. It’s vital to remember the largely silent audience.

  2. Posted 1/18/2004 at 7:41 am | Permalink


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