Sunday, 11 September 2011

An investigation of the influence of cultural dimensions on the use of the Internet by Libyan academics (by Abdelkarim Agnawe)

Universities all over the globe have been amongst the most active Internet adopters. They use it to facilitate their educational and research activities.  Yet, such eagerness to adopt has not been observed in Libyan Universities. An investigation of the factors behind the low rate of Internet adoption in Libya is significant for enhancing our understanding of the adoption of new innovations. Hence, this study aims to explore how some dimensions of Libyan culture influence the use of the Internet by academic staff members at the University of Garyounis.

The focus of the study was developed through the findings of an exploratory study based on interviews with eight academics from the University of Garyounis. The results showed a number of factors such as sex segregation, societal and cultural norms and lack of training that seemed to be inhibiting Internet adoption. The study is potentially significant as the Government of Libya has recently launched a nationwide program to encourage use of the Internet for educational purposes.  

A review of the related literature reveals that existing technology acceptance theories have mainly been designed in developed western countries. Researchers have criticized the blind adoption of such models in investigations of technology adoption in developing countries such as Libya.  Such theories do not pay enough attention to the role of cultural factors in influencing Internet adoption and usage. My research is attempting to fill this gap. To pursue this aim, a theoretical framework has been developed integrating Hofstede’s model of differences among national cultures and Rogers’s Diffusion of Innovation theory. These two models are considered to be the most popular and powerful approaches in cross-culture studies in the information system field. The study adopts a qualitative methodology, employs case study strategy, and uses semi-structured interviews and observations for collecting data.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

More on Second Life

Ridvan Ata, who is supervised by Dr Julia Davies (School of Education) and Sheila Webber (Information School), will also be at the researcher seminar on Thursday. He will shortly be entering the data collection phase for his investigation into teaching in Second Life, the virtual world.
"As a consequence of rapid developments in information and communication technology (CI&T), three dimensional virtual learning environments (3D MUVEs) have become a focus of interest for teaching and learning environments particularly in higher education over the last decades. Therefore, the primary aim of this study is to develop a deeper understanding of 3D MUVEs, sometimes called Virtual Worlds, such as Second Life (SL), and investigate how tutors implement teaching in SL/ face-to-face(f2f) learning situations in higher education. In my work, I will be examining whether teachers find SL useful to enhance their pedagogy, including teaching strategies and approaches. Furthermore, I will look at which roles tutors undertake within SL when they are involved in blended settings, and how tutors overcome challenges such as learners' resistance to the virtual environment. As a methodological approach, this study is based on participation and observation in SL activities, meetings, group discussions, virtual conferences, social events, workshops, virtual trips etc., and interviews with tutors."

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

More on guidelines for academic writing

For the August meeting, Simon led a discussion on academic writing.  He introduced it with some comments by Richard Feynman and provided, as an example for discussion, some painfully convoluted prose from another American academic.

Some of us felt that Feynman's interpretation of the paper he was attempting to describe was overly simplistic.   Many people receive information via visual symbolic channels without necessarily "reading".  However, Feynman's point was valid.  A great deal of academic writing (particularly in social sciences and humanities) is unnecessarily opaque.  In 1996, a physicist (Alan Sokal) highlighted the problem when he published a hoax article which contained "syntactically correct sentences that have no meaning whatsoever...; strained and even absurd analogies; rhetoric that sounds good but whose meaning is ambiguous; and confusion between the technical and everyday senses of English words"  (Sokal, 1996).

Those of us that are native English speakers often struggle with academic writing.  It was interesting to hear therefore, from researchers attending the discussion whose first language is not English.  Unsurprisingly, they too struggled with much of what they had to read.  The two Arabic speakers present felt that academic writing in Arabic was less afflicted by unnecessary complexities than was academic writing in English.  It could simply be that they were less bothered by them, but it would be interesting to devise an opacity scale for publications in different subjects and different languages.

In the course of the discussion, I asked people to nominate examples of clearly written articles for inclusion in the blog. Sadly none were suggested.  Thanks to Liz C however, I now know that there is a Postmodernism Generator available online which randomly generates academic essays, and, in the late 1990s, the journal Philosophy and Literature ran a "Bad Writing" contest.

In response to a request from some overseas students for guidance on clear writing, Ben Allen recommended  George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language".  If nothing else, the key points at the end are worth taking on board:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.