The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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The digital scholar

Week 2: Discovery

Introduction

Discovery is the first of Boyer’s scholarly functions. As you saw in Week 1, this is the creation of new knowledge in a specific area or discipline. In Chapter 5 of The Digital Scholar Martin Weller has broadened this out to mean research and this week you will look at some of the impacts of digital technologies on research activity.

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Transcript: Week 2 introduction

Martin Weller
This week, you’ll be looking at, among other things, guerrilla research. Research is a really interesting area that’s been influenced by network technologies. That isn’t to suggest that new methods are in competition with or have usurped old ones. Sometimes a traditional, funded project with interviews or laboratory experiments is needed, and the role of digital scholarship will be minimal.
But for other research projects there are new methods that can be used – new ways of collaborating, forming networks, disseminating findings. Every element of the research cycle can be affected by digital technologies.
This week, we’re going to take a look at something you may find a little radical, compared to traditional areas of research projects – guerrilla research. And that is research that’s done without funding, doesn’t require permission, undertaken by one or two people quickly. This is made possible by the advent of network connections and free resources.
A great example of this is travel blogs. Travel blogs are often written by people during a gap year, travelling the world. And a number of academic papers and books have used these as data sources, exploring issues of identity, marketing, and authenticity.
How would this data have been gathered before the internet? Well, it needed a researcher to recruit people, set out templates for sending them regular updates, and ensuring a good sample distribution. It would have been costly and difficult to establish.
But now, here’s this incredibly rich source of data available in the form of thousands of travel blogs. Researchers are free to analyse these – doesn’t even need the permission of the writer to do so. It changed very fundamentally how research might be undertaken.
But it also brings new issues. Is it ethical to use something that someone has published online, without their knowledge? Do these blogs represent a good sample? Are there aspects you can’t get at with these methods?
So, even if research isn’t part of your day job, I hope this week really gives you a new view of research and the role of researchers.
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Week 2 introduction
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By the end of this week you will have:

  • developed an understanding of how researchers approach new technology
  • considered new approaches to research afforded by digital scholarship
  • reflected on your own practice and research possibility.
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