Tag Archives: community

Creating Living Knowledge: the Connected Communities programme and what it tells us about university-community partnership

These are my notes from a Digital Education Seminar at the University of Edinburgh by Professor Keri Facer on the Connected Communities research programme.

As ever with these posts, my record is partial and bias and possibly includes some inaccuracies (but not on purpose). 

The seminar was opened by Prof Sian Bayne to introduce Keri as Professor of Educational and Social Futures at Bristol University and was previously Research Director at FutureLab. Her research takes a critical stance on digital education and on the role of educational institutions in society. Today she’ll be talking about her work onConnected Communities and the newly released Creating Living Knowledge report on lessons learnt from the Connected Communities programme.
Keri Facer:
The main questions that will be explored today include: what is Connected Communities and what is shaping university-community partnership, what they are creating and the implications for the future trajectories of universities and their interface with their communities?
CC is a research council UK programme led by AHRC and currently funds 324 different projects. Projects range from 6 months to five years and involving working with external organisations from creative economy, environment, health and well-being etc…
The bigger picture of the programme is to address question of how university and community knowledge be combined to generate better research. Underpinned by the assumption that co-produced research is a ‘good thing’. The RCs are making huge claims on the potential for the co-production mode of research in terms of research quality and impact while others are concerned that this agenda is concerned with the instrumentalisation and marketisation of research.
CC enters a massively uneven playing field between large institutions through to voluntary community activists, freelancers, community organisations, etc. The HE sector is also very diversified between research/ teaching intensive interacting with socio-cultural diversity. Also, CC works with a wide diversity of motivation for engaging with research: generalists and learners engaged by interdisciplinary research; makers wanting to make something happen; scholars with a particular topic orientation; entrepreneurs interested in funding available; accidental wanderers caught up in projects; advocates for new knowledge landscape arguing for a rethink of how knowledge is generated.
The are also different research traditions in:
– participatory, collaborative, community engaged research developing grass-roots capacity
– development traditions – changing policy
– people’s history, feminist and civil rights interested in alternative narratives of history
– innovative co-design changing services and products
– open/ crowd and open innovation creating something new
– participatory arts where unsettling and exploration is the purpose.
These different traditions mobilise different performances of community and ‘publicness’. Also involving different participants and audiences and different working practices. Again, these shape the landscape of collab
Social networks and funding. Raises questions of access to social networks and how and where conversations happen. Over 50% of partners had already worked inside universities. So other possible partners face a barrier to entry to these collaborative opportunities while intensive workshops can discriminate with caring responsibilities.
So the injunction to co-produced research can reproduce and intensify existing inequalities.
Important to acknowledge that the cultures of universities can be very diverse and not only a culture of critique, e.g., engineers want to make stuff
Different groups want different things from one another: from practical help, personal value and friendships and symbolic benefits e.g., of offering authenticity and credibility and status. Everyone has to negotiate the ‘fantasy’ of the university and the community. Beyond the quick gains between partners leads to difficult questions around, e.g., the legitimacy of knowledge production or the representativeness of community groups.
Different modes of collaboration emerge:
  1. division of labour – keep to our own silos
  2. relational expertise – can we see the issue through each others eyes
  3. remake identities – about learning each others skills and knowledge so we can take on each others’ roles.
  4. colonisation – unsettled identities but no learning. Academics attempting community work or community groups attempting research data collection.
Where works well, collaboration leads to the breakdown of division and new roles are mobilised such as catalysers; integrators; designers; broker; facilitator; project managers; data gatherers; diplomats (makes things work in and between institutions); accountants; conscience; nurturer; loudhailer.
This requires time to develop trust; understand each others’ expertise, etc. so that these projects can do a different sort of work where  “The adventure of thought meets the adventure of action” (A.N Whitehead)
While their is strong legacy from these collaborations, this legacy is precarious due to key staff being junior staff and in precarious employment. This is linked to the funding environment. Short-term project funding can disturb the work of small organisations as well as disturb personal relationships. Also, the funding requires working with HEI systems that are not fit for working with smaller and precarious partner organisations. These negative effects are exacerbated by trends in HE towards marketisation
We cannot state whether such projects will democratise knowledge production as that depends on many other variables. Similarly, the idea that co-production leads to better research – well, its another set of methods but collaboration can, if done mindfully, lead to better quality research in terms of needs of all of those involved.
Recommendations from the research (from the report):
  1. improve the infrastructure
  2. recognise the need for time for collaboration
  3. explicitly address the risk of enhancing inequalities
  4. invest in and support civic society’s public learning infrastructure.

