Tweeting in an Age of Overwhelming Information Overload and Increased Workloads

tl;dr

Twitter is no longer niche as it once was. How has my thinking changed in relation to Twitter use by academics? In this post I bullet-point some ideas that can be taken if desired as tips or strategies by those academic colleagues who are new to Twitter. You can scroll down and skim if you want.


 [PhD Comics, August 21 2014]
[PhD Comics, August 21 2014]
Motivation for this post

I‘ve been asked to become a “social media champion” for my school. I think it’s cool there’s an interest in embracing social media more widely, organically and effectively.

The past

Things have changed significantly since Sarah and I started touring the UK in 2011 giving social media workshops for academics with Networked Researcher (RIP), and, indeed my own personal and professional views on Twitter have evolved along the way- what we call “social media” is no longer a niche, defined region of the Internet and the Web, but as mainstream as it can possibly get, reaching a relevance and centrality in today’s information and technological sphere that is yet to be surpassed.

I wrote dozens of blog posts for a variety of international platforms (some long extinct) in the distant past (2011-2013) on academic Twitter use, including the following pieces that got published by the Guardian Higher Education Network.

If you click on the links and read the articles, please do take them with a grain of salt and historical perspective as things have evolved significantly since. I would write them differently today (also; headlines were the Guardian’s, not mine).

This tour down memory lane has also reminded of this blog post that I wrote for Altmetric in 2013 on “Strategies to Get your Research Mentioned Online“. It needs rewriting now.

(By the way, remember this LSE Impact Blog November 2013 post by Alan Cann on academic blogging going mainstream?)

Sharing these links here again as context and in case it’s of historical interest.

Those were the days. We were young. We thought everything was possible. (It still is, albeit in a completely different way!).

The present moment

How to think of academic tweeting in an age of overwhelming information overload and increased workloads? How has my thinking changed in relation to Twitter use by academics?

I cannot go in great detail here, but I thought I’d try to bullet-point some ideas that can be taken if desired as tips or strategies by those academic colleagues who are new to Twitter.

  • Twitter needs to be taken seriously. In spite of its ill-repute, it is an influential public platform for the dissemination of information. Precisely what information we disseminate on it is each user’s responsibility.
  • No one uses Twitter in the exact same way. Twitter is always-already experienced differently by each and every user. There are therefore no straight-forward rules. Most users learn along the way. An experienced Twitter user is more likely to use Twitter better than an inexperienced Twitter user who has read all the social media policies, terms and conditions and ethical guidelines available. An experienced Twitter user who has read all those documents will be an even better user, but that’s a personal view.
  • The default Twitter web client and the Twitter mobile app are not the right tools for busy people who are expected to author “content”. If you are busy, are already doubtful Twitter can deliver quality information, and feel being asked to tweet as an annoying imposition or a waste of time, there are no worse tools to start doing it than those.
  • For new users it may look daunting, but I totally recommended using TweetDeck to those academics being asked to manage a work account and/or wishing to be more effective locating and monitoring relevant accounts and content. TweetDeck is a free web-based application owned by Twitter. There is no mobile version. To use TweetDeck you will need a Twitter account. How to use TweetDeck guidance here.
  • In general, I think tweeting from your mobile phone for work is a bad idea- unless there’s no other choice, you are at a conference without space to place or plug your laptop, etc.
  • Before you start tweeting for work it helps to have clarity of purpose. Do not think of Twitter as an instant messaging service; think of it as a public publishing platform. What is it you need to communciate? To whom? Why? When? How?
  • Everyone and their dog is on Twitter. (And yet… so many aren’t so far). How will you become visible? Before joining Twitter, make a list of people and organisations you want to be visible to. Think of it as your Twitter contact list or address book.
  • Search for your stakeholders on Twitter via TweetDeck and create a list with a descriptive name. The more specific the list the better. You can have different lists. On Tweetdeck, you can get a column per list, where you will only see, if desired, tweets by those accounts you have added in your list. Think of it as an email folder for which you have created rules.
  • You don’t have to have a column for your timeline, where you would see everyone you follow. These days, to use your main Twitter timeline as your main way of monitoring Twitter is frankly inefficient, also because regardless of what your settings are the algorithm will prioritise some content over others and it will not be first posted first. We need to try to beat the relevance algorithm and curate our own dedicated timelines.
  • If your goal is to use Twitter to communicate the work you or your organisation does, you can schedule tweets in advance on TweetDeck. This means you don’t need to be on Twitter all the time. You don’t have to tweet in real time.
  • If you blog, make sure you add a social media sharing widget so that your posts get tweeted automatically when you publish. Make sure your site’s readers can share your posts on social media easily- customise the sharing widgets so the share text generated includes a mention of your username (e.g. “[Post title] [URL] via @ernestopriego“).
  • Systematically share what you publish or deposit in your open access institutional or data repository. If you don’t share your own work, who will?
  • Twitter is social, so it won’t work well if you only broadcast your own content. Even if your intention is to mainly broadcast what you or your organisation does, having columns of your stakeholders will allow you to check those columns at an appropriate time and see fewer tweets (more manageable) but potentially they will be more relevant because you have more carefully/strictly curated the sources in that timeline in advance.
  • Have a column for your notifications, and acknowledge positive feedback whenever you can. Often there’s no need to reply, ‘liking’ a reply suffices these days a an acknowledgement and it can go a long way. You are busy and others know it because they are busy too, but still appreciate a nudge of appreciation.
  • No user is an island. Create continents and archipielagos, build bridges.
  • Retweet what you find interesting or useful, support causes or themes you advocate, but avoid amplifying discord or bad vibes (those are, I’m aware, relative).
  • Include the disclaimers “RTs and likes are not endorsements” in your bio, to be safe. Avoid/do not RT tweets you wouldn’t have tweeted originally yourself (ask yourself: would I have published this for the world to see? By retweeting it, you are doing just that), including those tweets with links to content you have not checked before. Check and read links before retweeting/tweeting them.

