Social media and academic life

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1 Social media and academic life Professor Andy Miah Director, Creative Futures Institute, University of the West of Scotland; Fellow, Institute for Ethics and Emerging, Technologies; Fellow, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology; Global Director, Centre for Policy and Emerging Technologies TRANSCRIPT Professor Andy Miah [START] Taylor & Francis asked me to give you a talk about social media and academic life, in a way that could be beneficial to your work as a journal editor. I want to open that up a bit and talk more broadly about how social media can be used in academic life more generally, not so much as a teacher or an administrator of university life, but as an author and as an editor. What I want to first start with is my own experiences and how I use social media in my dayto-day life. I think one of the first things to say though, is that there s no single way of doing this, there s no right and wrong of how to use social media; but there are some key principles that I think you can bear in mind. They help you use it more effectively. One of them has to deal with the kind of technology that you use, quite simply if you don t have technology, you can t do this very effectively. My own technology is first of all this mobile device which I use every day and has become my primary way of sharing information, content accessing news online, but I also use other technology as well, so if I give you a quick sense of this and film you a short video you can see how I use social media on my laptop to access tweets and also on my desktop as well, a way of organizing my working life, separating out different kinds of technological interface that makes this transition easier. I think one of the most underestimated benefits of technology and computers is the value of having more than one; now we already live in an age where researchers, journalists, broadcasters talk about the second screen, the way in which people think about mobile phones as being used concurrently with televisions, with computers and so on. In fact maybe people are beginning to think about the mobile device as the first screen, although the data really doesn t show that people are using it more than other kinds of devices, but I think that it s a helpful way of thinking about what you need to do to really make the most of social

2 media, not least because many of the applications are being really designed for mobile usage so this shift that s taken place within academia, the shift from a web 1.0 world if you like, to a web 2.0 world where our access to information as sharing of content and our utilization of it is taking place in environments that are different than they ve been in the past. The library is not the same as it was, the classroom isn t the same. The places that people access and use information are changing and you only have to look on the underground or your daily commute on the train or bus to see how prevalent our use of social media is now. People are constantly on their mobile phones talking to other people, sharing information, reading the news; these are becoming or have become for many people the primary route through which they access information, and I suppose the first question you might ask of a journal is: If that s the case, if more academics are doing their reading on mobile devices, then how are journals responding to that shift in behaviour? and I think there is an imperative about this, there is a need to think about how journals respond to this kind of activity and this kind of change in academic life, and one of the real reasons why I think you should do this and to take this on board is that I think it can make your life easier. Very often I talk to people about social media and they just say I haven t got time to tweet or they need someone else to do that for them because they re too busy. My own view is that social media can make your life more efficient, especially your working life. There is a danger of course that the use of these technologies eats into other aspects of your day, so you might prefer to read the newspaper on the way to work or to read a book on the way home from work to switch off and of course one of the dangers of being always online is that there is this tendency and temptation to always be part of the conversation, to never sign off and that s certainly a danger that people have recognized and it s a danger that s led researchers to talk about transitions in the daily working life. It is also a transition that allows you to be on a beach somewhere sunning yourself whilst also communicating in a professional way, and effectively being at work, so I think there s also a lot of that that people do. It s about how you make use of the technology to free yourself up, to live the kind of life that you want to lead. Journals in particular I think could benefit from this in the way that they access their communities, it seems to me that one of the challenges of running a journal is in building that community around you. Previously you would think of perhaps your annual conference as being the place where that community comes together, or your annual editorial board meetings, for example. Social media provides a way of you making that community more effective and more cohesive, it provides a way of you drawing people together in a way that s not been possible to achieve before and to really come to terms with that. I think it s important to acknowledge the range of platforms that we are talking about, so it s not just Twitter, it s not just Facebook, it s also platforms like Skype that may allow you to run multiperson video calls that can enable certain conversations to take place. It might involve

