A naturalistic journey into the collaboratory: In search of understanding for prospective participants
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This study is a three-phase naturalistic probe of the information environment of the collaboratory and is intended to support the expansive, ecological research of others. The collaboratory is a “center without walls,” or a virtually collocated, collaborative laboratory where scientists, instruments, and data come together via computer network technology without regard to geographic location. In Phase One, an objective reality of the collaboratory is constructed from the documents made accessible through the world's libraries. Taxonomy construction and quantitative and qualitative data analysis are used to investigate and prove as practiced principles the assumptions of relative equality of contribution to collaboratory research by the hard and soft sciences, and the inherent interdisciplinarity of the collaboratory environment. An emergent theory of the collaboratory as an ungendered environment is developed. Phase Two creates a subjective reality of the collaboratory based on experiential immersion in the online environment. An evaluative instrument, the CIRAL matrix of criteria for inclusion as a collaboratory, is developed and tested, and four collaboratory site visits are developed. The collaboratory is found to be an instrumentally determined social environment, with each implementation unique in its combinations of communication modes and media, and each generating unique types of data stores. Phase Three constructs an intersubjective reality of the collaboratory during an electronic Delphi among collaboratory pioneers. The Delphi determines the “rules of the road” for the collaboratory and identifies skills collaboratory pioneers value in prospective participants. Phase Three identifies cognitive dissonance between the intersubjective reality of collaboratory pioneers and Phase One's findings of relative equality of contribution to, and ungenderedness of the collaboratory environment. Size of collaboratory is explored as a determining factor in preferences for balance between formal and informal communication modes, and structured and fluid experiment planning. The three realities are intertwined to construct a holistic, synoptic survey of the collaboratory as an emergent knowledge environment in which old science is done with new tools, but from which new science has yet emerged.