Research Interests :

* Technology and Society
* Information and Communication Technologies Usage
* Sociotechnical Aspects of Innovation
* Technologies in Organization
* Cyberinfrastructure, E-Science
* Women and Technology
* Communication and Cognition
* Qualitative Methodologies

Current research projects :

 

  • Information Infrastructures for Scientists : Analysis of sociotechical innovation processes within the ArcticNet research network

 

Florence Millerand, Université du Québec à Montréal (Principal investigator)

 

Funding: Fond de recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC) 2008-2014

The project aims to analyse the development of data sharing infrastructures within the research network ArcticNet (i.e. the PDC meta-data database). Drawing upon Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Communication Studies, this research employs a qualitative methodology to develop a deep understanding of the processes involved in scientific collaboration and technological innovation.

The project is guided by the following questions:

- How information infrastructures develop and evolve in research communities?

- To what extent the innovation dynamics are both social and technical processes?

- What kind of changes in the scientific practices, the disciplinary outlook on research data, and the organization of scientific work may occur with these technological advances?

In this project we explore how the development of an information infrastructure to support scientific collaboration and data sharing within the multidisciplinary research community, ArcticNet, challenges existing collaboration practices and relationships to knowledge embedded in epistemic cultures specific to disciplinary fields.

The project focuses on the sociotechnical aspects of ‘cyberinfrastructure’ development (also called ‘e-science’) i.e. network-based infrastructure for scientific activity, and it aims to provide an ethnographically informed understanding of current transformations in the practice of knowledge production.

The ArcticNet Network


ArcticNet is a Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada that brings together scientists and managers in the natural, human health and social sciences with their partners from Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies and the private sector to study the impacts of climate change in the coastal Canadian Arctic. Over 145 ArcticNet researchers from 30 Canadian Universities, 8 federal and 11 provincial agencies and departments collaborate with research teams in Denmark, Finland, France, Greenland, Japan, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the USA.

 

  • Co-evolution of infrastructure and expertise in the collaborative production of scientific knowledge

Lorna Heaton, Université de Montréal (Principal investigator)
Florence Millerand
, Université du Québec à Montréal (Co-investigator)

Serge Proulx, Université du Québec à Montréal (Co-investigator)

 

Funding: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) 2008-2011

 

Research theme #1: The re-articulation of relationships between experts and amateurs in the collaborative production of botanical knowledge – The case of Tela Botanica

 

Founded in 1999, TelaBotanica (http://www.tela-botanica.org/) is a French-language network for exchange and communication among botanists. The network is Internet-based with a collaborative Website (wiki) similar to Wikipedia but limited to Botanical knowledge production, sharing and exchange.

 

The network serves over 15,000 members from Europe, Africa, North America, Asia and the Middle East. In keeping with the botanical tradition, the network brings together botanists and naturalists, scientists and nonscientists, experts and amateurs, with two thirds of its members having a professional connection to botany. Beginning in 2002, TelaBotanica initiated a collaborative Website that has been extremely successful and has served as a model for initiatives in other (scientific and nonscientific) communities.

 

Out methods are ethnographically inspired and include : Semi-directive interviews with staff, contributors, partners (including group interviews); Observations of activities (online discussion forums, meetings, workshops, projects – e.g. herbiers, eFlore…); Analysis of documents and infrastructure ( internal documents, website, collaborative tools, statistic of trafic).

The participation of both professional and amateur botanists in this large online network raises questions of the re-articulation of relationships between lay and expert knowledge and the empowerment of ordinary people to produce scientific knowledge.

Tela Botanica: the French-speaking botanists Network

Founded in 1999, the Tela Botanica network contributes to bringing together all francophone botanists to promote the exchange of information, to run projects thanks to new communication technologies and to provide open source data to serve the whole botanical community, professionals as well as amateurs. Operating exclusively on the Internet, it provides a vast array of tools and on-line ressources: discussion lists, databases, mapping tools, collaborative spaces, newsletter, digitized books, publications, bibliographic references, etc.

Research theme #2: Co-evolution of tools and expertise - The case of Outils-Réseaux

Born within the TelaBotanica network, Outils-Réseaux is a group whose mission is to encourage the development and use of collaborative tools by associative movements. Outils-Réseaux’s approach to software development focuses on accompanying the groups it works with rather than simply providing technical solutions. Use of collaborative tools by a group is viewed as secondary, and subsequent, to a group’s experience with cooperation. Outils-Réseaux is particular in its insistence on using the simplest tools possible in order to minimize obstacles to use and in being guided by their client association’s needs, group dynamics and the evolution of the appropriation process.

