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Tag Archives: digital research

Defining The Digital Researcher (Part Two)

KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)

In an earlier blog I explained how the term Digital Researcher is fairly new to describe an emerging style of research that exclusively uses the Internet for data collection and knowledge mobilization.  I mentioned that I couldn’t even find a definition in one of the key Internet encyclopedic sources…Wikipedia, and asked if there were any takers up to the task of starting a new Wikipedia entry. As I use this title to describe my work, I decided it was time to submit my own Wikipedia entry to define what I do.

A Digital Researcher is a person who uses digital technology such as computers or a PDA and the Internet, especially the World Wide Web, to do research (see also internet research). A Digital Researcher seeks knowledge as part of a systematic investigation with the specific intent of publishing research findings in an online open access journal.  The intent is also to acquire research knowledge exclusively from the Web while also using the Web to inform further research and knowledge mobilization.  Although this research can be both quantitative and qualitative it does not necessarily follow strict internet research ethics using the formal scientific method as it involves collaboration using social media with public input to inform research and knowledge mobilization. There are a number of objections to this stance, which are all relevant to Wikipedia research.[1] [4] and research ethics.[1] The usual view is that private and public spaces become blurred on the Internet.[2] [3].

Research may also be formally published in academia through peer-reviewed journals or through the further use of social media. Digital researchers are involved with Basic research or Applied research using data analysis software such as SPSS or JMP.

The term Digital Research was originally used to describe a now defunct company created by Dr. Gary Kildall to market and develop his CP/M operating system and related products. It was the first large software company in the microcomputer world.

In my earlier blog my definition was shorter, but was expanded in the Wikipedia definition for greater reference-linking and understanding. It’s my hope that other Digital Researchers or anyone wishing to provide input will contact me and contribute to improving or further informing the credibility of this Digital Researcher definition. Please also feel free to contribute to the Wikipedia definition. I look forward to hearing your views. Thanks.

Private/Public Time & Space

Keeping up with Web 2.0 can be a rather A.D.D. inducing experience and, more and more, social networking seems to blur the lines between my personal (private) and professional (public) life.

Mixing private and public time and space, I use social media to connect with my family and friends, but also certain colleagues within my social networks such as Facebook and Twitter,

both at home and at work. I use these sites for personal communication and also to do research – specifically, the work I do as a digital researcher. Interested professional researchers like me are jumping onboard to understand how knowledge is being shared – particularly through knowledge mobilization – and why concepts of public and private seem to be more indistinct.

The many ways that digital technology can be used for both personal and professional networks is expansive, yet the lines are seemingly crossing – and my attention span seems to be getting shorter and shorter!

I have two WordPress blogs that combine personal and professional interestst by putting my psychology and research background to good use. LifeBalance Questions Comments deals with general, self-reflection issues about life while LifeBalance Relationships asks and receives comments about intimacy and relationship issues. Both are designed for interactive and collaborative forms of social knowledge sharing.

I have a LifeBalance Twitter account to link to these blogs, along with my Facebook account to stay in touch with family and friends.

Then, I have this more professional KMbeing blog you’re reading right now, and a KMbeing Twitter account. As I suspect with many people, I like to keep the more emotional, self-reflective side separate from the more professional research side of my online networks, but it does seem to be more difficult. Thankfully, whenever I check my email I keep two separate accounts. I still have a private Yahoo account for private communications and a Gmail account for public ones.

The Internet has given us a multitude of tools to choose from to quickly communicate and collaborate. These constantly emerging tools can be used both personally and professionally with what seems like an endless number of applications, blogs, and websites being created daily. With constantly emerging choices it really does seem, as Apple says…there’s an “app for that” – for either private or public use (or a combination of the two).

The multitude of choices makes it difficult to keep up with the fast pace of digital technology while trying to separate personal and professional time. Now, public space is bleeding more and more into what is questionably private space.

Are my Yahoo emails or Facebook pages private when I’m bombarded by public advertising? (Now, Twitter is going to  start!) One can easily find oneself multi-tasking using a private cell phone to have a conversation with a friend while texting or emailing to the office on a PDA, while also “checking in” at public locations (via GPS on the same digital devices) to receive consumer reward points using Foursquare.

Where’s public and where’s private anymore?

Blogging and microblogging by anyone with something to say or share has become ubiquitous at home and at work. Sites like WordPress and Twitter have created systems of global connections that overlap the private and public.

Social bookmarking using Delicious (personally or professionally) and slide presentations with Slideshare make it easier to store and present data for and to a wider audience. Yet, this wider audience can be both a private and/or a public one.

On the upside, these advancements in Web technology and social media have facilitated faster and simpler communication, referencing and associations. On the downside, a primarily one-way data network (Web 1.0) has now become a mass network of social connections and tools (Web 2.0) for personal and professional users to keep up with. Sure there are ways social media has made things easier, but the lines between personal and professional are clearly being blurred. Global tracking and social network websites like FourSquare bring private gaming and public marketing to a whole new level. There are now even Open University and website conferences /platforms with keynote speakers or presenters that one can create or attend online from the comfort of your own home (or work if you like).

Keeping track of all of these private and public network connections and tools can become a time challenge, with professional time being mixed with personal time and vice versa. Keeping up to speed on the social media highway between private and public can be difficult and distracting – but at least I’ve got my iPhone GPS.

