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The times, they are a-changin’ (2/3)

junio 26th, 2011 Posted by aside to camera, blog, community, internet No Comment yet

In the first post on this topic, I wrote that scholarly e-journals are definitely better than their printed counterparts in many respects. They are, however, just an improvement on an existing research resource. The same is often said about digital libraries such as ACM, ISI Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar, although they should not be seen as catalogues or 

bibliographical databases, such as BITRA, but as sources for documents. These new libraries are actually turning good old packed and dusty shelves into computer directories cluttered with large numbers of pdf documents scholars need to manage.
 
Enter Mendeley, a user-friendly proprietary reference-and-pdf manager that will make your work much easier. This all-in-one program has too many features to explain them here, just have a look! Now this feels like something really new. On the one hand, boring, mechanical tasks such as maintaining your own library records and tracking and typing your references on a paper have now become nearly automated. On the other one, new needs such as pdf tagging and grouping are finally easier to perform, and features such as one-click document download and full-text searches might in time even change the way you gather, use, and present information. Now we are getting closer to scholarship 2.0. but there is even more to Mendeley than that, through social networking features.

Social networking

Social networking is not new to scholars, thanks to websites such as Connotea, Academia.edu and MyExperiment. And there is also Zotero, which has many of Mendeley’s features. in fact, Zotero and CiteULike may be better suited for the humanitites and the social sciences than Mendeley is (which is probably why Mendeley can be synchronized with both Zotero and CiteULike accounts). You may just silently follow the work of your colleagues simply by adding them to your contact list, very much like Google Alerts do (Mac users should also check MyPeers). One more step: Collaborative filtering helps you reduce the information overload while it expands your sources of knowledge (e.g. Logvynovskiy & Dastbaz 2010). In brief, rather than a sort of Facebook for scholars, it is more like a last.fm for researchers (Henning & Reichert 2008).
 
Mendeley also lets users establish public, open research groups, such as Translation Studies and Cognitive Translatology, and also closed, smaller ones, such as PETRA’s. Public groups let users share reading lists and closed groups let them share the documents and also collaboratively tag and annotate them. Thus, Mendeley is an invaluable tool to help us build an online scientific community for cognitive translatology (and other areas of Translation Studies, of course). However, there are some differences worth taking into account between Mendeley and Academia.edu. In Academia.edu, linking to colleagues is just a one-way step, whereby users may silently follow somebody else's work. In Mendeley, linking attempts must be accepted by adressees. This subtle difference provides for some embarrasing situations in Mendeley which in Academia.edu are simply out of question. My recommendation is to use both networks. Mendeley is better suited for smaller, topic-centered networks and Academia.edu is great for larger, interdisciplinary networks.
A community of practice
Beyond the hype of crowdsourcing, collective intelligence (but see Williams et al. 2010) and similar concepts, the web 2.0 (the read and write web) really supports easier and more varied ways to communicate and cooperate with colleagues. Sure, the new possibilities also have a dark side, such as the danger of trading scientific thoroughness for the wisdom of the crowds (check my next posts on cognitive biases). But before we dismiss scholarly social networking as a bummer, we might want to try some possibilities.Perhaps online scientific community is a little pompous; I prefer to think of it as a community of practice instead (see also Gannon-Leary & Fontainha 2007). Whatever the name, I sure hope that looking at a screen will never substitute face-to-face interaction. But there are often situations in which you simply cannot join your peers (didn’t get it? Look here). A community of practice for cognitive translatology (or TPR) is already slowly but steadily growing. We may arbitrarily date its start in the now extinct European network EXPERTISE (expert probing through empirical research on translation processes). Hubs or poles for this community are at least the Translog and CRITT nets, the TransPro database, TransComp seminars on translation process research, PACTE’s network, and even this blog, which should soon welcome many researchers to a neighborhood with street names such as cognitive translatology, translation process research, psycholinguistic approaches to translation and interpreting, bilingualism, etc.
 
Cloud computing and really smart smartphones are going to foster the development of scholarly communities of practice a little bit further. We should not drag our feet and we should not rush into it. Not because most of us are digital immigrants, but simply because we are witnessing the dawn of a new era and it is not clear which changes are just transitory, which ones are here to stay, and which ones are just one more step from a longer way. We just need to keep our research standards as high as we can, while we interiorize change and welcome innovation ‘cause the times, they are a-changin'.
 
 
References
 
Gannon-leary, Pat & Elsa Fontainha. 2007. Communities of practice and virtual learning communities: Benefits, barriers and success factors. @ Elearning Papers 5. ISSN 1887-1542.
 
Henning, Victor & Jan Reichelt. 2008. Mendeley - A last.fm for research? @ Proceedings of IEEE 4th International Conference on Escience, pp. 327–328. DOI 10.1109/escience.2008.128.
 
Logvynovskiy, Alex & Mohammad Dastbaz. 2010. Bibliography mapping with semantic social bookmarks. @ Proceedings of IEEE 5th Conf. of Intelligent Systems, pp. 7–12.
 

Williams Woolley, Anita, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi & Thomas W. Malone. 2010. Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. @ Science 330/6004: 686-688. DOI 10.1126/science.1193147

 

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