This session will look at the complex interactions involved in the creation, storage and management of learning resources from the point of view of an ecological study. In its biological sense, ecology is an approach to studying a complex network of interacting entities that might live in the same space, share the same resources or be subject to the same environmental pressures. The entities are of varied types each with their own requirements and aims but all mutually dependent on, or in competition with other entities. Clear parallels can be drawn between the subjects of biological ecology and the systems and entities at play in an information and learning environment: we aim to use this session to explore how information and learning environments can be treated metaphorically as ecosystems and how such an ecological approach to their study might enhance other ways of understanding them.
This session will be led by Phil Barker; please contact him if you have any queries relating to it.
The session runs from 13:30 to 17:30 on Tues 20th Nov.
The JISC's Repository Research Team has been exploring how an approach inspired by the biological science of ecology might be applied to study the interactions of repositories and services in an information environment. The hope is that this repository ecology work (or wider work on an information ecology) will complement current technical models and architectures by emphasizing the full range interactions involved (not just those from machine to machine) and will provide a more accessible and intuitive framework for non-technical specialists to provide input to building services for the information environment.
A public draft of the Repository Research Team's report "An ecological approach to repository and service interactions" is available (pdf, file size 3MB). This describes in some depth both the way in which the ecology metaphor might be applied to repositories and information systems and gives examples of the result of such application. This work was the subject of a workshop at the European Conference on Digital Libraries in Budapest on 21 September. The workshop at the JISC CETIS conference will be the first presentation of and opportunity to discuss this work in the UK.
The RRT draft report describes the following key concepts that underpin an ecological study:
That report also identifies two ecological approaches to studying the interactions: habitat mapping and resource tracking. Habitat mapping involves describing a particular "location", that is describing the position that an entity finds itself in the other entities and environmental factors that are relevant to it. Resource tracking involves focusing on a particular type of resource and how it is passed around the system being studies: an example from biology is the nitrogen cycle.
During the workshop we shall introduce the approach taken in the repository ecology work and present examples of its application, before applying these concepts by creating a rough sketch of the interactions involved as a learning resource is created, stored and used. The aim will be to try to explore through the discussion of these examples whether this approach to studying information systems does usefully expand on more traditional approaches.