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  • Mark 10:49 am on October 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Social Media for Academics   

    Social Media for Academics 2 

    It’s only a month to go until the second edition of Social Media for Academics will be released by Sage. It’s a vastly expanded text with almost 100 new pages of material. I’ve also rewritten the existing content from start to finish. There’s a whole range of topics which have been added: live blogging, developing hashtags, live streaming, videocasting, podcasting, working with freelancers, trolling, social media sabbaticals, building communities, auditing your footprint and much more. Here are some of the kind words which people have already shared about this edition. If you’d like to get a sense of the approach I take then you might like to explore the hundreds of blog posts about social media I’ve written or reviews and media coverage from the first edition. If you’d like me to speak or advise on these issues then please get in touch.

     
  • Mark 6:59 pm on August 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Social Media for Academics   

    Why social media shouldn’t be ignored by research policy 

    I wrote this as a contribution to the Society for Research Into Higher Education’s contribution to the ESRC Consultation on Leadership Development:

    The research literature suggests a significant minority of academics use social media as part of their working life, with social trends suggesting this number will only grow with time. It has become an informal back channel through which news, opportunities and ideas circulate, with important consequences for the structure of academic networks. This informal character is supplemented by official embrace of social media by academics departments, universities, research centres, research networks and learned societies. Increasingly large swathes of academic interaction take place through these platforms, leaving their absence from the consultation document slightly surprising. There is still a distinct lack of consensus about scholarly comportment online, what it is to use social media professionally and the role it ought to play in professionalisation socialisation. Its current uptake and likely expanding significance means it ought to be considered in terms of what leadership development will entail for present and forthcoming generations of academics.

    If anyone would like to help me get this conversation going then please get in touch!

     
  • Mark 12:55 pm on June 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: doctoral pedgaogy, , , , Social Media for Academics,   

    Twitter and the internal conversation 

    My notes on Rainford, J. (2016). Becoming a doctoral researcher in a digital world: Reflections on the role of Twitter for reflexivity and the internal conversation. E-Learning and Digital Media, 13(1-2), 99-105

    In this paper Jon Rainford brings together two of my favourite things, the internal conversation and Twitter. He uses the framework of the former to analyse how the latter is used by doctoral students. He frames Twitter as a potential solution to the problem of loneliness which is an inevitable challenge for the increasing numbers who are not full time PhD students. From pg 100:

    Study for a doctorate can be thought of not just as completing a qualification but of ‘becoming’ (Barnacle, 2005; Barnacle and Mewburn, 2010). For full-time students, this becoming is often negotiated in shared physical spaces, however, for many students, this full-time mode of study is not possible. This has led to more diverse modes of study: part-time study for a traditional PhD, one of the more employment focused professional doctorates, or combinations of full-time and part-time study. With full-time work and part-time study, it can be easy to feel on the outside of the academy looking in. However, regardless of the mode of study, isolation is seen as one of the biggest challenges to doctoral students (Ali and Kohun, 2000)

    He talks about this as a ‘virtual common room’ which is available to those who do not have access to the face to face encounters that full time study affords with those with similar experiences. The virtual common room is more diverse for not being confined to a particular institution and for the quantity of responses which a single query can solicit. These exchanges can perform the same function as face to face conversations, helping clarify a matter for the person initiating them. But Rainford stresses the significance of their enduringly public character, as it means that “the digital footprint of them remains long after the conversation is over“ (102). This can leave doctoral researchers exposed, as he writes on 102:

    In terms of a democratization of knowledge this may be a benefit, but it also means that for new scholars, their emergent thoughts are etched into permanence if these communicative dialogues take place on Twitter. It is also important to note that in the context of some professions such as health care, discussing certain issues may be inappropriate and break rules of professionalism (Chester at al., 2013). In the early stages of doctoral becoming individuals often need to seek answers to questions that expose their naivety. This can create real anxiety when the networks that doctoral researchers draw upon may be those who offer future employment

    I found his focus on the conversational dimension of twitter very thought provoking, even if it obscures the role of content on Twitter a little bit. It made me wonder if the extent to which twitter is dominated by self conscious ‘content’ is a variable which tracks what the platform have come to describe as ‘conversational health’. On 103:

    Framing the role of Twitter in internal conversations through a communicative mode of reflexivity means that at least one other person is needed to enter into dialogue with. For this reason, Twitter excels over other SNS for reflexive deliberations as it is predicated on shared conversations, not just shared content as on services such as Tumblr or Pinterest. That being said, its ability to support these conversations is reliant on developing a suitable network of possible interlocutors

     
  • Mark 12:33 pm on June 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Social Media for Academics,   

    What does it mean to take Twitter seriously? 

    What does it mean to take Twitter seriously as a form of intellectual production? This is the question I’ve been asking myself a lot in the last few weeks, as I start what I hope will be an extensive break from a platform I’ve been using daily for years. My immediate motivation for this is that I’ve just stepped down from running a large social media presence which involved me scheduling 50+ updates every day. However it reflects a growing ambivalence I have felt about Twitter, with the platform inspiring and frustrating me in equal measure. I want a break from it because I feel the need to better understand the habits which I have formed around it, enabling me to use it in a more mindful way. It’s since occurred to me that what I’m really seeking is to take it seriously, using it as a form of intellectual production while avoiding the mindless distraction it can so easily give rise to.

