CEDEM 12, Day 1, Keynote 1 #cedem12

After the official opening by Danube University’s vice chancellor Viktoria Weber, chairs Noella Edelmann and Peter Parycek started the conference with interesting facts (like a 50% rejection rate, our current JeDEM Call for Papers and Michal Sachs‘ working desk). The first keynote Ralph Schroeder (UK) is specialising in how knowledge is changing through the internet and the sociology of advancing (online) knowledge. Old wine in new bottles or revolution?

Keynote 1: The Internet, Science, and Transformations of Knowledge (Ralph Schroeder, Oxford Internet Institute, UK)

Ralph Schroeder mentioned that there is not too much research in Austria in the area. We do have @cyberscientist Michael Nentwich though who is specialising in science 2.0 and the usage of the internet in research – he has published a book called “Cyberscience 2.0“. So how have things changed? (From Web 2.0 to Big Data).

One of the things we need to look at is a good definition. e-Research can be defined as distributed and collaborative digital tools and data for knowledge production. Besides a good definition, a model capturing digital transformation of research is needed.

Science was always driven by machines, with the internet driving social sciences today. From the organisational part, we have research technologies/machines where people are gathering around. Whilst in the humanities we have patterns in words, numbers, images and sounds, social sciences are dependend on statistics, image analysis or mapping. The Oxford Internet Institute has been doing work on many different cases from literature to biotechnology asking the question what sort of transformation can be observed. One example of crowdsourcing techniques in science was “Galaxy Zoo” where students had to classify galaxies according to their shapes – a task at which the human brain is better than even the most advanced computer. Happy classifying!

A popular case is e-research in Sweden, a country with a major e-research initiative. Sweden displays a use of population data in a transparent society with high trust between people, authorities and researchers. Another important aspect in science nowadays is who links to view and generally, visibility of research. A computational way forward in literature is developing networks and maps, e.g. of characters – the question here is to what extent we would like to advance this kind of research.

We do not know too much about how academics produce knowledge or how students actually find stuff. Schröder emphasised that e-discovery is changing our relationship to the public, in the sense that we are, for instance, engaging with a larger public. But what difference does this make? It is safe to say that we are dealing with more digital tools and data, the expandable capacity of research changing organisational modes of researchers. It is safe to say that these developments are going to last and spread instead of going away 🙂 However, there are certain limits, e.g. some resistance of the humanities or social sciences to this.

The boundaries vis-a-vis public and between research communities become more porous. Another challenge is that knowledge is driven towards computational manipulatbility and aggregatability, research becoming an increasingly autonomized apparatus in society. And with more and more tools driving research, the research question itself might become more important.

One of the key issues for research funders, according to Schröder, is that research is being intermediated, and data sets are used where we either don’t know where the origins are or people have direct access to data (intermediation vs. dis-intermediation). The same could be true for Open Government as well.

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