Today, the British Library announces its Growing Knowledge exhibition, a nine-month project from October 2010 that I’m involved with as its Researcher in Residence. It’s an exciting role for me; I have the opportunity to help develop the content of what visitors will see when they visit the library’s showcase of the research tools of the future, and I am involved in on-the-ground analysis of what researchers in the field currently use and seek from digital technologies across the academic spectrum.

Here’s the official bumph:

Digital research tools are changing the possibilities of research: students and researchers can synthesise, expose and repurpose information in dynamic new ways; mass digitisation and text encoding is making historic material more accessible and online databases are extending the boundaries of research.

But there are significant challenges. How will increasing and complex amounts of data be managed and visualised in the future? What does this mean for libraries, archivists and librarians – formerly the ‘gatekeepers’ of research information? Critically, are researchers taking full advantage of the technologies now available for research purposes?

I am, genuinely, amazed at how digital tech has transformed the research experience. I used no digital tools in my first degree, which I completed in 1996, except the word processor on my humble Apple Color Classic. But in the seven year hiatus between my undergrad and my first post-grad degree, libraries transformed. They literally transformed. When I returned to University for my MSc, the entire research process had changed because of digital technology. It was profound. And it continued throughout my PhD.

Over the last decade, I’ve discovered and used an enormous library of digital tools that can be applied in all phases of my research – from inspiring the initial questions (what is the relationship between online activity in virtual communities and offline feelings of self-efficacy?; How do attitudes and behaviours spread around the social networks of the World Wide Web?), to accessing and documenting the literature (a digital library at my fingertips! my research organised by Reference Manager!), to designing both qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques (semi-structured interviews via chatrooms, focus groups in virtual worlds, online surveys developed using web frameworks, server scraping for behavioural data), to analysing the data (…if only I’d had access to a supercomputer, my PhD would have taken a year less than it did), to writing it up and receiving feedback (my research blog), to distributing the findings (on my website, CC licenses, virtual and real conferences).

My involvement with the Growing Knowledge project will to look at how researchers on the ground are currently using the tools at their disposals – including the barriers they face and the ways they overcome them – and what they could get out of using the tools that companies are developing for the future. There are close ties with UCL and JISC who are evaluating the digital research tech that will be on display, including a Microsoft Surface table, mobile technologies and the multimedia workstations.

I’ll also be working with the event team on a programme of live events about the relationship between art, science and tech, playful technologies and what they might reveal, digital research ethics, biomedics and technology and information overload, among others.

The exhibition launches on 12 October, so we’re still a half a summer away, but keep your eyes on this space for updates and information as it arises.

I’m open to suggestions for events you’d like to see that deal with digital research now and in the future. Please do send them to aleks.krotoski (at)

And if you want to tweet, the hashtag is #blgk