In a way these same strategies have already been in practice for a while. They are not new. If anything, the pressing realities of employment in a digital age mean we need to be more drastically pragmatic and strategic.

I realise there’s way more I have to say about this, but I have surpassed the 1000 word count so I will have to leave it there. Thanks for reading, if you did.

New Article: Who is Actually Harmed by Predatory Publishers?

New peer reviewed, open access article, published on 13 August 2017:

Who is Actually Harmed by Predatory Publishers?

Martin Paul Eve* and Ernesto Priego**

*Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK

**City, University of London, London, UK

Download the PDF from tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society

FULL TEXT (HTML)

tripleC is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal (ISSN: 1726-670X). All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.

Also available at City Research Online: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/18007/

and at Birkbeck Institutional Research Online: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/19356/

Abstract: ‘Predatory publishing’ refers to conditions under which gold open access academic publishers claim to conduct peer review and charge for their publishing services but do not, in fact, actually perform such reviews. Most prominently exposed in recent years by Jeffrey Beall, the phenomenon garners much media attention. In this article, we acknowledge that such practices are deceptive but then examine, across a variety of stakeholder groups, what the harm is from such actions to each group of actors. We find that established publishers have a strong motivation to hype claims of predation as damaging to the scholarly and scientific endeavour while noting that, in fact, systems of peer review are themselves already acknowledged as deeply flawed.

Keywords: Open Access, Scholarly Communications, Predatory Publishing, Evaluative Cultures, Academia

Acknowledgement: The authors wish to thank Ross Mounce and David Prosser for helpful comments on the manuscript of this article. Parts of this article on the problems of peer review are derived from and share a narrative with a chapter by Eve that is currently under submission.

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On Reading the Small Print When It’s Too Late- Access and Licensing Type in CFPs

Calvin and Hobbes: Susie signs a contrat© Bill Watterson
© Bill Watterson

tl;dr

  • In the social sciences, art and humanities calls for papers for collected editions remain a major form of dissemination of scholarship.
  • Scholars get very excited about the prospect of getting their work published in collected editions. Often, the conditions of publication are unknown to them until the work has been created, submitted and reviewed.
  • It is still rare for calls for papers to detail whether the final publication will be softcover or hardback,  paywalled or open access, and what type of licensing will be applied to the published work.
  •  It can no longer be assumed that certain publishing conditions are non-negotiable, always-already the default ones. It can no longer be assumed they will be the appropriate ones for all scholars either.
  • To reflect the current scholarly landscape accurately, and in the spirit of transparency and fairness, complete information about the intended format, licensing conditions and access type should be clearly and prominently included  at call for papers stage.

Academia might be the only creative industry where authors do submit work for publication without being fully aware of publisher licensing conditions and access type (we could learn a lot from Morrissey’s Autobiography! Moz seems to have never read a recording deal in advance…). Scholars get so excited about the prospect of getting their work finally published, that, traditionally, the conditions of publication (the conditions detailed in a publication contract, that will determine when, where and how the work will be published, what the author and the publisher will be able to do with the output, etc.) are unknown to them until the work has been created, submitted and reviewed, i.e. once it is rather late to do much about it. Understandably, a final contract cannot be signed until something has been accepted for publication and often it won’t be officially accepted until it’s finished. However, the case I’ll try to make here is for clearly informing authors interested in submitting to a call for papers about the intended conditions of publication (format, access type, licensing type) for the content accepted in response to said call.

This creates a situation of virtual intellectual and creative kidnapping, where the author has lost the freedom to negotiate conditions of publication.  The output (journal article, book chapter, monograph, editorial for collected editions, edited collection) has already been created, it has passed peer review, revisions have been made; lots of work by several people went into it and valuable time has spent waiting for it to get finally published. Often the accepted publication will have been already listed in appraisal forms and academic CVs before the output in question has been actually published and a contract has been signed. The author is often disempowered to have a say about what they will be able to do with their own work (for example where and how to share it, translate it, adapt it, etc.) or about who will be able to access it and how.

