«Andrés Gregor Zelman The University of Amsterdam 2002 ii Mediated Communication and the Evolving Science System: Mapping the Network Architecture of ...»
Review In the introductory chapter of this study a central problematic was identified: given the centrality of media to academic communications, the need to understand the impact of media form increases with the advent of electronic media into the academic environment. The impact of this new media landscape on the scientific process is not yet well represented, nor is it well understood. It was argued that the previously dominant media (print) fostered particular types of networking, and that new electronic media can be expected to foster different ones. Importantly, sorting the complexity between media biases demands that we not only observe the new media environment in terms of how it compares to the former, print networks, but that we acknowledge these print networks to also be in transition. The identified challenge of the dissertation was ‘how do we compare media bias given this complexity of interrelation?’ The Architecture – Network – System triad was used as a heuristic model for the empirical analyses, and thereby enabled a means of classifying and comparing the different network architectures fostered by each medium.
We first turned to the history of the metric approach in order to highlight similar analyses which could inform this study. The review included a short history of bibliometrics as a tradition that stretches back to the scribal culture of the Middle Ages, scientometrics as a related tool to map the publication behaviour of scientists and the evolution of disciplinary foci, and cybermetrics as a means of coping with the myriad of new accessible datasets available for analysis given electronic media. In this way it was argued that metric analyses could be used to address this problematic.
Further, it was argued that the various existing metric approaches lacked sufficient comparison of media forms with each other, and that such an approach could be achieved with operationalized theorizing.
In Chapter II: Theoretical Grounding a range of approaches relevant to the problematic of mediation were addressed to provide a theoretical grounding for the study. It was argued that existing metric analyses were largely not theoretically informed and it was expected that by providing a rich theoretical backdrop to this study, we might be able to enhance the interpretation and integration of the metric results in the respective chapters. Medium Theory was introduced as the theoretical baseline for the study, as the approach covered both the historical use of media through time as an epochal framework encompassing oral, literate and electronic stages of mediation, and the notion of transformation between these stages. We can understand the current study to be primarily concerned with the transformative stage implied with the shift from print to electronic media as the predominant medium of social intercourse. An important concept was introduced here: the information network, which Meyrowitz argued was a viable heuristic for understanding the changing nature of social relations through time as mediated phenomena.
In addition to the theoretical backbone provided by Medium Theory, two other modelling approaches were addressed: Actor Network Theory (ANT) and SelfOrganization Theory. ANT provided the theoretical lens that enabled a means of comparing the print and electronic communicative domains of the Self-Organization of the European Information Society (SOEIS) research project, as the approach has a rich history of use as a grounding to perform and interpret textual analyses.
Importantly, the ANT provided a means of conceptualizing how individual events (as word use, publications or threaded emails) compile to form networks of interrelation.
Self Organization Theory was then employed to provide a birds-eye view perspective whereby these networks of interaction could be understood from a macro perspective which sought systemic properties of the SOEIS communications, that in principle remained outside the full comprehension of the individual actors of the network.
These three bodies collectively helped form the dissertation heuristic: the Architecture – Network – System model.
The theory chapter also reviewed a number of approaches concerning the symbolic aspects of mediated communication. Here the central proponents of Structuralism, Poststructuralism, and Structuration Theory were addressed. These theoretical bodies were introduced to help interpret the results of the analyses which pertained more to changes identified with the cognitive orientation of the SOEIS group. This laid the foundation for the analyses to follow, precisely because each of these theoretical bodies speak to the problematic of mediation as it relates to knowledge production, as introduced in Chapter I: Introduction – Key Concepts. The theoretical framework, while dense in its appropriation of concepts from a broad range of disciplines, proved to be an effective means of assessing the empirical analyses (with respect to both modelling and symbolic aspects) and thereby helped illustrate the unique relationship between print and electronic media.
Chapter III: Materials & Methodology, the third and final chapter of Part I, served to bind the theoretic triad of Architecture – Network – System with the metric analyses identified in the introduction. Here the particular metric analyses to be performed on the different communicative domains of the SOEIS research project were aligned with the points of the theoretic triad. This provided the conceptual link between the theoretical priorities of this study and their operationalization using metric analyses.
In this way both were positioned into an overall framework, and geared towards a common end – the exploration of the differences between print and electronic media given the problematic introduced by the centrality of both media forms to processes of knowledge production. Accordingly, the chapter produced an overarching research question for the dissertation; this integrated the priorities of the analysis, and juxtaposed them with a set of general expectations.
Given the centrality of media to processes of knowledge production, and the responsibility of these changes as related to media (as argued by Gibbons et. al., 1994, the OECD publications introduced in Chapter I, and Medium Theory as described in Chapter II), it was assumed that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) affect the ways that scientists communicate. To address this problematic both empirical approaches and theoretical bodies were reviewed and integrated into a framework to carry out a series of analyses. This gave rise to more central expectations: that metric analyses and modelling techniques could aid in understanding the different roles that print and electronic media play in academic environments, and thereby help accurately describe the dynamic character of the 130 evolving research practice. And finally, that the theoretical triad as created for the analysis could both contextualize and aid in the interpretation of the results of the empirical analyses.
