Dancing with the digital

You would have had to been living under a rock for a long time to have missed the ongoing and ever accelerating improvements in all things digital. How we deal with these developments can be tricky. The use of the Internet to promote and share ideas, data and analyses is now commonplace. There are now many who share the view expressed by Joi Ito1 in an interview2 for Wired:

In the old days, being relevant was writing academic papers. Today, if people can't find you on the internet, if they're not talking about you in Rwanda, you're irrelevant.

There are a number of issues that might be usefully separated here.

  • Using the digital to do research.
  • Using the digital to establish your own digital presence (dancing with the digital) (An assorted grab of readings around this as folk explore this space)
  • and, if you re new to much of this, Learning to dance.

In both of these sets of practices, it is easy to assume that all we are doing is doing what we have always done but doing it more efficiently and faster. To a point that is the case, but the moment a digital anything is introduced into a practice, the practice changes. While it is reassuring to do as McLuhan suggests and march backwards into the future, using analogies of the past3 to think about the new medium in which we now work is both dangerous and limiting.

It's not being too harsh to suggest that in the scholarly field of Education has been slow off the mark when it comes to exploring new ways of working that falls under the now very large umbrella called e-Science. We wish we could suggest that you'd find good role models in Education but, apart from those invested in studying educational technology4, such folk are rare in 20125.

We think that learning to exploit the growing number of resources that are reshaping a lot of social science is important. You do this by establishing a digital presence6. It is also important in terms of establishing you public profile. Many of you may make use of FaceBook. We are simply suggesting that your academic profile can be given useful and immediate visibility, something that would be a lot slower if you relied solely on pre-digital networking modes of working.

It may be daunting to be thinking about establishing a digital presence but as we argued in our brief consideration of blogging, having a digital presence will provide opportunities for people to find you.

There are other ways of carving out a little piece of bit-space for yourself. There are a couple of social software sites that more or less operate FaceBook like for academics. They are Academia, ResearchGate and, more recently, Zenodo.

There is a growing number of resources that can walk you through the ins and outs of establishing your digital presence. There is no real formula. But though it will take effort and time, the payoffs will be there. There is an excellent guide for using Twitter7 published by the LSE Public Policy Group and the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog. They also published a list of favourite academic tweeters.

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