It’s about links; it’s about connectedness” explained Cameron Neylon in the opening keynote plenary talk at the Open Repositories 2012 conference which officially opened yesterday.  As described in the live blog of the talk:

Most of you can remember a time without mobile phones. 20 years ago if I’d shown up and wanted to meet for a drink it would have been difficult or impossible. Email wasn’t useful back then either as so few people had it. When you start with nodes and start joining up the network… for a long time little changes. You just let people communicate in the same way you did before… right up until everyone has access to a mobile phone. or everyone has email. You move from a network that is better connected network to a network that can be traversed in new ways. for chemists THIS IS A Cooperative phase transition. Where the network crystalises out from a solution.

But how can the benefits of such connected approaches to work activities be applied more widely?  Cameron argued that we need:

  1. Connectivity
  2. Low friction
  3. Demand on side filters

The connectivity is now widely available: we have a wide spectrum of social media services which can be used to connect with one’s peers and one’s user communities in additional to one’s friends and families.  The global social media service also need to be easy to use in order to survive and so provide ‘low friction’ for their use.  The challenge is the filtering by the user in order to enable the user to identify the content, the discussions, the communities of relevance to them at the time of engagement with the tools.

It’s about links; it’s about connectedness” was the point I made when in the one-minute summaries of the posters in the session which followed Cameron’s opening plenary. I highlighted the relevance of Cameron’s point when I described my paper which asked “Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories?. These widely used services provide low friction, as can be seen from the survey of their usage across the Russell Group universities. But repository managers do not appear to encouraging their use in a systematic way. Ironically although  repository managers many not be explaining the benefits which can be gained, both to the individual researcher and the institutional repository itself, by links to papers hosted on the repository, as we described in the paper, commercial publishers are promoting use of services such as LinkedIn to  link from to papers hosted behind the publishers’ paywalls!

Learning is a collaborative process: social media can enrich the opportunities for learning

It’s about links; it’s about connectedness” is the point I’ll be making in two hours’ time in my talk on “Social Media: For Ourselves and For Our Customers” at the UCISA Support Services Conference 2012.  The importance of social media for engaging with students is widely appreciated although, as Helen Keegan will explain later today in a talk on “Into the wild:  embracing the anarchy“, while web enabled mobile devices can allow our learners to connect any place, at any time, this shift towards personalisation, ownership and autonomy poses significant challenges for IT services and information systems.

However the main point of my talk will be the importance of social media for engaging with one’s peers:  IT services staff working at other institutions. We need to remember that senior managers in our institutions are capable of using Google to search for “outsource IT in universities”  and might find the article published on The Guardian in December 2010 which suggested that “Universities could save £3bn by outsourcing, says thinktank“. But the IT Services community represented by UCISA do have an ace up their sleeve: the strength of the community.  The question is whether IT Services staff are aware of the value of such collaborative and connected approaches.

In my talk I’ll recommend that the delegates at the UCISA User Support Service Conference watch the video recording of Cameron’s talk on “Network Enabled Research: The possibilities, the path and the role of repositories”  when it becomes available.  I’ll also suggest that UCISA consider making use of social services to support their conferences – in particular I’ll highlight the Lanyrd entry for the USSC12 conference  and suggest that tools such as this can be used to help build one’s professional network.

The slides I’ll be using are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

[slideshare id=13562252&doc=ucisa-social-media-120706082141-phpapp02]