I am attending the i3 conference at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen http://www.i3conference2011.org.uk/ and I'll be doing some reports from it.
The first keynote was from Dr. Eric Meyer, on Engaging with Information: Knowledge in the Digital Age. I won't try to summarise all of his talk, but just pick out a few things. He works at the Oxford Internet Institute. Meyer is particularly interested in e-research. He has proposed a matrix, with collaboration complexity on one axis and computational complexity on the other axis. For example face to face meetings are lower in computational complexity and high in collaboration complexity, and text mining tools are high in computational compelexity and lower in collaborative complexity. He thinks this could be one way of looking at e-science behaviour and they used it in the study of humanities scholars that I blogged about a little while ago.
He cited a paper
Wuchty et al (2007) "The increasing dominance of teams in the production of knowledge." Science, 316 (5827), 1036-1039.
looking at the size of teams writing academic articles: which is increasing, even (slightly) in the humanities. Meyer highlighted a couple of examples of scientists or scholars "harnessing the power of the crowd", or "distributing brainpower": one was members of the public helping to idenify the form of items in the huge number of pictures taken of far galaxies (including a Dutch primary school teacher identifying a new phenomenon), another was a wiki on Pynchon's books, and another was being able to (effectively) track whales by getting people to submit whale pictures, and matching them up visually. Formalising the latter initiative into a project "SPLASH" with 500 identified observers, they have got some good data on migration patterns and a better idea of whale numbers. Meyer is also interested in the changes that takes place when people move from analog/print to digital and he talked about that in the context of a couple of his studies (including the whales).
Meyer mentioned a research approach that he uses in social informatics research, and I am going to follow up on. It sounded interesting, and there is an explanation here:
Meyer, E. (2005) "Socio-Technical Interaction Networks: A Discussion of the Strengths, Weaknesses and Future of Kling’s STIN Model." In Berleur, J., Numinen, M.I., Impagliazzo, J., (Eds.), IFIP International Federation for Information Processing, Volume 223, Social Informatics: An Information Society for All? In Remembrance of Rob Kling (pp. 37-48). Boston: Springer. http://mypage.iu.edu/~etmeyer/files/HCC7_STIN_Meyer.pdf
Photo by Sheila Webber: Hanging basket, St Nicholas, Aberdeen, June 2011.