Participatory scholars v2

Last week I shared an early draft of a paper discussing issues to consider in redefining scholarship and scholars. The posting opened up lots of discussion including replies on twitter, discussions in the comments section of the post, a week-long discussion on the ITFORUM listserv (for which the paper was originally intended), and face-to-face conversations with students/colleagues who saw the paper. Even though I got lots of great feedback on the actual paper, I also realized the following:

  • Resistance. There’s lots or resistance to the ideas presented in the paper (and quite a bit of support). To some extent, this is understandable, but what does it mean? To me it says two things: (a) the ideas need to be better presented/explained to be understood by those who don’t actually breathe social media (guilty as charged), and (b) the current system is so ingrained in our daily reality that the knee-jerk reaction is to criticize proposed solutions as opposed to evaluate both the status quo and the proposed solutions to discover a better way to do things. A and B are probably related in some ways.
  • Others are studying similar concepts. For instance, I found out that Andy Coverdale and Michael Rees are working on similar ideas. I already knew that Gideon BurtonTerry Anderson, and Cristina Costa are interested in similar ideas.

I am looking forward to more discussions on the topic… and if any of you will be in Denver next week for AERA, let’s chat!


Participatory Scholars and 21st Century Scholarship


Interesting articles in Distance Education Journal


  1. You shared your paper about web 2.0/social networking and scholarship on an old-fashioned mailing list, so I could see why it might be seen as a bit of competition or a threat to the ITFORUM list, which is closed off, etc.

    I’ll try to catch you at one of your AERA sessions unless there is some other meetup planned, I’d like to talk with you about some ideas. I’m interested for example too in what role, if any, (open) journals could play in supporting more participatory scholarship, too. And should blogs and journals be so separate, for example. I recently reviewed the evidence on the digital natives/immigrants thing, and I found both blog posts and journal articles that were equally helpful. Seems a shame to completely ignore one or the other:

  2. I was wondering if anyone was going to catch that ;) but i was expecting more sympathy in terms of underlying ideas, especially since the field is somewhat techno-centric. Can you imagine giving that paper to an audience that isn’t as familiar with technology and the changing culture on the web? Let’s catch up at AERA. I’ll be there Saturday morning to Monday night. I’ll look for you too.

  3. Resistance exists at both systemic and personal levels. Within the context of Doctoral training, there are commonalities in scholarship across all fields and disciplines: locating oneself within the research field and becoming increasingly participative and encultured within a research community. To me, engaging in the social Web extends this learning trajectory in an expansive way, and at the same time impacts on how we conceptualise academic enquiry, research dissemination and peer review.

    So in the sessions on social media we are delivering to our fellow PhD students at Nottingham University, we explore how – and in what ways – using these technologies can both challenge and augment traditional and established academic practices. We give the simple example of how a student presenting at a conference can upload their PowerePoint presentation to a site like Slideshare to reach a potentially wider audience. As they become more engaged in the social Web, they can link to or embed this on a webpage or blog post to enable further discussion and feedback.

    Its often practical examples like these that will excite those unfamiliar with the technologies. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary – but it can be. Web 2.0 bookmarking and bibliography/citation tools (Delicious, Mendeley etc.) create interest because they are tools closely related to very practical and routine academic practices. Building up a network on Twitter and committing to a blog requires a more significant ‘leap of faith.’ These distinctions bring to mind Dave White’s idea of Digital Visitors and Residents; i.e. either using the Web when required – as a toolbox; or embracing the sociality of the academic Web and the interconnectedness of the tools. Its a useful catch-all to describe levels of engagement.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Andy. Leaving the systemic issues aside for a while, I would agree that on a more personal level users would be inclined to participate in social media for professional development if they understand the benefits that can be derived (e.g., *possibility* of feedback). I don’t have data on the topic, but I’d love to see data on it. Do you know of any empirical studies of participation in social for professional development, *especially* ones that (a) focus on academics, and (b) are long-term investigations?

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