mamamusings: February 21, 2003

elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Friday, 21 February 2003

synchronicity and collaboration

A few months ago, I wrote about the way blogs allow us to see ideas emerge simultaneously in more than one place. At first, I found this somewhat threatening and/or disheartening. My ideas seemed so much less original when I saw them echoed in multiple places--especially when the other people saying those things seemed to be saying them in a way that was so much more thoughtful and articulate than what I'd managed. But Jill Walker and Seb Paquet made comments to that post that I found cheering, and I started to see that process of parallel idea emergence in blogs as an exciting thing.

Normally, academics work so much in isolation--guarding their work until it's ready for peer-reviewed publication, trying to "scoop" each other in the process. But the culture of blogs seems to be enabling a change in that approach. Recently, Alex Halavais wrote about the initial "gut-wrenching" that he felt when he saw that concepts he's been thinking about were already being researched and written about elsewhere. But Alex also wrote that his initial unhappiness (fueled by a "senior colleague" who warned he'd have a hard time getting published now--more on that later) gave way to guarded enthusiasm over the fact that this gave some legitimacy to his research agenda, rather than torpedoing it.

Today, two blogs I read got me thinking more about these topics. The first was Anne Galloway's purselipsquarejaw, where she said "I'm feeling discouraged and disinterested. I don't want to maintain a blog. I don't want to finish my PhD. I don't want to be a consultant. I've got nothing interesting to say. My perspective is not unique. My voice is weak." Gosh, that sounded familiar. :-) But for me, at least, that was temporary feeling. While other people are, indeed, talking and blogging about topics that I at first thought were my unique ideas, I still feel as though what I bring is a unique perspective. Much of my perspective is based in what Seb called my "eyes-wide-open librarian" approach--I read a lot, and I like putting pieces together.

That's connects to my other blog-related discovery today. David Weinberger pointed me to a new blog (actually, a new category-based page generated from an existing blog, which is an excellent way to use tools like Movable Type) by the Happy Tutor, on the topic of "Philanthropy, Democracy, and Weblogs." It apparently emerged independent of what's been going on with the Emergent Democracy discussions initiated recently by Joi Ito.

What's so cool about this is that without weblogs, the simultaneous exploration of this topic by two really interesting people would probably have happened without direct connections being made. Joi and the Tutor move in separate blogcircles--but here is where the permeability of those circles comes into play. Joi and I are in each other's circles, and the Tutor is in circles that I'm connected to. So it took very little time for me to find and connect the two discussions.

And the synchronicity continues with what the Tutor is proposing, because it's so very close to what's in my NSF grant proposal...and the research agenda that I'm talking about pursuing in the short term. Need to spend some time over the upcoming quarter break connecting these dots ("threading the needle," as Shelley Powers would probably put it), and seeing what kinds of collaborative, synergistic activities could emerge from the synchronicity of these simultaneous ideas.

Posted at 7:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)
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Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna