Have you heard about Yammer? If not, you are not alone. Many people, who are otherwise familiar with social media like Facebook and Twitter, haven’t.
The reason for the relative obscurity of this social network service, which was launched in 2008 and acquired by Microsoft in 2012, is probably that it is designed for communication within organisations. Users can join a Yammer network only if they have an email address from the organisation’s domain. In that respect, Yammer differs from almost all other social media. Yammer works inside organisations, not in the public domain.
Its relative obscurity shouldn’t be taken as a sign of weakness, however. Described as a “Facebook for business”, Yammer has become a success in the corporate world; it is said to penetrate 85% of the Fortune 500 business, and sales are increasing rapidly. For good reasons — it is actually a pretty well-designed tool and probably well worth the price-tag of $1.2 billion for Microsoft that can now integrate it into its other products and help business customers strengthen their internal communication and culture.
Yammer is also spreading to universities around the world (see examples here). For example, here at the University of Copenhagen, Yammer has recently been introduced as a networking tool for the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences — and other faculties may follow suit.
But while Yammer may be good for business development it is not necessarily good for universities. This has everything to do with what kind of an organisation a university is supposed to be, and what role its staff and faculty members are thought to have in relation to the university versus to the outside world.
Yammer is probably good for universities to the extent that they define themselves as corporate organisations. Which they increasingly do. As former Harvard University President Derek Bok pointed out a decade ago in Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education (Princeton University Press, 2004), the notion of universities as private enterprises has spread throughout the entire university world.
That universities are in the marketplace means not only that they focus on the interaction with the corporate world (commercialisation). It also means that they begin to behave as if they too were companies competing with each other and other knowledge institutions on the global market (corporatisation).
The consequences of this increasing corporatisation of universities is all too well known: it means that students are viewed as customers, that professors and others members of faculty are redefined as ‘employees’, and that the results of research and teaching activities are measured in quantifiable productivity units.
Corporatisation also has consequences for the way universities think about communication. Twenty years ago, hardly any university in the world thought about branding itself like business corporations. Now most universities use considerable amounts of money on branding and they strengthen their communication and business relations departments to become more competitive.
I think this is the context in which the implementation of Yammer in universities has to be seen. Designed as a tool for enterprise social networking (its official name is actually ‘Yammer: The Enterprise Social Network’), might help build a stronger internal university organisation. But since it is explicitly designed not to involve actors outside the organisation, it will not enhance interaction and flow of information and knowledge between universities, or between universities and the public. On the contrary, the more we use tools like Yammer, the less time we will spend on outer-directed communication.
And this is, in my view, highly problematic for a university. Because by operating behind closed doors (you cannot find Yammer conversations through search machines), and by prioritising intra-corporate communication over peer-to-peer and public communication, closed enterprise networks in universities are working against one of the most celebrated norm sets for good scientific conduct (scientific ethos), formulated by the American sociologist Robert K. Merton.
The Mertonian norm set includes four basic rules for scientific conduct, viz., communalism, universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism (the ‘cudos’). Merton’s point was that science and scholarship can only thrive if universities and their researchers and scholars operate in full openness, share their knowledge with all interested colleagues, collaborate on a global scale, and criticize each others work in the public sphere. Science and academic scholarship is about collaborating and sharing, not about keeping information restricted to the own organisation.
So even though Yammer and similar corporate social network tools may be useful for communicating experiences about the administrative work in universities, it is not an appropriate tool for academic interaction and the promotion of a scientific culture. Its focus on closed communication at the expense of universal peer-to-peer and public communication is in direct opposition to the Mertonian norm set — which universities otherwise use to celebrate as a fundamental ethos for responsible conduct of research.
In contrast, most other social media are designed as platforms for communal and universal communication, and not least for organised skepticism. And therefore I think academics are better advised to embrace such platforms to create peer-to-peer bonds across universities and research institutions and engage with the public concerns about science and its technological implications.
