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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.

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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?

Defining the Digital Researcher

KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)

The term digital researcher is so new as a career title that a Google search found only vague references to this latest Web 2.0 profession. The term can also be described with the more common term – Internet researcher. Digital researchers can be from any discipline, and use the Internet as a means of gathering information and doing research – specifically pertaining to digital technology and social media.  I first heard the term as discovered by my husband, Dr. David Phipps (one of the innovators behind ResearchImpact) as he was web-surfing. David linked to Vitae – a research website with a Digital Researcher blog and event. I liked the term as it describes the type of research work I’m involved with, but I still coudn’t find any formal definition to describe a Digital Researcher. Up to that point, I was simply calling myself a researcher using the Internet as my main mode of inquiry.  But my enthusiasm for the specific title matched that of David’s.  So, I went searching online to find others like myself doing the same thing – and a definition to go along with it.

First stop, the central Internet encyclopedic source…Wikipedia, but I couldn’t even find a definition there! (Any takers up to the task of starting this new Wikipedia entry???) I did find references to a company called Digital Research, but not much else of help. The closest I came to a similar affiliation is the Association of Internet Researchers in the field of Internet studies, but still not quite a Digital Researcher definition.

The first Google link directed me to a paper written in English by German authors. It’s called The Digital Researcher: Exploring the Use of Social Software in the Research Process, published by Sprouts. According to their website they are “Sprouts: Working Papers on Information Systems (often referred to as ‘Sprouts’) is indexed Open Access outlet of emergent work and working papers carried out primarily by scholars of the information systems field and members of AIS, the Association for Information Systems.”

I am a great proponent of Open Access publications (as you will note from my call for more open access to journal papers in my previous blog). However, one problem that can occur is the lack of proofreading before submitting. A typo here or there can happen, but this paper – perhaps due to language/translation problems – had several typos. Don’t get me wrong; I found the paper very insightful about the research process along with great information about digital media, such as delicious, citeulike, connotea, scienceblog, scientificblogging, technorati, twitter and wikicfp. But Open Access does not mean oversights and sloppy writing.

Unfortunately, the paper is also rather elitist by focusing only on what might be considered “professional” scientists while ignoring community-based researchers entirely. It falls short of defining what a Digital Researcher is by claiming that Digital Researchers are only part of the scientific community, i.e. academia. It ignores anyone contributing to knowledge mobilization (not part of the formal scientific community) doing research using the expanse of social media tools inherent in the work of a Digital Researcher.

My work as a Digital Researcher is inclusive of all types of  knowledge mobilization – within science disciplines as well as within communities across the Internet (whether global, local, or global-local). Perhaps a formal definition of a Digital Researcher is required. Could I possibly be the first person to attempt to define Digital Researcher for the Web 2.0 generation? Here goes…

Definition of Digital Researcher: A person, who systematically investigates, collects and analyzes knowledge within social media, using digital technology that generates, stores, and processes data. The digital researcher then uses social media and digital technology to mobilize the knowledge acquired by the research.

At least it’s a start to defining the field. I thought you could find just about everything on Google? Guess I was wrong. (Oh, and feel free to quote me on this when you include it in Wikipedia!).