Networking on the Network (Kevin Kelly)

How to do research

I know of no better guide to becoming a researcher than this book, which exists only online. Written by a professor to help his PhD students learn how to network and develop their professional skills, it is great advice for anyone who wants to create a place for themselves in the information economy. It’s all about finding, feeding, and harvesting networks of other like-minded folks, and growing your own distinctive node. While the author naturally focuses on how academia works, there is enough valuable wisdom here for anyone doing original research (and you should!) — whether corporate, journalistic, or part-time blogging.

Networking on the Network:
A Guide to Professional Skills for PhD Students

Phil Agre
66,000 words; 2005

Sample excerpts:

You are not choosing which network to join; rather, you are creating a new network of your own.

If this seems like a lot of work, think of it as shopping: the library is a giant department store, and you are shopping for professional colleagues. Accumulate a “long list” of potential colleagues. Study their work and learn from it. Figure out what elements your work has in common with theirs. Then practice explaining your research in a way that puts those elements in the foreground and the other elements in the background. The general formula is “I’m interested in [elements you have in common with the person you’re talking to], and to this end I’m studying [elements that you don’t have in common with them]”. For example, “I’m interested in how teachers adopt computers, and to this end I’m conducting an ethnographic study of some grade-school teachers’ strategies for including computers in their lessons”, or “I’m doing ethnographic research on people adopting computers, and my fieldwork concerns grade-school teachers …”. Now you are ready to build a community for yourself that includes relevant people from several different research areas. These people will be like spokes in a wheel, of which you are the hub.