So even if Yammer seems to be a business success, and even though it is a nicely designed and easy-to-use web tool, there are good reasons to be skeptical to the implementation of it in universities. I suggest researchers and scholars take an organised skeptical attitude to Yammer — unless we want to accelerate the development of the corporate university further.
PS: Another argument against corporate networking tools in academic settings, which my colleague Louise Whiteley has pointed out to me in a conversation, is that many PhDs and postdocs (actually the majority of the research staff in universities these days) are employed temporarily and expect they should be able to take professional communication with them when they move to another institution. So unlike a business, where your project-related communication belong to the company, in universities communication is part of work that you have ownership over, and so you are unlikely to want to situate intellectual discussions on such a platform.
5th newsletter from Medical Museion in 2013.
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David took part in the workshop at Medical Museion on 8-9 March and took these beautiful photos of the event. David Pantalony: “These are a few photos and comments from the workshop “It’s not what you think,” March 8-9 2013 at the Medical Museion in Copenhagen, Denmark. They offer merely a glimpse of some of the sights and experiences from what was a creative and inspiring workshop about the challenges of “communicating medical materialities.””
(Posted with permission from David Pantalony)
Professor of Medical Humanities at Durham University Jane Macnaughton reports her experiences with the workshop It’s Not What You Think at Medical Museion on 8-9 March 2013 (excerpt): “Adam and Louise had attracted a very diverse group of scholars, museum practitioners, artists, philosophers, science communicators – and one clinician (that was me) (…) One of the key themes that come out in our discussions was ‘to label or not to label’? Do artefacts in museums need labels, what should be written on them, and what force do these labels have on the reader?”
Jane Macnaughtons blog post Encounters with Medical Materialities at Medical Museion in Copenhagen was originally posted on the Centre for Medical Humanities Blog on March 11th. Click here to read the full post.
(reblogged with permission from Jane Macnaughton).
Centre for Medical Humanities Blog: News, updates and insights from the Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University
It’s less than four weeks left to yet another event here at Medical Museion — ‘The Data Body on the Dissection Table’ — organised by Annick Bureaud from Leonardo/Olats together with our own Louise Whiteley.
The event takes place in Medical Museion’s unique late 18th century anatomical lecture theatre in the old Royal Academy of Surgeons in Copenhagen in Tuesday 4 June, 6.30 — 9 pm.
Dissection reveals what lies beneath the skin, but for a brief moment in time, and for a privileged few. Depictions, models, and preservations have long been used to share what dissection uncovers; from ancient anatomical drawings to today’s virtual 3D anatomies.
In the 18th Century skinned “écorché” figures and anatomical waxes were constructed to reveal systems of interlocking bones, balanced pairs of muscles, and delicately entangled traceries of nerves and blood vessels. The Anatomy Lesson by Rembrandt, and the écorché The Horse Rider by Honoré Fragonard are famous examples at the border between medicine, science and art.
Contemporary medical sciences reveal ever more about the complex systems of the human body – but at a barely perceptible level. The (medical) human body today is understood, tested, and treated as a huge system of data, including complex interactions between our genetic material, our environment, and our host of microbial companions.
How do we grab hold of this data? How do we make sense of it and communicate it to others? How do contemporary artists and designers give our ‘data body’ material form through images, sound, and touch? What kind of tools are complex networks science proposing, and what kind of body do they reveal?
The Data Body on the Dissection Table brings together scientists, artists, philosophers, and designers to explore these questions, through roundtable presentations and audience discussion. The event takes place in Medical Museion’s auditorium – the Danish Royal Academy of Surgeons’ former anatomical theater.
Speakers at the roundtable include
The event is co-organised by Leonardo/Olats and Medical Museion under the EU Studiolab framework, and in conjunction with the Leonardo Day “Arts, Humanities and Complex Networks” satellite event for NetSci 2103.
