Personal Engagement with Repositories through Social Networking Applications

Presentation to the EMERGE community – before the fact

Posted by Nick on June 17, 2008

I have a slot to present, via Elluminate, to the EMERGE community at 16:00 on Monday 23rd June and thought I would blog (a) before and (b) after the fact to help me (a) plan the session and (b) reflect on the insights that are sure to emerge (pun intended).

John and I had a very useful discussion this morning that was 2 parts session-planning to 8 parts brain-storming around the still embryonic PERSoNA project.

We agreed that the first part of the session will need to set the scene and give an overview of the context of our 3 seperate but related projects; the Leeds Met Repository; Streamline and PERSoNA.

To reiterate the respective soundbites:

The Leeds Met Repository: “the project will deliver a repository which will serve a prioritised set of needs”…”increase the profile of the research outputs and/or pioneering assessment learning and teaching work carried out at Leeds Met”

Streamline: “We are looking at the work flow associated with the use of learning object repositories and are developing a suite of tools and practices that will reduce the administrative impact of this on teaching and research staff.”

PERSoNA: “will link two other JISC funded projects, Streamline and An Institutional Repository for Leeds Metropolitan University, and provide scope to enhance the outcomes of both”…”will be embedding social networking tools which allow chat, tagging and bookmarking (amongst other things) within the repository, and encouraging users to comment on their use of our repository and make recommendations amongst each other leading to the onward discovery of further resources.”

One of the most interesting aspects, then, of the Leeds Met Repository project is that, on start-up, it will focus equally on two distinct types of content that have historically been stored in seperate environments – research publications/outputs and Learning Objects/e-learning resources. It is this dual requirement that has led us to opt for intraLibrary over a specialised Open Access research archive like EPrints and people may be interested what factors have brought us to this software (as I blogged at the time on Repository News the relevant issues were informed by Streamline and, in a nut-shell, came down to a consensus that intraLibrary would more readily be repurposed as an Open Access archive than EPrints as an LO repository – for now, still a moot point).

As well as the considerable challenges associated with delivering a dual repository like this (I’ll come to PERSoNA in a moment!) I believe we have the opportunity with these three projects to develop a tool that becomes an integral part of the university’s online environment; living and breathing and used – not just in the sense of a dusty old store-room but interactively.

A recurrent theme from the sector has been the problem of embedding these things (repositories) into the workflow and it’s very important that the Leeds Met repository does not become (like so many) a cul-de-sac but, rather, a ring-road offering access in and around the disparate, digital furniture of the university . All of which brings us, eventually, to Web 2.0 and PERSoNA which has the potential to provide the signposts, traffic lights and roundabouts (excuse the laboured traffic metaphor!) that will guide visitors to potential resources whether these be learning objects, research outputs or colleagues within and without the university.

The difficulty, of course, is developing a tool or suite of tools within the repository that people will actually use and find useful; and then there is the problem of inertia – I discussed in a recent post how my own “workflow” is centered around iGoogle; this isn’t because iGoogle is such a fantastic tool and I couldn’t possibly find something that would serve my needs better – I probably could – but I started using it, found it useful and now, in a sense, because of habit – inertia – I’m stuck with it unless I make a concerted effort or collide with other tools often enough and usefully enough to naturally incorporate them into my online habits. I think this principle may be worth exploring further and I would like to elicit “stories” about how people naturally use the Web (1.0 and 2.0) in the course of their working day with the goal of establishing, perhaps, patterns of behaviour that can then be used to inform a Web 2.0 repository environment; this is one of the ideas I would like to take to the EMERGE community.


4 Responses to “Presentation to the EMERGE community – before the fact”

  1. John Gray said

    Hi Nick,
    I think you raise a number of relevant and interesting issues here, in particular those concerned with work flows and repositories as dynamic and interactive entities. If staff are to use their preferred social networking tools as a natural element of their workflow for using a repository then we need to appreciate the barriers or inertias inherent in the ways that they work. Equally they need to see the benefits of placing their work in a repository; something which is ‘just a dark room in which things are stored’ is unlikely to motivate people to make use of it.

    When you mention interactivity in connection with a repository did you have any examples of this? At one level I can see that repositories can be both a holding place and also part of network of other holding places. However if I look at my approach to searching for information the first port of call is a search engine; will this bring up a hit on something within a repository? Why might I search a repository in the first place?

  2. Nick said

    Hi John

    I’m not sure if there is yet a really good example of an interactive repository along the lines we are envisaging though several projects are exploring similar themes.

    However it has been suggested that the presentation sharing web-site Slideshare may provide a good model of some of the functionality we should be aspiring to and it certainly provides a powerful way of distributing and sharing a particular type of content – slide based presentations and tutorials.

    With respect to actually searching an institutional repository, if we are talking about an Open Access research archive then, in general, people DON’T; as you suggest, the vast majority (80%) will come to an article via a search engine (See Repository News).

    However, I think the situation will be very different with LOs which are less likely to be openly available and (I anticipate) will be actively searched for using the repository interface (by Leeds Met staff). Moreover, the OA sector is approaching consensus that the “build it and they will come” approach to Open Access research archives has been found wanting and while the principle of storing research in a “dark room” (albeit one that can be accessed by Google) is fine up to a point we need, perhaps, to reconceptualise what a repository can be and our “multi-purpose environment” (!) may provide scope for engaging people in a more active way.

  3. Nick said

    Other examples of succesful Web 2.0 “repositories” might be YouTube and Flickr

  4. John Gray said

    Hi Nick,
    Now you are talking because what you are saying is that the social networking tools are in fact flash repositories so why don’t we use them as such – yes I know that Leeds Met would be unhappy about putting their materials on to a site that states it owns all materials stored on its servers and that would have big copyright issue etc. etc.

    However the thing here is that the repository element is present but subsumed within the tool and its purpose so why can’t we make intralibrary something similar i.e. a social networking tool that staff use for a variety of purposes and store all their work, photos, video clips etc and its no longer a special thing with a formal nuance?

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