Twitter and micro-blogging notes on day 2

These are notes from the Twitter and Micro-blogging conference at Lancaster University for day 2.  The full programme can be found on Lanyard.The Twitter hastag is #LUTwit

Conceptualising Twitter as a discourse system by @mdanganh

Looked at the Function of the # – lead to theory of contextualisation based on John J Gumperz conversational inference and contextualisation cues as surface feature that are verbal and non-verbal. So can be used to understand and analyse #

Cues reconfigure conversational contexts that presuppose and create context as social ordering (Bruns & Burgess 2011).

Key part of Twitter as a discourse system. Identifies four functional operators in Twitter: the RT; the @; the # and the link That have technical and communicative function as well as positioning Twitter as intertextual and interdiscursive

For data drawn from Federal State elections 2010 – 2013 over a four week period each year from parties, media, politicians, public interactions, #. Analysis uses

– profile analysis (quant)

– speech act analysis (qual and quant) (Searle), eg, inform, state, assert, announce, request etc……. Found predominately speech acts concerned with exchanging information, especially from the institutional accounts

– discourse analysis (quant informed qualitative analysis

Use case of Conservative candidate #Rottgen. But lost NRW State election and subsequntly also dismissed as Federal minister by Angela Merkel (as a ‘mother’ figure). Discourse developed as mother metaphor

# frames Tweets in to a story narrative frame that is emergent and the co-construction of meaning.


Now on to the plenary session with @GregMyers on Working and Playing on Science Twitter

First Tweet on an April Fools as example of different types of Twitter streams – such as different communities  or genres. @GregMyers on writing on blogging realised that there is not one ‘thing’ of a blog – share a media but are very different. Are we talking about one genre or not? Looking at the different papers at the conference it is clear that there is not a single genre or function.

How do different Twitter communities use Twitter? Are there genre differences. Focus here on science Twitter of research scientists.

Networking is a part of any science project from the 16 century onwards. But as a community, depend for reward on the production of a very different text object, the published paper which is very unlike Twitter. So science community is a network of texts but also involving equipment, people, methods, money (ANT).

Identified two themes of sociology of science:

1. heterogeneirty of scientific networks: ANT. You become powerful in science by maintaining a network

2. rhetorical tension between empiricist repertoire as timeless claims in the formal literature and a contingent repertoire and time bound and contingent activities.

Cites letter from C19 that is very Twitter like albeit as provate letter rather than a public Tweet.

More information on Greg’s blog: http://thelanguageofblogs.typepad.com

Corpus analysis based on keywords eg, paper, scientist, research, etc… but more interesting keywords such as: over use of “i” (compared to other Tweets) as a sign of formality; use of “of” as signifier of more complex; “but” as academic signifier and a negative keyword of “love” as evaluation.

Gives ground to identify scientists as a distinct community on Twitter.

Gives an example of phatic communication – communication for the sake of contact (“who is still working” at 3 am). Problematises the use of the term “here” as “a lab” rather than a geographic co-location. Solidarity building?

Particular interest in references to time: current time – what I’m doing now; temporal cycles of, eg, work , publications, terms; future time (what will be happening); and chunking time eg, pleistocene.

Gives example of scientific criticism and never-ending use of citations and references but also criticism of socio-thermodynamics using LOLcats

Scientific criticism involves personal stance; impersonal references to shared norms and hierarchies of authority for presentational purposes. Found many Tweets involve boundary work, sealing off science and non-science while at the same time concerned with outreach and public engagement with science.

Good set of question of a Twitter community:

  • present self as a community?
  • make a distinct genre – eg, use of RT, links etc…?
  • use the same genre / register?
  • how Twitter practices relate to other practices?
  • what specific kinds of performance are valued?
  • how permeable are the boundaries of the community? How many Tweets get RT from outside the community?

Permeability of the science community enhanced as scientist may be member of other communities that may cross-overs of their specific Tweets (hip hop, feminism/ women in science). But not seeing non-scientists coming back and commenting on scientific discussions.


The afternoon session is about to kick-off with Noreen Dunnett on The Tweeting Zone with Twitter providing a mechanism for renegotiating boundaries between Activity Systems. Looking also at how Twitter allows renegotiation of identities and roles of learners and teachers in formal learning spaces.

