Digital Scholarship Practices: Fellowship post #4
This is post #4 of my StellarNet Fellowship (see posts 1, 2, and 3). The purpose is to examine practices undertaken by academics and educators in networked publics. These practices fall under the general heading of “digital scholarship” and these individuals have been called “digital scholars” or “open scholars.”
I am preparing to leave Cyprus, and this is my final fellowship entry. In this short entry, I’d like to discuss the spaces in which digital scholarship is becoming visible and what this visibility means for expertise and impressions. On the one hand, we have seen an increase in specialized technology tools targeting scholars. For instance, here is my academia.edu profile and my mendeley profile. On the other hand, we have seen general purpose tools that have been appropriated by academics and used in ways that further their teaching and research. Examples include such spaces as Facebook and Twitter (e.g., #PhDchat), but also YouTube, personal blogs, and iTunes. Some examples of open activities taking place in these spaces include:
- – Book and manuscript authoring in public (while sharing ongoing drafts). This includes both individuals who have earned their PhDs, but also individuals who are working on their PhDs and are using online spaces to reflect and network on PhD-related topics.
- – Debates on issues pertaining to theory and research
- – Crowdsourcing videos, thoughts, solutions to problems
- – Sharing clips from classroom teaching
These activities contrast to academic notions of expertise. While experts are sometimes perceived to be those individuals who “have the answers,” the experts that I have been following are willing to share drafts of their work in public and work through the issues that they are studying with the help of others. The trails that they leave on the web show may show how their thinking and work developed and improved over time; yet, individuals who are not immersed in this culture have often asked me: “How would others perceive me and my work, if they just happen to see my blog entry from June 2010 and nothing else, when in June 2010 I was just starting work in this area?” That is a valid concern; and perhaps one that may be felt more by those who are just beginning their career or those who do not have a wide and persistent following. In the world of the open web, it’s not just our activities that matter, but also how our activities are perceived by others. To this extent, the scholars that I’ve been following have not only been sharing content, but they are also seeking to manage the impressions of others. Furthermore, activities aimed at impression management are undertaken not just on content that the individual posts, but also on content that others post. For example, in the words of a participant from a related project, “it’s my facebook wall, and if you write something I don’t like, I’m going to delete it.” It’s becoming increasingly clear I think, that participation in these communities (a) assists academics in improving their work (e.g., by receiving feedback on drafts), (b) enables them to become part of various academic subcultures, and (c) is used by academics as a way to further their career and their position. One may question why item C matters. Reasons for sharing matter because an understanding of these reasons will allow us to gain a better sense of how and why online social networks are used in the ways that they are. Such an understanding aligns with recent calls for educational technology research to investigate the social, political, cultural and economic factors that influence technology use and non-use (e.g., see Selwyn, 2010).
That is all for now, but if you are interested stay tuned. I’ll be sharing a longer draft of this work soon. In the meantime, if you have questions, please feel free to post them!
Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73.