Sociological Imagination

This essay by myself and Milena Kremakova explains the background to The Sociological Imagination and our motivations for it. Alternatively you could just go and look at the website itself!

This website’s raison d’etre was initially nebulous, tentative and ambitious all at the same time: we wanted to create a new online space for public sociology.  We hoped to establish something that was more than a blog, yet neither an institutionally bound magazine, nor an academic journal.  The existence of such a space would allow us to channel the eclectic range of interesting and useful content that we found ourselves wanting to share and publicise, as people who had much broader interests than our respective research topics.  We also envisaged site to be independent from the academic institution/s or other workplaces at which we found ourselves at that moment or in the future.  The very first post on the Sociological Imagination (hereafter also abbreviated as SI) pledged to ‘offer an ongoing forum within which the ethical and political commitments underlying much sociology can be explicitly and passionately linked to the actual practice of social research itself.’  Over time, the site’s purpose has stabilised in a pleasingly organic way and today it resembles a Boing Boing or Brainpickings for sociologists.  We publish original articles, commentaries on current events or debates, research profiles and podcast interviews, as well as a diverse range of multimedia material from across the web.  We have also begun to post calls for papers and event announcements, sometimes for projects in which we are involved ourselves, but more usually simply because we have read about them and found them interesting, or people have requested our help with promoting something and we are keen that the site be useful to others.  In short, SI tries to provide a ‘community service’ to other sociologists by pooling together a serendipitous range of relevant sociological content and allowing space for both silent reading and public engagement.

At the time of writing, with the site’s third birthday imminent, it had received 263,523 visits (with 196,559 unique) and 396,773 page views.  35.7% of these visitors came from the US, 24.3% came from the UK, and other countries where the site is popular include Canada, Australia, Philippines, India, Germany and South Africa.  The website had 5,371 twitter followers (now 10,000+) and 721 facebook friends.  We have posted at least once daily, with the initial post always at 8am leading to a current total of 1,371 posts.  The regular 8 am post happened somewhat accidentally, but we decided to stick to it for the sake of consistency – and also, thinking of UK-based readers, it was a convenient time at the start of the working day.  We imagined sociology-minded readers sitting down at their desks with a cup of coffee in the morning and waking up their own sociological imaginations by reading something brief and intriguing which they might otherwise not have found.  This regularity led one twitter follower to describe the site as their ‘daily dose of the sociological imagination’ which we adopted as a slogan for the site, though it has more recently been supplanted by ‘committing sociology’ in homage to the diverting statement that ‘this is not a time to commit sociology’ made by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the wake of a foiled terror attack (25 April, 2013).

While the nature of the site has transformed into something predominately curatorial, collating all manner of multi-media material which we think both sociologically interesting and likely to interest sociologists, we do have an increasing sense that websites like ours have a more important role to play in academic life.  They have the potential to establish and practice a more visible and more accessible sociology (and other disciplines).  This is relevant both outside of and within higher education.  The blogosphere provides a space for many elements which are often squeezed out by competition and specialisation in the neoliberal academy: discussions of scholarship and workflow, debates over broader disciplinary and professional questions, and an engagement with intellectual questions which is fun, driven by curiosity and purged of instrumental motivations.

The first of these topics in particular poses a challenge to digital sceptics who would see online activity as a diversion from the ‘real’ business of academic life.  This attitude, however, neglects the fact that illuminating, sophisticated and reflective discussions about scholarship and work in progress are increasingly common online and, in a more quotidian sense, the full range of social media tools being used by academics are making formerly ‘backstage’ aspects of academic practice newly visible.  Moreover, these type of discussions are often more fruitful than traditional academic modes of publishing because of the frequency with which they take place across, often even relying on, boundaries of specialisation. One of us has written elsewhere about the idea of continuous publishing and its benefits not only for readers, but also for the writer (Carrigan & Lockley, 2013).  If we treat academic blogging as a continuous mode of publishing (that is, a continuous mode of making work public), the blog becomes an active space in which to brainstorm and store new ideas, catalogue notes on literature, reflect on fieldwork, develop future texts or projects, organise and refine your thoughts and arguments, and – thanks to its publicity – engage in discussion with others.  Importantly, it can also help fight writer’s block and procrastination.  Furthermore, the relatively insubstantial time investment required to follow someone’s blog or twitter feeds means it becomes possible to learn about particular topics, sometimes whole areas of inquiry, in a way which simply would not be feasible if the only option was to reach journal articles or monographs outside of one’s own research specialisation (because of time constraints, the financial expense required, or even because of not knowing about their existence).

