Progressive, with a caveat

The Digital Researcher 2011 conference was hosted on St. Valentine’s Day this year.

I looked through the programme and wanted to hear the presentations online because I was unable to attend the event in person. The conference had a dedicated Twitter hashtag (#dr11) and so I was able to follow all the asynchronous conversation.

I was also able to help one delegate, @hypatia58, who had never used a hashtag on her laptop previously. Allowing people online to help others attending in person, in real-time is a powerful personal experience, and can be provided using social media.

The conference was “slow to get started” and this was tweeted frequently during the early hours. There were complaints about the Wifi access, which seems disappointing given the conference was about the digital researcher in 2011.

The delegates appeared to comprise the ‘curious’, the ‘spurious’ and early adopters. These also included individuals sent by their institutions to go away and learn about the technology, and it seems a shame the Wifi access could not sustain the demand through the day.

The audio stream was intermittent throughout, and affected the scheduling of the rest of my day. I was still keen on listening to the keynotes, nevertheless, and from what I heard, they were extremely insightful.

At this point, I began to consider the importance of thorough systems testing for ambitious ventures such as live-streaming. Technological innovations are well worth the effort, provided time is given to making sure things are given the best chance of working on the day.

The first time someone tries something new, ideally should not be on the day of event. A conference such as this is important for the digital researcher movement, and good technological performance can do so much to help convince the technologically-reluctant.

The message from #dr11 was about collaboration, and few would argue the movement cannot be sustained without the formation of networks. More research needs to concentrate on the impact of these technologies on individuals, their peers and the wider institution.

The outcome measures need to be defined because many individuals will spend a lot of time using technologies, however, may not be producing more quality research as a consequence. I look forward to further development in this area.

Rakesh Patel

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