looking for a few good scholars. on Twitter.

The time has come, dear readers: I am ready to research.

My thesis proposal has been accepted, my institution has granted my REB certificate…and so, here we are. This is it: the public call for participation in my upcoming ethnographic research study, to be conducted online between November 2013 and February 2014.

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I am looking for networked scholars – a maximum of twelve individuals – to be part of my dissertation research project exploring the ways in which reputation, credibility, and influence operate within online academic networks, particularly in the creation and perception of scholarly identities. All participants will be observed in their self-identified networked interactions over a period of approximately three months: blog archive exploration and interviews may also be requested.

Who I need:
My study will look at the scholarly networks fostered by Twitter, academic(ish) blogs, and other social networking sites (SNS) as subsets of what Jenkins (2006) calls ‘participatory culture.” I will use ethnographic methods of sustained participatory observation and semi-structured interviews to explore and detail the ways through which reputations are created and understood within this subculture. The study aims to articulate the signals that ‘count’ towards scholarly reputation and influence in networked circles, and to explore the benefits and challenges that networked scholarly participation poses for contemporary academics.

My work focuses on scholars whose reputations and dissemination practices straddle both online networks and conventional academia. My work builds on Veletsianos’ and Kimmons’ (2011) concept of networked scholarly participation, intersecting with Bruns’ (2007) concept of produsage and with White and LeCornu’s (2011) typology of visitors and residents. In short, I want people who are resident in academic online networks, particularly Twitter, and who share their own work and ideas as well as contributing to and sharing the work of others using online networks.

I’m looking for scholars across all stages of what might be called an academic career, though alt/ac scholars are also welcomed and desired as participants in my study. My concept of scholarship is grounded in Boyer’s (1990) model,which emphasizes not just discovery but integration, application, and teaching and learning. Participants need NOT be active in all four areas to be considered scholars for my research purposes: basically, if you self-identify as a networked scholar and have actively used Twitter and blogged (in areas related to your scholarship) for at least two years, that’s good by me.

The research will be conducted in English and will focus on identity and reputation-production within the English-speaking global academic sphere. Participants from a range of geographic locations, academic career stages, and disciplines are preferred, with mixed gender representation. The ways in which cultural identity markers and marginalities affect reputation and networked practices will constitute a part of the study: representation is sought from outside culturally-dominant groups in terms of ethnicity, sexual orientation, class origins, and other markers.

The formal criteria for participation in the study are as follows:

  • Scholars who have developed networked identities while simultaneously engaged in conventional scholarship, as graduate students, faculty, administrators, or otherwise
  • Scholars who are active within scholarly online networks, and have been for at least two years
  • Scholars who use Twitter in a sustained way to connect with others in their field(s) and/or in higher education more broadly, although not necessarily exclusively or every day
  • Scholars who are engaged in public blogging or some form of long-form reflection on practice: those invited to join the study will be asked to flag and/or contribute for analysis any previous reflections or other artefacts on topics of identity, reputation, and influence
  • Scholars who use online networks to share their own work or ideas, and to engage with, contribute to, or share the work of others

What you’re agreeing to:
Participation in this study will take anywhere from one to four (1-4) hours of your time. All participants will be asked to identify the SNS and other online platforms that they use as sites of scholarly engagement, and to give a short description of why and how they use each platform. Their public networked interactions and contributions (on Twitter and any other sites you let me know about) will be observed. Some participants will be interviewed (using Skype or another online platform), and will be asked to identify a specific 24 hour period after which they will screen capture self-identified typical or interesting interactions for discussion during the interview. Other participants will also be invited to reflect in writing on certain networked practices or to identify posts in their blog archives (or other spaces) which address issues related to reputation and identity.

This study is designed to be both public and participatory: you will be invited to verify and clarify your contributions and the conclusions drawn from them before publication as a blog, journal article, or thesis. Your perspectives will be represented as accurately as possible.

Participants will be identified within the research data and all ensuing publications by a Twitter handle: you will choose whether to use your existing Twitter identity or a pseudonym for publication purposes. If you wish to participate using your actual Twitter identity, you will be asked to sign a waiver of anonymity. Even in the case that pseudonyms are selected, however, full anonymity may be difficult to achieve within the networked circles under investigation in this research. Confidentiality, however, will be of key importance and no more than minimal risk is anticipated to any participant. Your interview transcripts will remain confidential, as will any data that you have not already shared in the public domain. Confidential data will be kept securely under password, and participants using their real Twitter handles will not be identified by name or institution so as to minimize searchability.

If you are interested in participating, or have questions about participation, I invite you to email me at bstewart@upei.ca by Sunday, November 10th, 2013.
Let me know:
1) your name
2) your institutional affiliation and role
3) your discipline
4) your geographic location (and previous locations, if relevant)
5) your actual Twitter handle & how long you’ve used Twitter
6) your blog address
7) any diversity factors related to your embodied identity that you’d be open to discussing in relation to networked reputation and practices

Expressions of interest will be kept confidential, and – even if you have previously expressed interest in this research – you have absolutely no obligation to volunteer. Really. :)

If you do choose to participate in the study, you retain the right to withdraw your participation or your data at any time.

Participants will be selected based on the criteria listed here, under the consultation of my dissertation committee. All who indicate interest will be contacted by return email by Sunday, November 17th, 2013. I am deeply grateful to all who express interest. I am also grateful to all who share this call widely (hint hint). :)

Looking forward to getting started!



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