There is an important sense in which the scholarly web is becoming a playground for para academics: the torrents of open culture both demand and reward creative engagement outside ones own formal training. However, what is even more exciting is the extent to which digital communication makes sociology visible and accessible outside the academy – to those who have completed sociology degrees or other qualifications but have long since drifted away, as well as others who simply stumble across sociological materials online (the frequency with which this occurs suggests that, contra sceptics, the internet will not lead to the death of serendipity).  As a sociological tool, websites like SI have several important advantages over traditional academic publishing:

● First and foremost, sites such as SI have a democratising effect on sociology.  They offer the potential of both instant and continuous feedback – without requiring it.  Unlike a journal article, they can host comments and discussions literally on the same page as the text which prompted them.  They also allow almost real time written discussion which, unlike conference papers, is unlimited in time and volume, yet is not forced upon those readers who do not wish to comment.

● They are displaced/placeless, allowing access to the content to anyone regardless  of limitations of place, time, disability, or other constraints.

● They are an easy ways to record more fleeting and less well developed arguments which could be (or not be) developed further at any time in the future, either by their author or by a reader.

● As we have both found by writing about eclectic content, and hopefully readers have also found by reading it, this format gives food for thought and opens up new avenues for using sociological tools for the analysis of new problems.  Recently we have discovered and posted about a new subfield of sociology called Astrosociology; about one scholar‘s work on 3D visualisation of Kant‘s ‘Critique of pure reason’ which is redefining epistemology and the sociology of learning, Animal studies, and other ‘niche’ topics within sociology about which we previously knew little or nothing at all.  The curatorial capacity in which we explore these topics lends a purpose to the task of curiosity-driven exploration – which, in turn, belies the oppressive habits of mind often introjected within graduate school, e.g. ‘I can’t wastetime on this just because it’s interesting.

Nonetheless, it still seems that a process of mainstreaming the digital, which has arguably begun in some disciplines, remains far away in sociology.  This creates a gap between traditional sociology and the young, increasingly computer literate generations of sociology students and future sociologists.  There are notable exceptions (our favourite group blogs include Cyborgology, Sociological Images and Everyday Sociology) and there has been an observable growth of sociologists blogging in a personal capacity.  Nonetheless the relative absence of sociological voices from the blogosphere has been notable and, it seems, this is indicative of a broader failure to seize the opportunities afforded by digital tools.  Daniels and Feagin (2011) describe how the uptake of digital tools in sociology lags behind that which can be seen in the humanities:

‘All these changes in scholarship have been taken up with a great deal more enthusiasm by some in the academy than others.  Our colleagues in the humanities have embraced digital technologies much more readily than those of us in sociology or the social sciences more generally.  A casual survey of the blogosphere reveals that those in the humanities (and law schools) are much more likely to maintain academic blogs than social scientists.  In terms of scholarship, humanities scholars have been, for more than ten years, innovating ways to combine traditional scholarship with digital technologies.  To name just a two examples, scholars in English have established a searchable online database of the papers of Emily Dickinson and historians have developed a site that offers a 3D digital model showing the urban development of ancient Rome in A.D. 320. There are significant institutions being built in the digital humanities including the annual Digital Humanities Conference, which began in 1989, and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Digital Humanities.

Sociology lags far behind in the adoption of digital tools for scholarly work.  As Paul DiMaggio and colleagues noted in 2001, “sociologists have been slow to take up the study of the Internet” (“The Social Implications of the Internet,” Annual Review of Sociology, 2001, p.1). While there are notable exceptions, such as Andrew Beveridge’s digitizing of Census maps (, when looking at the field as a whole these sorts of innovations are rare in sociology. In contrast to the decade-long conference in the digital humanities, there is no annual conference on “digital sociology.”  Sociology graduate students Nathan Jurgensen and PJ Rey recently organized a conference on “Theorizing the Web,” that drew luminaries in sociology Saskia Sassen and George Ritzer, but this is the first sociology conference (that we are aware of) to focus exclusively on understanding the digital era from a sociological perspective. Analogously, there is no large institution, like the NEH seeking to fund digitally informed sociological research. The reasons for this sociological lag when it comes to the Internet are still not clear, but some point to the problems of getting digital publication projects recognized by tenure and promotion review committees.’

