Sunday, 1 November 2009

Faster than a speeding bulletin from up here in the frozen North.

I was interested to read this week of the way in which we are tending to use web based search engines. It appears that 60% of us use search engines for navigational purposes, trying to find a particular website like Salford.ac.uk for example. The remaining 40% of us tend to use search engines for informative reasons like finding your GPs telephone number for example. Whilst the use of the internet for these purposes continues to grow, it is other forms of real-time web use that are really pushing the boundaries of how we communicate and keep abreast of the news. Twitter, for example provided real time of the minute narrative of the riots as these occurred in Iran with information literally coming direct from the streets themselves. Our VC recently asked for colleagues to comment and make suggestions on his plans for teaching and academic developments using his blog. This is a trend that is set to grow and is a way of communication that will ensure as many people as possible are able to contribute to decision making and future developments. However, I am not sure we are all ready to take advantage of such opportunities, and the challenge will be to find ways to make such developments attractive to individuals and something they can gain a benefit from as well.

It’s clear that such developments in communication and dissemination of information are likely to shape the way we do many other things in the future (and perhaps not always for the better). For example, this weekend I am in Finland pulling together a research bid that I am developing with colleagues from Estonia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Croatia and Finland. Whilst it is good to travel, I might possibly have been able to achieve what I have done, and in real time, simply by using Skype to video conference. It wouldn’t have been the same experience, although it would have been much cheaper. But I am not sure we need to keep having the same old experiences. I think it will be interesting to see which big name conference moves to virtual participation rather than encouraging people to travel half way around the world to present their work.

Anyway, it was great being back here in Finland. It is one of my favorite places to visit. It was minus 7 when I got off the plane, but during the day the sun has shone and transformed the landscape. Thanks to Mikko for his hospitality and it was great to meet Leena and Heikki as well. We looked at photos taken when I first came here some 11 years ago. It was an amazing look back in time. Not sure quite when my hair turned silver.

Finally, please feel free to comment on this blog – its takes a few short steps to register an account and then you can let me know what you think. After all, I am trying to keep in touch with the way new communication technology is going!