A few years ago I covered several studies that explored the relationship between academics and social media. The general gist was that academics weren’t taken to new platforms particularly easily, with lack of real respect of such platforms for their careers a major stumbling block.
This was highlighted in a recent paper that charts the rise in what the authors call ‘sociable scholarship’, and the impact this is having on the way academics are behaving and interacting with the public.
Breaking down barriers
Central to this is the way barriers have been broken down between scholars and the rest of the world. It’s allowed lay people to actively participate in the construction of knowledge, whether via data, ideas, experiences or more general engagement with research.
“Academics no longer operate from the safety of ivory towers: they are able to engage with a much wider audience, in a conversation rather than a lecture, through the use of Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, discussion forums, etc. These Web 2.0 tools have broadened academic spaces, enabling the participation of different voices, and addressing the academy’s commitment to social justice,” the authors say.
As the previous studies highlight, social media usage is not widespread among academics, but younger scholars are certainly taking to the media more readily. As with so much, it’s crucial to first figure out your goal and work back from there to decide whether social media is right for you.
The authors believe that in a decade or so, most academics will not only be on social media, but will come to regard it as a vital part of their work, not least because of the global connections you can make, and the crucial input this network of contacts can make to your work.
“A scholar waking at 7am in New Zealand can join a conversation that started in New York at midday, and later, her contributions will be read by others in Australia and then India and South Africa and London. Conversations span the world. If a conference is taking place in London, Twitter streams enable researchers who cannot fly to the other side of the world to participate, ‘listening’ to what is being said, and offering immediate comment,” they say.