Saturday, September 15, 2007

if:book reports on learning from youtube

The Institute for the Future of the Book (if:book) posted an item Friday (learning from youtube) that amplifies the question I want to pursue this semester in my RTF course about research into Web 2.0. Alex Juhasz is teaching a course through and using the methods of YouTube (student-driven, developed on the fly, self-organized and viral-produced). Her goal is to open up a "critical discussion" of the YouTube phenomenon. She explains her ideas in a 10 minute YouTube video, well worth the time to watch.

The comments of others about the experiment, found on the MediaCommons blog, add important context. She is refining understanding of how learning happens; I would like to refine understanding of how scholarly communication happens, particularly when technology offers tools that not only create new possibilities, but can threaten established norms and power structures. These themes are off in the future for me (I've barely got one toe in the pool at this point), but the start seems to me to be to use the tools myself, to participate in the environment I want to study.

The experiment also illuminates for me a broader context in which the Web 2.0 research class itself exists, combining the aims to teach and to learn about the thing being taught by experiencing it directly.

Coincidentally, if:book reports that NY Times has published its first video letter to the editor (though the qualities of the "letter" bring the characterization into question (it's more an op-ed piece, apparently). This, "getting in the pool to see what swimming is like" phenomenon is itself very traditional.

The research question, which I was able to refine considerably through discussions with and guidance from my committee chair, Phil Doty, is currently constituted like this:

What is it like as a scholar to communicate, collaborate, vet ideas, prove concepts, prepare research results, obtain peer review, store data, and archive materials that demonstrate process and final product (research paper), in a Web 2.0 environment? -- I want to study utilization of Web 2.0 tools for three reasons that build upon each other: to experience first hand alternative forms of scholarly communication before I study others' opinions about or experiences with them; to generate new research questions about alternative forms of scholarly communication and publication across a wide range of scholarly activity; to better inform an inquiry into the future of research libraries, to the extent it may depend upon the future of scholarly communication and publishing including but not limited to the future of the research paper and the scholarly monograph.

I will carry out the research by building a Web 2.0 project Website around an original legal research paper on the effects of mass digitization on copyright law and policy. The Texas Digital Library collaborative repository will host the project Website; I will use an interactive application (CommentPress) to solicit comments on the paper; I may include a short video clip illustrating a contrasting point of view (to the paper); I will utilize the repository to permanently archive all aspects of the project, including the final paper; I will document the process of setting up the site, utilizing CommentPress, preparing the video clip, and the workflow for archiving the project materials at the end of the process.

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