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A blog for my academic ideas, more or less.

Taking Advantage of the British Library

From some discussions I’ve been having recently about public spaces where people can interact, and from the experience I had at Bookcamp, I’m thinking about trying to set up a wiki or blog of some kind to encourage/enable researchers to hold impromptu meetings/seminars/discussions.

There are so many people working in the British Library, it seems a shame that you might be working across from someone who’s researching similar things to you and you’d never speak to them.

What prompted this was that me and a friend were going to meet in the cafe to do a little brainstorm session on Raymond Carver – she’s developing some ideas on how he uses architecture and inside/outside in his fiction, and I said I’d like to go through his stories with her exploring this, as I kept getting little bursts of inspiration when thinking about it. I wondered if there’d be anyone else in the BL that day who would be interested in joining our discussion, but there’s no way to actually signal something like this.

How would it work?

Thinking more about it, a wiki would probably be better for this – people check in at the start of the day, put a notice up saying ‘I’d like to talk about Marxist accounts of the Boston Tea Party at 3pm in the downstairs cafe’ – others can leave a comment saying they’d like to come along, people could arrange how to recognise each other, that kind of thing.

Obviously it’d allow the potential for wider uses of this. Main concern is it depends on a net-literacy that I’m not sure many academics actually have…

Are people as interested in creating spontaneous and meaningful connections as I am? Maybe this is what comes from researching in a small field!

EDIT: new idea, thought of while wandering around the BL – to visualise the data from a potential online-diary system. To integrate the information into the fabric of the building. There is a piece of canvas just now above the Folio Society Gallery that constantly projects, well, the words “Folio Society Gallery” – this could be re-purposed to display a rolling schedule, advertising what meetings or sessions people are having and where they will be located. I am imagining this perfect harmonious union of online and real spaces, I know, but we can all dream…and surely this is the kind of place the BL should aspire to be.


Filed under: miscellaneous,

4 Responses

  1. Alex says:


    Academics are internet-wusses, still.

  2. Stuart says:

    Sounds like a good idea. I find the BL a rather unfriendly place to work (compared to the Bod in Oxford where the people at the desks know who I am and most of the readers are students here).

    A problem I can see, related to web-literacy, is whether people will actually be using the internet there. Am I right in thinking it costs money? I know a lot of people do, but never have when I’ve been there. If it was on a webpage accessible from the public computers, that would work (or even better, a page hosted by the BL).

  3. looceefir says:

    The BL has free wi-fi now, which is one reason why I think this could be viable – there’s a lot of potential for such a massive space filled with London’s researchers, and there should be some sort of focal point for this activity.

    The BL is nice enough if you know a few people, but there does seem to me something obtuse about so many people in one place, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, being absolutely silent. This might be how ‘proper’ academics like it, though…

  4. ralife says:

    If only you had a bluetooth device for the BL, and you could advertise your wiki to them, “Monday: Discussion about…” and see who signs in.

    I just realised there what you meant by diary, so you can block off an hour or so of time and see who turns up. Like an academic flash mob, but instead of statues and pillow fights you get crazy opinions and storms of brains.


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