In the social sciences, art and humanities calls for papers for collected editions remain a major form of dissemination of scholarship. Though some journals in these fields do include clear information about licensing and access type prominently, calls for papers in general still tend not to include information about how the content, if accepted, will be licensed and how and where (in which formats, at what price, open access, paywalled) it will be published.  I invite you to take a look at the calls for papers published here. How many calls for papers detail whether the final publication will be softcover or hardback,  paywalled or open access, and what type of licensing will be applied to the published work?

The issue of publisher takedown notices (e.g. Elsevier’s) highlights how scholars are keen to share their own published work (including any features added by publishers) on their blogs or social networking sites, but do so seemingly ignoring the licensing conditions they signed or agreed to. Publisher’s policies should be clear to  authors before the submission of work, not once they have been broken. If authors wish to disseminate their work in ways publisher policies do not allow, they should be free to either negotiate them in advance or choose a different publisher.

Our disciplines however seem to have somehow relegated licensing and access type to an after thought. As open access mandates from governments, funding bodies and institutions become the rule and not the exception, it is time we start changing this practice and start including licensing and access type information at call for papers stage. Now, it is of course understandable that some editors will not know yet if there will be interest from a range of publishers they might have in consideration, and often what happens is that they wait until they have a body of work so they can make their full proposal. This workflow places academic editors at a disadvantage as well, as they will have already worked hard on compiling and editing a collection (or on ensuring contributions) way before a publisher’s offer detailing conditions has been made.

These positions assume that scholars (editors and authors/contributors) are at the service of publishers and not the other way around. For authors, particularly early career researchers hoping to develop a publications portfolio, the power lies on editors and peer reviewers, themselves dependent on publishers, who most of the times are free to impose conditions that may seem to authors and editors to be ‘the way things are’, i.e. as non-negotiable conditions. In practice, it should be perfectly possible to negotiate these conditions (many authors have done it), if one knows how and one is interested. Luckily for publishers, the conditions are rarely interrogated and even less negotiated. Editors and authors are simply happy to get their work published, and see no option but to sign any standard conditions imposed by the publisher.

Open Access is not only about bringing down the barriers to access and reuse of scholarly publications. Behind it lies the desire to re-connect scholars with the fruits of their own work and to empower them to choose how they want their work to be published (and this implies choosing the conditions for their distribution, accessibility, and reuse).

To reiterate: what has been an after thought, the small print many authors discover once it is too late, should be detailed first thing at call for submissions stage. There is no content without form, and there is no content without the conditions of access and dissemination. I know I am not alone in hoping that more and more colleagues will take into consideration not just editorial reputations and  thematic and disciplinary approaches outlined in calls for papers, but how a submission will see the light of day in the end (if it does at all!).

Scholars today know better than ever before that publishing can no longer be the end of the road but the beginning of a conversation. There is a plethora of both legacy and pioneering publishing platforms and scholarly methods of assessment and review available to scholars today. Paywalls and hardbacks are not the only venues for publication anymore. Access and licensing type are not synonyms of research quality: and no single access type has the domain over quality. Scholars should be free to decide where they submit their work for consideration, and should be able to negotiate licensing conditions whenever possible. Scholars should be free to submit their work for consideration wherever they please as long as they have been made aware of the access and licensing type well in advance before submission. Licensing and access type is a factor many authors today have in mind before submitting work, and yet this information remains largely absent from calls for submissions. If the known or tentative publisher(s) are detailed in the call for papers authors can locate their policies via SHERPA/RoMEO, but informing potential contributors of the policies should also be the publishers’ and the editors’ responsibility. If the author ends up having to do detective work to find out something as important as this then something is wrong.

Indeed, the current model of academic publication still remains strongly aligned with paywalled access models, but calls for papers that will paywall accepted submissions (or publish them in expensive hardback editions only) should not take for granted that paywalls and hardbacks are the only available model. Authors today must be informed of complete information and assess, in advance, before even considering making a submission, how and where, under which conditions, their work will be published if accepted.  This implies interrogating the current power structure: it should be authors who have the agency to decide. Declaring licensing and access type as small print well after authors have had their work accepted for publication removes authorial agency, and quietly, falsely positions traditional publishing methods as the default.


Colleagues interested in knowing more about negotiating licensing and access conditions may be interested in the following two guides:

Collins, E., Milloy, C., Stone, G., Baker, J., Eve, M. & Priego, E. (2015). Guide to open access monograph publishing for arts, humanities and social science researchers. OAPEN-UK project. Available at http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/12373/.

Collins, H., Milloy, C., Stone, G., Baker, J., Eve, M. & Priego, E. (2013). Guide to Creative Commons for Humanities and Social Science Monograph Authors. 0OpenUK, JISC Collections. Available at http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/11863/


Disclaimer

I am not a publishing lawyer nor copyright officer. Needless to say, the information in this post is not legal advice. If you need more details on your  author rights or legal advice about what action to take, please contact your  publisher, librarian, copyright officer, an adviser or solicitor.

Notes on Content Overload: Whose Filter Failure?

[I have updated this post after some revisions].

