Libraries and Collaborative Research Communities

091001_TicerAlready a while ago, but still worth a post: on August 5, I was an invited speaker at  the Ticer Digital Libraries a la Carte 2009 summer school. In 2008, I attended their fascinating keynote summer school lecture by Stephen Abram. It was a privilege to be on the other side this year! Ticer stands for Tilburg Innovation Centre for Electronic Resources, and is a business unit of Tilburg University’s Library and IT Services. Every year, they organize a summer school, which is well attended by librarians, publishers, researchers, lecturers, and IT specialists interested in the latest developments in (digital) libraries.

My module concerned the Libraries and Collaborative Research Communities track. My co-speakers were John Butler (University of Minnesota), Judith Wusteman (University College Dublin), and Gary Olson (University of California, Irvine). We had a very stimulating day – with lots of questions from the audience -  in which we explored this lively and quickly evolving field from many different angles, including topics like virtual communities as catalysts for advancing scholarship, the role of librarians in virtual research environments, and critical success factors for science collaboratories.

My own talk was about how to activate research collaboratories with collaboration patterns. I really enjoyed discussing  this for me quite new field. It was good to see that many academic librarians agree  that a technical information retrieval focus by itself does not suffice anymore and that serious efforts need to made to integrate communities, communication, and collaboration in their library processes and systems. The worlds of digital libraries and community informatics are still far apart, but interesting connections are forming. A topic that surely will grow in scope and impact in the years to come.

Presentation at the National Research Council Canada

090321_nrcc3On Monday, I will give another version of the talk “From Inspiration to Activation: Making Online Collaborative Communities Work” that I gave at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, this time at the National Research Council Canada Institute for Information Technology in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It’s good to have another opportunity to present  and get quality feedback on these ideas that have been keeping me busy for such a long time.


Inspiration is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for collaborative communities to work. Such communities often make use of complex Internet-based tool systems. In these systems, work gets distributed over many tools, often leading to the fragmentation of communicative acts. To address this problem, explicit attention needs to be paid to community activation. We outline a conceptual model of online collaborative communities. We introduce the use of collaboration patterns for defining socio-technical design solutions for activation problems. We illustrate the approach by discussing the results from a digital class experiment. Applications ranging from e-government to scientific collaborations are discussed.

The talk will webcast live: Mon March 23, 10:30 am – noon Atlantic Daylight Time:

Distant participants should be able to ask questions via chat.

(The archived version of my talk is available at:

From Inspiration to Activation: Making Online Collaborative Communities Work

Invitation to my UAH lecture, January 21, 2009On January 21, I presented my lecture “From Inspiration to Activation: Making Online Collaborative Communities Work” in the UAHuntsville Distinguished Speaker Series. It was a revised version of the invited talk I gave at the ALOIS 2008 conference in Venice in May 2008. In the lecture I addressed how collaborative communities require not only the sense of purpose and drive provided by inspiration, but also the activation of the community in terms of explicitly supporting the initiation, execution, and evaluation of  goal-oriented (online) communication processes. To this purpose, a socio-technical design process is needed in which the communicative context and tool system are matched.

A major theme in my lecture was the paradigm-shifting approach of the Obama administration to involve the general public, not only in getting elected, but also in providing ideas for and feedback on the policies proposed. Key priorities are communication, transparency, and participation, which, not coincidentially are also the foundations of the field of community informatics. Only four years ago, this new reality seemed only but a distant dream. It is incredibly exciting to witness community informatics history in the making, right in the heart of our global democratic system!

Although the Obama approach is a unique and most promising experiment on an unprecedented scale, it will need to go beyond current ambitions of soliciting feedback from individual citizens. In order to at least partially address the many highly complex, interlocking wicked problems like the credit crisis, global warming, poverty, environmental degradation and war, it will need to invest heavily in creating and nurturing a multitude of collaborative communities. These communities should bring together representatives of societal stakeholders such as government, science, corporations, NGOs, and so on. These communities should help them work together effectively and efficiently and break through organizational, political, disciplinary and ethnic boundaries. Only in this way can scalable solutions be developed that are workable and acceptable to the majority of people affected.

