Black Swan - Twitter Academia

Twitter Academia: Tools of Engagement, Self-Promotion, Self-Destruction

Twitter Academia. A collection of interesting links to help academics engage with wider audiences. I’ve definitely been doing my part lately, blogs, social media, trying to jazz up the Hartwick Anthropology page and even the Hartwick Anthropology Courses.

At the same time, I’m always wondering about the line between engaging the public and plain old self-promotion, especially after blogging about a pseudo-academic event at The Edge. I’m also wondering about balance between all this stuff and reading books. I’ve just been seeing too many great minds whittled away on Facebook comment streams.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is someone I think about these days. A fierce anti-academic, he nevertheless recommends books, books and books. But he also tells us: “Go to Parties! If you’re a scientist, you will chance upon a remark that might spark new research” (The Black Swan, 209). But how to draw the line between books and parties, tweets and book manuscripts?

  1. Tweets from the Ivory Tower by Jack Schneider:

    The deeper point is that academics need to throw off the delusion that our work is going to be found. It will not be. Instead, our scholarship must be made visible. Social media seem to lower two major barriers in this process — by making it easier to be heard, and by making it more immediately rewarding to engage.

  2. God Bless Sage for their Unvarnished Commercialism. Alex Golub at Savage Minds:

    I say ‘bless Sage for their unvarnished commercialism’ because they did me a great service this semester by showing me one possible future for the academy: one in which we live lives which gainsay our claims to be responsible for the reproduction of the academy. American academics have spent the last half-century with a world-historical amount of money sloshing around their educational systems. As it dries up, it behooves us to get medieval on our ourselves and double down on our responsibility to our discipline. Doing peer review is not enough–thinking about budgets (and being transparent about them) is equally important. Some academics spurn this sort of managerial involvement as neoliberal, while others see any involvement with filthy lucre as dirtying. But really, it is just another part of our service to our discipline. Keeping the number in mind–thinking about the political economy of the academy–is something we need to do more of, not less. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

  3. Not Lottery/Not Meritocracy, What Is It? Reflections from John Warner on the strange academic job market. Relates to something put up by AgroEcoPeople, “Academic success is partly (but significantly) a lottery” which extended on my own reflections on Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Black Swan Anthropology. It’s a lot to think about, but seems like academics tend to make various cuts as they winnow through job applications. Those cuts often have to do with luck, but they also can be around so-called meritocracy credentials that have a lot to do with wealth–like having the support to be able to write that book or teach for adjunct wages. Those cuts also often then result in institutions that look quite homogeneous, despite all the claims to diversity preferences and radical pretentions.
  4. The Arts and Humanities Project at Harvard has recently released a set of reports to re-emphasize the relevance of the arts and humanities. As mentioned in the previous Links on Teaching, Learning, Thinking, the problem at the moment is not exactly declining enrollment, it’s the concentration of that rather large enrollment in very specific areas. Harvard is doing things like trying to reinvigorate undergraduate education and recruitment. (Original reporting from Dan Berrett’s Harvard Mounts Campaign to Bolster Undergraduate Humanities.)
  5. The Premium From a College Degree. The rate of return on investment in college–even some college as compared to no college–seems to outweigh most traditional investments. Now certainly I’ll be brandishing this article at admissions events. But still–correlation or causation? And if college is causal, does payoff come from the education or the networking? (Thanks to Dr. Robert Drake for this link.)
  6. It’s Not What You Say; It’s What Google Says. For academic administrators–who apparently must now be on a rapid-response Twitter team–but with wider implications:

    It is ironic that even in academe–where we traditionally place a premium on facts, evidence, and empirically verified observations–a Google or Twitter account of an incident can trump the factual account. That, it seems to me, is a profoundly anti-intellectual turn. But it is, nonetheless, the climate we face.

  7. Speak up and matter. John Hawks, “The bottom line is: People need to decide if they want to be heard, or if they want to be validated.”
  8. Scientists: do outreach or your science dies. Thanks to Helga Vierich on Facebook for the alert and thoughts. I do agree that we need more outreach, but several things bother me about this article. First, that it dwells so much on federal budgets, as if the poor and elderly are about to take away your science funding. Second, that it uses the example of funding the F-35 military aircraft, which seems a perfect case against the idea that funding should be set by “the public.” Finally, I love funding science–don’t get me wrong–but is that really more worthy of funding than say basic elementary school education?

And of course, that last example brings us all the way back to that event at The Edge. Richard Dawkins currently has over 700,000 followers on Twitter. What kind of science needs outreach? Will you be heard in the din of Twitter Academia?

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