Cartoon by Mark Anderson © Mark Anderson All Rights Reseved.

“Here’s what the Internet did: it introduced, for the first time, post-Gutenberg economics. The cost of producing anything by anyone has fallen through the floor. And so there’s no economic logic that says that you have to filter for quality before you publish… The filter for quality is now way downstream of the site of production.

What we’re dealing with now is not the problem of information overload, because we’re always dealing (and always have been dealing) with information overload… Thinking about information overload isn’t accurately describing the problem; thinking about filter failure is.”

-Clay Shirky, “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure“, Web 2.0 Expo, New York, Thursday, 09/18/2008

‘Content’ is not what it used to be.  I started blogging around 1999. I was an earlyish adopter of MySpace and then Facebook and Tumblr, but I did not get a Twitter account until 2008 and didn’t start a personal Twitter account until 2009. It seems unnecessary to say  but since then blogging has been significantly superceded by social media, and user generated content is now the default in today’s mediascape. Boy, do I sound ‘old.’

Times have changed significantly. We no longer need to advocate (at least not in the same way) for the need to promote and/or disseminate information online.  The relative popularity of a platform like Medium seems to demonstrate the nearly-total blurring between web publishing and social media, at least for long and, er, medium-length forms. But we don’t need to look at the most sophisticated online publishing examples to get the feeling that, if you are, say, on Twitter, everyone is now pushing content. It’s not just a buzzword and I’m not saying anything new: the multiplication of user accounts means the customisation of personal profiles which turns all users, even the least experienced and humble ones, into brands producing content as commodities. Your profile picture is your logo, your online persona is the result of a conscious or unconscious public-facing strategy. The products are not just each individual output, but your whole process of being online; the whole ongoing process. It’s outward thinking, an exercise for reaching out, publicly, to others, continuously.

In the 21st century all media means publishing, the making public of packaged information (dear reader, please be kind: I am acutely aware that we still need professional publishers in the publishing industry). All publishing means ‘social’, at least in the sense of necessitating networks (of users, of data), programming interfaces and algorithms to create, maintain and develop those networks. Like commuters in packed rush hour trains, social media users share a common space where time, space and attention are scarce. Social media users become part of the crowd as a unit, as a whole, but the crowd is composed of individuals at odds with each other, often algorithmically thrown in together, and tensions, misunderstandings arise.

If you have ever taken public transport during the morning or evening rush hour, you understand how the laws of capitalism turn space, and yourself, into commodities. Space is scarce (so are seats, table seats, power plugs, air, floorspace). You are time-poor and your time is money.  You are unique, in the infinite mass (‘the mass is matrix‘). The commuting train (thinking of the UK here) is a type of panopticon (be ever vigilant; report anything suspicious). On the one hand it promotes solipsism (headphones, personal devices, reading material), but on the other hand it requires a constant periphereal awareness. Other bodies are always around you and signals are everywhere. Bodies clash with each other and it takes concentration to avoid it. Two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time, but yet the rules of capitalism would like to deconstruct the law of physics and get us all in there at the same time, knowing it is not possible, creating desire and aspiration for the non-graspable; as an ecosystem it generates its own social classes, hierarchies, winners and losers, satisfaction, tension and frustration. It seems to me this is also the logic of today’s social media.

Attention Economy: London Bridge Station, evening rush hour. Pic CC-BY Ernesto Priego
Attention Economy: London Bridge Station, evening rush hour. Pic CC-BY Ernesto Priego

The binding tissue of social media communities is not necessarily commonality, but competition (there is commonality, but it’s conscious or unconscious competition, for attention, for presence, for space, for recognition, which drives it forward). The social media arena enables the production of content (defined as information purposefully packed for its dissemination).  This is a rhetoric I used to resist, a semantic field favoured by self-fashioned, opportunistic social media gurus. However social media can only be fully, ethically theorised in practice, over time, and experience (my experience at least), shows that today’s social media has managed to transform publishing into the condition sine qua non of being online. Even so-called lurkers create content (their accounts as data points and their associated metadata). Like a car parked on a road, the lurker’s social media presence also contributes to pollution, takes up space, pays taxes, alters the configuration of the city, needs to be eventually moved around, might be eventually towed away, stays in the way of things and people, is exposed to environmental conditions, communicates things (class, taste, income) etc.

I write these paragraphs, paradoxically, as a way to frame my recent reasons to resist being on social media as I used to. There are other reasons apart from a perceived content overload, but in this case, this post was motivated by my experience of witnessing web publishing and particularly Twitter microblogging evolve (or devolve) towards pitch-perfect free market capitalism, where becoming a commodity through the production of content as a commodity is the ontological condition.

It is true that every Twitter user experiences Twitter differently. However recent changes in the Twitter API (including an aggressive imposition of ‘promoted’ tweets, inclusion of gif search, allowing all users to see tweets staring with a mention etc.) mean it is becoming very hard to filter information as before: it no longer suffices to be a good curator, because curation is not fully customisable at an individual user’s level, in terms of what content a user is exposed to and when.

