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supports researchers in the humanities and social sciences in the Netherlands in the creation of new scholarly practices and in their reflection on e-research in relation to their fields.
Bas’ s project takes the small city of Maastricht as central case study, in concretizing the general concern with the cultural constitution of urban innovation. It takes a closer look at the actual actors involved and the symbols, beliefs, classifications and technical artefacts used and produced in processes of urban innovation. Anne and me: in this particular project, we investigate ethnographically how mediation and knowledge production are entwined in the use of databases of images – taken as case studies: …. We are interested to learn how trust in images is established, and how digital and networked settings change the way this trust is achieved. We also focus on how we learn to know in this way, on how we develop skills that enable us not only to understand images, but also to distinguish between various sources of visual information. What are the practices and material cultures that support network realism?
Much has been written recently about user-generated content entering and reshaping circulatory matrices of media and power, and about how new media practices redefine the role of cultural producers. For example, platforms like Flickr hailed as sites of new literacies and creativities , while blogs are said to create dynamics around information and news production that reshape the public sphere as a pillar of democracy. Changes also seem to be taking place in the area of knowledge production, given phenomena such as crowd sourcing and social information filtering, implemented and arising from sites such as Wikipedia and del.icio.us. The sciences, humanities, and social sciences have not remained untouched by such developments. Recent initiatives in universities and research centres also focus on the importance of networked environments, often spanning different institutions, disciplines or even countries. These activities, although diverse, are often characterized as new practices taking place via or in infrastructures as new sites of knowledge production, such as networked databases or websites designed for interaction and participation. These new sites of knowledge production are significant for research practices of scholars in the fields just mentioned, since they too encounter new modes of organization of their work. These sites are also relevant insofar as they change the object of study of fields that study knowledge production. Our analysis seeks to contribute to a characterization of the way new relations, or new dimensions of existing relations, might be integrated and supported into a Web environment. Practices in relation to three projects, taking shape around the collection database of the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam; the heritage website of the Municipality of Maastricht; and the use of Flickr for the study of street art.
Central question is: Can we see changes in the way knowledge is produced? Knowledge is broad concept, we focus on one dimension of it, authority and expertise. This is one of the characteristics of scientific or scholarly knowledge that sets it apart from other kinds of knowledge. So if this is changing, it is likely that there are indeed important things going on. Which we operationalise, by asking: which (new) forms of authority and expertise are enacted in the use of these platforms? This is an important argument, since it goes against the popular claim that new technologies will radically reconfigure existing socio-technical relations. In effect, what we aim to show is the constitutive tension between reproduction and innovation.
In our paper, we discuss authority and expertise in terms of three aspects: recognizing experts, authorizing empirical encounters, and validation of knowledge claims. There is of course overlap between these: who is entitled to know, how, and according to what criteria, are entwined in knowledge production. But the projects we are interested in do not reshape all aspects of research to the same extent, and a more specific focus through the lens of the three individual projects enables us to make these differences clearer. By examining changes in expertise and authority along the three lines, we raise critical questions about power and knowledge in relation to the forms of knowledge production that arise in the projects. Time is short, so I only have time to zoom in on one of these aspects.
The projects we consider in this chapter have in common that the work of knowledge production is pursued in infrastructural settings that reach out beyond established organizations, and in new media forms. At the Tropenmuseum, an ethnographic museum in Amsterdam, the main institutional investments in documenting the collection have been made in the development of a web-based image database. The Tropenmuseum collection consists of roughly 175,000 objects, 155,000 photographs, albums, slides, and negatives, and 10,000 paintings, drawings, and other documents. This collection is housed in various depots, and is documented mainly using the networked database in a system called The Museum System (TMS). But these visual documentation practices are increasingly blending with new forms of visual knowledge production and dissemination via other networked image infrastructures. The issue of who has the authority to make, handle, and disseminate knowledge is highly relevant in the particular infrastructural and institutional practices around the Tropenmuseum’s networked image database and other digital visual resources about the collection. Depending on the time and money invested, TMS can be used as a relatively unpretentious database with rudimentary categorizations of museum objects, or as a highly complex tool for capturing, managing, and accessing collection information. The latter is the case at the Tropenmuseum. Expectations regarding TMS at the Tropenmuseum were rather high when the museum first started working with the database around the year 2000. TMS has been a focus of major investments at the Tropenmuseum. It is also an object that has carried a number of promises—of modernizing the museum, of improving management, and of enabling the museum to become a better caretaker of its collections. The entwinement of this infrastructure with the museum shapes many of the practices in the museum. For example, it is shapes particular roles within the museum. One of the results of the large-scale digitization of the work processes at the museum is a distribution of power to the computer application manager, one of the few employees to fully understand the new digital infrastructure at a technical level. He is also a key player in other digitization initiatives. The institutional hierarchy and its accompanying division of labor is inscribed in the way TMS is implemented. Roles of workers at the museum are also implemented in the way TMS is produced and used. For example, ‘data entry’ is done by registrars, while validation of this material is done by documentalists and curators. This is not simply a step of quality control, but it also shapes whether this data can travel or not, since the data is progressively ‘released’ for circulation in the system, based on whether it has been reviewed and by whom. Once this material is also embedded in TMS, its circulation is also restricted to certain