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A bit more to it: Scholarly Communication Forums as Socio-Technical Interaction Networks

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Abstract

In this article, we examine the conceptual models that help us understand the development and sustainability of scholarly and professional communication forums on the Internet, such as conferences, pre-print servers, field-wide data sets, and collaboratories. We first present and document the information processing model that is implicitly advanced in most discussions about scholarly communications—the “Standard Model.” Then we present an alternative model, one that considers information technologies as Socio-Technical Interaction Networks (STINs). STIN models provide a richer understanding of human behavior with online scholarly communications forums. They also help to further a more complete understanding of the conditions and activities that support the sustainability of these forums within a field than does the Standard Model. We illustrate the significance of STIN models with examples of scholarly communication forums drawn from the fields of high-energy physics, molecular biology, and information systems. The article also includes a method for modeling electronic forums as STINs.

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