Clay Shirky’s “it’s not information overload. It’s filter failure“, worked well for 2008, and it might still be insightful in 2016 if we redefine whose reponsibility it is to filter and if we think hard whether it is really possible to filter successfully these days. There’s also I think a distinction to be made between ‘information’ and ‘content’: one can argue information can exist independently from its packaging (the way it is disseminated, how it is wrapped with other data, phyisical or digital). Content is the paradigmatic shape in which information is transformed into a commodity, and content is composed of different bits of information. We no longer search for isolated bits of information, but for data and metadata wrapped in specific languages and interfaces (we don’t just search for a location, we search on Google Maps, expecting to find other locations apart from the one we were looking for, and information about those locations). We then share what we retrieved, which is a whole mini-package of code, with others, expecting them to have access to the same technical affordances (software, hardware, connectivity) that we do.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat encourage the transformation of anything into shareable content, not just from professional publishing organisations but from absolutely everybody (dear reader, please be kind: I am acutely aware of the digital divide). This is, of course, not new, and once upon a time we used to celebrate the fact ‘the people formerly known as the audience’ (Rosen 2006) were becoming content producers as well. The leveling of the playing field etc. I remember 2006 well: online, those were exciting yet innocent times. Ten years later, the attention economy is (or is determined to be) more than ever before the only economy, at least in the developed world. The people formerly known as the audience remain the audience, even if they become audiences by endlessly sharing content, and therefore by distracting each other’s attention. The overlords are still the overlords. Perhaps paradoxically, the only way for the regular user to produce more meaningful content (define meaningful etc.) is to spend significant time away from the endless whirlwind of voices sharing content of all types at all times.

There’s been discussion of how the “rise of social media content is overwhelming consumers“, but interestingly there is no doubt in those reflections that social media users are de facto consumers, and suggest that it’s the digital marketers (professionals employed by commercial entities), not the users, who can do something about it. Users are just the target. But don’t we as users have a responsibility too? Because being online is only possible through the creation of content and a digital footprint, (even if one never posts anything, even if one only lurks sites from a Tor browser), it seems logical that there should be a feeling of content overcrowding. Filtering the content one thinks one  needs or expects to discover  has become increasingly difficult, and often sources will equally post something really useful than something completely inane: it is way easier to filter what one posts before it is posted. Some will say posting inane content is an important requirement for the quality content to get eventually an audience at all, but for the experienced, busy user the proliferation of unfilterable chaff renders the social media experience totally frustrating and time-consuming. (Often chaff is in the eye of the beholder, but, one would argue, not always).

Fear of missing out means many of us feel we need to keep an eye on social media to be mildly aware of what’s happening in our fields and in the world, but the illusion created by what looks like everyone actively broadcasting how hard they are at work (or having fun taking planes to exotic conference destinations) can also have a paralyzing effect. Moreover this broadcasting of information related to professional activity does directly contribute to the larger market itself, promoting competition (and its anxieties). The multiplication of channels disseminating professional activity paradoxically yet successfully benefits the perception that jobs are scarce, and the convenient delusion that some candidates will just never be good enough.

Social media is about content and the more users there are the more content there is. The more content there is the harder it is to be heard, and to find and discover relevance. The algorithms will make sure you cannot avoid the content they want you to see, no matter how savvy you think you are, in order to ensure network growth and income. Like overcrowded trains in the morning rush hour, we can argue platforms such as Twitter are quickly suffering from content overcrowding, even if Twitter itself would think they are always underachieving in terms of user base. If there is content overload, whose responsibility is it to filter, and is filtering, as we have traditionally defined it, still really possible under the current infrastructures?

If contemporary algorithms are designed to force users to see as much as possible in spite of their filtering efforts, perhaps we will (hopefully) see a growth of user self-filtering: do we as users really need to post all that? Do users find the time to ask themselves that question? Certainly this is something many if not most users already do up to a certain extent. Eventually, even if everyone became more selective about what they post, wouldn’t we end up in the same overcrowded place, if the intention is for everyone everywhere to be members of the online social arena, the market in the cloud?*

Or maybe it’s a question of a transformation of our ‘modes of perception’, and even the most sophisticated information retrieval specialists will need to consciously adapt their strategies to market-driven discovery systems. At this stage  I personally wonder if the only successful filtering technique would be not to be here/there at all, or at least for considerable periods.

So I’ve been quiet on the blogging front. It took me ages to gather the courage to write this text and finally post it. It goes in various directions, and it might not mean anything to anyone at all but me (deep down my suspicion is someone out there might care). Maggie Nelson writes that

‘most writers I know nurse persistent fantasies about the horrible things -or the horrible thing- that will happen to them if and when they express themselves as they desire’ (The Argonauts, 2015: 114).

