The Electronic Anthropologist: on sources of information, strategies, techniques and timing of online research [A Farewell Gift]
21 Jan 2011
www.ciolek.com - Asia Pacific Research Online, Canberra, Australia.
"With 5,869 reviews of the Asian Studies internet resources successfully dispatched, the time has come to say goodbyes -
(1) So, thank you, all my 9,260 wonderful online- and off-line collaborators, colleagues and friends.
(2) It was your steadfast love of information that has sparked and guided my electronic labours.
(3) Now I take my egret-plumed hat off, and lower it to the flagstones with a mighty sweep.
(4) I bow to You All most deeply. I promise to answer (alas, inevitably with a delay) all your private messages that have reached me in these last days. I bow to You again and present a compact, 43KB, parting gift (below). Have fun with it, if/when so inclined.
(5) Now, My Unforgettable Monitorians, au revoir: I am signing off for good - tmc."
"Information of relevance and value to social scientists is scattered - as individual items as well as clusters and collections - across three vast and vastly different habitats of knowledge. The first of them is formed by the overlapping networks of interconnected, data-swapping computers. There the information is stored as electronic bits. The second habitat is a great planetary labyrinth of interacting and competing museums, archives, and libraries. This is the physical world where information is stored as tangible objects - books, manuscripts, microfilms, artifacts - and kept on shelves, or in vaults. Finally, there is the boundless archipelago of groups and clusters of people themselves. Researchers, experts, archivists, journalists, court-clerks, shamans, interested laymen, students, librarians, managers, and so forth form the third habitat of knowledge. There the information is stored in biological form, either etched in the memories of people, or created by them afresh.
This article is concerned with research uses of the first of those three informational environments, that is, with quests for digital pointers and digital contents that are available via the Internet. It represents an abridged extract from an extensive 2009 work [approx. 145KB] entitled 'The logistics of effective online information seeking,' a research paper with a number of technical appendices, now available online at http://www.ciolek.com/PAPERS/logistics-of-online-information-seeking.html address.
[The article evaluates] methods of electronic investigation that people can undertake within the domain of the Internet. Therefore, the questions posed by this paper are not 'what are the best ways to obtain information online?', or 'what are the best sources of electronic information?', but rather - 'under what methodological circumstances is our online research most likely to succeed?' So it is not an enumeration of tools and opportunities, but rather a meta-assessment of these."
(# The habitats of scholarly information, # Earlier studies of information-seeking practices);
2. Internet, The Electronic Environment of Information
["Two things about the Internet, the electronic environment of information, are immediately apparent to any observer: its dire lack of organization and its enormous physical size. The Internet is a highly unpredictable and confused place, and the materials it carries are of very uneven quality."];
3. The Logistics of Online Information Seeking
(# The First Logistical Element: Research Strategy [Confirm, Link, Deliver, Chase, Form, Match, Explore, Mull], # The Second Logistical Element: Online Resources [Databases, Search engines, Online directories, Repositories, "Flowing" websites, "Frozen" websites, Collaborative environments, Gatherings, Feeds], # The Third Logistical Element: Work Schedules [Urgent, Standard, Long-term], # The Fourth Logistical Element: Data-Gathering Techniques [Ask, Query, Search, Browse, Track, Comb, Monitor, Collect input, Trigger input, Invite input]);
4. Six Constraints of Information Seeking
["None of the above four logistical aspects of online research - the strategies, online resources, work schedules, and data-gathering techniques - ever occurs alone. On the contrary - they always work in concert, as a dynamic system. Together they form six unique combinations, in some of which these variables seem to 'work together especially well', that is, when they appear to be supportive of each other, and appear (in the experience of this author) to be productive."];
["[W]hile at the surface level the Internet appears to be defined mostly by our interactions with the disembodied, cold-headed technology, ultimately the full research value of the Net is best realised through multifaceted intellectual relationships that we can form with other human beings that are contactable online. Seen from this point of view, the modern Internet becomes a virtual bridge which links the three habitats of information. Firstly, the Internet almost instantaneously connects the researcher with the online containers of digital information he or she seeks. Secondly, it spans the gap between a researcher and the pointers to the masses of analogue data preserved in libraries, archives, historical monuments, and museums. Thirdly, the Net is a superb tool for the closure of the gap between a researcher and the wealth of skills and wisdom of his or her colleagues, no matter who they are, and where they work."];
7. Bibliography [43 specialist publications from the years 1995-2008, including online research notes of that mysterious, motley and seminal man himself, Francesco Vianello, aka Fjalar Ravia (1952-2009)].
Internet Archive (web.archive.org) [the site was not archived at the time of this abstract]
Link reported by: T. Matthew Ciolek (tmciolek--at--coombs.anu.edu.au)
* Resource type [news - documents - study - corporate info. - online guide]:
* Publisher [academic - business - govt. - library/museum - NGO - other]:
* Scholarly usefulness [essential - v.useful - useful - interesting - marginal]:
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