    There are some who will find the question oxymoronic: how could a platform which restricts communication to 280 characters be anything other than ephemeral? There’s an obvious determinism underlying this, assuming that the channels we use unavoidably constraint what is communicated through them. However pointing out that people can use Twitter in ways which are far from ephemeral tells us little about how we can do this.

    There’s a unique satisfaction to be found in condensing a complex thought into 280 characters or less, achieving a radical brevity without sacrificing meaning. In an important sense this stands in the tradition of the aphorism, as a form of writing with a long and distinguished history. But it intensifies and accelerates it, leaving it as an everyday accomplishment available to many rather than a lofty form of expression restricted to the learned few. The pleasure to be found in this is one we should take seriously as a form of intellectual production, even if it exists alongside outputs of more dubious intellectual merits. It requires cognitive skill and rhetorical care, with the results exhibiting an elegance that ought to be recognised. If we accept that parsimony is a virtue in long form writing then why do we struggle to take it seriously in this truncated and demanding form? In part I think it is because we fail to define what it means for a tweet to be serious in its intellectual intent.

    The Slow Scholarship Manifesto describes carefully constructed tweest as ‘sleets’: “very carefully crafted sentences, that pack so much into them they can almost be read as a poem, or haiku on their own”. However this framing fetishises speed, equating slowness with carefulness as if the two inevitably go together, whereas anyone who has ever struggled with procrastination knows this is not the case. What matters is care rather than speed. While hastiness can undoubtedly preclude this, rapidity can also be enriching by allowing us to go from what C Wright Mills once called ‘the feel of an idea’ to the expression of it in a matter of seconds. This is at the heart of what it feels like to take Twitter seriously: condensing thoughts with care and skill, throwing them out into the world rather than letting them dissipate as so many do. It involves taking what Mills elsewhere called ‘fringe thoughts’ seriously, with Twitter providing an ever present occasion for micro-actions of intellectual creativity but one which unfortunately can give rise to its opposite, leading to habitual engagement to kill time rather than what I’m talking about here.

    There are other uses of Twitter which I have not touched on here. It can be a remarkable mechanism for circulating events, finding collaborators and sharing news. But there a deeper reality underlying these contingent uses, opening up a form of intellectual production which is as challenging as it is novel. This is what fascinates me about Twitter and it’s why I want to use it, even if I need a break from it to unlearn some of the other habits which it so easily gives rise to.

    I’ll be back on Twitter when I feel better equipped to take it seriously as a form of intellectual production, as this has always been what has drawn me to the platform.

     
  • Mark 1:46 pm on June 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: professionalisations, , , Social Media for Academics, social media guidelines,   

    How do dentists use social media? 

    My notes on Bhola, S., & Hellyer, P. (2016). The risks and benefits of social media in dental foundation training. British dental journal, 221(10), 609.

    One of my main interests in recent years has been social media and professionalisation. Once these platforms become a routine feature of working life, it’s necessary to prepare professionals to take advantage of the opportunities they offer and the challenges they create. But how do we do this? My interest has been in academics and teachers but I’ve recently been looking to how these debates are being taken up within other professions. This paper reflects on the professional use of social media by dentists, with a particular focus on Dental Foundation Training as the training year to prepare newly qualified dentists for independent practice. It takes place in dialogue with an experienced dentist who acts as a training supervisor.

    The General Dental Council offers guidance on the use of social media by dentists. It recognises the professional value in conversing about cases but insists any such discussions must be suitably anonymised in order to prevent the identification of patients. Furthermore no patient information may be shared without their explicit consent. The uptake by dentists can be clearly seen across Facebook groups (peer to peer, as well as pages & groups attached to organisations), a mobile app with a vast education library produced by the British Dental Association, peer to peer educational Instagram feeds, educational YouTube videos across a range of topics, relevant resources collated on Pinterest and many dentists on LinkedIn often identifying themselves as specialists in particular fields. There is also GDPUK which is an immensely popular professional networking resource for dentists, including access to substantial quantities of CPD and links to local events. There are also blogs created by dentists, particularly those orientated towards trainees with an educational intent.

    They identified a number of purposes which social media can serve for dentists:

    1. Professional networking which provide a belongingness akin to dental school to professionals who often feel isolated in independent practice.
    2. Access to a large array of educational resources which can broaden the horizons of trainees
    3. Raising their professional profile, particularly amongst more senior colleagues, creating connections which might be difficult to form through other means.

    And the risks entailed by social media:

    1. There’s no way to ensure the quality of information which is provided freely online, not least of all when commercial motivations intersect with educational ones in ways which might not always be clear.
    2. The ever present possibilities that dentists taking to social media might use these platforms in ways which reflect badly on the profession.
    3. Problems of consent caused by dentists talking about cases and patients online. Interaction with patients through social media might trouble established professional boundaries.

    Here is the summary of GDC social media guidelines and the authors own advice about using social media as a dental professional:

     
  • Mark 10:50 am on May 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Social Media for Academics   

    Interviews with Nature Index about social media 

    I did an interview with Bec Crew from Nature Index recently and it featured in a series of articles:

     
  • Mark 8:46 pm on April 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Social Media for Academics, ,   

    Academics like the idea of Twitter in the classroom but what do students think? 

    My notes on Boath, E., Vigurs, K., & Frangos, J. (2018). Twittering Away-Is twitter an appropriate adjunctive tool to enhance learning and engagement in Higher Education?. Innovative Practice in Higher Education, 3(2).

    Twitter has often be framed as a potential tool for teaching and learning. It can be used for virtual peer support groups, developing interactive networks, sharing knowledge and building networks. It “allows learning conversations to take place both virtually and publicly, thus removing them from the isolation of classrooms and academic ivory towers” (104). It can promote asynchronous learning, generating online community and facilitate immediate formative feedback. There are a whole range of ways in which it can be used but what do students make of these possibilities?

    In this study, Elizabeth Boath, Katy Vigurs and Juliette Frangos investigate student experiences of Twitter through a study of a convenience sample of 44 social welfare law students. Its focus was on Twitter as “an adjunctive learning tool to provide learners with access to contemporary discussion relevant to their subject, which they were invited to identify, understand and disseminate to the wider group” (105). During a Welfare Benefits and Money Advice Module of a BA Social Welfare Law, Policy and Advice Practice students were invited to engage via Twitter lists, a twitter chat, direct engagement with lecturing staff, each other and experts in the field within and beyond the academy. They were asked to identify information relevant for their course and share it with others using a dedicated hashtag. A 17-item questionnaire using closed and open questions was designed to explore their views of this activity and the impact it had on their learning experience. It was completed by 11 of the 44 students (25%). Three of them had previously been regular users of Twitter, five had not used Twitter before but were now regular users and 3 were infrequent users previously and remained so now.

    Their responses conveyed the usefulness of Twitter for enhancing knowledge, particularly on emerging event s and breaking news. Though this was coupled with concerns about the reliability of twitter sources. Some suggested they found the platform overwhelming, with too much information and too little time to process it. This reinforces existing research which has found that Twitter’s use to support students may be limited. The authors suggest that “if supported by institutional digital scaffolding such as time management strategies and training, Twitter may be a useful adjunct to traditional physical learning spaces that facilitates the enhancement of knowledge and building of professional networks” (108).

    The real question is what from that scaffolding would take and whether this would be worthwhile even if it was provided. The teaching might be effective but are students interested?Interestingly, only two of them agreed that Twitter had added to their enjoyment of the model. Could there be much more enthusiasm for Twitter on the part of educators than on the part of students? They note that the students in question “tend to be more mature students, to be employed, have children and also some undertake additional caring roles” and so may be atypical of the broader population (108)

     
  • Mark 2:20 pm on April 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , note taking, Social Media for Academics,   

    Getting hold of ideas while they are clear: note taking as a creative practice 

    I often come out of meetings feeling that what we’ve been discussing is utterly transparent to me. I feel I hold the issue in my hands, seeing how the initial steps connect to a broader horizon of action. It couldn’t feel more straight forward. However partly for that reason, I never take notes at the time. I often scribble stuff on a whiteboard, piece of paper or notebook file which vaguely captures my sense at the time before coming back to it a week or more later to find that what was lively has now become dead, what was transparent has now become opaque and what was in my grasp now feels alien to me.

    It’s left me obsessing about the discipline involved in a note taking practice. I suspect I’d gain so much from forcing myself to spend twenty minutes quietly writing out long form notes after important meetings, before going on to other things. I’ve had this discipline for thinking for a long time. It varies depending on the time and energy available to me but I’ve trained myself over time to seize on what C Wright Mills called the feel of an idea and force myself to elaborate it while it’s fresh in my mind. The post you’re reading is an example of this. So why do I find it so much more difficult to get myself to do this with ideas which emerge in meetings?

     
  • Mark 4:44 pm on January 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: research workflow, , Social Media for Academics   

    Why have generic, popular services proved so enticing for digital academics? From 2011 to 2019 

    My notes on Rowlands, I., Nicholas, D., Russell, B., Canty, N., & Watkinson, A. (2011). Social media use in the research workflow. Learned Publishing, 24(3), 183-195.

    I was fascinated to stumble across this paper from 2011 which I’d somehow managed to miss in the past, reporting on a project funded by Emerald investigating social media use amongst academics. The authors reflect on what they see as a recent change in scholarly attitudes, noting that “[o]nce things change in the digital world they change unbelievably quickly. As they write elsewhere on pg 183:

    Researchers appear to have moved from outright scepticism, to pockets of scepticism to virtually no scepticism at all. Whereas it was cool to rubbish social media three years ago, it now appears to be cool to listen and praise

    The research used a survey sent through a number of participating publishers (Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Emerald, Kluwer, and CUP) supplemented by an e-mail to staff across UCL and delegates at the 2010 Charleston Conference. They received 4,012 responses out of nearly 10,000 invitations to participate, including publishers, librarians and university administrators. Responses were received from 215 countries and included 1,923 respondents who were actively using social media. These were compared to a contrast group of 491 researchers who had yet to use social media, with questions raised by the research further explored through a focus group, but the relevant methodological details for either group are confusingly absent from the paper.

    They asked about eight categories of tool: social networking; blogging; microblogging; collaborative authoring tools for sharing and editing documents; social tagging and bookmarking; scheduling and meeting tools; conferencing; image or video sharing. What now seem like the most obvious examples of social media figure relatively marginally amongst their uses: 27% used social networking tools, 23.2% used imager video sharing tools, 14.6% blogged, 9.2% microblogged and 8.9% used social book marking services (pg 185). It’s interesting to note that 63% used tools in only one or two of the eight categories they inquired into, with a tiny few using 6 (2.6%), 7 (1%) or 8 (0.7%) (pg 186). Blogging/microblogging and Social networking/microblogging were the two most common pairings of tools by researchers. Interestingly, they found that men tended to have a stronger preference for LinkedIn over other social networking services and younger respondents preferred Facebook to LinkedIn.