 

We draw on interviews and an analysis of the content of the project’s Wiki pages.

We explore the coevolution of both technical infrastructure (tools for collaboration) and the community, and we analyse how Outils-Réseaux mediates between the (social) world of users and the technical world of software developers.

 

  • Comparative Interoperability Project (2004 - Presently)

Geoffrey Bowker, University of Pittsburgh(Principal investigator)
Karen Baker, University of California at San Diego (Principal investigator)
Florence Millerand, Université du Québec à Montréal

David Ribes, Georgetown University

Funding: NSF #0433369 (Interoperability Strategies for Scientific Cyberinfrastructure: A Comparative Study)

Website: http://interoperability.ucsd.edu/

The development of new infrastructures for research and collaboration are occurring together with changes in expectations for scientific knowledge. A central question being posed is how to sharedata across multiple distributed organizational and social contexts. While there have been a wealth of suggestions for technical fixes for this pressing concern (particularly important since some of the great political questions of our day, such as preserving biodiversity and developing a sustainable relationship with our environment pivot on the ability to federate data across organizational and disciplinary contexts), there has been little study - and no comparative study - of the organizational and social dimensions of differing data interoperability strategies (i.e. approaches for interconnecting datasets).

Our working hypothesis, drawing on research in the field of social informatics over the past fifteen years, is that the creation of a common shared data infrastructure entails complex negotiations relating to the relative institutional weight of the different actors (institutions have a range of motives for subscribing or not to interoperability strategies), the nature of their disciplinary organization (in particular reward structures; openness to interdisciplinary work; history of use of large datasets) and the nature of their domain work (degree of commitment to long-term data storage and re-use; decay rate of data over time; need to draw on large federate datasets).

Through this study, we will develop a grounded understanding of the organizational complexity producing shared scientific cyberinfrastructure. As contemporary scientific questions increase in scope, conceptual frameworks must also broaden. The CIP project considers a collaborative interdisciplinary team as a strategy for working with larger-scale interdependent configurations. A team of participants across disciplines is requisite for posing as well as addressing contemporary cyberinfrastructure issues.

This project is a comparative study of interoperability strategies within three contemporary cyberinfrastructures. Our methods will include ethnographic, interview, and content data analysis to provide a situated social and organizational comparison of three scientific projects employing distinct infrastructures and deploying approaches to achieving data interoperability.

The three projects are:

1. The GeoScience Network GEON, a cyberinfrastructure for the US geo-sciences aimed at providing scientific data and resource sharing services to a broad range of disciplines to ensure a more integrated picture of earth processes.
2. The Long-Term Ecological Research Network LTER, a federated network of biome sites developing an information infrastructure that aims at enabling inter-disciplinary collaboration and preserving data for the long-term in the ecological sciences.
3. The Ocean Informatics initiative, a nascent initiative for the ocean sciences based at UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography that aims at sharing scientific data using a collaborative design environment.

Publications available on the project website: http://interoperability.ucsd.edu/

 

Past research projects :


E-mail usage and appropriation by researchers: Emergence of a digital culture? (doctoral dissertation, 2003)

This thesis examines the uses of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as cognitive technologies, proposing a renewed model for usage studies that is centred around the appropriative process's cognitive dimension. Based on a study of university teacher- scholars' e-mail use, we examine the processes of appropriation and acculturation which took place as part of the ongoing development of uses and practices. This allows us to address a set of central research questions : how do scholars appropriate e-mail as a cognitive technology ? To what extent can the uses they make of it favour the emergence of a digital culture ?

At the theoretical level, we called on the advances made by the sociology of uses, and especially its work on the social appropriation of ICTs, supplemented by the recent contributions of cognitive approaches, most notably in the area of distributed cognition. Building bridges between these disciplines provided an improved understanding of the processes through which uses are formed, and allows us to better grasp the role played by the technical artefacts themselves, particularly through their affordances. At the methodological level our qualitative approach, based in a grounded theorisation perspective, consisted of interviewing an informant group made up of twenty-four e-mail- using university professionals working in sixteen different disciplines, ranging from the social sciences and humanities to the pure sciences.