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Will we still know ourselves? Identity and Community in a Transforming Knowledge Environment

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Keynote given at the NFAIS 2018 meeting in Alexandria, Virginia, USA on 28 February 2018

The world of information is transforming at a bewildering pace. The assumptions of yesterday, the stable institutions and cherished practices increasingly seem to be vanishing before our eyes. The first assumption of any new strategy seems to be “what would this look like if we built it from scratch, today”. And yet continuity matters, we don’t build new tools, institutions and practices from scratch, they evolve in a messy and contingent way from what we have available to us in the moment.

In this talk, Neylon unpicks the underlying drivers of change, and how they are coupled to a long history of how we manage information. Neylon will discuss how the different perspectives of important groups—scholars, publishers, funders, platform providers and the myriad of information professionals—lead to a partial focus that can make us simultaneously fearful of the change we see and blind to the shifts that actually matter.

If the arc of history bends towards justice then it follows that the arc of our knowledge and information environment necessarily bends towards greater scale and greater diversity. At the same time it is the values that underpin scholarship and the various ways in which we identify with the project of building knowledge, that drive us forward. If we are to take advantage of change, we need to understand what it is that must stay the same.

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Will we still know ourselves? Identity and Community in a Transforming Knowledge Environment

  1. 1. Will we still recognize ourselves? Identity and Community in a Transforming Information Environment @cameronneylon cn@cameronneylon.net http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0068-716X
  2. 2. What is changing?
  3. 3. Now, about that filter... Managing scientific information overload in on the web NFAIS Meeting 28 February 2010, Philadelphia
  4. 4. Me: A brief history
  5. 5. Finished highschool 1990... http://www.flickr.com/photos/elsie/105716382 CC-BY
  6. 6. “You need to spend half a day a week in the library reading the new journals” My project supervisor, 1994 http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/486261295 CC-BY-SA
  7. 7. Over the course of my PhD...
  8. 8. ...day to day search went from...
  9. 9. http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/486261295 CC-BY-SA
  10. 10. http://web.archive.org/web/19990208214440/http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
  11. 11. ...everyone I know is subscribed to TOC alerts
  12. 12. ...and no-one I know is reading them...
  13. 13. Information overload... http://www.flickr.com/photos/dylanroscover/3450505729 CC-BY-SA
  14. 14. http://www.flickr.com/photos/luc/2515255357 Based on the network I built
  15. 15. …an open network
  16. 16. As a concept…open is reactionary; it gains meaning largely through a consideration of what it is not. Tkacz (2012)
  17. 17. Two assertions…
  18. 18. 1. Knowledge Grows
  19. 19. de Solla Price, Big Science, Little Science (1963) Nlm.nih.gov Schofer and Meyer (2005), American Sociological Review 70:898
  20. 20. de Solla Price, Big Science, Little Science (1963) Nlm.nih.gov Schofer and Meyer (2005), American Sociological Review 70:898
  21. 21. de Solla Price, Big Science, Little Science (1963) Nlm.nih.gov Schofer and Meyer (2005), American Sociological Review 70:898
  22. 22. 2. Knowledge is made by groups
  23. 23. ESOTERIC EXOTERIC Ludwig Fleck (1981 [1935]) Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact
  24. 24. *
  25. 25. *
  26. 26. Knowledge is a product of translation
  27. 27. General knowledge is produced at the boundaries of group in contact/conflict
  28. 28. 1. Knowledge Grows
  29. 29. 2. Knowledge is made by groups
  30. 30. Groups do not scale…
  31. 31. Adapted from an original Created by Richard Slade from the Noun Project
  32. 32. Adapted from an original Created by Richard Slade from the Noun Project
  33. 33. …and yet it grows…
  34. 34. 1 10 100 1000 10000 100000 1000000 10000000 1800 1850 1900 1950 2000 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed
  35. 35. Culture & institutions support scaling…
  36. 36. …but also have limits to scale
