The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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3 Difficulties with identity

Described image
Figure 7 Who are you online?

Bonnie Stewart is an academic who works online and actively researches issues related to equity, vulnerability and influence online. For a fuller description of her work visit her website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

In the following presentation she considers notions of academic identity on Twitter. Please note that there is no commentary.

Download this video clip.Video player: Academic Twitter
Academic Twitter
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Alternatively you can read this article by Stewart (2015): ‘In public: the shifting consequences of Twitter scholarship’.

Stewart raises issues we need to be aware of as we engage with digital scholarship. As digital scholarship becomes increasingly part of the mainstream, then there is a subsequent pressure for everyone to engage in it. If you are an early career researcher, for instance, then developing an online identity can be seen as an important part of establishing yourself within a field. Similarly, we encourage students to blog and use social media.

Possible issues we need to consider are:

  • how much we force learners to reveal about themselves online
  • how we conduct ourselves in online communications that are open to everyone
  • whether we are exposing scholars to aggressive behaviour from others
  • what support is available from institutions.

The reaction to these concerns can often be to disengage, but I would argue that would do a disservice to students and our community. However, we should be aware that creating an online identity comes with risks and be conscious of these.

Activity 1 Developing an online identity

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes

Imagine you have a colleague who wishes to develop their online identity, but is nervous about the potential downsides. Jot down three positives and three potential issues they should consider. Add some detail to each point including how they might emphasise the positives and ameliorate the possible issues.

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