Research


My research over the past ten years has focused on the fast changing relations between digital technologies, communication and the information requirements of local and global communities in the context of adult education. My research is multi-disciplinary and includes study of the fields of adult education, philosophy, psychology, sociology, communication studies, design studies, information sciences and educational technology. My recent research has focused on the changes that new technologies bring to human learning and is at the cutting edge of the Learning Sciences. I finished my PhD in May 2010 and my thesis was published at Swansea University in the UK with as title: Networked Connectivity and Adult Learning: Social Media, the Knowledgeable Other and Distance Education.

I believe that four current developments will be most influential in changing society and education and learning in particular in the near future:

1. Digitization, data visualization and analytics offer new opportunities for digital scholarship. The digitization of primary sources such as books provides researchers with the opportunity to analyze and visualize trends, and map history and connect concepts. Government data is increasingly open and available. It will be possible to gain new insights into society’s relationship as researchers will be able to work more and more with digitized and connectable texts and data. Of course this also poses threats and ethical challenges as power relations, control and ownership on the Web might cause vital absences in digital archives and interpretative losses. In addition, the possibilities of visualization of communication and dialogue offer advanced opportunities for debate in the open, outside the sphere of institutions and regular media, and also pose questions in relation to the place of the material object in digital culture.

2. The need for a refinement of working with information. As our number of information sources has increased dramatically and information becomes more fragmented, the need to work with information in a different way in order to keep coherence and the ability to evaluate its quality is becoming apparent. The openness of the Web has made that people have access to a growing amount of data, not only comprising primary sources, but also consisting of social interactions and cultural artefacts. The Web is not a power free and hierarchy free environment however, and people have already began organizing these streams of information and activities using search engines, information hubs , human filters, lists, tags and #tags. I believe that if our future searches are to be meaningful, we will need structures that allow for the use of concept tags, rather than word tags, and recommender systems that feed off the innate semantics of the Web.

3. The World Summit on the Information Society developed the vision in 2003 to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improve their quality of life. Cloud computing and the emergence of social media have altered the dynamics of the Web. Our literacies no longer involve a linear process that consists of printed text, but they increasingly involve the production of digital artefacts on mobile devices and the storage of these away from local computing devices, while requiring the use of a variety of social media for communication, collaboration and sharing. Emergent tools have created new opportunities for human agency, in the form of active digital citizenship, creativity and self-expression, which also offers new opportunities for learning away from institutions on the open Web. Examples would be community history making, self-publishing of music and digital stories, networked engagement through social media in the form of participatory culture, media activism, culture jamming, remix and mash-up cultures. These phenomena themselves are interesting and important areas for research, but also ask for the consideration of ethical and privacy issues.

4. From these three developments arises the fourth: they bring new research methodologies and their ethical dimensions to the fore. I am currently a researcher for the NRC and am employed in the Institute for Information Technology (Learning and Collaborative Technologies) where I investigate the design and development of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and the constraints and affordances of such environments for human learning. My role as researcher in this project is to design, test and evaluate, in a team environment, iterative cycles of development and learning in order to establish the effectiveness of digital technologies for personal learning, communication and information aggregation.