With these expectations a guiding research question was then asked: “Given that mediated communication and mediated processes of knowledge production are mutually implicated phenomena, and given that the changing information environment in academic contexts can be theorized with respect to differences between print and electronic media, can the application of metric techniques to academic communications in tandem with applied theorizing show biases particular to each medium and thereby reveal the nature of said changes?” The metric analyses upon the mediated traces of the SOEIS communicative domains has shown that ICTs impact academic communications in different ways, and that this difference was attributable in part to the function of each medium (print and electronic) as conduits of knowledge production. This observation was made possible through the use of the theoretic triad heuristic to interpret the results of the metric analyses. The central research question has been answered with respect to the expectations of this exploratory analysis.
The following section: Integration will review the results of the individual analyses with respect to how the respective questions were answered and their respective expectations met (or not). Here the theoretic triad of Architecture – Network – System is used to bind the central findings of each analysis. In this way the main architectural, network, and systemic features of the SOEIS group were collated and a core set of results isolated. A concluding section will then highlight the central findings of the dissertation. The final chapter of the dissertation will address the limitations identified through the execution of this analysis, and will provide relevant guidelines for those interested in pursuing similar analyses into the future.
This section will serve to conceptually integrate the four previous empirical analyses together, using the theoretical triad of Architecture – Network – System to bind their central findings. Overall, Chapter IV: Analysis of Print Communication and Chapter V: Analysis of Electronic Communication served to isolate and characterize the internal communicative dynamics of the SOEIS research group by analyzing the patterns of word exhibited by the group as the key units of analysis. By contrast, Chapter VI: Analysis of Journal Publication and Chapter VII: Analysis of Mailing List Environment served to delimit the external communicative dynamics of the SOEIS by focusing upon word use, but here the focus of the analysis did not revolve around patterns of word use, per se, but rather from the next order perspective – where words were used in combination to generate journal articles and emails. By analyzing and then comparing the internal and external dynamics of the SOEIS using the theoretical triad, a general set of conclusions concerning the role of media in processes of knowledge production was generated.
While running the risk of being repetitive, each of the four empirical chapters of this study is reviewed in this section by addressing their central research questions and
As argued in Chapter II: Theoretical Grounding, the notion of architecture is best understood in the context of the information network as characterized by Meyrowitz, the central proponent of second generation Medium Theory. It was argued that while social reality is constituted through interactions among people, it is the patterns of information flow which operate as the catalyst for change, not physical setting. Social situations (such as the SOEIS research project) are therefore best perceived as information networks whereby different actors, events, and (by default) media converge to create social reality. Thus, the aim in introducing the notion of the information network was to provide a useful metaphor with which to understand the architectural parameters of the different communicative domains examined in this study. The term architecture, as used in this analysis, was employed to encapsulate the complex structure of these four communicative domains of the SOIES research project with the ultimate aim of integrating them into a general understanding of the architecture of mediated processes of knowledge production.
In Chapter IV: Analysis of Print Communications it was asked: “do the SOEIS print communications have a discernable architecture, and can particular qualities be identified with a decidedly print mode of communication?” It was expected that an analysis of the fluctuation of the percentage of unique words across each time period of the print dataset would reveal elements of information codification. The results proved greater than the original expectations: it was shown that not only did the print communications exhibit an a priori codification, as expected given the nature of the print medium, but also exhibited evidence of a processual codification. It was found that this processual codification could be attributed to the fact that the print dataset operated as an aggregating text, suggesting that many contributions in earlier time periods were ‘cut’ and ‘pasted’ into later submissions, thereby constraining the evolution of the print dataset.
By contrast, when the same question was asked in Chapter V: Analysis of Electronic Communications regarding the electronic dataset, it was expected and confirmed that the architecture of the electronic communications would be less constrained than similar communications in the print dataset. Indeed, the electronic dataset was shown to behave in a more Mode II fashion than the Mode I oriented print communications, as evidenced by the continued increase of word frequency and percentage of unique words over the four time periods. The architectural features of the internal communications of the SOEIS research project were therefore shown to have behaved differently in the print and electronic datasets, and this difference was argued in terms of evidence of information codification in the print dataset, and the resistance to codification in the electronic.
The architectural analysis of the communicative domains external to the SOEIS project entailed a slightly different approach than that employed for the analysis of the 132 internal communications. Instead of prioritizing ‘codification’, which was effective for the analysis of the internal communications, here the emphasis was placed on the ‘cognitive biases’ or realms that could be identified in the publication and mailing list datasets. The analyses of these latter two communicative domains focused on aggregate word use (i.e.: journal articles and emails) rather than on patterns of word use. The analyses of the communications external to the SOEIS therefore entailed different priorities.