Thursday, February 6, 2014

Blogging and tweeting: wasting time?

Given the innate interest that academics have in exploring and discussing ideas, can we--should we--expect them to use the tools like Twitter and blogging?  How do such tools fit into our professional lives?  Will they be different depending on whether we are senior or junior faculty, or graduate students?

Over the years that I have been blogging and reading blogs, I do feel that political scientists, economists, and legal scholars are more visible compared to academics in other disciplines, geography included. Thus, it did not surprise me one bit that the article "Web presence of academic geographers: A generational divide?" in the latest issue of The Professional Geographer* grabbed my attention.

The authors examine the practices of academic geographers, and note in their conclusion:
[Our] findings suggest that although academic geographers might tend to agree that Web presence is a significant aspect of their day-to-day professional practice, this assertion means different things to different people. For some, crafting a useful Web presence means posting an online CV, maintaining professional networks via e-mail, and being able to find useful information online. For others,Web presence is an amalgam of these standard Web 1.0 practices, overlain by a complex Web of interactive Web 2.0 content production via social networking, blogging, microblogging, and media uploading sites. ...
TheWeb presence of academic geographers can no longer necessarily be described as a static online listing of the accomplishments of an individual scholar. Instead, the Web practices of academic geographers are increasingly marked by Web 2.0 and a focus on online interaction and engagement, despite the lack of professionalization along these lines. Early-career geographers are likely not trained in this aspect of academic reproduction and might be flatly discouraged from “wasting their time” by producing online content. Given the continually shifting norms of online practices in society, and in academia itself, however, perhaps serious debate about strategies for using Web 2.0 tools should enter into the training and professionalization of young scholars.
There is always a possibility that even those keen on using the Web 2.0 tools are worried about the potential negative effects on their professional lives.  Bloggers or not, perhaps some remember the conjectures on Daniel Drezner's blogging as a significant reason behind why the political science department at the University of Chicago denied him indefinite tenure. But then that was nearly a decade ago, which is the equivalent of eons in the digital era where new tools are becoming available even before we have adopted the old ones.

Thus, when Alexis Madrigal searches for "high quality, research-based" academic blogs, geography doesn't feature much--even when it prominently does. Even if we ignore Madrigal's quest, the larger issue is one we geographers need to think about and discuss--a lot: how do we include tools like blogging and Twitter and many more when we explore, discuss, and disseminate geographic ideas?

* Matthew W. Wilson & Sarah Starkweather (2014) Web Presence of Academic Geographers: A Generational Divide?, The Professional Geographer, 66:1, 73-81


Anonymous said...

Check out for over fifteen years of one geographer's effort.

Clark Akatiff said...

It's a good question, but I don't know that we can resolve it.

the main point is that geographers are in a trailing position in relationship to new media.

Not sure that is true.

Something to think about.

Sriram Khé said...

Thanks for the comments.

More along these lines from today's NY Times--Nicholas Kristof's column--where he writes:

"Professors today have a growing number of tools available to educate the public, from online courses to blogs to social media. Yet academics have been slow to cast pearls through Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, it was TED Talks by nonscholars that made lectures fun to watch (but I owe a shout-out to the Teaching Company’s lectures, which have enlivened our family’s car rides).

I write this in sorrow, for I considered an academic career and deeply admire the wisdom found on university campuses. So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!"