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Sunday, September 28 • 10:21 - 10:40
"Reading Each Other in Networks: Perspectives on Profiles and Influence"

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Background: In higher education today, the intersection of digital technologies and changing work conditions creates intersecting, well-documented trends towards massive course experimentation, shifting funding structures, teaching precarity, and TEDtalk celebrity on the speaking circuit. Against this backdrop, the roles of academics and scholars within the larger public sphere are changing (Siemens, 2008).

One way in which scholars navigate these shifts is by forging identities via online networks (Veletsianos, 2013): by building reputations and networks as scholars within the new, open, online public sphere. This paper posits that blogging and social media participation constitute a new indicator of academic influence, both within networked circles and beyond, creating visibility and reputation that funders and media may recognize. But what kinds of identity positions count as influential, credible, and valuable within networked participatory scholarship? How do scholars “read” each other’s signals in this complex new public sphere?

Objective: The paper outlines how actively-networked scholars in an ethnographic study reported assessing the Twitter profiles of other networked scholars. The project explores ways in which influence, credibility, and value are constructed and understood by networked scholars: it aims to contribute to a broader understanding of the literacies and logics scholars employ in making sense of each others’ identities and academic influence in the networked public sphere.

Methods: The paper shares results from an in-depth ethnographic study of networked scholars. Fourteen participants’ Twitter and blogging outputs were observed over a three-month period, ten participants were interviewed about their own participation, and eleven offered reflections on their initial perceptions of the identity positions, value, and credibility of the Twitter profiles of volunteer exemplar identities. This paper outlines the findings of those reflections on how scholars ‘read’ each other and the meaning they make out of other scholars’ profiles.

Results: Close reading and analysis of participants’ reflections on Twitter profiles suggests that networked scholars develop complex literacies and logics for assessing influence and value. In some cases, these understandings of influence run parallel to more conventional or institutional measures of academic influence, but they also incorporate assessments of individual scale and identity attributes not generally factored into institutional scholarly reputations. Data is still being analyzed: findings will be complete by the time of #smsociety14.

Conclusions: Scholars’ individual goals and perceptions of purpose for their networked participation combine with the literacies and logics they employ to understand others’ presentation: together, these appear to shape scholars’ practices and relational interactions online. This networked engagement has real-world institutional effects, building ties that can lead to research collaborations, speaking engagements, and other material manifestations of academic influence: this research will offer a vocabulary and framework for understanding the implicit meanings and literacies that scholars employ in assessing each others’ identities and influence within the new public sphere of networked scholarship.

Siemens, G. (2008). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Retrieved from http://www.ingedewaard.net/papers/connectivism/2008_siemens_Learning_Knowing_in_Networks_changingRolesForEducatorsAndDesigners.pdf

Veletsianos, G. (2013). Open Practices and identity: Evidence from researchers and educators’ social media participation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(3), 639-651.

avatar for Bonnie Stewart

Bonnie Stewart

University of Prince Edward Island
Bonnie Stewart is a writer, educator, and researcher fascinated by who we are when we're online. She explores the intersections of knowledge and technologies in her work, taking up networks, institutions and identity in contemporary higher education. Published in Salon.com, The Guardian... Read More →

Sunday September 28, 2014 10:21 - 10:40
TRS 1-129 Ted Rogers School of Management

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