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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

2.5.3 Open natural systems in digital libraries

This is based on the work of Lisa Covi and Rob Kling from the University of California, Irvine. Their research focuses on use of digital library (DL) resources by academic staff and student researchers across a range of universities and disciplines.

[Covi&Kling1996] divide models of organisational behaviour into one of four types: closed rational, closed natural, open rational, open natural. They then identified clusters of DL research questions relating to connectivity, content and usability from the perspective of service providers and research users. They found the opposition between closed rational systems and open natural systems to be the most productive in the insights it provided. They argue that both perspectives are necessary. Of particular interest for the research in this thesis is their analysis of faculty research work as an open spiral rather than a document centred loop ([Covi&Kling1996, p. 682, Fig. 2]), which is clearly an alternative way of stating the same ideas represented by Kaufer and Carley's Knowledge-Interaction Cycle.

[Covi1996] draws on the same body of organisational behaviour theory to contrast the closed rational perspective of bounded database searching with the open natural perspective of social worlds. Social worlds enable the researcher to examine the conventions that govern DL use with a focus on the activity of scholarly communication. This research found that DL users moved in multiple social worlds: the workplace (with proximate and temporal influences), their academic discipline, their occupational niche (and hence research subspeciality). Each of these social worlds influenced DL use in differing ways. Natural systems perspectives see organisations as "competitive organisms who inherit organizational characteristics, develop and change their identities and respond to environmental factors" [Covi1996], in a manner reminiscent of Kaufer and Carley's communication ecology.

This body of theory provides some valuable insights into journal use (as a particular DL artefact) but does not sufficiently emphasise the electronic journal as communication artefact.

Last modified: Monday, 11-Dec-2017 14:40:55 AEDT

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * http://andrew.treloar.net/ * andrew.treloar@gmail.com