Though we are sympathetic to such arguments about the desirability of winning recognition for digital publication projects, we would suggest that the point can be overstated and that, furthermore, doing so risk losing sight of the unprecedented freedom presently afforded by these technologies for para academics.  Calls for ‘recognition’ of digital scholarship too easily collapse into an instrumentalist logic which calls for blogging et al to be incorporated within the metrics of prevailing audit culture.  This is an understandable aim for those who are precariously situated within the contemporary academy but nonetheless perhaps a short-sighted one.  Digital opportunities could too easily slide into digital opportunism: if ‘digital publication projects’ win ‘recognition’ within institutions then what is to stop the pathologies which afflict the contemporary academy (audit culture, instrumentalism and alienation) migrating to the digital sphere?  Is institutional recognition of digital scholarship worthwhile if it distorts the practices (which at their best are paradigmatic of communicating for its own intrinsic value rather than extrinsic institutional rewards) which render digital scholarship attractive in the first place?

In the rest of this chapter we link C. Wright Mills’ concept of ‘sociological imagination’ with our own experiences of learning, sharing, thinking and creating online as sociologists, as well as how this work has mattered to us and, we hope, mattered to other people.  Much of our discussion addresses sociology (and sociologists) specifically because of our own academic circumstances and the aforementioned digital lag observable when sociological engagement online is compared to other disciplines. Nonetheless, we hope the discussion retains some relevance beyond the small corner of the academy we contingently (and precariously) occupy.

The Sociological Imagination

The concept of Sociological Imagination entered circulation in the 1959 book of the same name by the American Sociologist C. Wright Mills.  It moves from a prophetic opening (‘Nowadays men often feel that their private lives are a series of traps’) through to a lacerating critique of the dominant trends within American sociology at the time (offering a scathing series of ‘translations’ of passages taken from the grand doyen of 20th century American sociology, Talcott Parson, which though surely offering amusement to endless cohorts of grad students, probably was not the author’s wisest career move) and an elaborated vision of what sociology could be.  This centres around the eponymous concept of the Sociological Imagination – the quality of mind which ‘enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society’ and so ‘understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals’ (Mills, 1959: 5).  In doing so, Mills laid out a vision for sociology, emphatically political and engaged, founded on drawing out the interconnections between the grand sweep of history and the unfolding of individual lives.  However, it was far from universally praised at the time of publication, as can be seen in the early review of the book by Edward Shils quoted in Gane and Back (2013):

“Imagine a burly cowpuncher on the long, slow ride from the Panhandle of Texas to Columbia University, carrying in his saddle-bag some books which he reads with absorption while his horse trots along. Imagine that among the books are some novels of Kafka, Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, and essays of Max Weber. Imagine the style and imagery that would result from the interaction of the cowboy- student and his studies. Imagine also that en route he passes through Madison, Wisconsin, that seat of a decaying populism and that, on arriving at his destination in New York, he encounters Madison Avenue, that street full of reeking phantasies of the manipulation of the human will and of what is painful to America’s well-wishers and enjoyable to its detractors. Imagine the first Madison disclosing to the learned cowpuncher his subsequent political mode, the second an object of his hatred…The end result of such an imaginary grand tour would be a work like The Sociological Imagination”

Nonetheless, the book has come to be seen as a sociological classic, not least of all because of the value which so many sociologists have recurrently found in its passionate challenge to the professionalisation of sociology and the ivory tower intellectualism which it can so often engender.  Crucially, the sociological imagination is not something over which professional sociologists can be said to have a monopoly.  Indeed the extent to which this sensibility finds itself manifested within the academy can be taken as an index of the relative vitality or otherwise of the discipline.  Mills was intensely critical of the professional sociology from which he found himself ever more estranged over time, lamenting the tendency of his contemporaries to ‘slip so readily into unintelligibility’.  He identified the roots of this problems as inhering in the widespread tendency within the professionalising sociology of his time to self-consciously seek legitimation as a scientific discipline.  As Gane and Back (2012) go on to write,

