German print media like Süddeutsche Zeitung and most recently Spiegel [1,2] have accumulated quite a history for characterizing bloggers and Social Media as incompetent, socially irrelevant, unpolitical, self-satisfied, self-referential or even lacking a clear identity, as if digital life would simply vanish as a consequence of their writing. In the face of declining sales numbers, German established media reactions have become increasingly scornful with regard to bloggers in that they teach their increasingly elderly readership to be afraid of bad things that come with the internet – makes for ideal preconditions for a warm relationship.
Amongst deserving more public recognition are Open Access research journals since they abest ccount for the internet as the emergent knowlege world I blogged about earlier. Though growth of OA research journals has been significant, OA still has yet to compete with the non OA journal limited to subscribers and libraries willing and able to pay. The USA is expectedly in a leading position with 773 OA journals, followed by Brazil with 333 journals, United Kingdom with 310, Spain with 203, Germany with 138 and Japan with 107 journals (full list here). With only 67 of the registered 3530 journals, sociology is far from the most active disciplines. Three hopefuls for an emerging online sociology world are Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung (German, English & Spanish), Econsoc Newsletter (English) and STI-Studies.
Let me recommend the current issue of STI, „the first internationally oriented, reviewed online journal for the German speaking STI community“ that devotes two of four articles to internet related topics. All four articles are fascinating literature for today, and STI even invites readers to engage in a open dialogue because it introduces a comments form on their website. My hope is that open access journals like this one will spread much further and enable scientists, teachers, students, journalists and a broader public to search for peer reviewed scientific information online.
The first of four articles by Frank Kleemann, G. Günter Voss and Kerstin Rieder introduces a work and business perspective of Web 2.0. In „Un(der)paid Innovators: The commercial Utilization of consumer work through crowdsourcing„. Web 2.0 technology has enabled companies to outsource time consuming work activities to the paying customer or – more broadly – consumer and is evidence of a shift in relations between firms and their customers. We are witnessing the emergence of a new consumer type: the „working consumer“. In the conventional role, consumers used to be the passive „kings“ to be waited upon. Recently, consumers have become more like co-workers who take over specific parts of a production process, whereby both the process and the result remain under the control of a commercial enterprise or provider. The article seeks to develop a more precise definition of crowdsourcing and to differentiate crowdsourcing from peripheral related phenomina such as the open source movement. In its conclusion, the article develops the argument that the consumer works as unpaid employee or innovator and discusses potential consequences of crowdsourcing from a work and industrial sociology perspective [pdf] [comment].
In his article „Nanotechnology – an empty signifier à venier? A delineation of a techno-socio-economical innovation strategy“ Joscha Wullweber gives a critical account of the Nano-hype. Nanotechnology is perceived as a key technology of the 21st century. As a result, nano plays an important role in government policies devoted to technology. Nanotechnology is supposedly appealing for many actors, since it is expected to both produce entirely new materials and revolutionize production processes in various industries. Approaching the ‘nano-hype’ from a discourse-theoretical perspective, Wullweber aims to show that nanotechnology is an empty signifier rather than a developed technology. This empty signifier provides the basis for an encompassing socio-economic project that is kept together only by the signifier itself. This “innovation project” creates a link between nanotechnology and the future of the industrialised states. It aims, above others, at their reconstruction along competitive criteria as ‘competition states’. The author discusses nanotechnology policies within a discursive field of political and economic interests and strategies and highlights the importance of hegemonic struggles for the construction of a nanotech market and nanotech as a political reality [pdf] [comment].
Jörg Potthast turns to air safety in his article „Ethnography of a paper strip: the Production of air safety“ and asks, how come, that nowadays, where so many things are organized in computer systems and online, air traffic control relies on „flight strips“, that is, papersheets. One answer is „paper has helped to shape work practices, and work practices have been designed the use of paper.“ (Harper & Sellen 1995, in Potthast 2008). Potthast finds this explanation unsatisfactory and aims to identify the social practices in the air traffic control centers that account for air safety, knowing about the risks and huge consequences of potential organizational failure in air traffic. In his ethnographic fieldwork, the author proceeds makes seven stops (1) at the Eurocontrol Experimental Centre at Brétigny south of Paris, (2) in the political arena of European skies, (3) in the professional practice of the air traffic controller who recapitulates critical incidents over and over, (4) at the technical support, (5) in the control room where all operations must proceed free of conflict or even aggression, (6) the seminar room, where the worlds of control people and technical people overlap and (7) the sudden end of a collaborative R & D project in the aftermath of 9/11. Based on his ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in two air traffic control centers, Pottast shows that the paper strip was not abandoned but leaves open the question how different sets of social practices are interrelated and how different conceptions of air safety are brought together in practice. [pdf] [comment]
Finally, Niels Taubert examines decision making and decision implementation processes in free/ open source software production in his article „Balancing Requirements of decision making and action: decision making and Implementation in Free/Open Source Software Projects„. Referring to Nils Brunsson, the author sets out with antagonistic requirements of (rational) decision-making and action: On the one hand, rationality of decision-making implies extensive evaluation of alternatives and arguments that can lead to an uncertainty as to which of the alternative will be chosen. On the other hand, a good basis for collective action is established when uncertainty is reduced and consistent expectations exist as to what kind of action will be performed. Corroborating on an empirical analysis of a decision-making process and interviews conducted with FOSS developers, the author identifies three mechanisms of bringing a controversial discussion to an end: (1) rational consensus, ending a decision making process by virtue of an argument leading to a well-funded decision (2) seeking a compromise which takes into account previously discussed suggestionsm, or (3) moving from collective decision making to individual action – a last conceivable solution to not let a project fail alltogether. Taubert’s paper concludes with an evaluation to what extent each of these mechanisms serves the requirements for rational decision-making and action. [pdf] [comment].
What OA journals do you wish to recommend for me?