Sep 212011

Welcome to the liveblog for the Social Media & Academia Event at Social Media Week Glasgow.

This panel discussion, arranged by Edinburgh Beltane, Beacon for Public Engagement and EDINA, will focus on the opportunities for using social media in academia, particularly for public engagement where collaboration and communicating research to wider audience can create greater social impact of your work.

The hashtag for the event is #socac and we’ll be watching those tweets so do let us know what you’d like to ask our panellists!


This is an outline of what we will be including in the session – the timings are approximate but should help you get an idea of how the afternoon will work:

3:30 Live poll: What do you currently use Social Media for?

This is currently running – please send in your answers!

And William is doing some housekeeping announcements…

We’ve opened with a brief Introduction from Heather Rea, Project Manager for Edinburgh Beltane, Beacon for Public Engagement and Nicola Osborne, Social Media Officer for EDINA.

Now, meet the panelists! Introductions on who they are and how they are using social media.

Our panellists are:

Jen Ross, Associate Lecturer on the MSc in E-Learning programme and part of the Digital Cultures and Education research group at the School of Education, University of Edinburgh. Jen uses social media in association with her teaching on the MSc in eLearning course and also in her own research where she has used a blog to track her research for her PhD and to share that more widely with the public.

William Nixon, Digital Library Development Manager at University of Glasgow. Uses Twitter for his own professional networking. The library uses Facebook, Twitter etc – he’s not directly involved in that but Enlighten, the Glasgow University repository is on Twitter and tweets each new research paper deposited automatically and will be doing that at this very minute!

Dr Chris Speed, researcher in Digital Architecture, Human Geography and Social Computing, Edinburgh College of Art. He uses blogs for his own work and in Plymouth, where he was previously based, they used blogs with students to encourage reflective practice.

Dr Peter Matthews, lecturer in the School of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University is introduced by this excellent video:

Opening Questions

First Question on using Social Media for Learning to Jen what’s the difference on using Social Media vs closed systems for teaching?

Well it’s very much about using both but as a student there’s a way to contribute content via social media. And hat means that social media lets content become a shared conversational piece, rather than pushed to them and that changes everything. We also have a social network for students on the programme and that takes place in public which is great. Social media also allows serendipitous discovery, and an ability to adapt quickly – WebCT is updated only every so often. Twitter etc.

We had a question this morning about making students use commercial students whilst they study:

@rmforsyth asks: if used in teaching, should engagement with social media be compulsory? if not, does it lose impact/value?

There’s always a balance to be struck and we think about this a lot. We used to have a Facebook group but that got very problematic as the privacy issues

Twitter or SecondLife are more concerning in terms of longevity of content rather than privacy. But there are lots of places where students have to give their details to take place in a course – not just Google etc. And there is the matter of what sort of organisation we need to me. There is something quite disingenuous

Q) What do you think of Google+ as a service as it seems to be putting itself forward as an authentication service and I have concerns about this.

A – Jen) Google is under a lot of pressure lately in regards to their requirement to use real names rather than pseudonyms. The backlash has really raised some great issues about what online identity is and means and how it connects to real life identity. For that reason we’d be extemely cautious about Google Plus. I want to see how that shakes down. It’s a worry in a way with any of these commercial sites – any of them can change their terms whenever they like. It places an extra burdon on teachers to keep up to date with those issues. And that’s something that not everyone will be prepared to spend the time and mental energy with.

Q) How should education respond to the arguements around social media and it’s reliance and connection on advertising

A – Jen) Most if not all of the social platforms are selling *you* to advertisers. They are there to support themselves through advertising. I’m not sure of the right response. It doesn’t seem to be to avoid using them all together. But there is a real need for a serious critique around that arguement.

A – Chris) I just try to be clear with students – there is nothing wrong with having a critical stance on social media being part of how you are using it. It;s not a terrible problem as long as you hit it right on the head. Adopt different persona’s and do things creatively

Questionnaire) One of the things that was noted in that same piece was that you can only “Like” things, you can’t not like things…

We are now moving on to William..

