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Presentation to the EMERGE community – after the fact (2)

Posted by Nick on July 1, 2008

I’ve just been listening to the recording from the presentation given last week, in my absence, by John Gray. I’m really sorry I missed it as there was some really interesting perspectives arising in the discussion and I must congratulate John on his presentation and making sense of my slides!

I shall try to summarise some of the discussion here but just to recap, John gave an overview of our three related projects and how they link together via a single repository platform (intraLibrary) that we will be using as both an Open Access research archive AND a repository of learning objects (AND, in time, we hope, other digital materials). Traditionally these two main types of material have been stored in seperate systems and, thus far, the uptake of both types of repository has been limited. We hope that the PERSoNA project, through investigating the use of social networking/Web 2.0 technology within and around the repository, will help to promote its use amongst our academic community. I also wanted to look at an example of a successful Web 2.0 “repository” – Slideshare – to see what we could learn and maybe apply to our institutional repository.

For the purposes of this summary I will insert (anonymous) verbatim comments from the text chat – if anyone has any concerns about their IPR please let me know – I’m just working on a take down policy for the repository!

A pertinent place to start might be with a question raised by Isobel who suggested that while the need for a repository was institutionally defined, there was not a great sense that potential users felt any clear need themselves, hence our emphasis on fitting in with folks’ existing workflow.

Janet agreed with this (as do I) with the proviso that, in her view, people really need to see and understand the benefits of such systems before they will commit – chicken and egg paradox. This is certainly the case with repositories dedicated to Open Access and much of my advocacy work to academics will be extolling the benefits of OA. This is THE crucial point, of course, that it is all very well developing new technologies but persuading people of the benefits and then to engage is much more difficult; we will only succeed in engaging users if we map onto what people actually need as individuals.

“we need to address how people work not how we want them to work!”

The statement “Build them and they will come” that I used in the slides has become almost a cliche in the development of Open Access Repositories (of research) and very much typified the first wave of development at the beginning of the noughties with the attitude that OA and self-archiving into an IR is such a good idea and so easy with so many benefits that if we make the technology available, people will use it and while this optimism, in fact, has been found wanting people have “come” to a whole array of Web 2.0 “repositories” with the likes of Slideshare, Flickr and del.icio.us attracting millions of users – including academics. My reluctance to refer to these tools as pure repositories (without the quotation marks) is telling – the point was aptly illustrated when Janet asked whether or not those present actually used a repository. Very few it seemed, and some uncertainty.

“depends whether delicious counts?”

“what about social repositories?”

“Depends what counts as defined as a repository”

When the definition was explicitely expanded to iclude del.icio.us et al, however, many more participants had a smile on their little yellow face and the conclusion seems to be that people are using the “informal” repositories but not the “formal” institutional repositories.

Dawn asked why.

“Formal repositories are tied to publishers’ business models”

“the community” (i.e. There is a community around “informal” repositories but not around “formal” IRs)

“Ease of use”

low threshold – technically”

“easy, organised and available – to manage digital stuff…”

“simple user interface”

no formal channels to follow”

“openness”

NB. Sharing resources did not seem to be a major factor which is interesting – though it was conceded by a few when prompted!

There was a very interesting verbal contribution from Jim Hensman right at the very end of the session that I can’t really do justice here – if Jim should pass by these parts perhaps he could comment – but his thrust was the complexity of the multiple themes we (as a repository community) are examining and how they are not, perhaps, easily compatible – individual workflow/personalisation; social dimensions/sharing/collective tagging; institutional requirements. This observation was reassuring on a personal level and puts my desperate attempts at constructing complicated fllowcharts into some perspective!

As Jim observed, the Leeds Met repository, Streamline and PERSoNA projects, collectively, give us a rare opportunity to explore some of these cross-cutting themes in a more integrated way than is generally the case.

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Posted in EMERGE, Presentation slides, Web habits | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Web 2.0 and repositories…

Posted by Nick on June 13, 2008

This is a recent, interesting and highly relevant presentation I found on Slideshare – which, incidentally, is itself being celebrated as incorporating much of the functionality that we should be aspiring to:

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