Attendance is free within the seat limits, refreshments provided, but for logistical reasons it would be nice of you would like to register in advance at medm.us/databody
And again — the event is taking place on Tuesday 4 June at 6:30 – 9 pm
Venue: Medical Museion, Bredgade 62, DK-1260 Copenhagen K
Relevant web sites:
Just want to mention three upcoming Thursday afternoon lectures here at Medical Museion (abstracts will be up on our seminar page soonish):
* Thursday 30 May, 3pm: Morgan Meyer (Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, Paris) on labs in museums.
* Thursday 20 June, 3pm: Bruno Strasser (Science Education and History of Science, Geneva).
Please share with colleagues.
Here are some topics that medical museums need to get involved with if we want to engage with contemporary healthcare:
* Ambient Assisted Living for Elderly Care
* Ambient Intelligence and Intelligent Service Systems
* Analysis and Evaluation of Healthcare Systems
* Clinical Data and Knowledge Management
* Cloud Computing for Healthcare
* Collaboration Technologies for Healthcare
* Context-aware Applications for Patient Monitoring and Care
* Data mining Techniques and Data Warehouses in Healthcare
* Data Visualization
* Decision Support Systems in Healthcare
* Drug Information Systems
* Design and Development Methodologies for Healthcare Systems
* Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies in Healthcare
* Digital Hospitals
* E-health & m-health
* Electronic Health Records (EHR) & Personal Health Records (PHR)
* Evidence Based Medicine (EBM)
* Health Portals
* Information and Knowledge Processing in Healthcare Environments
* Middleware Support for Smart Homes and Intelligent Applications
* Privacy, Confidentiality and Security Issues in Healthcare Systems
* Related Real World Experimentations and Case Studies in Healthcare
* RFID Solutions for Healthcare
* Smart Homes and Home Care Intelligent Environments
* Telemedicine and Health Telematics
* Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing in Healthcare
* Usability & Socio Technical studies
* User Interface Design for Healthcare Applications
* Virtual and Augmented Reality in Healthcare
* Virtual Environments for Healthcare
Daunting, right? Or exciting — depending on the museum’s ambitions.
Why do medical museums need to get involved? The list of topics is copied from the call for papers for the 3rd International Conference on Current and Future Trends of Information and Communication Technologies in Healthcare, a meeting series that brings together “multi-disciplinary researchers, professionals and practitioners from both academia and industry”, who are engaged in different facets of healthcare and information and communication technologies (ICTs).
The list contains some of the most important developments and future trends of ICT in healthcare, medical research, public health and pharma. This is a significant part of the future of technoscience-driven medicine and health care.
And therefore it is a momentous challenge for medical museums. These are among the things museums need to collect, curate, exhibit and engage their public with if they don’t want to be reduced to insignificant repositories of the far past.
The next question is whether museums are intellectually prepared to deal with such future trends of healthcare and medical science. Will our traditional humanistic skills be sufficient? Is it enough to hire ICT specialists as curators? Or do we also need to rethink the way we do humanities research? I’ll get back these questions in a later post.
(featured image from here)
The title of this post is purely rhetorical because no one has asked me to teach a MOOC. In fact, I have not been involved with MOOCs at all, except as an observer from afar. Instead, the title is the result of me wondering why anyone would teach a course with tens of thousands of students enrolled (maybe more), who you would never meet, and for which there is an enormous amount of start up effort (designing the course, filming the lectures, figuring out the grading algorithms, etc., etc.)?
I understand why universities want to get MOOCs out there with their most prominent professors teaching them. Having a big name professor offer a MOOC brings many, many eyeballs to your campus logo (and even better to the website) and helps burnish your image in a global market for higher education. In short, MOOCs are marketing dollars well spent, even if they aren’t yet showing any sign they are good for the bottom line, given the terms that companies like Coursera are offering colleges and universities.
But why would a professor, especially a prominent (and presumably busy) professor, bother to spend all the time and effort necessary to bring a MOOC to market and then, one assumes, have some connection to its implementation? After all, designing a new course or redesigning an old one takes a lot of time in the analog world. When you consider the time required to film lectures, work with an editor to polish up that film and add in B-roll, design online assignments and assessments, and think through how students are going to progress through the various online materials, a MOOC represents a lot of time and effort.
After puzzling on this question, I can think of two answers.
The first is what we might call educational altruism. MOOCs offer faculty members a chance to make their courses available, for free, to the widest possible audience. As scholars we are supposed to be engaged in the circulation of knowledge, and being able to circulate one’s knowledge of a particular subject to 70,000 or 100,000 students, even if only a tiny fraction of them complete the course, is a potentially wonderful thing. I’m not sure that those students learn anywhere near what they would learn in a well designed face to face class, given that MOOCs largely replicate the lecture/listen binary model that is so ubiquitous in large American universities. That model has been demonstrated in countless studies by cognitive scientists to yield only minimal learning gains, even when taught by famous, or brilliant lecturers. But if the purpose of teaching a MOOC on one’s subject is to make one’s expertise in a given subject available, for free, to as many people as possible, that’s a laudable act. I’m not sure how much of this educational altruism there is out there, but I’m willing to admit that it might really exist.
The second reason is more mercenary and involves the sale of books and/or other collateral products. In particular, I wondered whether MOOCs offered faculty members an opportunity to make some serious money on the teaching and learning products that they have created?
To test my idea that book sales might just be part of the reason why some faculty members would teach a MOOC, I randomly selected eight courses across the disciplines and from various universities on the Coursera website. I tried to do the same thing at the Udacity site, but one cannot read the course syllabi there. What I found was that on all eight syllabi, the only readings students were expected to do were from free and open source/open access materials. However, five of the eight professors recommended or suggested as optional books that they had written, ranging in price from $8 to $110. One of the professors recommends only open source works, and the other two recommend books published by others for either $44 or $142.
If we assume for a minute that some fraction of the tens of thousands of students taking part in a given MOOC go ahead and purchase the “recommended” or “optional” book written by the professor teaching the course, the potential for significant earnings via book sales is very real. For the sake of argument, let’s say that I taught a MOOC that drew 50,000 students and I recommended as optional the ebook version of my new book ($19.95). And, for the sake of this same argument, let’s say that 10% of the students purchased a copy. Under the terms of my contract with the press, I would make just under $7,000 in royalties from the sale of those books. While $7,000 is not enough for the downpayment on that beach house I’ve been wanting, it’s still $7,000 in additional income.
Different states and different institutions have widely varying rules (and even laws) governing whether faculty members can require students to purchase a book from which the faculty member receives income. But those rules were made with the standard course for credit model in mind. MOOCs disrupt that model by not offering credit and in the cases I looked at, by having all textbooks be “recommended” or “optional.” Once MOOCs move to the credit bearing/tuition charging mode, it will be interesting to see whether there is any change in this approach. I suspect there won’t be, if only because the openness of a MOOC begins to break down once it starts to get expensive for students.
4th newsletter from Medical Museion in 2013.
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Over the weekend my friend and colleague Peter Haber passed away after an extended illness. I was only fortunate enough to know Peter for the past four years, but I benefitted greatly from his friendship, his collegiality, his ideas, and his good humor.
Like my former colleague Roy Rosenzweig, Peter was a “connector” — one of those people who brought others together for the benefit of everyone. Through Peter I have met and begun to work with a number of colleagues in Switzerland and Austria, colleagues I never would have met otherwise. More importantly, though, my understanding of digital history and digital humanities is so much richer for having read Digital Past. Geschichtswissenschaft im digitalen Zeitalter (2011). What Peter brought to the study of digital history was a scientific rigor, a style of analysis, that is so often lacking in English language scholarship on our field. If I could quibble with one thing about the edition of the book that I own, it is the photograph of Peter on the back cover. In that photo, he seems dark and mysterious. Those who knew him well, know he was anything but dark or mysterious.
Perhaps the most tangible evidence of Peter the Connector is his co-authored volume (with Marin Gasteiner), Digitale Arbeitstechniken (2010). When I read these essays I came away with a much better sense of the kinds of work being done by my German-speaking colleagues in digital history — work I would likely not know if Peter and Martin had not collected it. More importantly, though, I began to think about several issues near and dear to me in new and different ways. That is what the best scholarship does for us.
But really, Peter’s greatest academic contribution, in many ways, has been Hist.net, perhaps the longest-lived digital history blog in any language. With his close friend and collaborator Jan Hodel, Peter spent more than a decade making all things digital and historical available and accessible to a wide audience. I knew of the blog before I knew Peter and Jan, and one of my happiest professional moments was the day I received an email from the two of them inviting me to speak at a conference in Basel. For my own family health reasons, I couldn’t attend that meeting and so I was very pleased (and relieved) when they kindly invited me back the following year to speak in Basel. That meeting was the starting point of our three way friendship and collaboration on Global Perspectives on Digital History, a project that kept us connected until he became too sick to continue.
One the most enjoyable days I’ve spent in the past several years was with Peter, when he was still feeling fine, touring the Fondation Beyeler, then returning to Basel for a coffee. That is the Peter I will remember. But I will also remember the Peter who, when you said something he didn’t entirely agree with, would cock and eyebrow, pause, and then ask a probing question that politely disagreed, while trying to find a way that the two of us could agree. I will miss both of those Peters very much.
I wrote the other day that taking down museum exhibitions could be as much fun as building new ones.
That was a pretty spontaneous tongue-in-cheek comment triggered by our conservator Nanna Gerdes’ enthusiastic twitter series of images (see @NaGerdes and storified here, here and here) from the process of taking down three old exhibition rooms in our museum’s Tietkens Gaard building.
But the more I think about it, I feel this spontaneous remark has some deeper truth to it. Here’s the way I reason about it:
Most curators will probably think the design and building of an exhibition is more fun than taking it down afterward. Especially if you are interested in ideas and concepts, and in constructing new unseen worlds.
Sure, it can surely be forbiddingly exhausting to design and build: conceptualising and physically constructing a new exhibition in the interfaces between history and the present, between images and material artefacts, immaterial ideas and three-dimensional physical spaces can at times be frustrating and anxiety-provoking.
But all in all it’s a pretty satisfying creative process. And I think it is this combination of hard work and immersion in creative processes that make us think of exhibition making as being ‘fun’.
And in contrast, the taking down an exhibition after closing day sounds, from an exhibition curator’s point of view, like a pretty dull and boring activity. The opposite of having fun. Like cleaning up after the party rather than planning and taking part in it.
However, I think there is another and more fun side to taking down than the immediate connotations of boredom, deconstruction and cleaning up.
Whereas the building and construction process has certain similarities with being on speed (especially in the last couple of weeks and days before the opening), the post-closing process is much more relaxed. If building up is associated with fervour, even hysteria, taking down is more characterised by tranquility, even melancholia.
Now, paradoxically, the creative and conceptual focus in the building phase draws the curator’s attention away from the artefacts themselves. When you build an exhibition you are 110% focused on how to find the right objects and images, and how to make them fit into the overarching theme of the show. You concentrate on the meaning of the artefacts — their history, their social context, their cultural significance, how they play together with other artefacts into a meaningful whole. The concept and the idea are sovereign, the artefacts its subjects.
After closing down, however, the conceptual frame is dead. The curator’s ordering mind has since long continued to other storage room hunting grounds. Now the remaining artefacts are no longer subjected to the powerful mind of the inquisitive and sovereign curator, they are no longer props in the curator’s script. And suddenly we can see them for what they are, as artefacts pure and simple.
So if you really want to see, smell, touch and contemplate artefacts, you’d better not get too involved in the constructive building up of a new exhibition, but rather wait until the last visitor has left the rooms and the catalogue has been removed from the shelves of the museum shop. When the show is over, the curator in the original sense of the word (the one who cares about artefacts) enters the scene and takes a renewed and more intense look at the artefacts.
That intense dealing with the artefacts can be pretty ‘fun’ too. My online dictionary defines ‘fun’ as “a source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure”, and that’s what a less hectic and conceptual dealing with artefacts can be: enjoyable, amusing, pleasurable, playful.
Actually, even if we talk about exhibition making as ‘fun’, there isn’t really much time for pleasure and play in the process. Deadlines must be met, budgets kept, many different wills must be negotiated, and conflicts avoided. That’s hectic fun. But packing the whole thing down afterwards gives us a chance to engage with the things in a more free and relaxed way: that’s playful fun.
And after all, that’s what fun is about, isn’t it?
We’ve had two specialists in colour history visting from the National Museum of Denmark.
They have worked hard grinding down selected areas of the walls and doors in the museum’s Titkens Gaard building to find out what colours the new exhibition room have had since the mid 18th century.
See also Nanna’s tweets here.
For larger images, click the photos below:
You speak in sentences. We woke up one slow Sunday morning, and you said, “dog say woof.” I said, “oh yeah? What do cats say?” You didn’t answer, but when I asked you where our cats were, you said, “I don’t know!” And fair enough: they aren’t allowed in the bedroom at night, so who knows where they go when they’re behind the closed door! Having said these things, you proceeded to get off the bed safely, butt first.
Physics is a lot better now. Bath time is more awesome for your ability to squeeze the squirt toys. You hold your own bottle, which took an inexplicably long time. You can stand from sitting, slide down a slide, and oh, walk without holding on. No big deal, just walking. This is me not freaking out.
Cognitively? Huge leaps. Earlier this month you got stuck under chairs, which was hilarious; no more of that. You’re way more into stuffed toys. You’ve figured out that feeding yourself may be messier, but is infinitely better. You’re starting to get the concept of “gentle” with cats, babies, and most of the time even my face. You’ve figured out that calling me when you wake from a nap, instead of bursting into tears, totally works to bring me to you.
No more falling asleep at the boob: you’ve started to ask to be put to bed. Settling down after that might be tricky, but is a necessary life skill, so we’re both giving you space to learn this. Plus, falling asleep without being held means you can put yourself back to sleep when you wake, sometimes.
Sometimes. Everything is variable. The variability, and the fact that you’re talking up a storm and I understand about 10% of it, means tricky times at the Launch Pad.
Latest food exploits: you’re very thoughtful about coconut curry. Canned sardines are awesome. Blueberries are the best, except muscat grapes are even better. Cheese makes you tremble with excitement (then you make faces while eating it). Today’s toast with tapenade, tomatoes and feta was a smashing success. Cupcakes and ice cream and cat food… oh, my.
You give slobbery kisses and enjoy a little post-nap back rub. You’re getting more clingy cuddly. Spring is finally here, and you’re loving it almost as much as you love dogs.
Don’t believe anyone who tells you those big feelings you’re having will go away. They never do. But you’ll get much better at handling them! You’ll have no choice: eventually it’ll be either that, or I sell you to the next traveling space circus that comes through town.
As I wrote in an earlier post, we are now on the track of building up the new semi-permanent exhibition ‘Under the Skin’ in the museum’s Tietkens Gaard building.
In the last couple of months, our conservator Nanna Gerdes has worked hard to take down the three former exhibition rooms and packed the artefacts for remote storage.
Judged by Nanna’s enthusiastic photographing activities, taking down the old exhibitions for storage seems to be almost as fun as building up new ones.
(And here’s the ground plan of the rooms exhibition, ca. 25 x 12 meters in all:)