For all the social media content overload I increasingly perceive, I paradoxically feel social media is also promoting self-censorship and fear. It also promotes a particular type of writing, specially crafted to maximise sharing. Devising strategies to ensure content is shared in current infrastructures can be a very good thing, as I have said throughout my career, particularly when what is needed is to communicate the value of a certain type of humanities work. But quick sharing also has a counterpart, quick reactions (which, depending on the case, are not always bad!). However one sees plenty of quick, uncharitable reactions to unread content; unfriendly public attitudes to others’ work; virtual mobbing from people who one thinks would never do the same in a professional context like a conference or a lecture, the immediate, context-poor critique of those who dare to express themselves.

Usually it’s minorities and under-represented users who suffer the most and therefore lose terrain in the battle for representation. The widespread adoption of social media in professional contexts has led to self-censorship on social media, even in the lands of the free. When self-filtering becomes self-censorship is a topic that deserves more time and thought. This tension between the need/pressure to disseminate and the need/pressure to remain silent in order to be safe is one of the tensions at the core of this new economy as a way of being with others, a kind of mal d’archive where two opposing forces are at play.

Taking the time to write this and to reflect on the reasons to publish has made me reflect on both the ideas and practices that motivated it and the mechanism and strategies for its eventual dissemination. It may be that the best filter is to take time out all together, in order to keep perspective. Stepping away from a social media platform such as Twitter may remind us it is not an end in itself nor a community of communities disconnected to the offline networks that sustain it. Taking this time to reflect  may help us to reassess what it is that we really want to get across, when and to whom. I suggest that this distance is healthy, even if I recognise that taking this route may mean that some people never read the content we do eventually share.


*Another important aspect of this discussion, which I did not mean to cover here, would be online harassment and bullying. Danah Boyd’s work may come handy in this context.

#citymash: Library and Information Science as Fluid Practice

Arts Emergency badge. Image tweeted by @philgibby
Arts Emergency badge. Image tweeted by @philgibby

The venerable Oxford English Dictionary (online) tells me that part of the definition of the word “fluid” is “having the property of flowing; consisting of particles that move freely among themselves…”; a second definition also includes “flowing or moving readily; not solid or rigid; not fixed…”

These are the parts of the definition that what we’d like to embrace when we say that #citymash, the libraries and technology unconference that #citylis has organised to take place tomorrow Saturday 13 June 2015, will be a “fluid” event. Moreover, the fluidity of #citymash is an expression of a particular understanding of Library and Information Science (LIS) as a discipline, of librarianship as a practice and of information professionals as people.

As my colleagues Lyn Robinson and David Bawden have said in several occasions, LIS has evolved and it is in ongoing evolution. It flows; sometimes it seems it does so dizzyingly fast, others frustratingly slow, but the fact remains that LIS does flow. This fluidity goes beyond the transformations that documents have undergone from the first cave paintings to the latest hybrid immersive experiences; it includes the way we as academics, practitioners and people interested in all aspects of information interact with each other socially, “in real life”.

The unconference model is part of this transformation. In theory, an unconference is a conference organised, structured and led by the people attending it. All attendees and organisers are encouraged to become participants, with discussion leaders providing moderation and structure for attendees. Indeed, unconferences have become popular as an alternative to the panel discussions and keynote speakers featured at traditional conferences.

When I was a PhD student I witnessed not without some envy the first wonderful appearance (in 2008) and eventually skyrocketing  and international success (from 2009 onwards) of THATcamp (the Humanities and Technology Camp). “An open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot”, it was the brainchild of colleagues at the  Center for History and New Media at George Mason University in the United States. (They are also the birthplace of Zotero). Wikipedia kindly reminds me that it was indeed in August 2009 that the first THATCamp was held outside of the George Mason campus at the University of Texas in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists.

Perhaps not coincidentally it was also in 2008 (remember we were in the midst of a serious financial crisis) that the idea of the “Mashed Library” started doing the rounds, thanks to the work of Owen Stephens. By 2010 there had been a series of Mashed Library unconference events and it had been proven that the concept went well beyond Owen sitting on his own in a room with his laptop.

Without pioneers like THATCamp and the Mashed Library events #citymash would not be taking place tomorrow. The inspiring arts and humanities advocacy organisation Arts Emergency has said it very well, “sometimes if you want something to exist you have to make it yourself.” Libraries and universities can be surprisingly conservative and risk-averse. At the same time, paraphrasing Arts Emergency, LIS is a discipine that focuses on experimental thought; libraries and universities can indeed “foster thought beyond the norms of the present. Without the capacity to think beyond repetition there is no beyond to crisis.”

This post is already longer than I intended. The list of initial session leaders for #citymash tomorrow is here. The initial programme is here. There will be practical and discussion sessions on open source implementation, systems librarianship, hands-on Twitter archiving, GoogleRefine, UX, Making in Libraries, Fan Networks, past predictions of the future of the library, 3D printing, storytelling, Markdown, and more. There are also free rooms available for other sessions to be decided on the spot, and a dedicated reflection space throughout the event.

As #citymash is an unconference, timings, topics and proceedings are expected to be fluid. Participants have been asked to bring lunch to share. It will be a social, fun space. It will be fun and it will be flexible, and hopefully it will provide us with an opportunity to learn from each other and to make things ourselves: a space for thinking beyond repetition.

