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Scholarly communication the information chain and technology: analyses and reflexions

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posted on 07.12.2010, 16:10 by Neil Jacobs
It is no longer easy to adopt deterministic explanations of scholarly communication, technology or the information chain. Complex and reflexive relations have built up between the substantive and methodological literatures relevant to these topics. This thesis aims to explore these relations with reference to two sets of interviews, one with academicr esearchersa nd the other with information professionals. These interviews were conducted in 1998-9 during the FIDDO Project, a part of the UK Joint Information Systems Committee `Electronic Libraries Programme'. Two major theoretical perspectives are employed to support two analytic methodologies. The first is social constructivism, which is representedm ethodologically in the thesis by discourse analysis. The second is actor-network theory, which is represented methodologically by co-word analysis. Both of these approaches are engaged in questions of relativism and realism in social explanation. The implementation of each of the methodologies involves innovative moves. The discourse analysis is focused on personal deixis (self-reference) located by pronoun-use, and on interest management. The co-word analysis is adapted from a scientometric technique and supplemented by the use of categorical definitions of the three topics. Each methodology is employed to analyse both sets of interviews. The four resulting sets of findings are presented in terms of the boundaries apparent between the three topical concepts. The boundaries between scholarly communication, technology and the information chain are found to vary, for example according to the identities of the interviewees responsible for the data. They also vary according to the methodology employed. Discourse analysis of interviews with information professionals suggests that the idea of technology is deployed as a dual repertoire, consisting of empowerment and automation, and that the pattern of this deployment is one constituent of the contested boundaries between the three topics. Co-word analysis of the same interviews suggests that an important focus of the boundaries is around the idea of electronic journals. Discourse analysis of interviews with academicr esearchersa lso reveals use of the dual technology repertoire, but in addition suggests that the category of formal scholarly communication acts to legitimate the interests of researchers. Co-word analysis of the same interviews suggests that a number of models of document access were in play, including those based on the library, on paper and on documents. The implications of these substantive analyses include that studies based on `user needs' or the `impact of technology' could benefit from an analysis of how such topics are constructed in particular accounts. Finally, the question is addressed as to the extent that the results of the discourse and the co-word analyses (of the same data) are compatible so that they can be meaningfully synthesised. That is, do the two approaches give rise to outcomes that have similar epistemological status? The question is answered `empirically' with reference to the issueo f reflexivity as it is configured in the two approachesa, nd it is confirmed that the two types of outcome are not compatible due to profound differences in the positions adopted by their respective informing theories. The methodological implications of this include that those engaged in relativist research practice need to be aware the ways in which epistemological and reflexive issues are relevant to their actions.



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© Neil Jacobs

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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