    They note that familiar brands dominate the lists within each category, what they describe as “generic, popular services” on pg 186, speculating that there might be a market niche for much specialised tools designed for academics in the future. It’s interesting to theorise about why this might be so: they are familiar, widely used, easy to pick up, come with an existing social network and have the promise of access to a much broader audience beyond that network. As they put it later in the paper, these are tools which are “generally very intuitive and require little or no third-party maintenance” (pg 191). As they put it on pg 194, researchers are demonstrably drawn to these tools and “it is worth investing time in these mass market tools as their research colleagues worldwide are committing to the same tools”. They stress this point again in the conclusion: researchers are “largely appropriating generic tools rather than using specialist or custom-built solutions and both publishers and librarians need to adapt to this reality”.

    Scientists were the biggest users, something which they suggest can be partly explained by the team structures within which they work. It would be interesting to speculate whether these relatively minor divergences (e.g. 95% of earth science respondents vs 84% of social science respondents) might have been closed as digital social scientists have ‘caught’ up. Younger respondents were more likely to use microblogging, social tagging, and bookmarking, though they caution against age-based interpretations of social media uptake, suggesting that the significant difference is the “passion exhibited for social media by the young” rather than their choice of tools as such (pg 188). It’s important to meet people where they are and it might be more effective, as in their example, participating in Facebook communities than creating their own branded spaces.

    To make sense of the implications for the research process, they identify seven stages while noting these are analytical constructs which simplify the messy reality of research: identifying research opportunities, finding collaborators, securing support, reviewing the literature, collecting research data, analysing research data, disseminating findings, and finally managing the research process (pg 190). Their findings provide some reason to believe that social media tends to  be used across these categories, rather than being confined to any particular one. Their findings on perceived benefits amongst these users are very interesting, presented on pg 192:

    Social media was used to compliment existing forms of dissemination, rather than displace them. It was interesting that when it came to perceived obstacles, a lack of clarity over the precise benefits was most pronounced; while many early adopters discovered the benefits “through personal curiosity, and trial and error” the fact these weren’t clear to others hindered their possible adoption (pg 192).

     
  • Mark 12:53 pm on August 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , portfolio careers, Social Media for Academics, , time management   

    What I want to do in the next few years and how I plan to do it 

    In the last week, I’ve realised that I’ve made a fundamental error in how I’ve approached using Omnifocus over the last few years. What has always appealed to me is the flexibility it affords, enabling me to disentangle what I have to do from where and how I do it. If your working life consists of a whole range of different commitments (in my case a 3 day a week job, a 2.5 day a week job, a small freelance business and a whole range of projects) then this is really helpful because you can’t rely on the spatial and temporal organisation of a single workplace to structure your workflow.

    The problem I’m realising is that it creates a tendency to assume your work fits around your hard calendar. You leave gaps which Omnifocus fills with tasks, presenting you with the most useful suggestions of what you could do depending on where you are and the equipment you have with you, represented as contexts in the software. This is where GTD advocates stress the importance of the weekly review. You have to structure your hard calendar in order to ensure you have sufficient time in the right context, as opposed to simply responding to the context you happen to be in and the time you happen to have available to you.

    However this has rarely worked for me because of the weird time horizons involved in how my working life fits together. What I do is usually scheduled months in advance or days in advance, with little in between. This means that a great deal of coordination falls through the gaps of a weekly review, if indeed I manage to sustain the practice. The problem is not the brute availability of time in my life, as much as ensuring I leave enough time to get my core work done (recorded in the different Omnifocus contexts) while remaining open to scheduling social and work things at short notice. This is what a typical week in November now looks like for me:

    The contexts are now part of my hard calendar to ensure I spend a couple of days at home each week and at least two days in the office. This inevitably involves restricting how much travelling I can do but my sense of overwork recently has been because I can’t co-ordinate the role of travel in my life, leaving me committing to more moving around than I can sustain given the amount of time I need to spend each week in specific places focusing on specific categories of things. I’m quietly confident this will solve the problem of over-work for me because the issue I’ve been having is about scheduling, rather than the time and energy I have available for it. My plan is to try and steer clear of Twitter for a bit while I try and embed these new routines:

    https://twitter.com/mark_carrigan/status/1027880360229658624

    It’s been useful to reflect on this because it’s helped me define my current priorities. I’m co-developing a fascinating strand of research at CPGJ on the platform university, providing the theoretical context within which I can pursue other activities concerning the institutionalisation of digital technology within the university and the social sciences. I’m more committed than ever to The Sociological Review after Undisciplining, increasingly aware of the importance of what we’re doing in terms of securing Sociology’s place both inside and outside the academy. I’ve stepped back from journals and edited books, in order to focus on a number of books which are either partially written or being carried around in my head that I seriously need to finish: Social Media for Academics 2nd edition, The Distracted People of Digital Capitalism, the CSO volume I’m co-editing, The Public and Their Platforms (with Lambros Fatsis) and The Sociology of Big Data (with Hamish Robertson and Jo Travaglia). There’s such a huge amount of work here that I’m increasingly aware of the necessity that I organise my life around it, which I’ve failed to do thus far, with any other commitments being minimised, including  only doing freelance work if it’s particularly rewarding (in multiple senses of the term).