Here’s looking forward to tomorrow!

The #citymash website is at http://citymash.github.io/. Please note that registration has now closed. Follow the #citymash hashtag for live updates from the day.


#citymash has been supported by the Software Sustainability Institute. The Software Sustainability Institute cultivates world-class research with software. The Institute is based at the universities of Edinburgh, Manchester, Southampton and Oxford.

#citymash has been supported by figshare. figshare is a repository where users can make all of their research outputs available in a citable, shareable and discoverable manner.

This post was originally published at the #citylis blog.

A #HEFCEmetrics Twitter Archive (Friday 16 January 2015, Warwick)

HEFCE logo

The HEFCE metrics workshop: metrics and the assessment of research quality and impact in the arts and humanities took place on Friday 16 January 2015, 1030 to 1630 GMT at the Scarman Conference Centre, University of Warwick, UK.

I have uploaded a dataset of 821 Tweets tagged with #HEFCEmetrics (case not sensitive):

Priego, Ernesto (2015): A #HEFCEmetrics Twitter Archive (Friday 16 January 2015, Warwick). figshare.
http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1293612

TheTweets in the dataset were publicly published and tagged with #HEFCEmetrics between 16/01/2015 00:35:08 GMT and 16/01/2015 23:19:33 GMT. The collection period corresponds to the day the workshop took place in real time.

The Tweets contained in the file were collected using Martin Hawksey’s TAGS 6.0. The file contains 2 sheets.

Only users with at least 2 followers were included in the archive. Retweets have been included. An initial automatic deduplication was performed but data might require further deduplication.

Please note the data in this file is likely to require further refining and even deduplication. The data is shared as is. The contents of each Tweet are responsibility of the original authors. This dataset is shared to encourage open research into scholarly activity on Twitter. If you use or refer to this data in any way please cite and link back using the citation information above.

For the #HEFCEmetrics Twitter archive corresponding to the one-day workshop hosted by the University of Sussex on Tuesday 7 October 2014, please go to

Priego, Ernesto (2014): A #HEFCEmetrics Twitter Archive. figshare.
http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1196029

You might also be interested in

Priego, Ernesto (2014): The Twelve Days of REF- A #REF2014 Archive. figshare.
http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1275949

HEFCE Metrics: A one-day workshop hosted by the University of Warwick

University of Warwick Faculty of Arts banner

Metrics and the assessment of research quality and impact in the Arts and Humanities

A one-day workshop hosted by the University of Warwick, as part of the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment.

Date: Friday 16th January 2015 (10:30 to 16:30)

Location: Scarman Conference Centre, University of Warwick

The workshop will have the following objectives:

1. Offering a clear overview of the progress to date in the development of metrics of relevance to arts and humanities to date and persisting challenges.

2. Exploring the potential benefits and drawbacks of metrics use in research assessment and management from the perspective of disciplines within the arts and humanities.

3. Generating evidence, insights and concrete recommendations that can inform the final report of the independent metrics review.

The workshop will be attended by several members of the metrics review steering group, academics and stakeholders drawn from across the wider HE and research community.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Prof. Jonathan Adams, King’s College London
  • Prof. Geoffrey Crossick, AHRC Cultural Value Project and Crafts Council
  • Prof. Maria Delgado, Queen Mary, University of London
  • Dr Clare Donovan, Brunel University
  • Dr Martin Eve, University of Lincoln and Open Library of Humanities
  • Prof. Mark Llewellyn, Director of Research, AHRC
  • Dr Alis Oancea, University of Oxford
  • Dr Ernesto Priego, City University London
  • Prof. Mike Thelwall, University of Wolverhampton (member of the HEFCE review steering group)
  • Prof. Evelyn Welch, King’s College London

Please register here.

A belated #Transitions4 Archive, and a post summarising some data about comics scholars on Twitter

 Comics Scholars on Twitter? Yeah, A Few…

A very long title to announce I have finally published an archive of #transitions4 (2013) I collected more than a year ago, and that I have published a post on The Comics Grid blog summarising some data from my archives of tweets from comics conferences this year. Links below.

A #transitions4 Archive. figshare.

http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1252098

“Comics Scholars on Twitter? Yeah, A Few…” The Comics Grid blog, 26 November 2014.

 

A #IGNCC14 Twitter Archive (Conference Days Only)

The Fifth International Comics and Graphic Novels Conference took place in London 18- 20 July 2014. The official hashtag was #IGNCC14.

I have uploaded to figshare an .XLS file containing a dataset of Tweets tagged with #IGNCC14 (case not sensitive).

Priego, Ernesto (2014): A #IGNCC4 Twitter Archive (Conference Days Only).   figshare.

http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1112639

The complete archive contains  1294  Tweets published publicly and tagged with #IGNCC14 between 18/07/2014  07:25:47 BST and 21/07/2014  10:17:15 BST.

