Digital Researcher 2011: Went down like a Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #11

Added by Noradaly on 28 February 2011 14:09

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of running some of the sessions at the Vitae & British Library’s Digital Researcher 2011  event and I swear the buzz has not yet worn off.

The aim of the event was to introduce researchers to an array of social media technologies that can serve as helpful tools throughout the research process. Meeting rooms were packed with eager individuals and their blinking laptops and spiralling power cords ready to get micro-blogging and tweeting. A quick survey revealed that attendees were from diverse disciplines and came to the day with a wide range of experience in social media: from self-processed luddites to those quite familiar with the tools but less clear on their potential research application.  

In any other training situation an instructor might find this perceived imbalance a difficult starting point, but that’s the thing with social media: it is…social! Almost as soon as I launched into my “Introduction to Twitter” speech, my position as instructor moved to the background as everyone logged in and, suitably empowered by the ease of it, explored these new tools and helped each other get connected. The tutorial, in effect, went viral. With each researcher now on the proverbial social media ladder, we then asked everyone to complete a group project whilst attending seminars and talks relating to the topic of digital research . To complete the task they would need to work and communicate remotely using the tools now at their disposal.  

Twitter was used throughout for note-taking, discussion and debate, even scheduling which sessions each group member would attend. The #dr11 hashtag  united these conversations and a real community around the day’s events was created, even for those attending virtually. Weeks after the close of the conference the hashtag was still kept alight by the researchers communicating and sharing information with each other. It was all so exciting I thought the party would never end. 

But then I started to notice a change. And it started with a tweet:

“Woot woot! @SaintArnold #DR11 was brewed earlier this week. Can’t wait to try it!” 

No sooner had I read that when a cascade of re-tweets flooded the #dr11 hashtag with talk of this special brew. 

Had the excitement of what we had collectively learned at the conference been supplanted so easily? No. What we now had was a perfect example, for the newly initiated, of how quickly things change in the realm of social media. I’m asked all the time why one should invest one’s time in this new fandangled social media at all, especially in the face of knowing that the tools and even the dialogue can be replaced by the next best thing in the blink of an eye. To that I say it is precisely the ephemeral nature of this communication that actually creates a lasting value.  We gather for a moment in time, we connect, we share, we keep the information flow moving, and with each new turn of events or tiny morsel of new information introduced we expand our knowledge base in directions we simply could not have paved out.

And I shall drink to that! 

Nora Daly is curator of Growing Knowledge: The evolution of research  exhibition currently showing at the British Library.

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