Digital disciplinary difference: An analysis of computer mediated science and 'Mode 2' knowledge production

G. Heimeriks, P. Besselaar, van den, K. Frenken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The use of computer-mediated communications in research is one of the major shifts in processes of scientific knowledge production. We ask the question whether there are distinct disciplinary online communication patterns. In particular, we hypothesize that Mode 2 sciences have a higher use of Internet applications and address a greater variety of audiences with a greater variety of research outputs than Mode 1 sciences. Mode 2 was introduced as a descriptive and diagnostic characterization of transitions in knowledge production that are characterized by a range of features such as interdisciplinarity, reflexivity, focus on the context of application, heterogeneous actors, and a wide variety of types of output. This new mode of knowledge production has supposedly evolved out of the disciplinary and academic context of traditional ways in which knowledge was produced. It involves different mechanisms of generating and of communicating knowledge, more actors who come from different disciplines, and different sites in which knowledge is being produced. We analyze online communication patterns in eight scientific disciplines including four Mode 1 sciences (High Energy Physics, Astrophysics, Literature Studies, and Psychology) and four Mode 2 sciences (Genetics, Biotechnology, Computer Science, and Information Science). We collected data on several dimensions of online communications, which included the shared set of outlinks of the departments and the characteristics of the websites in terms of size and types of files. The results suggest that web-based communications play a role in obtaining informational and financial resources, the use and exchange of digital data, the dissemination of results to academic audiences, and the dissemination of (non-traditional) output. The Internet maintains the three Mode 2 aspects of knowledge production: the interaction with non-academic partners, the dissemination of non-traditional output (software tools, databases, etc.), and the use of digital data. However, these characteristics of Mode 2 can be traced in different web attributes in each field. There is no systematic relationship between the three Mode 2 elements and the web characteristics under study here across all fields. This questions the usefulness of the Mode 2 label and underlines the specificity of scientific disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1602-1615
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2008


Dive into the research topics of 'Digital disciplinary difference: An analysis of computer mediated science and 'Mode 2' knowledge production'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this