Using Twitter in scholarly networks

I continue my journey to find meaningful results about open online learning. This research is new: Bonnie Stewart defended her thesis  “Scholarship in Abundance: Influence, Engagement, and Attention in Scholarly Networks” yesterday in UPEI Canada and I followed it via YouTube. I’ll write this post not to assess her research but to ask myself questions. How do I understand the meaning of her work? What can I learn about it?

I’ve never liked preaching about abundance, because in my mind it has always been the situation. Libraries have more content than human beings ever could follow. We have new tools nowadays as Twitter and that’s why Abundance is used in the title. Twitter brings new possibilities and challenges, so I can ‘accept’ the title. Bonnie has used ethnographic method  with 13 participants, who were twitter residents for at least 2 years, and had varied institutional affiliations and roles in 8 different countries. There was ethnographic participant observation, 24 h reflections, blog posts, profile reflections and interviews. She was interested in the following questions:

  • what counts as academic influence within open networked circles?
  • how does scholarly engagement in networks align with institutional scholarship?
  • how do attention and visibility operate on Twitter, and how do they shape participants’ experiences of care and risk within networks?

The participants were voluntary because they had to be ready for participatory work: invitations to expand, clarify, or reframe their answers. This is the only way to work in a research like this if you want to get deeper insight. I believe that the participants are a good sample of different scholarly Twitter users although it is not a statistically random one. More I am more concerned about the time period, because everything changes so quickly. The results are history already when they are written down.

The first article dealt with influence and defined it as capacity to contribute (slide 8). The basic concepts are scale of visibility + common interests+ shared ties and these are connected to capacity to contribute to the ongoing conversation.  Institutional affiliation doesn’t matter except for Oxford. (Here I disagree: I found David White to be a charming man and not only Oxford guy when I met him at an Elluminate session in 2009). Matter-ing matters is a funny way to illustrate the situation and I believe that I can follow the idea, and I agree with that.

The second article is most difficult to follow for me because the concept scholarship has so many meanings. Networked practices = Scholarship.
Scholarship of discovery/ integration/ application/ teaching (Boyer 1990 – nice to see an old source). And then Scholarship of abundance: a researcher wants to share his article so it could live its own life. Abundance is connected to openness here.

The third paper deals with changes. The new work habits give rise to (new?) personal emotional experiences

  • attention + visibility => vulnerability,
  • commodification + institutional indictments of deviance + re-inscription of societal biases (I can follow only partly)
  • attention + visibility => care

The participants came from very different backgrounds, not only universities. (My first thought was that university workers have always been vulnerable, the work is connected to their intelligence and it is not easy).

Bonnie describes her overall findings: networks operate in distinct pattern of connection, curation and collaboration. Generally said, so it must be so.
Networked scholarly practices enable and demand scholar’s individual rather than institutional cultivation of influence, visibility, and audiences. Yes, they do. Digital networks offer participants a sense of being someone who can contribute, and contributions open new doors. The intersection of high networks status with lower or unclear institutional status creates identity dissonance. This must be true as well, I can imagine.

What happens in the future then? One way is that networks become institutionalized and consequences of public speech become amplified etc. Twitter is used in tactical ways for helping one’s career building. I don’t know how separate from each other are traditional university habits and open social habits or is there much overlapping already. All that is said to be new is not new at all.

If you are interested in these themes please read Bon’s blog, in which he tells about the research process and results.

Here comes the slideshare of Bonnie Stewart:

From local to global participation

Facebook gives a social graph of all my connections. The visualized network inspired me to think about my web life, FB is only a part of it. Blogs and tweets are as important as FB. I leave my private life outside and present here only my “work life” relations. Actually I am retired from working life but I don’t know a better heading for this graph. My professional networks perhaps –  meaning development projects and discussions.


I have moved towards the global level during last years. Locally I still have friends in FB who are working (or have worked earlier) in Teacher Education, my last workplace. No one of these friends writes a blog and only few use Twitter – one is writing every day, others very seldom. So I have to meet these people f2f and drink coffee with them 🙂

In Finland I know many active developers and follow ten blogs actively and about 40 via rss when the blog headings seem interesting. Tweets are important also, I get useful information via tweets. It was interesting to notice that all my Finnish FB contacts are connected to each other, less or more. When I looked the graph first time, some were separated.

The global level is broadening and changing all the time. Blogs and tweets connect about hundred people and I already have problems in following. I don’t know well many of them, perhaps ten, but it is easy to find new interesting blogs and tweeters.

I was inspired about the talk of David White, tools become places in web, it is very true. Earlier David gave a presentation about residents and visitors – it opened my eyes and helped my self reflection. I live my professional life in web in both ways, as a resident and as a visitor, seeking new possibilities all the time. I began my international participation in CCK08 and have got most of my web friends in following open courses. I am not working in online teaching practice any more and turn my interest to basic questions in web communities. The world is open and I have free time – this is a great situation!

PLENK in the whole world – almost?

Now I want to show the image that Google Analytics gives me about visits to this blog during PLENK2010 (8.9.-23.11.). There are differences in comparison with earlier open courses (CritLit in July 1st). The number of countries increases and is 69 in this case.

analplenk2I live in Finland and my visits make it green. Next comes USA 215, Canada 154, UK 130, Australia 75,  Ukraine 28, Israel 27, China 23, Uruguay 23, Spain 21, Germany 16, Sweden 17, Brazil 14 , Ireland 16, New Zealand 14, France 12, Netherlands 11, Philippines 10, Italy 11, Portugal 10, Mexico 9, India 9, Malaysia 8 and so on.

South America participates well and so some parts of Africa. Many small countries or islands raised the number of countries. Global open courses are becoming more popular year by year. We have to remember that there are other possibilities as well. Global education sessions are going on this week all around the world, day and night.

Twitter has been useful during the PLENK, perhaps it partly takes the place of RSS. You will be noticed only if you tweet.

We had the Wednesday Elluminate session with Sebastian Fiedler: Modeling the personal adult learner, the concept of PLE reinterpreted. I put here a link to Rita Kop’s blog post where you can see Sebastian’s model and Rita’s model – one of the most interesting. Jenny Mackness tells in her blog about the model, too.

Edited the map information 23.11.

Comparison: CritLit – PLENK:

introductions 42 – 197  in Moodle
blog visitors   170 – 566

blog states       29 – 69
blog visits     550 – 1478

More people in PLENK but they spent  less time per visit than in CritLit .