Contributions and Connections

Bonnie Stewart, Inside Higher Ed, Apr 07, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I mostly agree with Bonnie Stewart's comments in Inside Higher Ed (and note in passing that Inside Higher Ed has recently opened up its circle of authors beyond the fairly narrow political spectrum that characterized its contributions until now). Stewart reports on "an in-depth, participatory, ethnographic study of scholars who actively use Twitter in addition to their institutional scholarly endeavours" and identifies "how influence and credibility circulate in academic Twitter." The conversation is what counts, she says, and assessments are based on individual contributions rather than metrics or institutional background. Automated tweets are frowned upon as authenticity is valued, and commonality - "contribution is created and amplified by common interests, disciplines, and share(d) ties and peers" - is key. This latter is either an odd use of "commonality" or just wrong. Also, the caveats against generalization which can be found in the paper (as well as the fact that the study interviewed only 13 people) are not found in the IHE article, which is disappointing.

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