Academic tweeting and blogging: Some thoughts, questions, and links

I’m the first to admit that I’m a late adopter of Twitter and blogging for academic use, and therefore I’m also late to the conversation about how it fits into our existing models of academic work. That said, right now I’d have to classify myself as a true believer in the utility of platforms like Twitter and blogging for the kind of sociology I’d like to do. The potential of blogging to share creative ideas outside the typical channels like conferences, journals, and books is exciting to me for several reasons. When inspiration strikes, you can publicize your ideas, as opposed to writing a stale article and hoping it ends up on the reviewer’s desk on a good day. You don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get folks into the hotel meeting room at 8:30 AM on a Sunday to hear a talk. There is potentially a much greater audience for a blog, so that your work might be seen by more than those who specialize in your field. It’s been rewarding to get feedback from non-sociologists on my various posts, sometimes academics in other fields, and other times interested readers from outside the academy. As for Twitter, a few days ago I tweeted that I was thankful about how Twitter helps “overcome the tyranny of the small department.” Small departments aren’t likely to have multiple members with shared research interests because that’s a disservice to students. Over the last 8 months or so that I’ve been seriously using my account (I feel bad for the 2 years I let it sit there unused) I’ve made connections with scholars I’d otherwise not know of and have been introduced to work and resources that I’ve found very helpful. In a way, I’d like to think these are like conversations one might have in the hallway of a department with colleagues whose interests are closer to your own. (Sure, I don’t really know what those departments are like…)

For a few days I’ve been having a Twitter conversation about how blogs and social media participation should count toward academic work with several of my faculty friends here at Le Moyne College (yes, ironic). There seems to be no debate that professional blogging (so, not a muscle car or cupcake blog) should count for something, but should it count toward teaching, scholarship, or service? Two of my colleagues have argued that it makes the most sense as service, possibly to the department or College, and definitely to the discipline. Another pointed out the potential similarities between online teaching and blogging, and I think an academic blog written for an undergraduate audience could be very successful and valuable.

One colleague argued that blogging is not scholarship because it’s not peer reviewed, to which I (the true believer) responded that it’s not ‘blind reviewed,’ but that links or retweets might reasonably indicate peer approval. To me, self run research blogs are in some ways similar to open access publishing, but without the ‘seal of approval’ of the blind-peer review process. Of course, some open access journals may be cost prohibitive for some scholars, not particularly respected, and some are just scams. Beyond that, I think there is a strong argument to be made that the traditional model of peer review is more stifling than it is helpful even in the context of open access. How many of our academic standards are just rituals meant to sanctify status hierarchies inside and outside of the academy? How many good ideas never see the pages of a journal because an author feels compelled to water them down to appease possible reviewers, or are simply rejected because of one powerful editor or reviewer? Blogging is a potential way around these barriers.

Obviously we are not the first to think about these questions, but a little bit of searching revealed few solid guidelines. A Tweet to my approximately 200 followers was met with only 2 or 3 responses, even though I’d be surprised if a good number of my followers in academia haven’t thought about it a little. Here are a few links to the resources that have come my way so far:

There is a lot more to be said about this, and I’m sure I’m missing obvious shortcomings. I may return to this in a future post. Please feel free to comment below, or Tweet at me, if you have criticisms, contributions, or can direct me toward other resources. I’d appreciate it.

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3 comments

  1. Great post. I feel much the same way. I’m at Randolph-Macon College, in psychology. Twitter gets better and better the more followers you accrue, especially if they are actually interested in the same things you are. Kate Clancy and John Hawks also have some resources and reflections about how they have integrated their online social networking into their professional identities. I actually cited a blog post of hers (I think I may have even included a copy in my 4th year review) in order to help my committee get a sense of how one can interpret this kind of activity as an important part of robust scholarship and communication in the 21st century.

  2. This is great.I hope academic blogging will count towards scholarship. It is an interesting an innovative way to share information. And yes, it is often reviewed in unconventional ways.

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