The conference’s Twitter activity at a glance:

 

#igncc14 TAGS Archive dashboard
#igncc14 TAGS Archive dashboard
#igncc14 Tweet Volume Over Time
#igncc14 Tweet Volume Over Time

The Tweets contained in the archive were collected using Martin Hawksey’s TAGS 5.1.  The file contains five sheets:

  • Sheet 0. A ‘Cite Me’ sheet, including procedence of this file, citation information,  information about its contents, the methods employed and some context.
  • Sheet 1.  Complete #IGNCC14 Archive (Conference days only). 1294 Tweets, from 18/07/2014  07:25:47 BST to 21/07/2014  10:17:15 BST.
  • Sheet 2.  Friday 18 July 2014. 469 Tweets, from 18/07/2014  07:25:47 BST  to 18/07/2014  21:27:23 BST.
  • Sheet 3. Saturday 19 July 2014. 390 Tweets, from 19/07/2014  06:54:24 BST to 19/07/2014  18:01:05 BST.
  • Sheet 4. Sunday 20 July 2014. 433 Tweets, from 20/07/2014  01:41:11 BST to 21/07/2014  10:17:15 BST.

Tweets collected under Local London, UK times. Times in GMT also included.

Only users with at least 2 followers were included in the archive. Retweets have been included. An initial automatic deduplication was performed. I manually organised and quantified the Tweets in the archive into conference days.

Please note that both research and experience show that the Twitter search API isn’t 100% reliable. Large tweet volumes affect the search collection process. The API might “over-represent the more central users”, not offering “an accurate picture of peripheral activity” (González-Bailón, Sandra, et al. 2012). It is not guaranteed thE file contains each and every Tweet tagged with #IGNCC14 during the indicated period, and is shared for comparative and indicative educational and research purposes only.

Please note the data in this file is likely to require further refining and even deduplication. The data is shared as is.  This dataset is shared to encourage open research into scholarly activity on Twitter. If you use or refer to this data in any way please cite and link back using the citation information above.

2014 Electronic Literature Organization Conference. An #elo14 Archive

#elo14 logo

The 2014 Electronic Literature Organization Conference took place 17-21 June 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

Though the home page did not feature an official hashtag prominently it seemed that the one most users were using was #elo14.

I have uploaded to figshare an XLS file that contains an archive of  the Tweets tagged with #elo14 (case not sensitive) that I collected during the period of the conference.

Priego, Ernesto. 2014: 2014 Electronic Literature Organization Conference. An #elo14 Archive.  figshare.
http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1067008

Please make sure you are using the latest version of this file.

This archive contains  2166 Tweets dated between 18/06/2014  23:15:16 and  21/06/2014 23:51:34.  Times (column E) are Central Time Zone (UTC-06:00).

The file includes 7 sheets. The first sheet is the ‘Cite Me’ sheet, including procedence of this file, citation information,  information about its contents, the methods employed and some context, followed by a sheet containing the Tweets dated 17-21 June 2014 and then one sheet per conference day.

To avoid spam only users with at least 2 followers were included in the archive. Retweets have been included.

Some deduplication and refining has been performed on the individual day sheets to avoid spam tweets and duplication. Some characters in some tweets’ text might not have been decoded correctly. Please note the data in the file is likely to require further refining and even deduplication. The data is shared as is.  If you use or refer to it in any way please cite and link back using the citation information above.

More information about methods and limitations in the file itself.

ACLAIIR AGM & Seminar 2014 – OPEN ACCESS: The future of academic publication?

Looking forward to participating in the ACLAIIR AGM & Seminar 2014 in Cambridge on Open Access: “The future of academic publication?” (17 June 2014).

ACLAIIR

AGM 2014 wordle picJoin us in Cambridge for the ACLAIIR AGM & Seminar 2014, the topic of which is Open Access. We are pleased to welcome speakers from a variety of areas to give their perspectives on OA and its impact on the world of research, teaching and publishing.

Speakers: Ellen Collins (OAPEN UK); Daniel Pearce (CUP); Dr. Rupert Gatti (Open Book Publishers); Dr. Martin Eve (University of Lincoln); Dr. Ernesto Priego (City University, London); Dr. Jenny Bunn (University College, London)

Open Access is curently a hot topic across the globe due to its wide-ranging effects. Many policies and practices are in a state of rapid change, so we hope you will join us to keep up to date with this important subject and contribute to the debate.

The full programme including speaker profiles and registration form are available on our Events page. Please register by Monday 9 June to secure your place!

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Digital Humanities: Narrowing the Focus #teachDH

Photos from the ideas jotted down by participants of the Higher Education Academy’s Digital Humanities Summit, 7-8 May 2014, Lewes, UK, during the “Narrowing the Focus” session on 8 May 2014. Click on images to enlarge.

Think #teachDH 8 May 2014
Think #teachDH 8 May 2014
Solve #teachDH 8 May 2014
Solve #teachDH 8 May 2014
Do, #teachDH 8 May 2014
Do #teachDH 8 May 2014
Make, #teachDH, 8 May 2014
Make #teachDH, 8 May 2014
Dream #teachDH 8 May 2014
Dream #teachDH 8 May 2014