William tends to use Twitter in a personal capacity, he’s been trying out Klout but is sceptical about it’s usefulness – it tries to tell you how you are doing and I was very upset lately as it went from classifying me as a “specialist” to calling me a “networker”. University of Glasgow uses Facebook and the students use it extensively. With Freshers week we see a huge rise in followers. We use this space to push out content from other places and connect things up, we want to reach out to the students. We do our blog post – like Jen or Peter – and then we advertise it on Twitter, Facebook etc.Using Twitter to advertise free accupressure sessions in the library. Also live chats with library staff. We use Friendfeed to autotweet deposits for Enlighten (@EnlightenPapers). This is great as it doesn’t cost me anything to do but it carries on in the background. We’ve looked at engaging researchers with social media. Not sure that mendeley counts as Social Media per se but we’ve seen huge traffic through there recently. We’ve also added the Tweet button in the repository – we will probably add the Google + button and may add Facebook though trickier to implement. Yammer is at the other end of the spectrum. It’s closed corporate space and corporate comms use it, the Enlighten team are using it. It’s a really interesting opportunity to share non confidential information across the team and you get a daily digest. We find it really really useful internally for corporate comms. It works with the @glasgow email address and lets people in the organisation join in.

Q) Do you have stats about people tweeting papers?

A) A lot less of it comes from Twitter. It will be easier to see with Twitter URL shortener. Anything that goes in the repository goes into staff profile/publications pages. That’s a huge source of referrals. But loads of traffic comes from Mendeley – it’s now our fourth referrer. Google is big, Bing has dropped off.

“Mendeley is now our fourth biggest referer to @enlightenpapers, Bing has almost disappeared” #socac #smwgla

Comment – Peter) At the Scottish Parliament email can get tricky and they were trying Yammer but it requires a culture of openness to social media. I was just thinking about Mendeley on the way here. All the publishers push their own tools: CiteUlike, Do we need just one? And agreed format?

William) OrcID and the use of DOIs helps a bit. Mendeley has had stratospheric growth. The figures for people engaging there are phenominal compared to repository world. They have sort of bipassed some of the copyright issues by letting people subtly upload papers etc. Academics are starting to tweet about research papers etc. and advertising their publications. And it’s shaped the development of our service to reflect things like Mendeley – being able to cross link to that is going to be useful.

Comment – Heather) The library is going where people use things, and that’s similar to the public engagement approach

William) Yes, I’ve been coaxed back to Start in Facebook, deposit to repository via a widget. We have successfully tried that out. The tools we coiuld plug in are interesting.

Q) What do you want to do and why? There is a danger of rushing in without objectives and what resource is involved. I’m also concerned about people thinking impact is just the reading of a blog or press coverage when thinking about the REF.

A) The why Twitter question is partly because we could. There was a perl module for the repository that we could use easily. It was an interesting intellectual exercise. I don’t think we’ll be basing impact on our Twitter feed. The more important why is trying to make content as rich as possible – in support of the Open Access agenda. If we can provide free full text then that is the Open Access holy grail. The most interesting… we have a paper that is freely available and it’s by one of our history lectures about US cinema – the John Wayne paper. It gets more Google hits than anything else we have.

Q) How do use social media in your research Chris and Peter – I gather you are working on something together?

A – Chris) Yes, due tomorrow! So these things are for different things. There are politics of talking and writing back, for sustaining conversations. We have an EPSRC grant on tagging objects – Tales of Things. Books can be tweeting about users – what happens when cornflakes talk to coffee pots and rooms etc. Spatial contexts and how that relates to digital media. You can exchange data online, those spaces change as does very real architecture that we used to do these things with. Things start to gain agency – not just Amazon recommendations but also ideas beyond that. Cars have had tags for years – number plates.

The project with Peter takes this work to Wester Hailes. Using tags to recover memory. There is a very complex patchwork of history here, it’s a real changing “elevator space” – people raise themselves up and move away and you lose the cultural memory. So we want to look at what the area is doing. We have used Tales of Things but Facebook has been huge for this project. Now we have collected those memories we can start to put QR codes around to trigger conversations. Ways to drop stories in the area to replace a lost newspaper – accessed via codes stuck around the place. Local news could be delivered as materials in a spatial context created by sticking QR codes around the area.

Peter) The history of the community has been written by decision makers, by councils etc. But there has been activism since the 1960s and 70s to really improve and develop the area. Being able to help that activism be invigorated through social media, and writing a new history of Wester Hailes is hugely promising!

