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.