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«Andrés Gregor Zelman The University of Amsterdam 2002 ii Mediated Communication and the Evolving Science System: Mapping the Network Architecture of ...»

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39 Medium Theory sets the parameters of the various media under study and establishes a means of comparison between the content of the project communications (in each medium) over the course of the SOEIS research project. The Structural Tradition provides us with network and meaning metaphors with which to conceptualize meaningful exchange between SOEIS members. Actor Network Theory grounds the analyses – the distribution of actions (words used, publications, threads) in the datasets. Finally, Self-Organization Theory provides the evolutionary conceptualization through which we examine the relationships between time segments to identify critical transitions in system operations, as well as measure differences between the print and electronic word transmission and occurrence distributions.

In general, the group participation of the SOEIS members can be viewed as a historical phenomenon comprised of a complex of communicative events. These interrelationships can be conceptually organized using the Architecture – Network – System triad. This complex network is understood to consist of individual actions or traces which by definition achieve network formations which may behave collectively in a systemic fashion. These theoretic approaches frame the analyses and should be considered as central to the definition of dynamic network as described here. The architectural dimensions suggested by the Medium Theory notion of the information network, the contingent and emergent network metaphor from ANT, and the notion of a system of observable and unobservable phenomena from Systems Theory offer this dissertation a unique combination of perspectives. This theoretic lens thereby provides a central position from which to engage the subsequent analyses. The respective analyses of print communications, electronic communications, journal publication and the mailing list environment are carried out and interpreted using the model: the Architecture – Network – System theoretic triad.

Finally, the metric approaches described in Chapter I: Introduction – Key Concepts, and elaborated upon in Chapter III: Materials & Methods are performed and interpreted in Part II – Analyses. Using the theoretic triad as the dissertation heuristic, the various dynamic network conceptions contained herein provide a rich backdrop onto which SOEIS project communications can be analyzed and understood. Each analysis takes as its focus the architectural parameters of the communication under study, the apparent network of interrelationships, and its subsequent systemic dimensions. In this way we aim to reveal virtual networks of interconnectivity beyond the comprehension of any individual actor. The triad frames this analysis by enabling a comparison of features across different datasets of different communications. While the theoretic claims may appear incommensurable, it is in their interrelation that the value of an interdisciplinary framework becomes clear. This combination of Architecture – Network – System into a triadic lens enables a means of using both symbolic and modelling approaches to understand the dynamics of mediated communication.

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This chapter describes the research project selected for the analysis: the Self Organization of the European Information Society (SOEIS). The Fourth Framework Programme of the Targeted Socio Economic Research (TSER) Research Programme of the European Commission is first outlined and then the communicative features of the SOEIS research project are specified. The chapter will also provide an overview of the methodological approaches employed in this study; the project communications elected to be analysed are described in juxtaposition to the specific metric approaches used for each analysis. The theoretical relevance behind each distinct metric analysis is then outlined. Finally, expectations concerning the impact of ICT on processes of knowledge production are formulated and formalized into an overarching research question. In principle the techniques developed here could be used for understanding similar processes of knowledge production in other academic, government, or industrial contexts.

During the period 1994-1998 the 4th Framework Programme covered all the research and technological development activities funded by the European Commission. In all, 13,215 million Euro were contributed to the achievement of several primary goals.

The explicit aims of the TSER framework were to facilitate the integration of technologies into society, and to anticipate future priorities, emphasizing three main areas of relevance.

The first was an effort to evaluate Science & Technology policy options with the aim of developing a workable science and technological development policy for the European Union (engaged via technology forecasting, assessment, and development).

The second emphasis was research on education and training to improve these systems to ensure currency with technological progress for long-term economic and social development. TSER funded research thereby concerned the knowledge basis for new education and training technologies, the quality of education and training systems, and new forms of teacher-pupil interaction. A final emphasis was placed on research into social integration and social exclusion in Europe in order to develop knowledge and create instruments for combating social exclusion. Economic mechanisms (among others) related to social exclusion were analysed and compared with various integration policies pursued in Europe. This contribution was expected to enable the development of a shared knowledge base for the evaluation of science and technology policy options, to improve education systems and to develop an education oriented society, and thereby provide better and more comprehensive knowledge of the social impact of European integration. In part, this study aims to assess the dynamics of a TSER funded research project, but more generally it aims to reveal central issues concerning the role of media in this process.

41The Case: SOEIS

As indicated, the research project selected for analysis was entitled: Self Organization of the European Information Society (SOEIS). The SOEIS research project was funded through the Fourth Framework of the TSER Research Programme of the European Union. It was selected because it operated as an international collaborative research effort that used both electronic and print media to communicate similar information and thereby exhibited features of both Mode I and Mode II types of knowledge production. Additionally, similar to the priorities of the present study, the SOEIS was theoretically oriented towards the problematic of analyzing and understanding the dynamics of the (European) Information Society. These features make the SOEIS an excellent and extremely relevant site to measure the differences between the relative impacts of print and electronic media on processes of knowledge production.

