Went to Rochester to meet up with Liz Lawley, Jon Schull, Mike Axelrod, and Steve Jacobs and talk about the proposal for a grant to study microcontent/blogs. We threw around some ideas. It was a worthwhile brainstorming session, and now we are under some pressure to do what you shouldn’t, by definition, do when brainstorming: censor. Or rather, we need to narrow it down to something less amorphous. I also need to be careful not to restrict it only to my interests. While narrow is better (George Barnett already has a claim on “science is difficult,” but I think I will get a sign to put over my office door that says “narrow is better”) we need to make sure that we are covering some of the bases.
Broadly, we want to:
– study the informal networks and practices that have evolved around microcontent in various milieux (with special attention to international networks);
– determine the degree to which these can be formalized, explained, and exploited;
– build the technological tools with which we can both observe and distribute information (hence “grok the milieu as Jon put it);
– generate a set of “best practices” and resources for using microcontent publishing collaboratively within research and teaching, as well as the interstices between the two;
– publicize this work through a microcontent research portal.
I think this encapsulates the more detailed approaches that ended up on the board. I was pushing hard for deliverables, since any limited experience I’ve had with funding shows that granting agencies want a clear indication of what will be produced as a result of the funding they provide. In this case it will take several forms:
– published descriptive work of current practices in using microcontent publishing for the collaborative process of innovation and research
– a repository of both tools (crawlers, parsers, automated content analysis, network analysis, visualization) and data sets to be made available to a larger research community
– a series of workshops for researchers who make use of microcontent publishing to come together and discuss their work among their peers
– a set of resources and reports to support the introduction and effective use of microcontent publishing within collaborative research and learning environments.
These are pretty much a personal summarization of the direction I think we took. I invite alternative interpretations or corrections, of course.