What of the bulk of other academics interested in research and
publication? They may move to open access routes for publication but
will they want to spend their time in developing a public persona? I am
not sure they or I will. I haven't yet developed a blog, though I
follow others, including yours. I am not sure that digital scholarship
covers all or even the main aspects of intellectual endeavour.
Sometimes it is a lone academic quarrying away obscurely on a narrow
point that makes a difference. Some of the dynamics of intellectual
life require a position outside of the public gaze.
I've pulled Chris' quote out because it is worth discussing in detail I think. Chris is not someone who objects just for the sake of, or from a resistance to technology, but from a more considered standpoint. His argument is that he has a very well established, and effective, way of engaging in scholarly discourse and activity, and in order to develop the type of online identity and reputation I was suggesting he would need to give up doing something. I think it is easy for those of us who spend a significant amount of time in the online, participatory media world to think its attractions are obvious, and undeniable. But Chris raises some valid objections here that bear consideration. I think there are four responses one might make, which range in levels of evangelism.
The argument of recognition – the softest response is to say that I am not proposing that everyone should, or needs, to develop an online identity. What I am arguing is that there is a monopoly on the types of activity and outputs that are currently recognised in the scholarly system, and that we should be able to expand upon this to include the more digital scholarship work, alongside the normal work.
The argument of simplicity – this takes the proposal a touch further and says that not everyone needs to spend a great deal of time and effort in becoming a 'podstar' or blogging celebrity, but there are sufficient number of easy to use tools available such that everyone can easily create an online presence. This doesn't really require you to give up any other activity, it is a byproduct of what you do anyway. Creating a presence using Tumblr for example is a quick way to have an online identity.
The argument of benefit – in his autobiography Martin Amis asks of the humourless 'how do they raise children? How does it get done without a sense of humour?' I sometimes feel the same about social network/web 2.0/participatory media (call them what you like) and being an academic. How does it get done without using these tools every day? I can't imagine finding resources as readily without the links and filtering my network provides, or the analysis they provide, or the feedback I get from them, or the responses to help they give me. I set out a few benefits in the talk on online identity. For me this is one of the strongest arguments – it makes things better.
The argument of imperative – this is the most forceful argument, and an extension of the argument of benefit. Not only does online activity provide you with benefits as an academic, but it is fundamentally key to what you should be doing. The argument here goes something like 'how can you be relevant to students, operate as a scholar if you're not engaged with the most powerful research/communication medium ever?' I'm not sure I'd go this far, because you can use various online services effectively within your research without it necessitating establishing an online identity, but, if one thinks this social media stuff has any relevance, then I maintain that the only way to really understand it is to do it.
Have I missed any, and are any of these really compelling enough? And do they apply across all domains eg. could I argue the same for, Art History, say?