‘For sociology to be to be effective, especially beyond the academy, it must have literary ambitions. Mills’ assessment of the quality of the sociological writings of his time is damning. He argues that there is a “serious crisis in literacy” in which sociologists are “very much involved” (1959:239). Mills’ position here is an extension of his earlier attack on Parsons and Lazarsfeld, and is just as fierce in tone. He observes that “a turgid and polysyllabic prose does seem to prevail in the social sciences” (Mills, 1959:239), and adds that this style of writing has nothing to do with the complexity of the subject matter. Mills explains the prevalence of this style, instead, in terms of a quest for status. He declares: “Desire for status is one reason why academic men slip so readily into unintelligibility. And that, in turn, is one reason why they do not have the status they desire” (Mills, 1959:240). This thirst for status is said to be driven by an underlying desire for the sociologist to achieve recognition as a “scientist”; something, he argues, that led to sociology written in clear and accessible prose (including, presumably, his own work) to be dismissed by many as mere journalism.’

Mills saw the promise of sociology as being undermined by this quest for status and the sclerotic forms of expression he saw associated with it, with sociologists prone to ‘stereotyped ways of writing which do away with the full experience by keeping them detached throughout their operations’ almost as if ‘they are deadly afraid to take chance of modifying themselves in the process of their work’ (Mills, 2001: 111).  He saw this failure of vision and expression in what could almost be construed as epochal terms, representing a failure of sociological imagination at precisely the moment when this distinctive sensibility was most needed.  Mills was, in many ways, estranged from the academic establishment and this was, in part, both cause and a consequence of his critique.  This estrangement gave him a degree of intellectual freedom from the cultural norms prevalent within the professional sociology of his day and this was in turn entrenched by the manner in which he employed that freedom to pull apart many of the orthodoxies which he saw as so inimical to his  understanding of sociology’s promise.

This estrangement can be overstated and, though this is a chapter about para academic life, it would be manifestly untrue to suggest by way of ahistorical retrospection that Mills himself was a para academic.  Clearly he was not.  Nonetheless, he could, perhaps, serve a viable role model for para academics – in his case the estrangement was predominantly cultural rather than structural but, nonetheless, there was estrangement.  The relationship between his unceasingly critical orientation towards professional sociology and the profoundly creative use of the freedom afforded to him by this critical outlook and relative estrangement is worth reflecting on.  His position in relation to the sociological establishment afforded him a degree of freedom and he used this to diagnose the ills which afflicted the sociology of his day and, crucially, pursued a lifelong project of rethinking sociological craft in view of these disciplinary and institutional ailments.

We would suggest that the blogosphere affords a parallel degree of freedom to para academics: a place of respite from the distorting tendencies engendered by the pursuit of status within higher education. While our discussion in this chapter focus predominantly on blogging, there is a broader claim to be made here about ‘digital scholarship’ and its complex relationship to the broader academic world within which it is emerging. The notion of digital scholarship drawn upon here is largely that offered by Weller (2012) who understands the constitution of a ‘digital scholar’ in a deliberately open way:

A digital scholar need not be a recognised academic, and equally does not include anyone who posts something online. For now, a definition of someone who employs digital, networked and open approaches to demonstrate specialism in a field is probably sufficient to progress.’

It would be absurd to claim that all digital scholars are para academics – manifestly this is not the case.  Nor would it be tenable to suggest that all para academics are, could or should become digital scholars (even if we would not be surprised if this happens in a couple of decades when today’s youngest generations enter professional research).  Nonetheless, we argue there is a contingent complementarity between the role of the digital scholar and that of the para academic, with the embrace of the former offering substantial opportunities to those thrown into the latter role.  As Weller (2012) goes on to observe, ‘in a digital, networked, open world people become less defined by the institution to which they belong and more by the network and online identity they establish’ and, as a consequence, ‘a well-respected digital scholar may well be someone who has no institutional affiliation’.  Part of the difficulty faced by those precariously employed within the academy is the long standing dependence of those so positioned on institutions as the means through which one can come to articulate a viable and efficacious professional identity.  This is precisely the dependence which digital scholarship is weakening and it is for this reason that we should treat calls for digital scholarship to be ‘recognised’ with caution.

