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ArchNet
 
ArchNet: An assessment
Dear ArchNet members,

ArchNet is almost 5 years old and there has been a lot of effort, time, and resources spent on building a digital community. In many ways, ArchNet can be considered a failure because it has not acheived its original vision of a collaborative resource where knowledge and experience are shared amongst its membership. Having said that, ArchNet does have over 20'000 members. 5900 people visit the site daily. And, over 70GB of information in the form of images and publications are downloaded on a weekly basis.

The questions I would like to ask of our membership are the following: What is the role of ArchNet? Is ArchNet a necessary tool for education in the Muslim world? What is the impact, if any, of ArchNet on architectural education?

Your answers, comments, and criticism will have an impact on the long term future of this project. Please share your thoughts. Thank you.
Shiraz Allibhai
Responses
 
ArchNet: An assessment
Dear Shiraz,

It is a good idea to evaluate the development of Archnet over the past 5 years. Although I still visit the Archnet community on a weekly basis it has developed in a different direction than I expected and hoped. The growth of Archnet in terms of the number of members must be considered a success. The section of the website that provides new information on a day-to-day basis is of course the discussion forum. It is my impression that this is now mostly a forum for undergraduate architecture students. The questions that are offered for discussion are often of an elementary nature. More often that not I ask myself the question why I keep returning to the discussion forum when there is so seldomly something that is of interest to me as an artist and scholar of Islamic architecture.

When Archnet started, the prospect of having a forum and a community where ideas and information on Islamic architecture could be exchanged seemed too good to be true, and the inclusion of a digital library as wel as a careers section was very promising. The digital library remains the best part of the website, for those with an interest in the history of Islamic architecture it is an excellent starting point for research.

But as a community, as place where you expect to have new information and interesting discussions threads every time you pay a visit, Archnet is usually a slightly disappointing experience to me.

Nevertheless, I wish it well and hope that it will be able to cater more for post-graduate students, scholars, designers and artists in the future.
Eric Broug
ArchNet: An assessment
Students are our future, it is the duty of scholars to orient them in a right way. There is no such thing as an elementary or even a bad question, it all depends on perception.

I am a recent member of Archnet. When I discovered this website, I thought, well, there should more sites of this nature out there. This site has impressed me on many aspects and has relight my pursuit of understanding the Muslims thinking, something everybody should pay an interest in, especially in the times we live in.

A website is an educational tool and has its limits. No one is going to become a scholar discussing issues on ARCHNET or any other site. Does one become a scholar by spending more time at the library? There is a process of accreditation that one has to go through, the internet has yet to reach that point. It will, in some time.

If Archnet's purpose is to educate people on Islamic architectural issues...it has succeded. In the end it is individual efforts that will aide in understanding things. If people want to understand Islamic Architecture, this is the first place I would send them.

Remember this is the internet and the internet is like going outside. When you go outside you experience things you like and don't and there are places you spend more time in. If people are spending more of their time at Archnet than take it as a sign of success. I will reitirate that if you are expecting to pontificate scholarly matters, this is probably not the best place to do it - internet. If it were the universities would be going out of business.

Websites are a resource place, yet to have the full dynamic of virtual reality. I compare it to magazines, libraries(personal and public), newspapers, books, TV etc. To expect right now to have it do it more is just wrong. It has yet to reach that point. People still type with two fingers, some still don't purchase on-line, some still don't have a clue how computers work...Wait and this will change and is changing.

Archnet is upto date when it comes to Internet technologies, it will be a matter of time before the people will be upto date as well. As a resource place the benefactors of this site have exceeded generosity. The amount of free information available here is exceptional. Setting it apart from other sites of the same nature. Archnet should be proud of its site and should keep it going strong. There is nothing it should be really worried about.

People make communities and internet users make internet communities. Communities have all levels of peoples, it is the duty of each participant to make the community what you want it to be. There is no such thing as something unbecoming of someone, scholars of any nature should address all questions asked. It will benefit the scholar, the questioner and the people hearing the questions and answers. Questions unanswered is a sad testimony of scholars. More active participation of Archnet scholarly individuals will improve the status quo. It is the particpants of Archnet that will make Archnet!!

