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Academia in 140 Characters

ramgarali's picture

Academia in 140 Characters

    With all the advances in technology we have come to naming social media a genre within our writing. Social media is an instrument of communication that allows its audience to interact with one another by sharing content etc.  A website that has recently caught my attention has been Twitter due to the fact I have not used it before and know very little about it. In order to conduct my research and express my thoughts on how it can become an active member of the academic community, I had to acquire a new identity and immerse myself on Twitter as @alicia_ramirez3. Once a member of the Twitter community, I was given a minute-long introduction to what Twitter is, what  “tweets” , or messages, are, choose different categories from musicians to newspapers so you can start obtaining feeds with information as it is being published as well as finding out if any friends from your email address book have a Twitter account.

      Based on my research, Twitter is an information network that connects users to breaking news regarding the government, celebrities, businesses and sports etc. as they take place in real time. The only catch, that makes Twitter different from social media sites like Facebook and Tumblr , is that messages, or tweets can only be 140 characters long. It did not take me long to realize that Twitter as a genre would pose numerous restrictions to publishing my academic work. This small amount of characters will not be enough to inform followers about my academic essays and findings in the future.  With an assigned amount of characters writers must make a sacrifices on the amount of words we use to make our voice as clear as possible.

    At a given moment I encountered a link that its headline read: "Twitter for Businesses": and decided to research how it helped businesses thrive by connecting with a wider audience.Although businesses and academia are two completely different fields, I wanted to get a glimpse of what made Twitter so attractive in that aspect. The page administrator (s) can ask questions, submit pictures and videos of products and answer inquiries in real time. I soon realized that I as a scholar I can do something similar to what businesses are doing soon after I establish a clear voice. I, and the rest of the scholarly community would have to adopt Twitter as a liaison to web sites and therefore, use “tweets” as headlines to active links that lead to more abundant blog posts with recent findings.

            I have had the opportunity of being exposed to different web sites like as a high school sophomore and Serendip now in college. I can enrich class discussions by posting images, videos and writing of my own. Taking part in discussion through this medium already changes academic writing as a genre because I can comment on my colleagues’ work shortly after reading it or post an insightful video or image in response and receive feedback from my professor. Not until recently it was uncommon to start an essay by encouraging readers to think about an image before reading it or watch a video afterwards. If we can do all of these great things on Serendip there is no need to make Twitter the main database of all our information because there is not enough space.

    Prof. Alicie Lesnick (Bryn Mawr/ Haverford Education Program), teaches a course called “Literacies and Education” which focuses on “experiences, representations, and implications of learning to speak, read, and write in and outside of school contexts”. What makes Prof. Lesnick’s course relevant to my research, is that she and her students use Twitter as a microblog for further inquiries outside the classroom. Students use a hashtag (#) so that students’ tweets can identify they are members of that particular class and what they are discussing (#BMCed250). Hashtags facilitate the search of tweets and when you click on it, all messages within that same category appear in one page.

    Prof. Lesnick’s Twitter assignments reinstate that Twitter alone cannot publish our academic findings. Twitter does have a purpose this course where students can interlink personal experiences with the course’s content but students still rely on publishing more extensive blog posts on Serendip, where they can be come elaborate on their thoughts and feelings regarding the course where 140 characters are not enough.

    Social media cannot benefit the academic community answer the biggest question of all: What does it mean to be educated? If they cannot answer that question how can social media be beneficial? Today, education systems seem to be meant to prepare citizens for a life in the workforce. That is not education; that is schooling. Schooling is the process of formally getting schooled by an institution, which means students will learn what the institutions considers to be a high quality education. Schooling is also all the different degrees one has earned in order to transcend into further schooling, if needed or desired. In contrast, education goes beyond having good manners. Education is a practice that will benefit us in all aspects of our lives; therefore, it is a process of continuous personal and interpersonal growth and development. Twitter and social media in general will mostly benefit schooling due to the fact it affects the kind information we obtain and how we obtain it. This reinstates that social media has changed the genre of academic writing. Education will also make its mark on the web because there should be a common courtesy between scholars: all scholars should not be afraid to express their opinions as long as they do so with respect to their colleagues since everyone with access to the Internet will read their opinions.

    If academics were to use Twitter as the primary source of information for its followers, they would have to administer a blog so that whatever information that does not fit the 140 character mark can be showcased and receive feedback . Twitter can increase the amount of followers academics have if they all agree to use Twitter as a starndard intermediate between their master blog or website of choice (Serendip or Nicenet) and legion of followers (colleagues and perhaps people simply interested on the subject (s)). Authors like and newspapers such as Margaret Atwood and the New York Times are on Twitter and inform followers about their latest happenings.  With this being said, why cant members of the academic community post links to articles, videos of conferences or forward information on their latest publication?

            Despite its small amount of characters, Twitter will eventually become the necessary bond between the scholarly community.



Works Cited:

Literary Kinds, Emerging Genres...." Serendip . N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Feb 2012. /exchange/courses/literarykinds/s12.

Serendip . N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Feb 2012. <course web site: /exchange/courses/ed250/s12.

"What is Twitter? Twitter for Businesses." Twitter. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Feb 2012.











Anne Dalke's picture

140 characters is not enough!

The first delight here is to realize that in order to do research for this paper, you needed to acquire a "new identity," in order to become an active member of an on-line community that you hadn't participated in before. (How does that identity differ from or resemble the ones you already had?) Doing this puts flesh on the bones of the concept of "participant observation"! But how much did you actually participate? Did you do any tweeting? Read many tweets by others?

(Of course, while writing you here, I'm also curious about how comfortable you feel with another dimension of your on-line identity, as a Serendip user….) I had myself a very brief fling w/ Twitter--a colleague asked me to tweet a conference I attended a year ago--but I quickly found myself impatient w/ what you repeatedly characterize here as "sacrifices on the amount of words": I realized I needed much more space to say what I had to say. I sense a similar indecision/impatience on your part--is that right?

What I hear in your report from the field is, on the one hand, a repeated emphasis on the inadequacy of the form: "there is no need to make Twitter the main database of all our information because there is not enough space"; "students still rely on publishing more extensive blog posts where they can elaborate on their thoughts and feelings where 140 characters are not enough"; "academics have to administer a blog so that whatever information that does not fit the 140 character mark can be showcased and receive feedback." On the other hand, you seem to acknowledge the particular use-value of this form, as a signpost to more extensive work, a way to filter out and point to what's important: you say that academics can "use 'tweets' as headlines to active links that lead to more abundant blog posts," thereby creating "an information network that connects users to breaking news," and "increase the amount of followers"; it can serve, as it does in Alice's class, as "a microblog for further inquiries outside the classroom." Missing in your account is a history of the platform, or any statement of its original (or evolving) mission: for what purposes was it created? What purposes (aside from how Alice's class is using it) does it now serve? How many people does it serve? How global is the network it creates?

Where I'm further puzzled is in your prediction that Twitter's future use-value will lie not in education (=continuous individual growth), but rather in schooling (= professional training), because its primary function is to provide access to information. So much of the work we've been reading recently--I'm thinking in particular about Davidson and Goldberg's description of the evolution of schooling to include distributed, virtual, mobilizing social networks--refuses the distinction you are making between education "inside" and "outside" the walls of institutions. Tell me more about the reasons you see a boundary here?