THE Scholarly Web

The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, May 15, 2014 | Go to article overview

THE Scholarly Web


Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

The sheer numbers of academics contributing to Twitter feeds, Facebook profiles, blogs and the like show that social media can be a fertile place for scholarly dissemination. But as many scholars feel compelled to remain morally neutral in advancing evidence, how should academics present themselves?

Brent E. Sasley, assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington, and Mira Sucharov, associate professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, argue that there are "intellectual and social justice benefits to scholars embracing" non-scholarly identities on social media in a piece for the London School of Economics' Impact of Social Sciences blog (http://ow.ly/wC2J4).

"All of us identify with one or more communities - ethno-national, political, ideological, and so on," they write. "But because they are presumed to compromise objectivity, we have been socialized to believe that these commitments need to be put aside when we engage in scholarly work." Social media, however, make this difficult, particularly when an individual's "prior political or philosophical commitments" connect with their academic subject matter.

"The characteristics, expectations, and lack of boundaries in social media present clear opportunities for scholars to take advantage of their identities to press their claims and engage their communities in analytical dialogue," the pair continue.

They cite three reasons for this. First, being well versed in their fields and trained to assess evidence allows scholars to claim a level of expertise that "even those passionate about an issue but whose job is not to study it cannot". Second, because they "are insiders to our communities" - for them specifically, in Jewish liberal-Zionist circles in North America and, to an extent, in Israel - they "have a level of entry and acceptance" that may be denied to "outsiders". …

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