Best,

As a side note if you want to control the way the discussion forum is going. There is only one way of doing it and that is to put a price tag on it. When money is paid people value things much more. Another way of controlling it is having active participation of scholarly individuals on a regular basis. Their input will tend to mute uninformed opinions and help educate the public. Perhaps you can limit the amount of questions asked by per individual. One per week, or one per month...
Abdul Basit Mukri
ArchNet: An assessment
Sorry Shiraz, I can't call ArchNet a failure in anyway. This website is one of the best things that could have happened for architecture students anywhere. I think the amount of information I get from your website is amazing. Recently when helping with the thesis at Indus Valley School of Art and Architcture in Karachi, I noticed that nearly everyone had some information from your website, which I felt was quite extraordinary. While I think Archnet is such a great website and there is this constant addition of information, I also feel you need to know include universities in a more pro-actice way. Pakistan for example has 5 or 6 architectural universities, if you get them online, that would be great, since most of them do have websites.
Uzair A. Quraishi
ArchNet: An assessment
Let me begin by saying that although ArchNet might not have achieved its original vision, it still is an active and vibrant discussion forum on architecture. Although one might argue that serious topics are not broached in the main forum, it is still valuable in the insights and directions it offers to people who come here to learn.

I can visualize what you mean by the original vision of the forum. I have a few suggestions regarding this. I am aware of the fact that there are group workspaces for specific and more serious discussions. these group spaces need to be more active. The forum should be categorised in a different manner. right now, the categories are a little vague and does not particularly distinguish between a serious scholar doing research and a casual (but equally important) visitor who might want to discuss architecture, or gain information.

Let me give an example. if I am doing some research on a particular area (as a PhD student), then my expectations from this forum would be very different from an undergraduate student. Conversely, my views and the knowledge I share would be of a different stature as compared to an undergraduate student. Again, this is in not to undervalue the student. Teaching others is an equally important task.

May I then hesitantly propose a division of the forum topics into levels of knowledge like:

- ongoing research (PhD, M.A.arch etc.)
- Information/database questions. (people wanting information)
- Undergraduate research
- General

I know that this list is neither comprehensive nor accurate. However, I think the first step towards increasing the scope of this forum is to clearly state the various goals and work towards it. People can always visit other forums to see what kind of discussions are going on in forums.

When I joined this forum, I thought of it as a platform where I can discuss theories and methodologies of architecture with many peers across the globe. I thought of this forum as a virtual university where students and professors hold seminars and discussions and even present papers maybe.

I may be wrong. I just hope to start a discussion on the ramifications of this issue.
Vishwanath Kashikar
ArchNet: An assessment
Dear Shiraz,

Thank you for starting this important topic once again. Congratulations in the occasion of the Fifth anniversary of ArchNet.

I belong to the group of members that visit ArchNet on a daily basis. For a long time it has been part of my professional electronic environment. Although Islamic Architecture initially was not my main interest, I learned a lot not only on architecture of Islamic world, but on Islamic culture and religion in general.

Let me highlight some qualities of ArchNet that I particularly appreciate:

  • It is a real global community, offering lots of possibilities to inform and be informed, to virtually meet colleagues and collaborate...


  • It develops one of the greatest online libraries in the field.


  • It offers an excellent possibility for each member to develop an e-profile and e-portfolio, e.g. to codify its professional presence in the e-society.


  • It is an outstanding platform for online education in architecture.



  • I extensively use the Group Workspace as a virtual environment supporting my lab-based teaching. This year a whole generation (about 250 second year students) enrolled in the course Informatics, use this feature within the module Electronic Communication Culture 04. The activity within the virtual environment will be worth 10% in final marking. Apart of the main objective of this activity, there's a 'hidden curriculum' and a challenge of exposing architecture students to this multinational, multicultural professional communication channel.

    Regarding the Forum dynamics, I wouldn't be so concerned. The people who follow the Forum carefully and continuously know that there are periods when it becomes so vibrant, so rich and extremely demanding in terms of time required even to read all postings. From my viewpoint, quiet periods like this one are welcomed from time to time.

    Finally, after five years it would be nice to organize conference (real one) dedicated to ArchNet. I'm personally interested in learning more about its initial concepts and strategies, as well as to share experiences of its integration in educational processes. It also might be an opportunity to exchange ideas on ArchNet perspectives. After five years of, I would say very successful existence, it might be time to discuss a possibility of establishing fundaments of future Virtual University within ArchNet, not substituting but complementing educational institutions that participated in the ArchNet creation.

    With the best wishes, Mirjana
    Mirjana Devetakovic Radojevic
    ArchNet: An assessment
    It is essential to an architecture to know how to see: to see in such a way that the vision is not overpowered by rational analysis. "Through sight the good and the bad - We do perceive - Unseeing eyes - Souls deprived of hope" - carlos pallicer

    Surely, the 'vision' as you refer to it can not be defined. As designers, we understand that identical frameworks handed to different people will be returned with different solutions. Not so?

    So the 'vision' has been mapped by the people that belong to it, not only those that created it but those that keep it going - VISION can be described as 'what you see' or it can be described as 'what you really see'... :) Failure - say what!!!

    I have been a member for just under a year now and the amount of information I've 'sucked' from this forum is unreal.

    Architecture is a subject broad enough to be studied and discussed lifetimes over. Through ArchNet Discussion Forum, I found myself searching into aspects I would probably never have done so otherwise. The quality of discussion may vary from time to time, but the fact that design issues are being handled, whether by our more learn-ed counterparts or fellow students, is itself a wonderful thing.

    We learn from each other. We get to know how other design minds think. We have created a community merely by being a part of it. 'Virtual' relationships are formed between members making the idea of community ever more real.

    Keep it real people and Congrats on a job well done - Heres to another five years. Fill it with SIGHT... & VISION, ofcouse
    Yumna Moosa
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments, criticisms, and suggestions. I hope that other members continue to add to this important forum topic. Let me try and address some of the valuable comments from Eric, Abdul, Uzair, Vishwanath, Mirjana, and Yumna.

    Eric - I too have been frustrated at times by some of the questions posed on ArchNet that are of the 'please help me on my thesis' nature. I do not blame the students for posting these types of questions. Because there are so many of these types of questions, I believe that this highlights the failure of higher education institutions to instill critical thinking skill in students. I am astounded at the number of final year students who cannot clearly articulate a thesis proposal. One of the reasons ArchNet exists is to provide the resources to students and educators that will help address this deficiency. In the mean time, I am still not sure how to deal with the questions. It has been suggested that ArchNet disallow these types of questions. I would hate to decide which questions are valid and which not. The forum is an open space. Members can decide which questions to answer. Those that do not elicit a response will quickly disappear into the electronic ether.

    Abdul - Thank you for your spirited response and your contributions to the discussion forum over the past few weeks. You are right, ArchNet is a community and can only progress as its members take on more responsibility. It was my hope that by now, the membership would be driving Digital Calendar, Careers, Course Syllabi, News, and Web Resource modules. Thus far, the vast majority of the postings in this section come from the ArchNet office. I had envisioned a bottom up framework in which eventually the responsibility with providing the papers, essays, resources, and postings would come from ArchNet membership. For example, ArchNet is currently trying to document the major monuments throughout the Muslim world. While the collections at MIT and Harvard are superb, there remain significant gaps. In the past, we have asked members to help us fill those gaps. There was little response. We have also issued a call for papers, with no response. Another interactive initiative that we began was to introduce a reading and start a discussion on it. Much like a book of the month club. Again, there were no takers. I am not in favor of a pay as you go scheme. However, it might be worth considering offering access to more materials and functionality to those members who contribute regularly.

    Uzair - I am very happy to hear that students at Indus Valley are using ArchNet and that it is becoming a useful tool in the classroom. We do have a Institution Workspace, but it is not that easy to use and I believe that institutional members are finding it cumbersome and difficult to share their resources. This will change in the future as the Institution workspace will be redesigned. In my travels, I have found that extraordinary resources are to be found at school of architecture throughout the world. This research and scholarship needs to come to light and be shared. For example, ArchNet is lacking in measured drawings of historic sites. In many schools of architecture, measured drawings are part of the curriculum. These drawings once completed by students can be scanned or photographed and shared on ArchNet. I will need your help as well as other members who are faculty at institutions to facilitate better collaboration for the benefit of the entire community.

    Vishwanath - I think your idea of reclassifying discussion topics may have to be addressed in the very near future. I agree that perhaps that there should be a variety of forums based on subject. I will take this idea up at our next meeting of ArchNet administrators. This does separate the community into divisions, which is something we at ArchNet would like to avoid. Maybe there is a happy medium to be found.

    Mirjana - As one of the ArchNet regulars and an active participant on ArchNet, I really appreciate your comments. Thank you. You are one of ArchNet's successes and I hope to introduce many others to the contributions and legacy of Islamic civilizations. In 2005, we are going to initiate a series of regional forums on architectural education. We hope to capitalize on the discussions centered around the 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. At the same time, I will be conducting a series of interviews with students and institutions to evaluate the impact of ArchNet if any, and to see where ArchNet can improve.

    Yumna - I never framed it in the manner you have done. Perhaps it was arrogant of ArchNet to place expectations on a community before it was formed. Eventually, this community will find equilibrium. Thanks for the wake-up call.

    Please, lets keep this discussion going. Any other comments and criticism will be greatly appreciated by the your friendly neighborhood ArchNet team.
    Shiraz Allibhai
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Shiraz,

    I will reiterate again that ArchNet really has not much to worry about. People primarily use this site for the free information the most, which is not bad as long as there an interest in Islamic architecture and architecture in general.

    ArchNet is trying to be more than it can be, presently. There generosity is not valued by most users and I'm sure ArchNet is not interested in wishy-washy users. If you want valued input, to be honest put a price tag on it(not to push the idea). If people are not willing to pay for education than they are probably not that interested in education, atleast a quality one that is.

    The reason you don't have pro-active participation is because people really don't care, as long as the digital library(free information) is there, why bother being active! We came for the information and that is it.

    I think ArchNet should take the avenue of other internet sites. Have a clear mission statement, have a digital library, have the digital calender, drop the workspaces(if people want to coloborate, let them do it in their own time and space), have a discussion forum, keep the members profile, have a links section, have a contact email address(very Important), send weekly emails to people, have the lobby and News(current events).Keep a career section if you want(I wouldn't bother). The key is to have the ArchNet moderators/administrators be pro-active and attentively watch and control the progress of the site. There input will help direct ArchNet in a correct manner. Maybe they can have weekly commentaries of the status of Islamic architecture (contributing articles). Keep the site cold but have warmth behind it. I think a good example is the www.muslimheritage.com site. ArchNet and Muslim heritage sites have alot they can learn from each other. Be a propaganda (in the good sense) tool, less interactive and more educational(orient the user-this can be done by layout of web page). Trust me, you'll be happier once it is done this way.

    Best,

    I think to make ArchNet into a virtual university is incorrect. It would be better if more Islamic architectural programs like at MIT and Harvard, open throughout the Muslim world and through out the world. Maybe one per continent, than you'll see how everybody will know about Islamic architecture. Let ArchNet do its part but limit it.

    Discussion Forum: Everybody shouldn't be allowed to pose a question so readily. Maybe you should go through a screening process, where the user suggests a question and the moderators screen to see if it is worthy/not worthy of being posted. Perhaps than you will have quality questions posed.

    Last point: The option of an accredited university course offered in archnet would be welcoming. But I would stress that the same criteria real universities expect, should be followed ie. having the qualifications to study at a university level,paying for the course, handing things on time and writing an exam etc. Make it as real as possible.

    Me again(probably sick of hearing me). The layout of Archnets web site is dated. Internet site designs in general should be revamped, every so often. Archnet which deals with the arts has more the reason to convey a beautiful/creative,user friendly and upto date web page design and layout. Being upto date on these aspects will only make Archnet a more pleasurable experience. Users will keep on coming back for more. Creativity is appreciated by all!

    Take care,
    Abdul Basit Mukri
    ArchNet: An assessment
    dear shiraz,
    thanks for your tying up every ones comments together.

    many thoughts came to my mind after reading the posts. and i spent some days thinking on it. some random thoughts-

    we seem to respond only when things are institutionalised. on one hand there is the forum where lot of questions are asked and informal discussions take place. there is much value in this. on the other hand, i see lots of names in the members section who could contribute so much to debates on architecture and the growth of knowledge. but i dont expect them to answer all posts.
    in this light, the idea of having a virtual conference seems to be a good idea. maybe if it is institutionalised and acknowledged (advertised?) as a conference, papers might come in. maybe it is a good idea to email people on notices of such conferences.

    maybe it is a good idea to email your post to all members as it might elicit more response.

    in this context, i agree with the other comments that the website itself needs to be revamped. the interface right now is very divisive. one needs to choose between the discussion forum and group space and the digital library. to be aware of different events or discussions happening, one has to scan through various different pages.

    of course, right now i dont know the mechanics of this site in terms of control and money, so this talk of revamp could be in the air. maybe we should have a discussion on what sort of interface is the most inclusive and yet gives enough clarity to be able to find one's own place in the community.

    the intricate balance of a community rests on the ability of the individual to participate in the totality but at the same time, the possibility of finding a niche that they can call their own. it is a difficult balance to achieve, lets hope we can do it.
    Vishwanath Kashikar
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Dear Shiraz;

    Thanks for asking this question at the end of the first five year cycle of Archnet.

    I realize the intention of the question--getting feedback from the community-- to determine future directions. However, I feel that the introduction of the question carries with it some form of frustration...just a feeling.

    As I was involved- and still-- in Archnet activities since its beginning, I tend to view it a successful project for several reasons. This is based on a personal experience. Yes, one might say it cannot be generalized to determine successes or failures, but I would say it represents signs of success of a well designed project.

    - Back in 2000, when Archnet started with a beta version, my students at MIU in Cairo used the available resources in the digital library for their graduation theses, and participated fully in the discussion forum, raised good questions and received good feedback. Young teaching staff helped in the establishment of the digital library of MIU as a partner institution. However, it was expected that faculty would participate by contributing to the discussions or to Archnet library or to the institutional work space, but this was not the case. Concomitantly, at the students' and young staff level, I would say Archnet witnessed a success from its early stages.

    - Between 2001 and 2003, I had a chance through Archnet to know scholars, architects, and academics from different parts of the world. As a result, the group workspace: Architectural Pedagogy and Andragogy was developed by some committed colleagues to share their experiences and resources on architectural education. This is another sign of Archnet success.

    Through Archnet, I knew many people online, and now some of us through conferences and other forms are planning to meet in reality next month in Mumbai, India, where the International Conference of Humane Habitat is organized. This is a third sign of Archnet success.

    In 2003, I introduced Archnet to my colleagues in Charlotte, NC, USA. Many of them were surprized when they saw the intensity and variety of resources, some have posted their profiles, some have already started to develop interest in contemporary architecture of the Middle East, others have participated in the discussion forum. They were able to grasp in-depth knoweldge about Islamic culture, and about architecture in the developing world. I believe this is also a sign of Archnet sucess.

    By 2004, through Archnet, I was able to post and upload most of my publications and documents either in the main digital library, or in my perosnal workspace. My personal website at the university-KFUPM is now linked to most of the publications I have on Archnet. I would not have an opportunity like this elsewhere and free of charge.

    This year, at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, all of my sophomore and senior students are Archnet members. Most of their assignments required them to search first in Archnet digital library, then look for other sources. They find answers to many of their research questions in Archnet. I have 12 Senior students doing their senior project preparation and programming, 10 of them used Archnet as a major source for the informmation they seek, although each one of them is looking for a different type of information and about a different building type. Nice to see Archnet wirtten in the list of references in the students' reports.

    In another sophomore course on human-environment interaction, 16 students are developing their term papers and presentations using Archnet resources. Faculty who teach history and theory of architecture at KFUPM are relying heavily on the resources available in Archnet digital library. These are additional signs of Archnet success.

    My colleagues postings in this thread in addition to my posting suggest that it would appear that Archnet is a suucessful project that is contributing widely to architectural education and architecture students, thus a necessary tool with a considerable impact. However, at the faculty level challenegs remain to be seen. While the Archnet membership includes many faculty, they do not take part in the discussions, or in contributing to the digital library or to their own workspaces.

    The question is how to get them involved? As with any community, mechanisms of interaction and dialogue need to be created. Yes, the discussion forum and the group workspace are mechanisms for interaction, and as you rightly indicated the Bottom-Up approach is somehow emphasized. However, while the intention is to get people involved, in many cases involving people after all the major decisions are made might lead to the opposite.

    I would suggest some LIVE-mechanisms like:
    - E-Conferences
    - E-Academic Reviewed Journals
    - E- Students Essay Competitions
    - Continuous effort on conducting online annual students competitions. Success was already witnessed in the two competitions sponsored, organized and facilitated by Archnet.

    Archnet may announce these as activities to be carried out by some members through applications and reviews, then members who conduct these activities are selected based on merits of their applications. (I believe the ball has not been thrown fully yet in the members' back yards).

    I think these mechanisms would raise the level of discussions and debate in the forum and will foster members effective and efficient engagement in and contribution to the community.

    As for the the type of and nature of some students questions in the forum, I believe it has more to do with the attitude toward online-interaction and the internet than to do with critical thinking. You might find that some of those who ask "I need a topic for my thesis" type of questions are critical thinkers and good question askers in their classes.

    Best Regards,
    Ashraf Salama
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Dear Shiraz,

    Without going into the generalized rhetoric, I would like to relate my own firsthand experience of ArchNet that will answer your question on how successful this forum has been.

    1. Last year, I was asked by the Japan Institute of Architects to give a presentation on Architecture of Pakistan to their members. I got MOST of my data for the presentation from ArchNet digital library, which I could never have acquired sitting out there.

    2. I was part of the long debate on Islamic architecture with participants form a lot of different countries. It broadened my knowledge on the subject, made me think and understand the totally opposite views and arguments and my interest in the subject increased. Two months back I organized a face to face debate on this very topic here in Islamabad, (based on our Islamic Architecture debate on ArchNet) which generated a lot of interest. In turn, all the participants and audience of the debate are now pondering over the issue. Just look at the way information is spread. It was made possible because of this international forum.

    3. I had started a debate here on ArchNet on the Islamabad School of Architecture last year. The debate was picked up by the school administrators and the various suggestions and ideas floated by participants are now being incorporated in the formation of the curriculum. The administrators of the school have never even met those whose ideas and suggestions they are benefiting from. All because of this forum.

    4. I have met some wonderful people on this forum from all over the world. I met Dr Ashraf Salama here, and he later contributed a very informative article for a Pakistani architectural newspaper which was read and appreciated by a large section of architects. From Dr. Ashraf in the USA (last year) to Pakistani architects, only thorugh ArchNet. I shall be visiting Rizvi College of Architecture in Mumbai, India next month. I met Professor Akhtar Chauhan, who runs the college, here on this forum and it has now opened new avenues for co-operation and collaboration between us not only on architectural front but also on cultural front.

    These are just a few examples out of many of what kind of a platform ArchNet has provided us.

    Shiraz, did I hear you say that it has been a failure??? I think I've become hard of hearing at this age!
    Hammad Husain
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Hammad, welcome back. Good to see you here again. Thank you for your comments. I am happy to hear that ArchNet is useful. Most of the comments I have received have been heartening. I hope that more suggestions come in and this thread will continue to grow. I must admit that after 5 years of ArchNet, I am confused about how to judge the impact. My board will ask me in January if the costs would have been better spent and what is the impact of ArchNet? I can showcase these examples as proof of the value of ArchNet. This does not mean that we will sit back - ArchNet will continue to try to push forward. Look for new and improved Group Workspaces in the next few months. They will allow for multiple copying of images from the ArchNet Digital Library to the Group Workspace; slideshow capability; and the ability to structure and tailor the space to ones needs.
    Shiraz Allibhai
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Respected Shiraz,

    I think when ever someone initiates any serious and related topic in the Discussion Forum, most members are not serious to discuss that topic because they have no concern with that. This attitude discourages the person who initiates it.
    I think one reason is the topic is too specific (based on specific purpose, specific geographically) and
    members just give answers to those topics which are general and known around the globe.

    So please help those who want to get information on specific topics. Take some steps to involve members so that they participate seriously. Make cordination among members and get them involved in some assignment and reward them with certificates/awards.
    Wahab Bhai Kadiwal
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Wahab - thank you for your suggestion. Most of the responses to this posting has involved suggestions about the DIscussion Forum; this is infact, one area of ArchNet I am least concerned about. The forum at times is lively and engaged, while experiencing drop-off periods of inactivity. I am concerned about people sharing images, calendar events, syllabi, and forming collaborative workspaces. I am weary about offering certificates/awards for participation because I am not sure if this is the best method to empower a community. I will take up the suggestion with others involved in ArchNet development.
    Shiraz Allibhai
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Hi Shiraz,

    It would be an understatement to say has ArchNet done anything for education in the Muslim world. I think it is serving as a very secular form discussion space. Also its giving good information for many students and architects and non architects too. If you wanted people to know more 'about Islamic architecture then you should put up more analytical data more that relates Islamic architecture to nature, mathematics behind it, etc.
    Nista Dugar
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Sorry Ashraf for not having reponded to your important and informative post early. Your ideas will be discussed and I think that with your help, we will act on them in 2005.

    Nista, thank you as well. Your post highlighted my point about community participation. Why should it be ArchNet that continues to place articles up? Should these not come from the community? We are near the end of scanning those documents which are available to us through copyight permissions. If the library is to continue to grow, the articles have to be contributed by our membership. This then is my point, in the future, without the participation of the ArchNet community as full partners - ArchNet will become static and fixed. This would certainly be a failure.
    Shiraz Allibhai
    ArchNet: An assessment
    i see this to be a critical juncture in the development of the site. to me, the original post did not convey as much a sense of failure as it conveyed a need to forge ahead into a more all encompasing organisation which would address serious concerns about architecture.
    in this regard, the idea of the site hosting e-conferences, e-journals seems to be a logical direction for the site to take. we are at a point in time where the reach of the internet is rivalling the reach of books. however, our minds are still lagging behind, in the sense that we see books as serious affairs and the internet as a casual discussion forum. the tremendous advantages offered by the internet in terms of its initial investment (as opposed to hosting actual conferences or publishing books) is very obvious.

    i sincerely hope that archnet as a site is able to make that leap and emerge as an alternative to published works.

    p.s. after reading what i have written, i sounded like a techno geek who is enamoured by the internet. to be frank, i still prefer to go to the library and browse through books. i still prefer reading a book to reading on the screen. but objectively speaking i see the tremendous advantages of the internet.
    Vishwanath Kashikar
    ArchNet: An assessment
    respected shiraz
    i think you should initiate programes that give members material rewards. by material reward i mean give their work recognitions, monitor their work as you have provided them group work space and archnet should itself recognize their work to relevant users after monitoring.
    in order to encourage students of architecture initiate online tutorial on different courses and appreciate them by certificates and awards and guide them for further courses and degrees in best universities.
    archnet is doing most of these programme/task. but you should search for members who r serious in this network, monitor their performance by gradually check their task and directing them for further opportunities in the future. pay attention to each individual who r serious to get gain from this network. go for quality, sincerity and seriousness of individual member, not for quantiy of members in network.
    Wahab Bhai Kadiwal
    ArchNet: An assessment
    Anne Beamish, Research Director, ArchNet, recently completed a draft version of a paper titled "Assessing Participation and Reciprocity in an International Online Community". In her paper, Anne examines the formation of Online communities. With Anne's approval, I will cite some statistics and thoughts from her paper. One of the things we hope to achieve in 2005-2006 is to create solid assessment techniques to evaluate ArchNet. This will include an Online survey that can be filled out by members.

    "Though a great deal has been written on how online communities can and should promote sociability, learning, and communication, remarkably few have called for the evaluation of online communities and international networks." [Beamish, Anne. 2005. Assessing Participation and Reciprocity in an International Online Community. P.2-3]

    "Undertaking an evaluation is important for the site designers as well as the funders who understandably want to know if their financial support has been effective, but using standard methods such as cost-benefit is inadequate because of the nature of the project. The purpose of an online community and a resource-rich site such as ArchNet is to connect people, share information, and build relationships. It is about linking and coordinating knowledge, all of which are activities that are difficult to quantify and even more difficult to put a cost on. Conventional project evaluation tools are inadequate in these cases." [Anne Beamish]

    It is clear from the comments in this forum that ArchNet has to reassess its original model that would see a bottom-up resource maintained by members in the field. "The comments certainly underscore the importance of finding a more meaningful and accurate way to assess a site and evaluate its success, rather than depending solely on the quantity of postings by members and comparing it to what may possibly be an unrealistic and artificial goal." [Anne Beamish]

    "The comments by some of the members in this discussion forum also indicate that there may be a need for ArchNet staff to become more involved. Instead of withdrawing and relying on members to provide content, they could take on a more pro-active and facilitating role. For example, they could organize (online and in real life) events, journals, competitions, and conferences. In any case, it is worth questioning the original assumption that the role of ArchNet staff should diminish overtime, when it may actually be the reverse. The more members ArchNet gains and the higher participation of users on the site may require greater involvement, not less." [Anne Beamish]

    I would like to share some ArchNet statistics with you. These are also taken from Anne's paper.

    ArchNet membership represents 157 countries. However, they are not equally distributed. Thirty countries make-up almost 88% of the membership. The largest group of members is from the United States (29.7%), followed by India, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and Turkey. These five countries, with over 1,000 members each, make up slightly more than half of ArchNet's membership (53.7%). The next 25 countries represent 34% of the membership.

    Activity on ArchNet has increased significantly since it was first launched. In 2002, the average monthly number of sessions or unique visits was almost 55,000, whereas in 2004 it was over 160,000. Daily visitors averaged almost 1,800 in 2002; while in 2004 it was over 5,000.

    On average a visitor will view approximately 11 pages and stay 10 minutes.

    As of January 1, 2005, only 859 (3%) members had created at least one image collection, and 275 (1%) members had stored at least one file in their file collection. [This is disappointing - Shiraz].

    To date, there have been 1,445 events posted to the Digital Calendar. ArchNet staff contributed 867 (60.1%) of these postings, leaving 576 (39.9%) contributed by individual members.

    As of January 1, 2005, there were 1,542 initial topics or threads in the Discussion Forum with 5,920 responses for a total of 7,462 messages. ArchNet staff were responsible for approximately 705 (9.4%) of these postings, which leaves 6,757, or 90.6% contributed by ArchNet members.

    The Careers section has 925 postings (of job positions) in total. Approximately 627 (67.8%) were posted by ArchNet staff, leaving 298 (32.2)% contributed by ArchNet members.

    There have been 328 news items posted over the years, the majority of which (225 or 68.6%) were contributed by ArchNet staff.

    Any further thoughts, criticisms, suggestions, or examples of how ArchNet has been useful or useless will be appreciated.
    Shiraz Allibhai
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