Michael Wesch at Digital Ethnography has posted a description of a collaborative research environment developed by one of his classes.
During the first month of the semester the Digital Ethnography class of 2008 has been hard at work trying to leverage various online tools to improve our collaborative research efforts. We have managed to pull together a number of free tools into a single research platform that I think is going to work out very nicely.
Wesch then goes on to describe how he and and his students have cobbled together a shared, online environment for recording their research notes and other materials using Netvibes, Zoho, wikis, and other tools. It seems like a great setup, particularly for this application: researching digital environments.
I am curious, however, to see how similar tools will be used for other kinds of research, particularly research of non-digital subjects. Any good tool needs to be 1) suited to the task and 2) suited to the user. My suspicion is that while Wesch’s online research environment works great for digital research—for example, Wesch describes a tool for displaying online video next to a research form, the latter of which can be filled out while the video is playing—I wonder if its usefulness for other research tasks—say, traditional library research—will be somewhat limited. Some users simply don’t like to read a book in front of the computer, for instance. (Although, people’s habits are rapidly changing, so it may turn out that I’m completely wrong about this.) In short, this is a great setup for online research, but its efficacy for other kinds of research will depend on individual user’s habits and what it is they want to study.