My presentation given at UAH can be viewed here:

Yes We Can 2.0

It’s amazing what transformative power Web 2.0 services are increasingly making available to everybody at (almost) no cost. Using Animoto “The End of Slideshows” I just made a professional looking video supported by (Creative Commons)-music out of my collection of 1993 Clayoquot Sound uprising-pics for only US$ 3,- (30 sec videos are even free):

Compare this to the static slideshows “of old”.

Of course, such “fast and furious” MTV-style videos are not always the best choice, but they could play an important role in energizing, for example, youth to participate in community-building campaigns.

Happy Change Year!

Digital storytelling tools

I am currently attending an interesting session at the E-Campaigning Forum on digital storytelling. Stories are very powerful ways of motivating people to take action, to reflect on the implications of policies, to make abstract concepts concrete and so on.

In this age of Web 2.0 and user-created multimedia content, the old linear textual technologies for supporting storytelling like discussion forums are being complemented by a multitude of innovtive tools supporting new forms of content, interactivity and user involvement. Here are some telling examples of this new wave of tools. They still need to find their niche in the Internet landscape, but it is already becoming very clear that they provide powerful incentives for people to become more (inter)active and engaged.

  • Animoto: automatically generates professionally produced videos using their own patent-pending technology and high-end motion design. Each video is a fully customized orchestration of user-selected images and music. Produced on a widescreen format, Animoto videos have the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer.
  • Viddler:
    • Use webcam to record directly to website
    • Tag specific moment within video
    • Post comments to specific moments within the video
    • Have complete control over who sees video
  • JibJab: allows one to put one’s face on video and share it.
  • SproutBuilder: Sprout is a quick and easy way for beginner and pro users to create living content including websites, widgets, banners, videos, music, photos, RSS feeds, calendars and more.
  • Living Cultural Storybases: Nurturing the oral heritage of minority cultures in a digital world.

Good reference source:

  • NFP2: what happens when not-for-profits, social media and people meet

ALOIS 2008 conference

VeniceOn May 5-6, I will be attending, as an invited speaker, the ALOIS (Action in Language, Organisations, and Information Systems) conference in Venice. Apart from the wonderful venue, it is going be a very interesting conference, in the best tradition of the Language/Action Perspective and Pragmatic Web conferences.

Here is the abstract of my talk and paper:

Activating Online Collaborative Communities

Collaborative communities often make use of complex tool systems. In these systems, work gets fragmented over many tools, often halting communication. We discuss online community activation in terms of the Language/Action Perspective, and its more recent offshoot, the Pragmatic Web. We propose collaboration patterns for defining high-level socio-technical design solutions for activation problems. We illustrate the approach using examples from a digital tutorial case.

eCampaigning Forum 2008

I have just received confirmation that I can participate in eCampaigning Forum 2008, to be held at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, on April 10-11. Last year, I attended their social dinner while visiting a friend, and was struck by the nice mix of expertise and friendliness of the participants. I am really excited about being part of that crowd myself this year!

What it is?

“The 2008 eCampaigning Forum brings together e-campaigning practitioners, managers, freelancers, entrepreneurs and bloggers to share the essential and emerging trends and practices in campaigning (advocacy) using interactive media. The experts are the participants and this event ensures those who attend get to spend most of their time engaging with their peers on topics that concern them most.”

This year, the crowd is even larger, with some very interesting people, from organizations including Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, Medicins Sans Frontiers, the BBC, and many, many others. What is especially interesting is that these people are among the world’s top experts on using interactive media to get people moving. We are drowning in information, but using the Internet to make people do things is the holy grail many of us are after. I am looking forward to joining the other Internet knights at the Round Table :-)