I can’t believe I had to spend some of my time (that I so jealously guard to do academic writing) to write an actual defense of a social media site and its use in academia, but it surprises me how many times I have had to explain why I am on Twitter, as a busy academic.
I have rewritten entire sections of a paper, learned new research methodologies and refined my own thinking by asking questions on Twitter.
— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) May 13, 2014
1. To consume current knowledge in a timely fashion.
We are academics. We want to be on top of things. We want to stay current, and hear when the latest journal article on the fanciest quantitative technique. We want to read the most articulate defense of a particular methodology or theoretical view. I use Twitter to follow trends in water governance, sanitation, climate politics, research methods, etc.
— Routledge Politics (@Rout_PoliticsIR) May 13, 2014
2. To build scholarly networks.
Even though I’m very well connected because of all the travel I do and all the emails I sent when I was in graduate school, and all the meetings I’ve attended and workshops I’ve presented (I used to do networking the old fashioned way), Twitter enables network building in a much faster, dynamic way. I now have a network of trusted scholars whom I can fire quick questions on ideas I’ve been mulling around, share tips on academic writing productivity, etc. That’s also the philosophy underlying #ScholarSunday.
— kim yi dionne (@dadakim) May 11, 2014
3. To refine research ideas.
Because I follow scholars in specific areas (and I follow in a broad variety of disciplines), I am always able to point out and ask questions on a specific paper, an idea I’m developing, request suggestions for specific authors, etc.
— Jay Ulfelder (@jay_ulfelder) April 23, 2014
4. To obtain and provide emotional support.
Anybody who doesn’t realize academia is a lonely activity sometimes, where the increased pressure of publishing and shrinking budgets and dwindling resources make academia much harder, is fooling him/herself. Emotions are part of research, teaching and mentoring. And they are part of our every day life. I use Twitter to receive and provide emotional support. It’s like a large network of positive energy all around. And we are all nerds, so we are always able to relate to what other scholars are feeling at least in some way.
— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) May 11, 2014
5. To share resources in an environment of scarcity
One of the ways in which Twitter has helped me is sharing resources. There are times when it’s practically impossible to find a journal article or a book chapter, and I can ask for help to get me those resources. Even when my institution has paid access, sometimes I’m unable to remotely connect, and I can always ask around on Twitter if anybody can send me a journal article that I’m missing. My requests are very often granted, luckily.
#CanIHazPDF Hawkins, G. 2009. The Politics of Bottled Water: Assembling Bottled Water as Brand, Waste and Oil. Journal of Cultural Economy
— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) September 15, 2013
So, there you have it. There are many ways in which a social media site that is often criticized for inanity and enabling people to post what they had for breakfast actually have helped me refine arguments, learn more and build networks of knowledge and support. These were just five of them.