The Echo of Social Media Past, Present & Future

KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)


I frequently use Wikipedia to define information – as I was about to do for this blog to explain social media (for those still unfamiliar with this term). I also frequently do a Google Search to find websites (new and old) to reflect on past research, gather information for my current research, and get ideas for future projects as a digital researcher. Although I found a blog post from 2008, its current relevance prompted me to take pause to question my own knee-jerk Wiki-p reaction, and re-evaluate my own presumed understanding of past views about social media and what the ever-evolving social media means today.

Furthermore, I frequently skip over online marketing websites, but made an exception for this new found older link – AriWriter.  I had never heard of Ari Herzog before, but was impressed. His blogs can be applied way beyond mere marketing, and as Ari professes, it’s an excellent website for “social media tips”. Ari Herzog’s archives are full of insight, and worth the time to read some of his latest as well.

Before clicking the link away as just another out-dated or annoying online marketing scheme, I saw that Ari rightly continues to point out how “Everyone sources Wikipedia as the tell-all for definitions, but the volunteer-driven site currently uses this vague sentence (not so anymore): “Social media are primarily Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings.” And Ari’s right. According to this out-dated version of the Wikipedia definition,  it sounds like a rather limiting one don’t you think? The latest Wikipedia entry does a much better job. (It sounds like Ari’s Wikipedia statement got heard and appropriate changes were made!).

Ari goes on to present a number of other definitions by social media practitioners up to the time Ari wrote his October 2008 blog (Robert Scoble, Feb. 2007; Isabel Walcott Hillborn, Oct. 2007; Mark Dykeman at Broadcasting Brain, Feb. 2008; Joseph Thornley at Thornley Fallis, Apr. 2008; Jim Cuene, May 2008; Santosh Maharshi, May 2008; Ben Parr, Aug. 2008; David at Marketing Integrity, Sep. 2008; John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing, Sep. 2008).

Ari was following a suggestion by Jason Falls (a social media explorer) to escape the echo chamber. Jason wrote about the fashionably-cool use of the term social media after attending a Blog World & New Media Expo in 2008. (The Expo advertises an extensive gathering of media mavericks and thought leaders). But Jason seems to have walked away from the event feeling as if many of his fellow social media experts need to pass on their knowledge outside of the Expo “echo chamber” to those who don’t know what social media is, or how to use it for its best and most promising potential. I wonder if any of his fellow social media practitioners have followed his advice since that Expo?

Ari picked up the gauntlet early on, and because of the Twitter-ification of social media –  challenged his blog readers to think about what social media is, and asked the question

Ari’s followers provided some interesting comments and definitions.

Two things I like about returning to older blogs: how our definitions continue to evolve as web-technology evolves; and how past experiences, ideas, and knowledge teach us something about the present, and make us think about the future.

The daily expanse and speed at which new webtools are being provided, and the personalized ways that information is being shared can make it difficult for any non-savvy individual or business to keep up with social media. Yet, as Jason and Ari state, the first step is defining what something is to better understand it, and then making it known. A final step is always re-evaluating and redefining.

As for my own definition of what social media is for the present…

Online social interaction of sharing experience, information, and knowledge that includes various forms of communication, collaboration, presentation, opinions, entertainment, and branding…(for now).


Web 3.0 (known as The Semantic Web) is on its way and is expected to be as revolutionary as Web 2.0.  I wonder what the definition of social media will be in the future?

A fork in the road

KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)


I spoke with my  husband about how happy I am to have finally found a professional identity that seems to fit with my life experience, skills and interests – being a Digital Researcher, specifically studying knowledge mobilization (KMb) in social media.  Better late than never – as they say!

My 46-year path in life (thus far) has been rather varied – to say the least. In my early 20s I began a career as a broadcast journalist, but (either divinely-inspired or suffering from delusions) I left the newsroom and spent 6 years studying philosophy and theology to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. I finally decided to leave for three reasons: the lack of equality in not ordaining women; the denial of basic human sexuality through forced celibacy; and the church’s views on same-sex sexuality.

After leaving the church, I became a flight attendant by fluke! I was sent back “into the world” looking for a job.

I got hired as an F/A, planned to do it only for a few months until I could find another broadcast journalist job, but the Internet revolution of the 90s had taken hold. The newsroom was now a changed and foreign place for me and I’d have to bring myself up to speed. In the meantime, flying around the world wasn’t such a bad thing. Now 20 years later, I’m a senior flight attendant and have plenty of downtime to do research between flights – thanks to the power of a portable laptop and web 2.0 technology.

Seven years ago, I decided to return to university to study something closely connected to my interests as a broadcast journalist – observing human behaviour – this time, in Psychology.  As a student, I was given a great opportunity to volunteer as a research assistant in a Health Psychology Lab run by Dr. Trevor Hart, where I was able to hone my research skills and put my statistics studies to practical use.  I graduated from York University‘s Department of Psychology in 2008.

It was through personal conversations with my husband about knowledge mobilization that sparked my own interests in the variety of methods in which research and knowledge is exchanged, co-produced and practically applied between researchers and research-users. In fact, before graduating, one of my own research projects focused on the extent to which York University’s Department of Psychology embodied KMb. From that, I began to provide volunteer support for Knowledge Mobilization at York since 2007 around key areas of data analysis for various ResearchImpact projects.

I’ve experienced a few “forks in the road” and travelled down a path that has lead me to KMb as a Digital Researcher. The years of varied experience down all the different roads has had one thing in common; my interest in asking why? I think I’ve finally found a fork in the road where I can do that with a more fulfilling purpose.  Perhaps I took the road more travelled instead!