Referes to liminal spaces as a rite of passage in which a person moves from one state of being to another. Could Twitter affordances at act bridge between Activity Systemas a a boundary zone between different systems and spaces? Does Twitter provide scaffolding between learning and working definitions.

Affordances (actionable properties …. user perceives some action is possible. Gibson 1977, 1979 and Norman 2004). The paper uses Connectivism and Activity Theory examining a teacher training course and the student use of Twitter ordered around a given #

Frames Twitter in terms of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) as allowing learners to coordinate arrangements between people, materials and technology so the PLE is not a platform but is rather a process that requires agency from the learner [as actor].

Uses ethnographic action research including participant observation, interview and survey. Observation of a Twitter chat over a seven month period with researcher moderating initial discussion. Spaces of learning in, eg, Twitter, enacted in to being – emerge rather that design/ predetermined (Al Mahmood 2008).

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 13.54.07

Cited example of student who left the course asking for permission to continue to use the hashtag.

Trainee teachers participate in a range of discourse communities simultaneously, spanning formal and informal learning environment. The course tutor conflicted about Twitter and the degree of control and policing role.

Useful Tweet here:

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 13.45.30

Twitter bridge Activity Systems as discourse communities.

Role of tutor not clear: has emergent and non-emergent elements as the Twitter space was formally set up to support students in placement but tutor also wanted to use it for learning tasks by setting up a series of tasks Tutor was concerned that the students controlled by eg, GTC notions of professional conversation.

References from the presentation can be found here


Now out of power and seeking a plug point ……


Now at An analysis of professional exchange and community dynamics of Twitter from Nicola Osborne and Clare Llewellyn from Edinburgh

Used Martin Hawksey’s TAGs for grabbing #feeds into Google Docs.

Social media collaboration group came into being to analyse Tweets on London riots using manual analysis and wanted to use more automation in the analysis. Clare developed a prototype as the JISC Twitter Workbench initially for analysis of Olympics on Twitter  but extended in to more general academic use. Currently working on developing the Workbench to work with smaller, discreet data including elimination of direct (unchanged) RTs. Testing Workbench for use at a conference (done aferwards but could be done in real time).

Used algorithm  for LDA clustering but found it no more accurate than incremental clustering 

At the conference, was a lot of interest in, for example, PechaKucha and specific talks that gained a lot of interest.

Found different algorithms appropriate for different size of event/ Twitter hashtags. Clusters confirmed some hunches about the conference.

Noted that clustering does not analyse influence of a Tweet. Confirmed participant feedback on conference sessions. Did identify what was popular (not influential?) and ‘hot topics’ etc which could have been very useful for real time use eg, in back channel. Could imply unpopular sessions not Tweeted but this is not clear.

Very clear decline in volume of Tweets after conference – often sharing links.

Analysis was about the content of Tweets and not about connections between Tweets…

Balance to be developed between clustering duplication versus clustering granularity.

Q of why JISC funded this given the existence of NodeXL

Now time for a break….

Fell behind on the blogging – lack of power, fat fingers etc….

Now at the plenary Professional Twitter Panel which can be followed at #lutwitrc

Discussing finding the time for Twitter and intensity, @johnnyunger very variable in intensity of Tweeting. Mentions that avoiding marking leads to increase in Twitter use.

A number of comments in Tweeting in between times

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 16.25.01

Tweet when we’re doing other things or when can’t do other things

But also comments about the rhythms of the day – energy, roles etc…

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 16.28.00

… and in relation to activities in “real life” (sitting on the bus) as well as on other SoMe.

Discussion on whether Twitter is distracting or takes time [but avoids issues of cognitive-shifting]

Moving to ethics, eg, is it OK to be anonymous on Twitter and issue of institutional constraints. Also scales of anonymity, eg, less easy to identify the individual rather than anonymous per se.

Comment on analysis of HE SoMe policies that are very constraining requiring various disclaimers for staff. HE senior management prickliness on potential reputation harm from ‘rogue staff’.

Comment that first rule of the internet that there is no such thing as anonymity – don’t say something online you wouldn’t say elsewhere (from @pennyb).

Moved on to impact – beyond simply number of followers but also who follows.

Discussion on ethics and the nature of public domain with good understanding of the nuances around anonymising Tweets. Also refering to Twitter TOS in tension with research ethics, eg, on anonymity.