3 platforms like LinkedIn which allow you bespoke private environments in which you can discuss issues of your journal. When you think about social media, I think the first thing is to step back and take stock of what s really available for you to make use of, for you to develop and push your journal forward. There was an article published in Forbes Magazine just last year, towards the end of last year which was written by an executive in a corporation who made the statement that if you think it s advisable to give the role of social media to an intern or to someone junior in your organisation, then you re really missing a trick, you re missing the point of the technology, and you re missing the prominence that it has to people and the argument in this essay was that in fact the most trusted individuals within your organization should be the people to drive the social media face of your company or your product and that s why I think you begin to see more and more journals who have their editors driving these platforms forward, rather than social media officers or publishers. I think what s important to get across is that people see social media as a conversation, and if you think about this in research terms and the way in which we cite work, the way in which we build a sense of development around discipline; this really fits I should think quite neatly. When you think about social media and how it could be used, think about it as a conversation amongst your peers; now that peer group can expand considerably with the social media in ways that I think are also responsive to a range of political priorities in the United Kingdom, we have our researchers assessment exercises which require us to increasingly make sure that our work reaches a broader public. There s a lot of work around public engagement, and now a lot of work around the concept of academic impact beyond academia, and social media is a platform that people are beginning to utilize as a source of data about the impact of their work, a way of conveying how they build bridges across society though their publications, and I think journals have a big part to play in that process and already we see a lot of journals beginning to monitor the activity around their content on platforms like Twitter or Facebook. That s really a starting point, but to go back to where I started; the access I have to technology in the way in which I use it. My morning does not begin with anymore, it begins with Twitter. Over the course of my day, I follow certain hashtags or individuals that bring content to me and I think that s another key difference in this world and it differs from how we ve used searching databases in the past, it s changed how we receive content. We previously would go looking for it, we would search for things and now the way that social media works is that technology delivers it straight to us. We set it up in such a way that we no longer have to go out and find it, it comes to us, so again from the perspective of the journal, what is it doing to push that content to people? How are they being able to find it within their daily communication channels? And I think social media could help you do that.

4 If you set it up correctly, then it doesn t always require a lot of work. One good example is if you have your table of contents for a new issue automatically connected to your Twitter feed, then you can effectively push out every single tweet and title of any new article to your community without any manual labour. There s a platform called If this then that which is effectively a way of creating what they call recipes of automation. If you do publish your table of contents in an RSS feed, then it can automatically go into your Twitter feed so again it s about being strategic in our use of these environments; that it doesn t involve additional labor. When you begin to use these platforms, you begin to see the range of purposes to which it can be put and the additional benefit it can bring to your community. It can bring additional interest in your journal, interest in the people around your journal, but I think it could also build loyalty around your journal too, whereas presently you are competing with a number of other journals for submissions. The more effectively you can build community around your journal, the more effectively you can build loyalty around submitting to it and reading it and I think that s another really powerful benefit of social media that perhaps is unique. It can also be a way of developing research generally and so if you think about future calls for papers within your journal, to be able to in real time acquire an insight into how a field of research is developing, because people are sharing information about it, can really feed into the long-term development of your journal. You might find that calls for papers are signposted within the kind of content that you are seeing around your Twitter feed. You might discover that there are certain interests in areas that lead you to focus on this for the next year or two of your journal, so again how that community can co-develop what takes place within your journal I think is another beneficial attribute of social media and perhaps unique to it. I think also there s a sense in which social media can connect your work with a broader population that can also ensure that your published activity has a wider impact beyond just that academic peer group. I mentioned earlier that there is greater pressure on academics within the U.K. to demonstrate impact beyond academia and what I have found and what we re beginning to see increasingly is universities really trying to monitor their social media activity to build this story of impact around their work and it s interesting to see how different journals have different kinds of effective impact factors within their social media environments. For example, there s a platform called Klout which allows you to develop some sense of the influence of your social media assets. I could envisage a time where in addition to things like impact factors we have platforms like Klout that convey the impact of certain journals over others. In fact, it would be quite interesting to do a list of the different Klout scores of different journals to really get a sense of the hierarchy but I think that s another detail to take on board that part of this transformation is a transformation of the kinds of value systems that academics hold. The

5 kinds of interests that they have, the development of the open access agenda, I think plays into this quite significantly. You might find that there are ways in which you can share original content through your journal exclusively on Twitter in a way that brings people to you whilst keeping the main part of the work behind a paywall and allowing your publisher to exploit it most effectively. I think you could still think about ways of pushing out original content on social media that captures the interests of readers in a very special way. There are, I guess, three things that I ve said in this talk: one is that social media can improve the cohesiveness of your research community, to think about the journal s social media identity as the locus of interest for the people around it. The second is to grow the academic community beyond just our peer groups and the impact it can have, the value it can have in terms of public engagement with the research that you are producing. The third one is really how responding to the changes in behaviors around communication and the sharing of knowledge can transform the development of your journal, can make it a more crowdsourced enterprise, can ensure that it connects more generally with the interests of the people who are reading it, and I think if you can develop those things within a social media strategy and bear in mind how important it is to think about this as a conversation, not as a broadcast channel, then I think journals can really benefit a lot and have a lot to gain. Thanks very much. [FINISH]

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