    It feels like I’ve been trying to sort this out in my mind for the last few months and that it finally seems clear to me. Though of course the real test will in the months and years ahead. But I’m now certain that I know what I want to do in the next few years and how I plan to do it. In the past, I’ve often been caught between so many interesting things that I was unable to choose between them, in the process doing far too few of them properly. That’s now changing and it’s a really pleasing feeling, even if it was quite tricky to get myself into this position.

     
    • Martha Bell 9:33 pm on August 10, 2018 Permalink

      Thanks, this is an awesome reflection, Mark, and good luck with your book.

    • Mark 9:42 am on August 12, 2018 Permalink

      much appreciated, thanks!

  • Mark 1:17 pm on July 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , communicating theory, , marco de mutiis, Social Media for Academics, , , ,   

    Hybrid formats for communicating theory 

    For the next edition of Social Media for Academics, I’ve been thinking a lot about hybrid formats for presenting theoretical ideas through social media. A really powerful example of this is the video essay Camera Ludica by marco de mutiis which explores photography in video games through a three-part essay combining in game footage, plain text slides and screencasts of browsing scholarly material. Different sources are overlaid against a black canvas, providing a gripping collage of a debate playing itself out in real time. As well as finding the subject itself interesting, I thought this was a fascinating example of a powerful format which sufficiently creative academics could use with relatively little technical skill.

    It reminds me of a project Margaret Archer tried to setup a few years ago looking at visualising social theory, using the affordances of digital media to develop ways of expressing theoretical ideas without depending on linear text or the idiosyncratic diagrams of theorists. If theoretical ideas are to survive in the attention economy then we need to become creative in how they are expressed. But there are immense opportunities here to find non-linear ways of exploring theoretical questions which might prove to be engaging to a much broader audience then is typically the case with theoretical publications.

     
    • landzek 8:22 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink

      That is interesting. Did you know the name that I make music under is called the covert sound philosophy? 😆 in the past it was called the commercial sound product. But I think the next album is going to be called the Carnivorous Stegosaurus Pact. 🦖

    • landzek 8:24 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink

      But honestly, my music I have always said is just like the opposite side of the same coin and his philosophical in that regard, communicating something particularly philosophical. But it’s actually kind of resides in a sphere that is perhaps outside of theory but yet represents the theory, at least often enough. Some of the songs are just …cool

    • landzek 8:31 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink

      That is a great little clip. I’m kind of liking this thing you’re talking about and people are doing. I think I’m going to have to do some of this. 🐙

  • Mark 3:20 pm on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Social Media for Academics   

    From the Ivory Tower to the Glass Tower 

    I just realised this keynote I did in Nottingham last year is available online as a videocast:

    https://mediaspace.nottingham.ac.uk/media/UoNSMart+KeynoteA+Mark+Carrigan+-+The+Glass+Tower/1_qwp6r8ah

     
  • Mark 8:15 am on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , platform providers, , Social Media for Academics,   

    What we mean when we talk about the Platform University 

    Via Janja Komljenovic

     
  • Mark 10:08 am on June 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Social Media for Academics,   

    The #Undisciplining Meta-Conference 

    Now that I’ve recovered from last week, it seemed the right moment to do a round up of the live blogging project Pat Thomson and myself initiated at The Sociological Review’s Undisciplining conference. There were 43 posts from 13 live bloggers over four days. This is a pretty substantial outpouring of thought and reflection over a relatively short period of time:

    1. #Undisciplining Day Zero: Preparing From The Cat Cafe – Mark Carrigan
    2. Live From Breakfast – Pat Thomson
    3. The Hive Begins To Form at #Undisciplining – Mark Carrigan
    4. Landing – Kate Carruthers Thomas
    5. What does it mean to reflect in real time? – Mark Carrigan
    6. Trying to Say Something Clever – Michael Toze
    7. the person/al and the structural? – Pat Thomson
    8. un-mining, (under-mining?) disciplinarity – Anna Davidson
    9. I am NOT a sociologist, get me out of here! – Julia Molinari
    10. sociology of art as a powerful way to reveal the social – Janna Klostermann
    11. making a sociological board game – Pat Thomson
    12. Being alone at conferences – Mark Carrigan
    13. Structure and Undisciplining – Catherine Price
    14. Questions from the geographical edges – Rosemary Hancock
    15. The Missing Links – interdisciplinary in sociological inquiry – Donna Carmichael
    16. A sociological walk of contrasts – Julia Molinari
    17. The Future versus Bureaucracy – Michael Toze
    18. Live blogging and the cinema experience – Catherine Price
    19. Time to Write – Kate Carruthers Thomas
    20. The dreaded conference dinner – Julia Molinari
    21. When a conference has a meta-conference – Mark Carrigan
    22. Care and the conference – Michaela Benson
    23. Echoes from Beyond the Edges of #Undisciplining – Jill Jameson
    24. Conference as home – Pat Thomson
    25. Beyoncé Vs Bev Skeggs – Donna Carmichael
    26. Knowledge production outside the university at #undisciplining – Mark Carrigan
    27. Why should anyone get paid to do sociology? – Mark Carrigan
    28. The feminist walk of the city – Catherine Price
    29. Making friends and changing the world – Rosemary Hancock
    30. The Rising Emotions of Asking the Panel A Question – Julia Molinari
    31. Too Too – Pat Thomson
    32. Not Knowing Why We Do What We Do – Michael Toze
    33. Time Out – Pat Thomson
    34. Outside/In Place – Kate Carruthers Thomas
    35. Undisciplining like a moth to a flame – Janna Klostermann
    36. Re-Sounding Edges: #Undisciplining – Jill Jameson
    37. A Fireside Chat: Defending the Social – Julia Molinari
    38. How does the sociological speak to/with/from the earth? – Anna Davidson
    39. Going Live? – Katy Vigurs
    40. Art! – Janna Klostermann
    41. Beyond the conference – Michael Toze
    42. Reflections on Live Blogging – Catherine Price
    43. Ending Where I Began #Undisciplining – Mark Carrigan

