Tag Archives: Conferences

Social Media and Expertise

This summer break from blogging was entirely necessary, but I have missed writing here. I’d like to ease my way back in with some reflections on the nature of the ‘expertise’ presented in a blog like this one.

In June, I was at a conference and, as usually happens, I found a theme emerging over the weekend. Not the explicit conference theme, but rather a notion that came up again and again regardless of the stated topic. Of course, to some extent, we all inevitably hear what we are primed to hear. And for me, this conference was about notions of expertise. How do we establish expertise about writing? In particular, given the topic of my own presentation, I was interested in questions of social media and expertise.

My presentation concerned the way social media participation might act as academic production for writing instructors in Canada. While allowing that a marginal status within the university might lead some writing instructors to adopt a more traditional attitude towards the established norms of scholarly publishing, I ultimately argued that writing instructors have much to gain from an expanded notion of academic production. In particular, I focused on three ways in which social media participation based around blogging might prove useful to writing instructors. First, a non-traditional appointment of the sort that is common for writing instructors gives latitude for exploring emerging styles of academic communication. Second, most writing instructors have limited time for research while still needing research engagement to thrive in our roles; social media participation offers a more flexible model of engagement. Third, our work as writing instructors requires that the needs of students be primary. As a species of academic publishing, blogging allows us to speak in a way that can reach students as well as peers.

At its root, blogging is about sharing expertise in a way that relies upon a crowd-sourced, DIY form of peer review. I give writing advice here on the blog in the same spirit that I give writing advice in the classroom. That is, I openly acknowledge that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach, and then I make very particular suggestions. In doing so, I am claiming a certain expertise about writing based on my previous work with writers. Readers and students alike have to decide if the approach is valuable to them. Advice about writing is always idiosyncratic, but tends on occasion to present itself as universal. In my view, far too much of what is said about academic writing underestimates its own specificity. In fact, writing advice gains value precisely by being framed as a matter of particular experience. Rather than rejecting the particular or framing the particular as universal, we should be offering support and concrete suggestions to improve the writing process.

Taking some time away from blogging has helped me to reflect on the status of the advice that I give here. I also had a chance to spend two amazing weeks at a research methods seminar; this experience gave me the time to think more about the way epistemological questions affect how we teach and talk about writing, both in the classroom and through social media. I’m so grateful to the seminar organizers and participants for giving me so much to think about as I embark on my year’s sabbatical.

I hope you’ve all had enjoyable and productive summers. I’d love to hear what topics you’d like me to cover in the coming weeks and months; if you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments or via Twitter.

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Links: Live-Tweeting and its Discontents

While it may be hard to say #twittergate with a straight face, this ongoing conversation about live-tweeting conference sessions is definitely the most interesting story of the week. To get a good sense of how the story developed, I suggest looking at the Storified version that Adeline Koh created. The issue was also summed up in an Inside Higher Ed piece, but this is one of those instances in which Twitter does a much better job of telling its own story. The inherent difficulty in detaching a tweet from its conversational context can make summaries of what was said on Twitter somewhat inadequate.

Wherever it is that you read about this story, you will definitely find some strongly held views. Everything from ‘it’s bad manners and shouldn’t be allowed’ to ‘if I can’t tweet, it’s not my revolution’; from ‘it’s crass self-promotion’ to ‘it’s a natural extension of taking notes’; from ‘it’s a violation of intellectual property’ to ‘it allows for a wider dissemination of new ideas—the whole point of an academic conference’. It’s fascinating to me the way that new modalities of academic discourse can cause such collective discomfort.

Despite this wide range of reactions, some degree of social media accompaniment to traditional academic activities is surely inevitable. But ineluctability can mean that people get swept up, which in turn can mean that clear norms are hard to establish. Luckily, lots of great things were written this week in response to #twittergate. Kathleen Fitzpatrick offers her guide to academic blogging and tweeting. Ernesto Priego gives some practical guidelines to respectful live-tweeting and some helpful resources. Melonie Fullick wrote a thoughtful and measured post on the tension between public and private in academic discourse and how social media might affect that tension. The people at ProfHacker created an open thread discussion of best practices for live-tweeting conferences. Finally, this post from the Easily Distracted blog offers a lighter take (and an entertaining  response to Brian Leiter). This blog is new to me, and I admit that I’m a little bit crushed to find that this blog name is taken!

Recent links from @explorstyle on Twitter

From @fishhookopeneye, a great post on the role—and habit—of accountability in graduate study: http://www.hookandeye.ca/2012/10/push-me-pull-you-supervising-graduate.html

Great advice from @ryancordell on crafting a professional online presence (read the Twitter conversation at the end): http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/creating-and-maintaining-a-professional-presence-online-a-roundup-and-reflection/43030

From @DocwritingSIG, a discussion of the perils of thinking of writing as a simple process of ‘writing up’: http://wp.me/p2rTj1-3y 

A hilarious column from William Germano: If ‘weblog’ gives us ‘blog’, what other b-words could we imagine? http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2012/10/01/the-b-word/

.@sinandsyntax talks about her ‘crush on verbs’: http://sinandsyntax.com/blog/my-crush-on-verbs/

From @GradHacker, how to deal with success in grad school without feeling ‘sucstress’: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/sucstress-grad-school#.UGYP5-ZjLPs.twitter

I’m very much looking forward to reading @thesiswhisperer‘s new ebook! Read her not-shameless plug here: http://wp.me/pX3kK-17j 

From @CopyCurmudgeon, a great perspective on editing (even if you aren’t copyediting other people’s texts): http://wp.me/s1HQHZ-triage 

From @phdcomics, the official plan, the real plan, and the secret plan: THE PLANS: http://phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1527

From @ThomsonPat, a great suggestion about availing ourselves of writing advice—because academic writing IS writing: http://wp.me/p1GJk8-gr 

From @qui_oui, a good roundup (with lots of links) about the recent ‘stale PhD’ conversation: http://is.gd/jNnJg5 

From @Professorisin, a discussion of the importance of prestige when selecting a university press:http://theprofessorisin.com/2012/09/21/does-the-status-of-the-press-matter/

From @DocwritingSIG, an insightful post on the difficulties in conceptualizing doctoral writing as a research task: http://wp.me/p2rTj1-3j 

From @ThomsonPat, a great post on the nature of academic reading and the task of grasping the shape of your field: http://wp.me/p1GJk8-gd 

Summary of the #acwri Twitter chat from Sept 20 on academic writing and the use of Twitter: http://storify.com/DrJeremySegrott/acwri-twitter-chat-20th-september-academic-tweetin