  37. 37. Growth Intrinsic Limit Endogenous Innovation Growth Intrinsic Limit Adoption
  38. 38. Innovations/Institutions are endogenous
  39. 39. There will always be a next crisis…
  40. 40. Distribution/Logistics Limitations 1950 1975 2000
  41. 41. IndustrialisationDistribution/Logistics Limitations 1950 1975 2000
  42. 42. IndustrialisationDistribution/Logistics Limitations 1950 1975 2000 What counts as scholarly? Peer Review
  43. 43. Many of the discussions of the future at CERN and the LHC era end with the question – “Yes, but how will we ever keep track of such a large project?”
  44. 44. Many of the discussions of the future at CERN and the LHC era end with the question – “Yes, but how will we ever keep track of such a large project?” https://www.w3.org/History/1989/proposal.html
  45. 45. IndustrialisationDistribution/Logistics Limitations 1950 1975 2000 What counts as scholarly? Peer Review The Web ? Discoverability/Siloing Trust
  46. 46. 1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005 2015 IndustrialisationDistribution/Logistics Limitations 1950 1975 2000 What counts as scholarly? Peer Review The Web ? Discoverability/Siloing Trust
  47. 47. …and yet it grows…
  48. 48. “Open” as the engine of scaling
  49. 49. What is “scholarly” culture?
  50. 50. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. Thomas Jefferson
  51. 51. [ideas are as if] benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point; Thomas Jefferson
  52. 52. . . . I dare speak confidently and positively of very few things, except of matters of fact. Robert Boyle
  53. 53. “Of my being somewhat prolix […] I thought it necessary to deliver things circumstantially, that the Person I addressed them to might, without mistake, and with as little trouble as is possible, be able to repeat such unusual Experiments” Robert Boyle
  54. 54. [I will answer Linus’ objections] partly, because the Learned Author, whoever he be having forborne provoking Language in his Objections, allowes me in answering them to comply with my Inclinations & Custom of exercising Civility, even where I most dissent in point of Judgement.” Robert Boyle
  55. 55. [I] speak so doubtingly, and use so often, perhaps, it seems, it is not improbable, and such other expressions, as argue a diffidence of the truth of the opinions I incline to, and that I should be so shy of laying down principles Robert Boyle
  56. 56. Universalism, Communalism, Organised Skepticism, Disinterestedness Merton
  57. 57. “Science” is an old culture that has survived over a long period
  58. 58. (Gradual, limited, imperfect) openness is an old aspiration
  59. 59. *
  60. 60. Diversity is a first order principle for knowledge creation
  61. 61. …which means that translators are key
  62. 62. *
  63. 63. …but so is community/identity…
  64. 64. …and therefore exclusion
  65. 65. IndustrialisationDistribution/Logistics Limitations 1950 1975 2000 What counts as scholarly? Peer Review The Web ? Discoverability/Siloing Trust Opening Up
  66. 66. IndustrialisationDistribution/Logistics Limitations 1950 1975 2000 What counts as scholarly? Peer Review The Web ? Discoverability/Siloing Trust Opening Up Closing Down
  67. 67. IndustrialisationDistribution/Logistics Limitations 1950 1975 2000 What counts as scholarly? Peer Review The Web ? Discoverability/Siloing Trust Opening Up Closing Down Opening Up Closing Down
  68. 68. Institutions for Productive Conflict
  69. 69. Institutions for Productive Boundaries
  70. 70. A culture of openness…
  71. 71. …supporting communities of identity
  72. 72. [They are]…precisely inventing through the intermediary of instruments and the artifice of the laboratory, the displacement of points of view that is so indispensable to public life. Latour, Politics of Nature
  73. 73. How can one take new beings into account if one cannot radically change the position of one’s gaze? Latour, Politics of Nature
  74. 74. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mgifford/3558463424 CC-BY-SA
  75. 75. ...tools to summarise, filter, and integrate diverse sources of information...
  76. 76. ...abstracts, summaries, indexes of people and the tools to help me use them to build the network I want...
  77. 77. …a network I can trust
  78. 78. …a network we all trust.
  79. 79. Who might be well placed to do that? http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardmoross/3947406286 CC-BY
  80. 80. @cameronneylon http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0068-716X

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