Nov 20, 2009

social artefacts

From ongoing research project Networks and Mobility in Everyday life: Gustavo Cardoso, Maria do Carmo Gomes, Rita Espanha and Vera Araújo (200?), Mobile Society: mobile phones and social change 2006-2008
"Although cell phones are usually considered mere instruments at their owners’ service, they are also social artifacts. As a communication channel, they support the relationship with others. But, more than this, cell phones communication patterns is influenced by the social context in which it is used, and, as it can be activated from anywhere, at any time, cell phones took up also an active social role. But who communicates with whom? What is the structure of social networks created by communication through cell phones? Is cell phones use connected to a borderline blur between social contexts and individual practices, as our daily roles intertwine?"
"The present study allowed evaluating the level of Portugal involvement in the Mobile Communication Society, highlighting the main differences between socio demographic groups within the area of several use contexts. On the other hand, it contributed to identify user profiles, enabling to foresee the development path on this sector, where everyday new possibilities emerge. Its major contribution will be perhaps the opening of a discussion about the need to analyze mobility role in general, and cell phones in particular, in today’s society."
in LINI - Lisbon Internet and Networks Institute

Nov 19, 2009

"Does this sound familiar?"

A piece by Nick Wingfield, on the Wall Street Journal (found via Lilia in my Friendfeed :):
"At the office, you've got a sluggish computer running aging software, and the email system routinely badgers you to delete messages after you blow through the storage limits set by your IT department. Searching your company's internal Web site feels like being teleported back to the pre-Google era of irrelevant search results. At home, though, you zip into the 21st century." [added the bold]
It's also an evidence based on the data I'm collecting. But not in the Information Systems literature, where the research work «assumes» that workers use (only) the organizational  systems to get work done. «Assumes» in here refers to the fact that personal artefacts are not part of the conceptual models of Information Systems (IS) nor are the other spaces that workers use to get work done. Maybe this can be seen as deliberate absence of something (John Law, 2004).

Nov 16, 2009

Inforgs for The Edge Informavore

Food for though: discussions on The Edge have the transcript of a talk with Frank Schirrmacher, The Age of the Informavore ["The term informavore characterizes an organism that consumes information. It is meant to be a description of human behavior in modern information society, in comparison to omnivore, as a description of humans consuming food."], and short note to bring Luciano Floridi Inforgs to The Edge discussion.

Luciano Floridi (2009). The Philosophy of Information, its Nature and Future Developments. Special issue of The Information Society, dedicated to "The Philosophy of Information, its Nature and Future Developments", vol. 25(3):
"We become mass-produced, anonymous entities among other anonymous entities, exposed to billions of other similar inforgs online. So we self-brand and re-appropriate ourselves in cyberspace by blogs and facebook entries, homepages, youtube videos, and flickr albums. We use and expose information about ourselves to become less informationally indiscernible."
Inforg, connected informational organisms. Detailed explanation in Floridi, L. (2007), "A Look into the Future Impact of Ict on Our Lives", The Information Society, vol. 23(1), pp. 59-64.
"The most obvious way in which the new ICTs are re-ontologizing the infosphere concerns (a) the transition from analogue to digital data and then (b) the ever-increasing growth of our digital space."
"(...) a quieter, less sensational and yet crucial and profound change in our conception of what it means to be an agent. We are all becoming connected informational organisms (inforgs). This is happening not through some fanciful transformation in our body, but, more seriously and realistically, through the re-ontologization of our environment and of ourselves."

Would like very much to connect to Leonor's thoughts about PI and listen to her reflections about it. Are you there?...

Nov 5, 2009

Why Personal Information Management (PIM) matters?

“Learning to be intelligent starts by learning to manage information.” Choo, 2003

Nov 3, 2009

open data [collection]

In my social network, Ton as been the person that as thought me a great deal about the usefulness of Open Data (OD), although he might not be aware of that [conversations with Lilia :)]. First thoughts I had about open data concerned my research activity and what it meant in terms of ethical issues namely, protection of human subjects, if I was to share the collected data and not because I have any personal problem in sharing.

I believe in sharing but I also believe that we should talk more about open data in research, in social sciences and ethical issues in particular. Apart from changing research behaviours, we are still collecting data from real people and we need to know more about it so we can still protect human subjects, while conducting our research. But then, if we treat them as participants and not as subjects, does it change our obligations to protect them? As researchers, we are responsible to conceal information that our participants have given us, and that we think in our judgement it might be harmful for them, are we not? [side question: if/when methods are given by a science researcher, will the teacher warn students about human research ethics?]

While studying organizations, in order to increase access to study people in organization(s), the researcher or team can decide, à priori, to grant anonymity and restrictions on the data set. This situation can even mean that the leading researcher will sign a declaration guarantying that the data collected in the study will only be used for that specific study. Following this guidelines, is expected to increase the organization trust on the researcher(s). On the other hand, if we are receiving public or European funding, it makes sense that deliverables, papers and data are given back to the society, hence open source, open access, open data and in general, the open movement shift that we have been witnessing from some time.

In order to use open data in social studies, one must incorporate this view while thinking about the research design to define what's going to be part of the open data set. We know that our choices, always determine what we will get and how we can get it. We have also to think about when to give access to the data collected. The social side of research means that releasing the data during the study can influence the behaviour of the people we are studying and hence affect the study results. Besides data, there are so many of us using social tools in the research processes (flickr for easy of coding photos, citeUlike for papers collection, blogs for work in progress, slideshare for...) maybe we just have to make it part of the study...

Funny, when I though of this post I just wanted to do a quick note about the Open Data Kit (*) as useful tools for collecting data during fieldwork... and ended up making my 15 minutes exercise in a public post ;)
(*) So, the tools currently available on the Open Data Kit (ODK), according to the information in the project page:

  • ODK Collect - phone based replacement for paper forms, built on the Android platform. It can collect a variety of form data types, like text, location, photos, video, audio, and barcodes. This functionality could be very useful for fieldwork data collection in social science studies.
  • ODK Aggregate - although not officially launched, it "provides a ready to deploy online repository to store, view and export collected data (...) and enables free hosting of data on Google", if one can does not have the required housing infrastructure.
  • ODK Manage - for managing the transfer of forms, data and applications between the mobile phone devices, using SMS.
  • ODK Validate - serves to validate and ensure the forms work well with all the ODK tools.
  • ODK Voice - also not officially launched, it facilitates "(...) mapping XForms to sound snippets that can be played over a "robo" call to any phone. Responses are collected using the phone's keypad (DTMF) and are automatically aggregated."