The risk is that incorporating digital outputs too readily into the evaluative frameworks of contemporary higher education might erode many of the things which are so refreshing about the uses which academics are making of these online tools.  As it stands academic bloggers enjoy a degree of freedom from the sorts of pressures which concerned Mills, which have surely only intensified and expanded since the time he was writing, which makes it imperative that this not be threatened through too hasty a process of mainstreaming.  Digital scholarship can, at its best, allow alternative infrastructures of communication and evaluation to emerge which, as well as being personally liberating to those active within them, holds out the promise of providing an independent vantage point from which the deleterious tendencies within the broader academy can be identified, analysed and resisted. This can take a variety of forms:

  1. The boundary between academic scholarship and ‘public engagement’ becomes blurred.  Even digital scholarship geared towards a narrowly specialised audience enjoys an intrinsic visibility which traditional scholarship does not.  In so far as digital scholars work with an awareness of this visibility it inculcates a tendency towards openness, in the sense of disrupting many of the habitual modes of academic expression which are intricately tied up in traditional modes of academic publishing.  Or in other words: it’s easier to avoid the temptation to use jargon when blogging than it is when writing a journal article because you are aware that readers of the former are far more unlikely to understand the jargon than readers of the latter.  The tendency to ‘slip so readily into unintelligibility’ decried by Mills is checked by the peculiarly public form of writing entailed by blogging and other modes of digital scholarship.
  2. This visibility goes hand-in-hand with discoverability.  It is easier to discover those engaged in digital scholarship both for others within the academy and those outside it.  This has important implications for the public status of academic work. While the traditional understanding of public intellectualism has been bound up in broadcast media, digital communications facilitatesnarrowcasting (Poe, 2012).  The image of the public intellectual as a world renowned figure communicating globally about issues of universal concern can give way to a much more democratic image of academics in general communicating about their research to those who find it interesting.  There will always be such an audience, no matter how niche the topic appears to be, yet prior to digital communications it was impossible to establish the necessary connections – hence the hegemony of the broadcast model of public intellectualism.
  3. Many taken for granted norms pertaining to scholarly communications are, at least in part, functions of the limitations inherent in non-digital communication systems.  For instance as Weller  (2011: 156) observes, ‘a journal article is a certain length, and the journal publication cycle is determined as much by the economics of printing as it by any consideration of the best methods for sharing knowledge’.  This is an example of an interconnection between form (the journal article) and function (communication of scholarly knowledge) having been shaped by the economics of analogue technology.  Digital technology creates opportunities to find innovative forms for long standing functions and because of their relatively peripheral status within the academy, para academics are best placed to undertake the innovation and experimentation to which this digital turn so naturally leads.
  4. Digital scholarship also tends to reveal the linkages between what Bourdieu (2003) describes aspublic scholarship and private commitment.  Whereas the two are clearly demarcated within mainstream academic culture, with the legitimacy of the former often seen to rest on the exclusion of the latter, digital communication tends to preclude such a demarcation.  This helps create the possibility of a more up front and less alienated social science, more open to those outside the academy and clearer about the beliefs and values which underlie scholarly projects.
  5. Some of the advantages of para academic work are accompanied with disadvantages.  As Weller (2012) observes, peer networks are integral to scholarship, representing the ‘people who scholars share ideas with, collaborate with on research projects, review papers for, discuss ideas with and get feedback from’.  Yet, before the rise of the internet and, more latterly and significantly, social networking tools, the constitutions of this peer network was limited to those with whom one interacted in person on a regular basis.  The rise of Internet communication has enabled ‘scholars to build up a network of peers who perform the same role in their scholarly activity as the networks founded on face-to-face contact’ thus reducing the disadvantages inherent in the enforced mobility; however, the basic inequality between the para academic and the traditionally employed academic remains, for example in caused by the relative lack of resources and precarious employment conditions which typically characterise the working life of the para academic.