The SOEIS project should be understood to have entailed a reflexive analysis of the evolving Research, Technology and Development (RTD) research system. The present analysis of the project should therefore be understood as both infra-reflexive (with myself as a participant), and as a hyper-reflexive look at an evolving science system, as it addresses communication about these changes. Again, the SOEIS was selected because it provided an appropriate case to observe the simultaneous use of print and electronic media to communicate similar information within the workings of a trans-national research effort. The SOEIS research project appears on the edge between Mode I and Mode II types of knowledge production, and the trans-national flavour of the project made it a particularly useful case for this analysis. The analysis reflects not only upon the archived information communicated throughout the course of the SOEIS research project, but upon the (internal) process of knowledge production itself by treating the data as a time series. That is, information communicated during the course of the research project is considered as both a stock concept (as an archive to be analysed) and a flow concept, thereby understanding said information to have been created and exchanged. All print and electronic communications of the SOEIS group were archived, and thereby provided this analysis with an objective set of data for the analysis.

The communications of the SOEIS research project provided the resource data for the metric analyses described below. Four relevant domains of the project were selected for analysis. Print Communication, Electronic Communication, Journal Publication, and Mailing List Environment. Each reflects different aspects of the mediated environment of the SOIES and aims to harness the domain-specific communicative dynamics involved in that particular process of knowledge production and meaningful exchange.

The project was a single event with a defined time-line for completion1, but for the purposes of this analysis several features of the communication network have been delineated for different forms of analysis. The analyses were expected to reveal a relationship between the changing nature of knowledge production and the The SOEIS project was approved by the European Union in late 1997, and the final report was 1 submitted in 2000.

42 introduction of electronic media into academic environments. The reader should note that a delineation is drawn between communications contained within the context of the SOEIS project (the print and electronic communications), and the dynamics that are external to the SOEIS research project (journal publication and mailing list environment). Arguably, the latter contribute to the complex environment in which the SOEIS project operates, and should be understood as distinct from its internal workings.

Importantly, the SOEIS project was comprised of both core members and participating non-members; different groups of people are therefore involved with different elements of the communication systems. The print documents were created primarily by the 15 Core SOEIS members, while the electronic communications include the contributions of up to 74 people.2 The Journal Publication Analysis and Mailing List Analysis were carried out using the names of all mailing list members.

Table 3.1: SOEIS Communicative Domains, below, outlines the basic parameters of the four SOEIS domains selected for analysis.

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Several features of the SOEIS communication system should be noted. The first concerns limitations imposed by different languages operating in the dataset. One of the texts included in the SOEIS print communications was written in Italian; this has been observed in the dataset and is evident in the second time period of the print communications. This anomaly was not expected to skew results, but interesting observations were made concerning this period which will be discussed in Chapter IV: Analysis of Print Communications. In addition, several of the mailing lists included in the analysis of the mailing list environment were of Greek origin and one list of German origin. However, the content of the emails was not examined at this level – the respective thread dynamics were examined and these remained the same irrespective of language.

The second notable feature concerning the information used for the analysis is that I have personally read all of the texts included in the study and understand the semantic detail underlying each. The metric analyses undertaken in this examination should be understood, therefore, to supplement this understanding. The analyses do not determine the meaning of the communications systems, but rather provide us with an update to the understanding already achieved by participant observation in the SOEIS research project itself. In Part II – Analysis the four respective dimensions are analyzed discretely in four chapters. Part III – Reflection serves to integrate the 2 There were 74 members of the SOEIS mailing list (EuroCon-Knowflow), including both core members and other participants. The total number of members fluctuated over the course of the 2 years of the project, but were taken as the baseline for the overall SOEIS group. The total number of actual participating parties in each domain is considerably less than 74. The member list can be viewed in Appendix B.3.

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Theories regarding the relationship between the social and the technological are by no means specific to Science & Technology Studies and Communication Studies, and in fact some theoretical bodies examined in Chapter II: Theoretical Grounding date back to the turn of the 20th Century. The principal motivation here is to operationalize the network metaphor using various types of metric analyses.

Bibliometrics is employed to conceptualize the relationship between source texts, Scientometrics to map relations between scientists (with an eye to changing disciplinary boundaries), and finally Cybermetrics to measure a range of mailing lists in the field of Science & Technology Studies and Self Organization Theory. Using these techniques may provide a means of understanding the impact of electronic writing upon the previously existing communication networks fostered by print.

Despite the diversity between these approaches and the respective variety of objects of study, the metrics share the same basic feature: co-analysis. In what follows, the specific materials and methods employed in the analyses of the four respective communicative dimensions of the SOEIS research project are described. In this way we align them with the metric analyses introduced in Chapter I: Introduction – Key Concepts.

Materials & Methods

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