actors, so that work must be coordinated around the involvement of others in the museum. While TMS is extremely important to this institution and collections, other projects are also changing the role of actors with regards to the Tropenmuseum collections. Following international trends in the museum world, the Tropenmuseum is currently investing in other new, distributed infrastructures for visual knowing, besides the collection database. Several of these focus on involving new actors. As of July this year, the museum launched the “object of the month.” A photograph of a relatively unfamiliar object is put on the website, and the audience is asked to provide information on the object. Every month, a new object is introduced via tweets on Twitter, digital newsletters, and blogs. Interestingly, the objects are selected by a curator, who searches through TMS for objects that could not be documented by museum experts. This means that in this case, new actors are authorized only when in-house expertise has failed. A second way in which the Tropenmuseum explores new sites of knowledge production is its recent cooperation with the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization behind Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, in the context of a project called Wiki loves art/NL (WLANL). The initiative proposed amateur photography in museums, with the goal of getting more photographs of cultural heritage on Wikipedia pages under a Creative Commons license. In June 2009, a group of museums opened their doors to the public for special sessions, and allowed participants to make photographs of designated objects from their collection. Participants uploaded their images on Flickr, which thus served as a conduit for the photographic material. Some of the photographs taken in the Tropenmuseum were considered as particularly beautiful by the museum’s Public Relations department, and is probably going to use some of the photographs on Flickr for PR purposes. They were also thinking of using participants’ photos for display on the museum’s multi-media screens. This made one of the in-house photographers very nervous, as she considered this fusion of her own photos with that of visitors to be a threat to her photographic expertise and professional identity. The Tropenmuseum collection database, and the other web-based sites of visual knowledge production mentioned above, may lead to transformations in the relations between (new) users and producers. They are also likely to transform relations between other electronic settings and networks in which images might circulate. Bruns (2008, p. 396) presents these developments as largely uniform when he argues that “produsage will fundamentally affect our structures of social organization (…). Society will reduce its reliance on hierarchical, top-down forms of social organization, and come to rely on more ad hoc, heterarchical, networked, and decentralized structures.” As an alternative, we propose a grounded instead of radical understanding of knowledge production in networked environments, by focusing on the particular circumstances that shift how expertise and authority are achieved in new sites of knowledge production. Among others: Wiki loves art episodes: institutions asked to get invovled wtih infrastructure for knowledge production; institutions change some practices to accomodate participants, some take notice of what has been produced in infra. Issue of changing roles, who is authorised to speak on behalf of the collection (previously institution) and how is institution taking up content of those outside the institition who speak on behlaf of the collection (ie using lay photos)
The new sites of knowledge production we discuss in our paper are shaped by particular institutions and infrastructures. We feel that there’s a value of putting various empirical cases together, to see the variety of configurations of relations between infrastructure and institutions and how they persist, and there is no reorganization of knowledge production into a single mode. We feel it is important to look at existing infrastructural and instittuional elements. This goes against the popular claim that new technologies will radically reconfigure existing socio-technical relations. In effect, what we aim to show is the constitutive tension between reproduction and innovation.
New sites of knowledge production: examining expertise in heterogeneous networks Sarah de Rijcke, Anne Beaulieu, and Bas van Heur Participating in a mediated world Platform for Communication, Media, and Information Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science 27 November 2009, Trippenhuis ,Amsterdam
Virtual Knowledge Studio <ul><li>KNAW institute, started in 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>3 locations: Amsterdam, University of Maastricht and Erasmus U. Rotterdam </li></ul><ul><li>Mission is to study and support changes in scholarly practices and to reflect on e-research </li></ul><ul><li>Multi-disciplinary: science and tech. studies, history, sociology, communication </li></ul>
Paper based on 2 projects <ul><li>Bas van Heur </li></ul><ul><li>Virtual Knowledge Studio, Maastricht </li></ul><ul><li>Sarah de Rijcke & </li></ul><ul><li>Anne Beaulieu </li></ul><ul><li>Virtual Knowledge Studio, Amsterdam </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural Biography of Maastricht </li></ul><ul><li>Network Realism: </li></ul><ul><li>making knowledge from images in digital infrastructures </li></ul>
New sites of knowledge production <ul><li>New sites: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>User-generated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Networked environments </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Practices around three sites, where web-based platforms are important </li></ul><ul><li>Expertise and authority are important aspects of knowledge production </li></ul>
Research question <ul><li>Taking into account pre-existing institutional and infrastructural elements, c an we see changes in the way knowledge is produced? </li></ul><ul><li>which (new) forms of authority and expertise are enacted in the use of these platforms? </li></ul>
3 aspects of expertise <ul><li>Who is an expert? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>authorising actors, recognising expertise </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What is valid data or a valid source? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>authorising empirical encounters </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How can knowledge claims be made? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Validation, authorising kinds of knowledge </li></ul></ul>
Authorizing actors <ul><li>Database shapes roles within museum </li></ul><ul><li>Institutional hierarchy inscribed in implementation TMS </li></ul><ul><li>Other projects change roles of actors around collection </li></ul><ul><ul><li>who is authorised to speak on behalf of the collection? </li></ul></ul>
conclusion <ul><li>The web doesn’t change everything: Tension between reproduction and innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Possible to see some changes: importance of empirical study </li></ul><ul><li>Changes are not uniform: variety of configurations </li></ul>
Thank you! <ul><li>Full chapter forthcoming in book Virtual Knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter account: sarahvks </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>