    To what extent does this constitute a meta-conference? It was an organised process of asynchronous dialogue with a remit as wide as the conference itself, with the choice of topics being left to live bloggers as they made their way through the conference. To the extent live bloggers were reading each other and in some cases responding to each other, either directly in a substantive way or indirectly through riffing off themes such as awkwardness or isolation, it is clear the above is more than the sum of its parts.

    It wasn’t simply individuals responding individually, with the live blog being an aggregate of these individual responses. It wasn’t a collective either but rather something in between the two. What is this in between and what can it tell us about conference sociality and how it can be extended and deepened using social media?

     
  • Mark 7:01 pm on June 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , quote tweeting, Social Media for Academics, ,   

    Why quote tweeting as a form of reply is creepy 

    I’ve edited the final two paragraphs of this post for clarity because an awful lot of people read it and thought I was criticising quote tweeting rather than one particular use of it. 

    Imagine you were sitting in a cafe having a conversation with a friend. You greeted each other warmly when they arrived, you ordered coffees and sat down to catch up. But something immediately began to feel a little off. Your friend appeared distracted, not quite there and continually looking at their phone. Worse than that, every time they said something to you they began frantically typing on the device. When you eventually questioned their distraction, the friend calmly explained to you that they are perfectly engaged in the conversation but they are transcribing it via e-mail for hundreds of people, many of whom you don’t know.

    What would you think if this happened? Now imagine this was not a friend but a perfect stranger. Imagine you’d been having a conversation with someone you know, this stranger had overheard it and immediately sat next to you and inserted themselves into the dialogue. If this took place at an event designed to encourage mingling between people who don’t know each other then this might seem overly forward but not out of the ordinary. The problem would be the lack of introduction, their immediately jumping into the conversation, rather than that you didn’t know them.

    But imagine they began transcribing the conversation via e-mail for an unknown audience. What would be irritating in the case of the person you know and like becomes unnerving and off-putting in the case of the stranger. This is what I suggest quote tweeting as a form of reply amounts to and I’m bewildered by people who do it.

    For avoidance of doubt: I’m talking about people who consistently use quote tweets in lieu of the reply function, broadcasting their conversation to every single one of their followers. This isn’t an attack on quote tweeting but rather a query as to why some people persistently choose to use it rather than using the familiar reply functionality which has been part of the platform for a long time. Replies are only seen by people who follow both of you whereas quote tweets are seen by everyone follows you. It therefore increases the visibility of the exchange to the maximum possible extent, regardless of the context or intentions of the conversational partner. 

    I find it unsettling to be on the receiving end of this behaviour and this short post is an attempt to think through and explain why it feels problematic to me. I find myself increasingly suspicious of people who persistently do this and in some instances, it strikes me as a red flag for some really unpleasant habits which can be found far too readily within the academic Twittersphere. 

     
    • landzek 7:53 pm on June 24, 2018 Permalink

      How bout: where is the internet self-destruct bottom? Lol.

    • landzek 7:53 pm on June 24, 2018 Permalink

      Button 😆

    • Glenyan 7:02 pm on July 11, 2018 Permalink

      Thoughtful post, although the main point I get from it is that conversations at a cafe with a fiend are a very different medium than conversations on twitter. My expectations should adjust accordingly.

  • Mark 8:44 pm on June 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , collective reflexivity, , , , , Social Media for Academics, ,   

    When a conference has a meta-conference: reflections on the first day of live blogging at #undisciplining 

    Though Pat, Kate Thomas and I made initial contributions to the live blogging project yesterday, it really kicked off today when the main Undisciplining conference began. The day started with a short meeting for our co-researchers, before we all set off on our way through the conference. These are the results of day one:

    1. Trying to Say Something Clever – Michael Toze
    2. the person/al and the structural? – Pat Thomson
    3. un-mining, (under-mining?) disciplinarity – Anna Davidson
    4. I am NOT a sociologist, get me out of here! – Julia Molinari
    5. sociology of art as a powerful way to reveal the social – Janna Klostermann
    6. making a sociological board game – Pat Thomson
    7. Being alone at conferences – Mark Carrigan
    8. Structure and Undisciplining – Catherine Price
    9. Questions from the geographical edges – Rosemary Hancock
    10. The Missing Links – interdisciplinary in sociological inquiry – Donna Carmichael
    11. A sociological walk of contrasts – Julia Molinari
    12. The Future versus Bureaucracy – Michael Toze
    13. Live blogging and the cinema experience – Catherine Price
    14. Time to Write – Kate Carruthers Thomas
    15. The dreaded conference dinner – Julia Molinari
    16. When a conference has a meta-conference: reflections on the first day of live blogging at #undisciplining – Mark Carrigan (you didn’t think I was going to miss this off the list did you?)

