A few weeks ago, Paul Ginsparg, founder of the immensely popular (among physicists) preprint publication archive ArXiv, reflected on the future of scholarly communication (Nature vol. 476, pp. 145-147, 11 August 2011).

He wrote what many of my generation colleagues in the medical faculty consider outlandish, but which is self-evident to everyone who has some experience in online communication — namely that configuring the next generation scholarly communication infrastructure “requires getting into the heads of current undergraduates and graduate students”.

Because, as he noted, the life experience of todays students “is of immediate online availability and global search engines, and they arrive imbued with the social-network mentality of sharing links, photos, videos and status updates”.

In other words, if you’ve been brought up with Facebook, you will expect scholarly communication to work the same way. And to add to Ginsparg’s reflection: you will probably assume that scholarly and public communication can be done on the same platform.

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  • http://museumcultures.wordpress.com Danny Birchall

    There’s a massive danger here in equating facebook with all contemporary online culture. A scholarly culture that “worked the same way” as facebook would be proprietary, authoritarian, undemocratic and subject to arbitrary rules about identity (not to mention full of insidious advertising): in short, a nightmare. On the other hand, there *are* many aspects of contemporary online culture that academia has yet to catch up with, particularly the expectation that most forms of knowledge are free to access and reuse.

    I think you do today’s students a massive disservice if you wish to offer them an academic framework that panders to your imagination of their “social-network mentality”. Why not offer them instead the challenge of constructing an online digital milieu that works for all of us?

  • http://www.corporeality.net/museion Thomas

    Hi Danny, I couldn’t agree more with you. Facebook is a very problematic platform and definitely not a model for future communication. Actually, as you can see, if you read closely, I didn’t say it is; my mention of it was purely descriptive, i.e., it’s a fact that a very large proportion of young academics are brought up on Facebook. This fact, I suggest, will probably help shape their future demands for science communication platforms. From this doesn’t follow any suggestion from my side that Facebook in any way is a model for science communication, far from. Describing people’s Facebook habits is no endorsement of Facebook.

    I also agree completely with your point about students constructing their own future communication platforms. Did anything I write suggest something else?

    All the best,

    Thomas

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