The Internet has fundamentally changed how research is done; from astronomers making vast amounts of data about galaxies available, to literary scholars crowdsourcing the annotation of novels. What impact do these and other changes in research have on the role of academic knowledge in society, and on how the public engages with this knowledge? Contemporary academic research can be found online alongside a range of other sources in searches for information.
In order to understand the dissemination and reach of academic knowledge, it is thus necessary to take into consideration the ways in which people search for information. Search, in turn, raises wider questions, such as: how do people assess the quality of information? Another change is that academics can directly engage their publics, not just via their web pages, but also by allowing them to participate in experiments, such as in climate change science, where researchers have enlisted individuals to help in running climate models on their own computers. These online activities related to research also provide new opportunities for analysing the role of knowledge in society, because they provide new sources of data. After moving through these examples, this talk concludes by reflecting on whether it is possible to develop a sociology of online knowledge.
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