Editing Modernism in Canada


May 12, 2011

Social Networking and Academia: Your Opinion Requested

In a few weeks I will be participating in a roundtable discussion on social networking and its impact on academic collaboration and networking, with questions relating to what has changed, what has been added, and what has been lost in the digital environment. This is for the ESC Roundtable at the ACCUTE conference in Fredericton, where I will be participating as a graduate student discussing the concerns and issues related to all of us interested in the digital humanities. I thought it would be a good idea, considering the theme of the discussion, to ask you all what you think about this, and for you to offer some feedback so that I can approach this with a more engaged (and networked) perspective. Here is the question I was asked to deal with:

“Humanities researchers and educators have long recognized the value of social networking: conferences, disciplinary associations, and face-to-face collaborative enterprise of all sorts have given shape to a field of knowledge production and dissemination that relies heavily on forms of exchange that exceed the limited boundaries of the journal article or monograph. Sociability, furthermore, is recognized as an important counterpoint to the often solitary life of scholarly endeavour. In recent years, digital technologies have made way for a new range of practices (such as blogs, wikis, crowd-sourced review, open access journals, self-archiving, podcasting, remote conferencing, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Academia.edu, Linkedin, and more localized online research consortiums) that might be seen to have dramatically altered the dynamics of intellectual activity in the humanities. For better or for worse, the social parameters of scholarship have shifted, and that shift invites us to consider not only the personal and professional benefits and costs of such technological innovations, but also the fundamental principles that inform how we interact with each other and to what end. How do digital technologies re-imagine the social dimension of academic relationships, and how do conventional practices find their analogues in an online environment? What have we gained, and what might we happily anticipate? What have we lost, and what are we in danger of losing?”

I would be great to hear back from as many of you as possible to get an idea of what the general consensus is from the point of view of graduate students who are actively engaged in a project that is founded on social networking and the digital humanities. Hopefully you will all be able to make it out to the discussion in Fredericton as well. Thanks in advance!

Marc Fortin

4 Responses to “Social Networking and Academia: Your Opinion Requested”

  1. Melissa says:

    I’ve had some valuable experiences with social networking (both in-person and electronic) recently that have led me to new opportunities for communication and publication. I attended two completely unrelated conferences this past fall, and met the same person–Jeff Weingarten, a PhD student at McGill–at both. He and some friends recently started up a new online review journal (www.thebullcalfreview.ca) which is published on a blog platform, and (after we had added each other as friends on Facebook) Jeff asked me to write a book review. He suggested it be a group review, so I collaborated with a colleague to write it, which we did entirely over Facebook chat and edited in Google docs. In this case, social media enabled the easy and low-cost creation of a badly needed new Canadian review journal, and allowed for effective communication and collaboration between myself, my co-author, and the journal’s editors via Facebook. Doing all of it electronically was less onerous than getting together to write the review in person, and much more efficient–we simply saved the transcript of our Facebook conversation and edited it into a more formal review. The only thing that I can think of that was lost in this situation was enhanced communication or idea-generation that may have come from writing the book review in-person. However, if the knowledge that effective academic collaboration can happen over Facebook from your sofa in your pajamas leads to more collaboration and publication, I can’t say I entirely regret the loss.

  2. Hannah says:

    I share Melissa’s experience of being headhunted via Facebook by Jeff. I am deeply impressed with The Bull Calf for the way it has embraced the possibilities of an all-digital review journal. In general, however, I have found online social networking to be an uphill battle. I’ve been involved in several projects that have struggled to maintain an active blog, and myself fought to facilitate communication via email. Ultimately sitting down in a room with a group of academics always seems more productive. I’m concerned that, until online networking in various forms becomes a component of (rather than a supplement to) our practice as academics it will continue to be viewed by the majority as simply more work, another thing to do for the sake of doing it.

  3. I’m so happy to see The Bull Calf cited as an example of successful online networking. When Kait and I founded the journal, we wanted it to be, above all else, accessible–with regard to well written content and internet searchability. But we also wanted the site to encourage scholars to connect with one another; that’s why we’re slowly gathering a list of contributors to the site (under “our reviewers”), so that their work can be accessed easily by readers. But also, gathering all of the reviewers onto one page (their names hyperlinked to provide access to every review they’ve ever done) will also aid other journals in need of reviewers. They’ll have an entire pool of reviewers from which to draw, with writing samples, pictures, and bios all in front of the headhunters. Part of our decision to make the journal strictly online revolved around such issues.

    At the same time, we have had so much success from networking sites. The majority of our hits come from facebook and twitter. And after we tweet about reviews, we’ve noticed that publishers sometimes retweet or post the reviews on their own sites. It’s all very, very useful and, with regard to our goals for the quality of the journal, reassuring.

    Thank you for the praise, Melissa and Hannah!

  4. pwebb says:

    As another recent contributor to The Bull Calf, I’ll reiterate what a solid example of social networking/ digital publication it provides. No way else short of building a time machine can I imagine having the chance to write a book review of Hugh MacLennan’s The Watch That Ends the Night.

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