    What an incredible outpouring of creative energy. I hadn’t realised quite how much was written today because I retreated a bit, having my will to engage sapped by being tied up with a seemingly never ending series of tedious technical tasks. It goes without saying that I incorporated this into a blog, itself in part a response to someone who perfectly articulated what I was feeling (and a practical proposal relating to) on Twitter. Plus I found myself interpreting my later mood in relation to later responses. The whole thing is becoming chronically and almost overwhelmingly meta, compounding my own exhaustion but helping me interpret that and relate it to the conference as a whole.

    There is a thread of reflectivity winding its way through the conference, increasingly showing signs of spiralling in upon itself as themes percolate outwards and onwards, across platforms and through the face-to-face. It has seemed increasingly obvious to me over the course of the day that the project needs more curation to feed back in on itself. It needs care and effort to frame the blogs and (re)present them undisciplining in a way that invites further responses. This might be through Twitter but it could also be face-to-face. I’ve struggled to do that during the day, with this project slipping to the back of my mind for long periods, though it should be a bit easier to focus tomorrow. But in a way that makes it more interesting because my fluctuating attention highlights the objectivity of what we’re doing, as something uncertainly begins to emerge from the aggregated iteration of the research team.

    (I’m cross-posting this on my own blog first because I compulsively record everything that matters to me intellectually there and it’s dawning on me that I’m going to be thinking about this project a lot in the coming months, as much as my current focus is on the day-to-day of the conference. Plus I’m tired in a way that makes the familiarity of my own blog oddly comforting)

     
  • Mark 2:53 pm on June 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Social Media for Academics, social media stats,   

    Why we shouldn’t take social media metrics too seriously 

    In the last year, I’ve become increasingly preoccupied by why we shouldn’t take social media metrics too seriously. In part, this preoccupation is analytical because following this thread has proven to be a useful way to move from my past focus on individual users of social media to a more expansive sociological account of platforms. The lifecycle of metrics from being a project of platform engineers, through to being a feature of platforms onto something which are meaningful and matter to users elucidates structure and agency as it pertains to platforms. As does the subsequent utilisation of these metrics, laden with meaning by users, in order to model these people and modulate the environment within which they act. By saying we shouldn’t take metrics too seriously, I’m drawing attention to the way they are used as a mechanism to mould the behaviour of users and the risk that uncritical embrace of them leaves us being enticed by platforms in a damaging way.

    However beyond this concern, we shouldn’t lose sight of how easily they can be fudged and how unreliable they are. This is a concern which Jaron Lanier powerfully puts forward on pg 67 of his new book:

    First, why believe the numbers? As discussed in the previous argument, much of the online world is fake. Fake readers, fake commenters, fake referrals. I note that news sites that are trying to woo advertisers directly often seem to show spectacularly greater numbers of readers for articles about products that might be advertised—like choosing your next gaming machine—than for articles about other topics. This doesn’t mean the site is fudging its numbers. Instead, a manager probably hired a consulting firm that used an algorithm to optimize the choice of metrics services to relate the kind of usage statistics the site could use to attract advertisers. In other words, the site’s owners didn’t consciously fudge, but they kinda-sorta know that their stats are part of a giant fudge cake.

    It’s not so much that they are meaningless as that their meaning is often unstable. There are occasions in which it might be necessary to engage with them but we have to do this carefully. One of my projects in the next year will be to try and produce guidelines about this interpretation which reflect what we know about the sociology of platforms while nonetheless recognising that metricising our activity on social media can sometimes serve as strategic purpose.

     
  • Mark 8:50 am on June 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , Social Media for Academics, , ,   

    Social media as asshole amplification technology, or, the moral psychology of platform architecture 

    This is Jaron Lanier’s memorable description of social media in his new book Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Social media is a technology for asshole amplification. To be clearly seen in the fact that “since social media took off, assholes are having more of a say in the world” (pg 43). His point is not that social media is a haven for trolls because it’s “not helpful to think of the world as being divided into assholes and non-assholes or if you prefer trolls and victims”. On pg 44 he cautions that each of us has our own inner troll:

    It’s like an ugly alien living inside you that you long ago forgot about. Don’t let your inner troll take control! If it happens when you’re in a particular situation, avoid that situation! It doesn’t matter if it’s an online platform, a relationship, or a job. Your character is like your health, more valuable than anything you can buy. Don’t throw it away. But why, why is the inner troll there at all? It’s such a common problem that it must be a deep, primal business, a tragedy of our inheritance, a stupid flaw at the heart of the human condition. But saying that doesn’t get us anywhere. What exactly is the inner troll? Sometimes the inner troll takes charge, sometimes it doesn’t. My working hypothesis has long been that there’s a switch deep in every human personality that can be set in one of two modes. We’re like wolves. We can either be solitary or members of a pack of wolves. I call this switch the Solitary/ Pack switch. When we’re solitary wolves, we’re more free. We’re cautious, but also capable of more joy. We think for ourselves, improvise, create. We scavenge, hunt, hide. We howl once in a while out of pure exuberance. When we’re in a pack, interactions with others become the most important thing in the world. I don’t know how far that goes with wolves, but it’s dramatic in people. When people are locked in a competitive, hierarchical power structure, as in a corporation, they can lose sight of the reality of what they’re doing because the immediate power struggle looms larger than reality itself.

