Yesterday at Le Moyne we had a discussion about uses of Twitter in academic work. We focused primarily on how it might be used for teaching, but talked a little bit about how it might allow professors and students to be part of a larger research and professional community, beyond the college. I’d say our conversation was skeptically received by most of those in attendance, but then again they were in the room on what was by far the most beautiful Friday afternoon of the semester.
My colleague Lara Deruisseau, a bio prof here at Le Moyne, made a very interesting point about Twitter and community. I had commented about how Twitter might help us overcome the tyranny of small departments at liberal arts colleges by connecting to professionals all over the planet. Lara, however, drew our attention to the fact that, over the last year, several of us have come to know our Le Moyne colleagues from various departments and offices on campus much better because of our Twitter interaction. These web networks have enhanced our local community in important and powerful ways. Our increased collaboration will certainly have (postive) effects on our curricula and pedagogies.
This strikes me as excellent confirmation of claims about the place of computer networks in daily life. I’m reminded specifically of work by Barry Wellman like this essay about computer networks as social networks (notice the date – he was on this early!) or this one about person-to-person communities. In particular, something that is exciting is that networks like Twitter make it possible for communication at the college level to be professor-to-professor rather than department to department, or, more cynically, professor-to-department-chair-dean-chair-department-to-professor. Especially in the context of increased administrative and procedural layers, Twitter might be seen as a place where faculty collaboration/inspiration can happen person to person.