Category: Internet

Researchers & social media

In early February I was asked to participate in a discussion on the use of social media by researchers for our 2013 Research Week. I was joined by @jennaprice and we mostly agreed with each other. Mostly …

I based my talking points on the content of two presentations that I have uploaded to SlideShare. They are among the most popular of my 30 or so uploads and here is the most recent version: Make me famous with social media

For those who prefer the most recent discussion, here are a few words based on the rough notes that I used.

I started by saying that I recognise the ephemeral nature of almost all social media posts. I am not really sure that any institutions needs to try to record all of it. A lot of it is complete rubbish and quite meaningless without the context of time, place and others participating in the same conversation or open discussion. As Clay Shirky has said though, it does represent a connective tissue that fuses both public and personal media and that is what makes it so significant, at least in our time. For researchers it can assist in connections, communication, the provision of sometimes instant feedback or responses, increased reach and in finding your own “voice”. One of social media’s key and perhaps most valuable characteristics is that it allows and encourages us to share; it helps facilitate altruism and that is a real benefit (as long as it lasts).

So, if we take a quick look at three key platforms as an example for researchers and what they can do with them:

  • TWITTER – helps with connections, asking for help, news, “voice”, sharing and searching.
  • ACADEMIA.EDU – basically Facebook for academics (without the ads). It is not as well used here as it seems to be in the US, but has huge potential to facilitate better academic social networks. (Jenna didn’t agree with me on this one.)
  • BLOGS – allow you to test ideas and to share, practice, ideate and form or contribute tio various communities of research practice.

My tips and advice for researchers who want to use social media:

  • Start with your own community
  • Keep it in perspective (see the note above re the ephemeral nature of social media and social networks)
  • Listen (it is a two way street, not simply a public broadcast media)
  • Engage – I doubt you’ll fully realise the potential benefits by just lurking
  • Play, fail, learn – most social networks are very forgiving
  • Respect others and their acknowledge their generosity
  • Be real – I’m not at all a fan of anonymity on the social web
  • Be careful how much you reveal about yourself and your long term research (Jenna reminded us that most researchers, like journalists like to be the first to publish)
  • Don’t feed the trolls!
  • Be patient – it isn’t always instantaneous and not everyone is always connected and always paying attention

Finally I said that for some researchers in a highly competitive market for research funding that social media can lead to the creation of a higher public profile (which then needs some management). This might be combined with sharing (via Open Acces publication), clever use of social networks and altmetrics to deliver crowd-funding for your research.

Sketch-notes – Swing is the Soul of the Groove

Dick Rijken keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013

Dick Rijken’s keynote Swing is the Soul of the Groove¬†was one that I arranged, so again, maybe I am biased here, but I loved it. It seemed to me at least that the whole week flowed into his final keynote and he nicely wrapped up many of the main themes. He stressed culture over the vogue words: creativity and innovation. He illustrated his points with visual and musical storytelling and I was in two minds as to whether I should just watch or try to record some thoughts and reminders.

It was fantastic to hear someone of his standing reminding us of the importance of things like ambiguity, not knowing or understanding,¬†romanticism,¬†aestheticism, experimentation and trusting our intuition. All are hard to tie down, to justify or to measure quantitatively, but in the end are they not some of the things that distinguish us from robots or automatons? And certainly I think they are critical to our sector. For too long I think we’ve been obsessed with making things more efficient, more specialised, less connected and easily measured. We need to rediscover the underlying meaning in what we do. As Dick said, an artistic mentality can be very helpful to us in finding that meaning and in truly understanding what we are supposed to be doing.

I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Dick last week and to present a workshop with him last Friday. Not only did I learn a great deal from him, I was stimulated and energised by the many discussions we had.

Sketch-notes – Pirate Party

Anna Troberg keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013

Anna Troberg leads the Swedish Pirate Party and she gave us very strong encouragement to raise hell about quite a few issues. We are “too passive and too nice!”. She sees information and culture as wealth and reminded us that we have a key role in preserving access to them. Anna said that culture always finds a way forward, but outdated Copyright law needed reform as it now served to block cultural flow and even to hide cultural assets.

So what are we all waiting for? Let’s raise some hell!

Sketch-notes – NBN and libraries

Warren Cheatham
ALIA Information Online 2013

This was an interactive awareness-raising session led by Warren Cheatham from Townsville. It showed us the librarian as advocate for government programs and how to assist in understanding. He encouraged debate about many of the differing perceptions of something many of us simply do not fully understand and I think he also got us to think about its potential for libraries (if it isn’t killed with a stick by a different governing party). Thanks Warren.

One thing Warren and I discussed was the potential of the NBN to provide a catalyst that unites the whole Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector on a new path towards cultural digital collaboration. This is an area in which Australia is sadly lacking and perhaps the power of the NBN could bring our sector together.

Sketch-notes – Charles Leadbeater

Charles Leadbeater’s keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013

Charles Leadbeater is described as a leading thinker on the future of learning and his Skype presentation really lived up to its promise. Again we were reminded that solutions cannot be found by looking only or primarily at technology or systems. He encouraged us to empathise with our clients and to facilitate connections and develop and facilitate meangingful relationships. He said that eventually technology would bother us less and simply help support those social relationships. His keynote was one of the main highlights for me.

Sketch-notes – Sue Gardner, Wikimedia

Sue Gardner’s keynote at ALIA Information Online 2013

Sue Gardner from Wikimedia left us with some very important reminders about the importance of a free and open internet and how libraries must participate in that as advocates and by helping others to understand more about it. She encouraged us to do what we can to make knowledge freely available, just as Wikipedia does.

Sketch-notes – Open Linked Data

Roy Tennant, Jon Voss and Ingrid Mason
Keynote for ALIA Information Online 2013

This was one presentation that I felt I should attend, but I was also fearing because it is a serios and technical subject that might be hard to present in an entertaining and lively manner. Well that certainly was not the case with these three presenters. They grabbed our attention after lunch with well selected personal musical introductions for each.Then they managed to pass on some key messages about the benefits of open linked data along with some powerful examples of what data can do when it is shared, open and then linked. A very memorable presentation!