Our Sociological Imagination

This project has value for us because of both its sheer continuity (we have worked willingly on the site for three years now) but also the independence which that continuity has in relation to each of our respective trajectories through the (para)academic world.  It is something which has consistently accompanied us in our professional involvements, in the sense that it has had direct and indirect implications for our other activities and professional identities, however it has always been experientially distinct from these.  We experience it as a form of free space which provides a public forum for what is otherwise private activity: thinking, reading around other subjects, and generally having fun through understanding society and developing analytical tools.  The fun and creative aspect of sociology seems to be insufficiently present in the academic curriculum: or at least less so than in mathematics and computer science (as one of us has discovered through her recent fieldwork).  It would probably be inaccurate to suggest the project is utterly insulated from instrumental reasons, but these are entirely secondary: i.e., we have become aware of ways in which the project has been instrumentally useful to us but we never sought to pursue it for these reasons.  It is a liberating counterbalance to the frequently stifling and laborious experiences of writing conference papers, articles for publication, or a PhD thesis.  The effort that goes into crafting a small SI piece is sometimes no smaller than the effort that went into an equally-sized portion of a journal paper.  But each SI article is driven by pure curiosity and interest – and some are more polished than others.  Part of this freedom, obviously, comes with the different genre and size of the articles that appear on SI.  Most of the site’s content is written in a less formal style and the range of possible formats is almost infinite, unlike the strictly regimented format and style of, say, journal articles in sociology.  Over the years, we have both found that this free format is precisely what has allowed us to post consistently, regardless of any other commitments we have, so as to never put off writing an SI post when an interesting idea comes to mind.  We have developed an informal writing style, much like a cross between sociology and journalism, but without losing the ability to write serious pieces.  Furthermore, it is partly thanks to this free format that we have gained an eclectic range of both ad hoc and consistent contributors, some of whom are freelance sociologists, others students in the social sciences, others in academic positions, and yet others non-sociologists who have an interest and something to say about one of our topics.

Our consistent sociological ‘thinking aloud’ through SI has certainly been beneficial for our personal writing abilities, but more importantly, this format has suited the purpose of what we imagine as public sociology.  It is sociology spilling out of the confines of academia into the broader world, but without completely severing the link with academic research or losing sight of the worthwhile aspects of research embedded within institutions.  Admittedly, the informality and the lack of restraints on format also pose constrains: while the range of SI topics is wide, the coverage tends to be superficial, contrary to the very narrow focus of a journal or conference paper (although some of the posts have featured extensive literature research and analysis and could well form drafts for academic papers or book chapters). This is why we do not see SI as something that either of us could do full-time, or something for which we ought to abandon our other (academic or non-academic) research which affords us the depth and engagement with one particular sociological topic or subdiscipline.  In fact, our work on SI has benefitted from our respective academic work and our empirical research experience – just as it, in turn, neatly complements our other academic and non-academic work.

Although the Sociological Imagination exists predominantly online, it often leaves the virtual world and crosses over to offline activities, some of which can be seen as academic and others para academic.  An example of this cross-over is a workshop which we organised in June 2011, devoted to the sociology of sport.  The workshop took place at Warwick University (where both of us were then based).  It brought together three researchers in the sociology of sport, was easily accessible to anyone at the university, and open to anyone else outside the university who was able to attend.  The ‘offline’ workshop was preceded by a week of one or two daily posts on different aspects of sociology of sport, introducing researchers and guest articles, and followed by audio and video podcasts of the presentations and discussions.  Since neither of us is a specialist in the sociology of sport, we did not write original articles, but approached several researchers of sport for guest contributions.  Our role as editors focused on finding relevant authors and contributions, curating interesting content, linking the online theme with the workshop, planning and crafting each of the posts, and providing both an online and a physical space for researchers and students interested in sociological aspects of sport.  The Week of Sport on SI thus had several functions: on the one hand, it resulted in a typical academic workshop, but on the other, the it was also a joint online-offline space-time which created a forum for topic-driven public sociology, publicising the work of researchers and accessible to anyone with an interest in the topic, including our online readers who could not attend the workshop.  This and other occasions when we have linked SI with the ‘offline world’ have been equally rewarding in terms of quality of discussion, the possibility for us or our readers to follow up on an interesting topic or meet interesting researchers in real (or virtual) life.

In its own limited and local way, this felt as if the digital activity which had become so important to us had ‘spilled over’ from its artificial mooring with the ‘virtual’ world, coming to occupy what was then the shared institutional space within which our mundane day-to-day para academic lives unfolded.  It pointed to exciting new possibilities which, it would feel dishonest not to point out, we have not yet explored to the fullest, as the exigencies of daily life inevitably preclude a further opening of the cracks that suddenly became visible in established institutional structures.  But the possibilities are exciting nonetheless and they point to an alternative trajectory for the digital activity of para academics: one which resists the temptation to leverage digital scholarship for instrumental gain and opposes its incorporation into the existing audit culture.  Instead we have tried to point towards a potentialexpansion out of para academic digital scholarship which opposes its incorporation into existing structures.  We have suggested C. Wright Mills as an exemplar of the public and professional orientations this might involve and sought to ‘join the dots’ between contemporary discussions of public sociology, digital scholarship and para-academia.

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