Twitter as an Academic Tool

Is it a siren song that I sing?

Is it a siren song that I sing?

This week’s assignment for the Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative is to explore online scholarly communities.  I spent some time racking my brain trying to think up Early Americanist communities online, until I realized that I have been an active user of just such a community for years, H-Net.  I belong to several of their groups, and I get much of my information about fellowships, conferences, and new work from interacting with their email listservs and their newly renovated web portal.  The size and breadth of its user community makes it an invaluable resource for me.

As far as Twitter as a specific tool for academic community, like Jason said, “I’m in the Reluctance spot still.”  It strikes me that Twitter’s greatest strength … its brevity and immediacy … is also its greatest weakness.  I hardly need another service that demands my immediate attention when I’m at my computer; I like H-Net’s listserv model because it allows me to consume my online community in daily digests or specific browsing sessions, which helps me both to manage the distraction and engage more deeply with information I’m consuming.  Twitter seems great for breaking news, but let’s face it, there’s very little urgency to what I study.

I have a very close friend who is a archivist and an intensive user of Twitter.  His field is one that has really embraced Twitter, and he’s carved out an important place for himself in the Twittersphere as a widely-followed authority.  He forwards me a lot of stuff from Twitter that he thinks I’ll be interested in, and he’s usually right.  So I have a good sense of the richness of the resource, but I also have a good sense of the constant bombardment by shiny objects that comes from being a power user.  I think I might need a slightly more mediated flow of information, for my own sake.


  1. Tim Owens says:

    My recommendation is to never treat Twitter like another inbox. For me it’s a crowded room filled with people I admire talking to each other (and they could be talking about their discipline or today’s baseball game). Sometimes I want to go in that room and talk, sometimes I want to stand outside and maybe just listen, other times I don’t want to be anywhere near it. For me that works. I definitely probably miss out on a lot but I’m ok with that.

  2. Susan F. says:

    I’d second Tim’s take on Twitter. I come and go from it and never worry too much about trying to keep up or read thoroughly. I have a reader help me organize groups, which I do find useful. And I also will read Twitter frequently amid certain conferences, which can be very helpful (esp. when following from a distance.) Great, quick way to find & share resources too…

  3. Jerry says:

    I envy you in that you currently have the best of both worlds -happiness with your listserv community, and a friend that acts as your Twitter curator. Pretty effective.

  4. Surupa Gupta says:

    When I announced my arrival in twitterdom on Facebook last week, one of my friends – an academic at another institution – suggested that she would ask me after a week how overwhelmed I am with the information over-load. It has been a week and I don’t feel like quitting yet. I have been scanning tweets about once a day to see if anything needs my attention. Yes, I have found news I might have missed and yes, it is another thing that needs my attention. I am still trying to figure out the cost-benefit math – I will get back in another week/month/year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *