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Founding First Five – by Tamsyn Gilbert
Image from Mochimochiland.com
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Tamsyn Gilbert (founder of First Five) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects to share what their intentions were when they established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

As an idea, it’s pretty simple. First Five is a website that asks theorists, musicians and artists the first five websites that they visit each day and why. The contributors to First Five are people that I have asked to participate. They are the theorists, academics and artists who I am interested in or have influenced my own work in some way. In this sense, First Five is heavily curated towards my interests and research. I am concerned with how these people who are significant to my way of thinking use the web (a space that I use and participate in/with so often) as both a space of function and a knowledge building space.

So what can we read from these websites that these theorists visit daily? Most contributors’ websites include those for research, work, play and entertainment. News websites (The Guardian, The New York Times) are prominent, along with social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr) and then there are usually one or two websites that are ‘unique’ to that person. In a space where there is an abundance of content, economies of attention are crucial, it seems vital to know what websites theorists are spending their time on and why, for at least at one point in time.

In relation to my own work, the instinct to create First Five was to think of it as a time capsule of interests of influential people. For me, First Five acts as an archive of web knowledge, practices and sensibilities. The Internet is not only a space for learning and gaining information, but also sharing it. But what has been interesting about First Five is not only how eager people are to share, but also to learn and form relationships with those that have similar interests. I am not sure what may come from the website, but I am interested in collecting the data, sharing the sites that others visit and learning along the way.

In a more general sense, First Five has taught me how to engage on the Internet, how to communicate with other academics around an idea and the skills that are required to do so (whether through email, or twitter). First Five has shown me what it means to engage with people online around an idea. Although it is my website, I am not the only author. I am simply the curator. The ability to collect information, display and share that information with others and to critique that information are not only useful skills found in web activity, but also for the life of an academic. Further, the website would not exists without the people who are willing to contribute. It is not paid work, these people take their own time and energy to participate in my project. Collaboration and participation are the keywords of the Internet and with this, intellectuals need to understand that these components are essential to the productive sharing of knowledge and acting in this space. I hope by creating First Five I can share just one part of this knowledge.

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