I am currently at the Force 2016 conference in Portland, OR, where I presented today at a workshop for the Force Fellows on scholarly communication and crafting one’s online identity. As expected, the “teachers” at this workshop learned as much from the attendees as the attendees did from us, particularly with respect to culturally-relevant, informal scholarly communication (tweeting, blogging, etc).
Paul Groth gave an excellent talk following mine (full-text of which is forthcoming, watch this space) on best practices for writing online, during which an important conversation started.
One participant described how, at her institution–and in among Middle Eastern librarians more generally–her colleagues are too shy to even comment upon a blog post she had written. Putting one’s self “out there” in the ways Paul and I recommended (blogging, tweeting, commenting upon others’ blogs, and so on) would simply not work in her context. Though she believed in our message, she was afraid it would be a very hard sell to her colleagues.
Likewise, an attendee from Africa described how sharing one’s personal opinion on research online–even with the oft-seen Twitter/blog disclaimer, “The views expressed here do not reflect those of my employer”–was a non-starter. Among African researchers and university administrators, there is no such thing as a personal-professional divide; whatever you do and say online related to research will always reflect upon the employer.
Moreover, lots of the recommendations I was making with regard to Twitter come from my perspective as an American. I believe it is the single most valuable informal networking tool for scholars, and so I recommended it highly in this workshop. But what about more culturally-relevant, local social networks like Sina Weibo or VK? Do the techniques I describe for engaging on Twitter translate (pardon the pun) into other social networks? I honestly have no idea.
Today’s workshop seeded some important conversations about diversity in informal scholarly communication. Many of us tend to take for granted that it is good to blog, tweet, etc, but for some, that’s simply not possible.
I can’t be the first person to bring up this topic–if you know of research or commentary in this area, please do leave a comment with some links. (Most “culture”-oriented scholcomm readings I’ve found have to do only with disciplinary culture, not global cultural differences.)
I’d also like to hear from the experts at Force 2016. If you’re working with researchers outside of North America and Europe, how are expectations around informal online scholarly communication different from popular “best practices”? What are some culturally-relevant ways that you use to share and discuss research online?