Megan McPherson and Narelle Lemon are the two continuing brains behind Academics Who Tweet, a research study about academia and social media. In this post, they describe their experience of forming relationships via social media and working collaboratively as research partners who met online.
What do you see when you follow academics on Twitter and other social media platforms? We see research relationships forming, the #acwri and #acwrimo hashtags being used to increase productivity, collaborative publications being celebrated and shared, conferences and workshops being streamed or live-Tweeted, and conversations between colleagues discussing research and sharing resources. We see people making their research and their academic identities visible. And this is why Twitter and other social media platforms are so important for academics. They make our research visible and our collaborations tangible and current.
In mid-2013, we met Kylie Budge for a coffee at the State Library of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia). Kylie and Megan knew each other from working in the same office, and Narelle was based at the same university, but on a different campus. We had been following each other on Twitter, and decided to meet up with an idea to do something together. We decided to work together to think about why and how we used Twitter as academics. This was something we were all curious about. We set up the project, Academics Who Tweet and began with a narrative inquiry methodology to document how we used social media. In early 2014 we decided to widen the focus of research, developing the project with an ethics application, interview protocols, and then participant recruitment. In mid-2015 Kylie decided to leave the project as she moved interstate (miles away!) for work.
Academics Who Tweet is not our primary research focus, so considerable planning is required to ensure the project moves forward. We set loose annual goals of what we would like to do in the project and what outcomes we would like. Writing is planned by dialogue; we (Narelle and Megan) meet in various cafes around Melbourne and talk through the schedule and writing plans. We write in google docs, each with a different coloured text, so we can each see how the other is progressing and how the ideas are developing. Each written outcome takes two to three months with (loosely) fortnightly meetings. At each meeting we set a clear expectation of what is to be written for the next meeting so it can be discussed and progressed. Once the big ideas of the article are discussed, we get down to the planning and word allocations of each section, we divide up the data, and decide who is doing what. Our challenge is making the analysis and discussion sections coherent and collaborative. We do this through discussion in these meetings, by asking questions, and by offering each other new perspectives and alternative ways of thinking.
Relations in academia can be difficult to maintain and we have many competing things that we need to do. Building research relationships, doing research together, and writing together is all about trust. Seeing how people present themselves on social media allows you to get a glimpse of how they operate, what their interests are, and what they value, before you start collaborating. Connecting via social media can also lead to new and different ways of working in academia that cross the boundaries of discipline, time and space. In the Academics who Tweet project, we followed each other through Twitter and Instagram for about a year and a half before we met as a group. We had conversations on Twitter that progressed our thinking in our individual projects, and saw how each one of us worked on individual articles, projects, artworks and activities. We also celebrated each other’s successes and commiserated failures. In this way, we knew each other before we started to collaborate.
Want to know more about the Academics Who Tweet project? Check out these articles:
- McPherson, M., Budge, K., & Lemon, N. (2015). New practices in doing academic development: Twitter as an informal learning space. International Journal for Academic Development, 20(2), 126-136. DOI:10.1080/1360144X.2015.1029485 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1360144X.2015.1029485#.VX_VKROqpBc
- Lemon, N. McPherson, M., & Budge, K. (2015). Academics doing it differently: Wooing, hooking up and spinning stories. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 3(2), 15-25. ISSN 2051-9788. Retrieved at http://jpaap.napier.ac.uk/index.php/JPAAP/article/view/129
- Budge, K., Lemon, N. & McPherson, M. (In press, 2015) Academics who tweet: ‘messy’ identities in academia. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education.
- McPherson, M. & Lemon, N. (In review, 2015). The hook, woo and spin: Academics creating relations on social media. In Espositio, A. (Ed.). Research 2.0 and the Impact of Digital Technologies on Scholarly Inquiry. Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA: IGI Global.
Thanks to Narelle and Megan for this guest blogpost! Do you want to connect with other academics online, and work collaboratively like Narelle & Megan? Then join Piirus today! It’s a great way to expand your networks and build relationships with like-minded folk. You can also read more about co-authorship, including tips in the co-authorship case study that you get when you subscribe to this blog.
More about our guest bloggers:
Dr Narelle Lemon is a Senior Lecturer at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. She currently holds the position of Academic Coordinator of Postgraduate Teacher Education within the School of Education. Narelle’s research agenda is focused on engagement and participation in the areas of teacher capacity building in cultural organisations such as galleries, museums and other alternative education settings; social media for professional development including Twitter and Instagram; integrating digital technology; and working in academia. She utilizes narrative inquiry and image based research particularly with still digital photography. Narelle blogs at http://chatwithrellypops.wordpress.com and tweets as @rellypops.
Megan McPherson is a practicing artist and has taught and researched in the university studio for over 20 years. Megan’s research focuses on identity and agency in practice. She has been involved in learning and teaching projects at the University of Melbourne, RMIT University and La Trobe University investigating peer learning and assessment in the creative industries, elearning approaches in the studio, professional development for teaching in higher education, and ethics in research. Megan is a PhD scholar in the Faculty of Education, Monash University conducting a study of the university art school crit. Megan tweets and instagrams as @MeganJMcPherson.