Research and the materiality of knowledge


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Research and the Materiality of Knowledge - Presentation on Post-Soviet Social Sciences and library support. ASEEES-CESS conference, Astana, Kazakhstan, May 2014.

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Research and the materiality of knowledge

  1. 1. Research and the Materiality of Knowledge in the Post-Soviet Social Sciences: Faculty Information Use in Kazakhstan ASEEES-CESS Presentation by Celia Emmelhainz, 24 May 2014 Astana, Kazakhstan
  2. 2. Presentation Overview o Background on the research o Quotes and discussion: oFaculty research habits oEllis information-seeking model oStrengths and challenges of location oCreative workarounds oMaterial aspects of research o Recommendations and feedback?
  3. 3. AU Library Project o “Atameken University” in Kazakhstan o 21 faculty/student/librarian interviews o Proposed that research habits might differ by country of training/native culture o Instead, geographic location and material limitations emerged as stronger concern.
  4. 4. Preliminary research questions How do social-science students and faculty in post-Soviet institutions conduct research? What factors impact their choice of tools or approach in seeking information? What limitations or opportunities do they face given their geographic and institutional context?
  5. 5. Faculty Research Processes Anthro: heavy use of field data, pictures, maps; high use of area studies (Hartman 1995) Sociology, psychology, and social work faculty focus on journal articles over books (Sutton & Jacoby 2008) Librarians not a primary source of information (Folster 1995) Social scientists use peer feedback heavily (Shen 2013)
  6. 6. AU: Faculty Research Processes “We co-author a lot” – Laurence “I’m just basically reading” – Frannie (Uses Google to find terms, then Google Scholar to locate terms in relation to scholarly debate) – Nathan “Мен сол, дел сол сөйлемде Googleдан іздедім” – Saltanat Quite broad…
  7. 7. Ellis’ (1989) info-seeking model Social-science faculty seek info in six steps? 1. starting work in a new area 2. chaining of citations from paper to paper 3. browsing in an area of interest, 4. differentiating between high/low value resources 5. monitoring research in a particular area
  8. 8. Meho and Tibbo (2003) additions Difficulty of researchers studying stateless nations provokes additional steps of: 1. accessing difficult information 2. networking with other researchers, 3. verifying origin or accuracy of data, and 4. managing large sets of information effectively
  9. 9. Chaining: “I’ve never been a huge fan of search- engine based library research—I prefer working from bibliographies other people have done. I usually find I have a much better sense of a topic based on—looking at sort of a summary journal article and looking at their bibliography and grabbing random things.” – Alex
  10. 10. Extracting: “to me extracting is the second step, in terms of intensively—well I intensively read it, and on the basis of my intensive reading I begin the process of chaining [between citations]. And then chaining and extracting become these reciprocal steps that are constantly feeding back and forth, or feeding into one another.” – Alex
  11. 11. Differentiating “I gain a sense of which authors are continually being cited by other people and are worth in turn reading carefully myself. And if I see their names come out I would obviously save that article and print it out. But from the very beginning I’m looking for particular journals and academic publishers, and away from others. .” – Alex
  12. 12. Monitoring “I know I could set up an RSS feed that tells you when they update… but I like to check them on my own. Yes, monitoring is fun, I think because it keeps you in tune with what’s new, it gives you new ideas.” – Gareth
  13. 13. Discussion o Faculty highlight differentiating high- value sources, extracting data systemically, and chaining to other sources as key stages in their research. o Research online & facing paywalls means access and networking emerge as key concerns in their information- seeking process – support Meho. o Translating and Extending other
  14. 14. The Central Asian Location o Strengths: oSolid Central Asian/Soviet library collection oAccess to local archives, in-person interviews oUniversity investment in diversity of resources o Challenges: oDifficult to access many books and articles either in print or online o“Teaching collection” does not yet support
  15. 15. Workarounds o Personal networks: ◦ “I sent a journal article out late last year and the reviewer…comments that I need to cite this book that had been published in 1989… That was hard to get ahold of. It was not available as an ebook, it was not—the library here did not have it, weirdly enough. [But] the author himself randomly passed through town […] It turned out he had a PDF of the book and he was able to give it to me. This was after giving out broadcast calls saying, ‘who the hell has a copy of the book and can give it to me?’ It was very interesting.” – Alex ◦ Asking – limited use
  16. 16. Workarounds Google Scholar: ◦ “it kind of like links to them. I mean, whatever, I’ll take that… I do that more often with the texts I’m assigning in the class. In [one] case, I just randomly ran a search for it and someone had scanned it and posted it online as a class reading. So I was able to download it and chop it up and… give it to my class. And that happens fairly often.” – Alex (cf. Vic)
  17. 17. Workarounds o Old Institutional Logins: oVia friends, faculty, old roommates, favours oAlex & Jake – “they have not yet cut it off” oLaurence – “blah blah blah university” oGareth – friend’s password for student work o Individual PDFs from colleagues – Kula Ring of favors?
  18. 18. Workarounds: Summary o Personal Networks / asking favors o Google Scholar / linked PDFs o Institutional Logins o Import physical books / buy abroad o Downloads: “Books on my hard drive which I should not talk about”
  19. 19. Material Workarounds: the Screen o Switch to reading articles on screen o Laurence: “It used to be all papers, but then I’m moving towards screen. Not because saving trees is my priority,” he say, but because it’s easier to download electronic articles to a tablet right away, if he’s reading in a café. o Print is “a waste of paper” (Jake), “not environmentally friendly” (Nursultan); faculty should “save paper” (Vic). o Environment saved by moving from material consumption (paper into books) and towards processes of techno-material consumption (rare minerals into iPads)?
  20. 20. Discussion o Work in Central Asia defined by the limits of print, dependence on digital sources. Researchers compile personal collections. o This digital research is itself a material practice particularly shaped by one’s location in Central Asia. o We treat digital objects as if they are physical collections of texts, folders, buttons, icons… as if they were things.
  21. 21. Recommendations/Research Needs o Need for recruitment/support of skilled specialist librarians in Central Asia oNetworks/personal librarians
  22. 22. Recommendations/Research Needs o Need for recruitment/support of skilled specialist librarians in Central Asia oNetworks/personal librarians o Time, staff, and resources to continue developing print collections o Advocacy for digital access oCf. Patricia Thurston’s presentation yesterday – democratization vs. privatization of access o Continued research on information
  23. 23. THANK YOU.