Segunda-feira, 12 de Outubro de 2009
Social networks as research tools

In the last few weeks I have been trying to determine which authors and theories will serve as the basis of my dissertation. Searching for the right readings, that will establish the theoretical background of our work, consumes a lot of time.  The worst thing that could happen is choosing a wrong book or paper to read and not realize that until you have already wasted hours or even days.

So what can we do minimize that risk?

I guess there is no magical recipe and everyone has its own way to overcome this obstacle. Looking for recommendations and guidance from our professors and colleagues is obviously the first option but I feel we should not rely only on what is in front of us. We are in the age of global mass collaboration so why limit ourselves to our “local network”? Social Media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, among others, now give us the chance to connect directly to people that we were used to see only on the back cover of book or as unreachable authors of a break through paper.

I realized this almost a year ago when I was working with Juliana on Urock’s concept. From then on I started building a diversified network of connections with people from different areas of expertise. Despite their different backgrounds those authors, that play an active part in social networks, have one thing in common… they are there to collaborate.

I believe we can and should take advantage of that collective knowledge to get recommendations and filter references. We are not merely “asking” Google’s search algorithm “What should I read?” we have real people, that are experts on their field, giving us guidance and support. As an example, last week I received reading recommendations from Don Tapscott, author of “Wikinomics” and “Grown Up Digital”, through Twitter’s Direct Message service.

I believe that this is just the beginning. By asking the community for suggestions to our work we are reinforcing boundaries and creating trusting relationships with fellow professionals that can be very useful later on the research. For example, we can use this same knowledge network to get feedback on our ongoing work. 

Some might say that using social networks, while you are working on your thesis, can be a source of distraction. Allow me to disagree, if used properly, social networks can be powerful research tools.

 




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