iSGTW Opinion - The other grids: generating variety

Opinion - The other grids: generating variety

The Virtual Knowledge Studio was officially launched on October 11, 2006, to support the creation of new scholarly practices and reflection on e-research in the humanities and social sciences. (7 min 22)
Courtesy of Virtual Knowledge Studio

Solving a puzzle is only one part of the problem; convincing the community about the validity of the puzzle-solving process is equally as important. Epistemic commitments in a discipline can create barriers to innovation that are as high as those in the problem-solving process itself.

Novel "digital practices" are preparing the ground for new research technologies, and maybe even for paradigmatic changes in the social sciences and humanities. However, as we aim for new ideas and innovation, we also need to be sensitive to resistance and skepticism.

The Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences, based at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, is doing just that. We are not only involved in e-research projects, we also analyze e-research practices. Rooted in scholarly knowledge about the history, philosophy and sociology of science, we combine the design of new scholarly practices in the social sciences and humanities with the study of the implications of e-research for those fields.

Starting from practice

In our daily work, we aim to unfold the intriguing complexity of e-research, a complexity that also entails failures, repetition and stagnation. This attitude is grounded in an evolutionary approach to scientific and scholarly development. To make new "dominant designs" of scholarly practice as worthwhile as possible, variety is needed and needs to be protected. Seeing users not as receivers of a technology, but as co-developers might be a creation mechanism for such a diversity.

There is more than one way to reach the peak of a mountain, just as there is more than one way to reflect on the new territories of e-science, say Andrea Scharnhorst and Paul Wouters.
Image courtesy of Virtual Knowledge Studio

Moments for reflection

Knowledge and techniques from science and technology studies can be used to build places and moments for reflection on the exploration of new territories of e-science. It is from these places that we can seek for alternative perspectives on e-research.

Many grid projects may already have strategies for working with different and multidisciplinary teams: we would like to hear more about your experiences, with the aim of gathering, analyzing and distributing them.

And do not forget the benefits of linking up with science historians, philosophers, ethnographers or sociologists: these "strangers" might be helpful in the puzzle-solving process!

- Andrea Scharnhorst and Paul Wouters, Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Andrea Scharnhorst and Paul Wouters recently spoke at the 3rd International Conference on e-Social Science. More information on this article, as well as references used, is available here.