    The evolutionary language here can seem off-putting to a sociologist. But it can be recast in terms of internal and external goods. Sometimes we are driven by the rewards internal to what we are doing while at other times we are driven by rewards external to what we are doing. What makes social media platforms so insidious is their tendency to, as Lanier puts it, make “social status and intrigues become more than immediate than the larger reality” (pg 49). I don’t agree with his account of why this is so but I think the underlying direction of his argument is correct. Social media is asshole amplification technology because it lends such force and vivacity to external goods, particularly recognition and reputation, leaving internal goods hard to sustain.

    We often do sustain our relationship with these goods, as can be seen in the continued existence of thoughtful and intelligent exchange online. But we do so in spite of rather than because of the asshole amplification architecture of social media. It’s grasping the bivalent nature of this relationship, as internal and external goods co-mingle within platform architectures which are continually modulating in response to our (ambivalent) actions, which is crucial if we want to understand and perhaps even overcome the asshole amplification propensities of social media.

     
  • Mark 11:31 am on June 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Social Media for Academics,   

    Our social media guidelines for @thesocreview #undisciplining conference 

    Undisciplining Social Media Guidelines
    @TheSocReview http://www.undisciplining.org #Undisciplining

    Social media has been central to our journal in recent years, helping us build a new relationship with our readers and expand beyond our traditional audience. We enthusiastically embrace it as a means to promote sociological thought, as well as a way to work towards a more engaged and open culture within the academy. But making good on this promise requires that it is treated carefully. For this reason, we have included this document in each delegate pack, offering some principles and guidelines to inform your use of social media at Undisciplining. We have a few non-negotiable requirements, included after careful deliberation within our team, but mostly what we have included are pointers we hope will improve everyone’s social media experience at the conference.

    General principles:

    Be clear about what you are doing and why. It can be easy to slip into using social media in a habitual way, particularly when you’re waiting for a coffee break. But the more concrete you can be about your aims, the easier it will be to ensure you are using social media effectively. The table below provides an overview of conference social media activities and common reasons why these might be undertaken. It is by no means exhaustive so please don’t worry if you intend to use these platforms in a way we haven’t listed here but please talk to us if you have any doubts about its appropriateness after reading these guidelines. There are possibilities we haven’t listed here, such as live streaming and recording audio-visual material, which we request that you don’t use at the conference for reasons explained below.

    Remember that people can have different interpretations and will bring different knowledge to the same situation. This might sound obvious but social media can make it hard to remember this by stripping interactions of context and presenting isolated units of communication in a way that is easy to misinterpret.

    Source: xkcd. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License

    We want people to be critical of the arguments they encounter but please try to be civil and give other conference goers the benefit of the doubt. People have a right to know what you are saying about them so please ensure you tag other users if you are talking about their contributions to the conference. Likewise please ensure you credit people appropriately, including relevant affiliations (most academic departments now have Twitter accounts) if the person in question does not have their own feed.  

    Social media can often magnify disagreements and multiply misunderstandings. To paraphrase our favourite xkcd cartoon, if it begins to matter to you that someone is wrong on the internet then that’s a sign you should put down your phone or tablet and engage with the conference without social media for a bit. We want to use social media to help people at Undisciplining connect with each other and the last thing we want is for people to spend the event falling out over social media. We’ve worked hard to create a friendly, engaging and welcoming event so please do your best to approach each other with that ethos when you interact through social media.

    Requirements:

    • Please ensure you use the #undisciplining hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. This will allow us to keep track of what’s happening on social media and curate this material before, during and after the event. We are keen to help people connect with each other and connect to other conference goers, so if you’d like us to recirculate something to other participants at the conference please tweet the request to us or e-mail community@thesociologicalreview.com.
    • Please follow the instructions of chairs concerning social media. While we encourage social media at the conference as a whole, speakers and organisers establish what they are comfortable with in their sessions. Therefore please listen to the guidance of the chairs and respect any concerns or requests made by speakers to this end.
    • Please refrain from using live streaming services like Periscope or Facebook Live during the conference. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of being live-streamed and its immediacy can create problems, even for those who might be comfortable with the idea in principle.
    • Please refrain from recording audio or video at the conference. We have put a lot of time and energy into planning the multimedia being produced at the event. We want to ensure that we capture the event in the most effective way and ensure everyone is comfortable with the finished outputs.
    • Please be considerate in your use of photography at the conference. Photography is ok in the main auditorium unless otherwise specified. Please aim for crowds and avoid foregrounding individuals when taking photography outside of sessions. Avoid photography in workshops unless told it is ok.

    If in doubt about something, please ask at any point. Tweet or DM us @thesocreview, e-mail our Digital Engagement Fellow directly at community@thesociologicalreview.com or speak to one of the conference team who can direct your query accordingly.

    Thanks to the many people on Twitter I talked to directly and indirectly about these while planning them. 

     
  • Mark 8:04 pm on May 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , care, , , Social Media for Academics,   

    Curation as care 

    I knew curation had a root in ‘look after’ but I’d framed this in terms of organise or sustain. The role of care in it makes the notion take on a completely different intonation.

     
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