Q) How did you access these community groups?

A – Peter) During fieldwork for my PhD three years ago I couldn’t use social media, barely even email. I knocked on doors to make contacts,

A – Chris) We had an AHRC connected community grant and went looking for a community. We cherry pick constructive elements of social media. We don’t highlight privacy, hacking, porn etc. The Big Society is a cherry picking of the nice bit of social media. If you have a mob you could find a library’s entire stock circulated between individuals. We asked the community what you would want to share with tags – advertising for jobs say? What happens with the grey economy? Is the Big Society there to afford a grey economy? But the community was concerned with memories and fostering a dialogue in the community.

A – Peter) Facebook site is “from here to there” – the community scans the old newspaper weekly and shares that. The decision to moderate the space removes racism but leaves loads of fruity details – way more entertaining than some of the twee stuff that can appear in Edinburgh history. This space captures the swearing, the local colour, the unpallatable details!

Q) Do you have any issues with acccess? As a socially inclusive thing you access through digital means – any reluctance to use Facebook or lack of access to internet?

A) There is some access. It seems that Blackberry phones are hugely popular. Blackberry chat channel, SMS, also leaving memory on an answerphone. Quite interested to afford many channels and how that can be filtered to certain audienes in different contexts. Desktop PCs at home seems to be not too big a problem.

A – Peter) Wester Hailes had one of the first internet cafe’s in Scotland in 1996. That was part of regeneration. Digital Inclusion is an issue but so many public servicers use social media – reporting of issues can be sent via Twitter. I am wanting to see if Middle Class people are more empowered by that than working class people. A cultural capital issue perhaps rather than technological.

Q) Any piracy issues?

A – Peter) One of our partners in the project is the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments as they have images of the area. They have said they cannot share their images on Facebook as they lose control.Lost Edinburgh had a great resource of images but hadn’t been cleared

Quesioner) people lose copyright of their comments, things are open to the public – any issues?

A – Peter) For this context people were thinking about community newspapers and those are public, that’s more controversial. The tightening up of Facebook tagging may help with people’s comfort with this space.

A – Chris) But as with the students that’s an opportunity to think and learn about these issues. It’s a learning thing for everybody.

Comment from audience) No-one reads the Terms and Conditions. As the library we read those terms very very carefully and only share images cautiously. We have some special collections materials on Flickr – their terms allow this – but not on Facebook or similar ideas. In service I will talk about safety, rights etc. and informing students. One of my students was surprised that search results changed when logged into Google+. Academics do not talk about these issues to their students. I live in a rural area. The working class minimum wage people around me have facebook accounts if they have kids but not otherwise – they are keeping an eye on their kids.

Chris) The idea of obscurification is interesting. We’ve videoed people and shared them but not let them be searchable and that works quite well. But there is fear. I posted something from a research meeting somewhere obscured online and there was huge resistance. A really fascinating idea. Hidden channels are really interesting and our sense of fear is strong.

Jen) danah boyd talks about the introduction of the Facebook news feed in relation to the idea of privacy and the idea of privacy through obscurity – you rely on things being hard to find. But an update to Facebook can change that overnight…

Comment from audience) People can forget who they are online – on Twitter etc. and that they are connected to an organisation

Peter) The Scottish Government were allowing use of Twitter in a personal capacity but definitely not Facebook.

Jen) Like Chris was saying before these moral panics can be overrated, we can have a more sophisticated understanding of these issues

Commenter again) yes, we put together guidelines but we don’t have those for phones..

Peter) We have social norms but things in social media move very fast, social norms will eventually catch up. I was at a wedding with an embarressing powerpoint of kids photos. My childhood is tied up in albums but kids now have their childhood pictures online. Social norms are changing… It will be weird as a coming of age event to hand over your child’s facebook account to them

Chris) Blackberry messaging system has a delete button – deletion as a practice is very rare. To not guarantee presence of material is a problem for researchers but having full deletion is a social benefit.

Jen) You need safe spaces and reassurance for students about work done in public – “a portfolio funeral”. We have a lifelong learning and portfolio idea that would keep everything available for ever and I don’t think we really want that.

Q) We used Yammer a lot in the library when we had the @lib.gla email address. when we moved to @gla we in the library stopped using Yammer as our posts would be open to all of the university. It’s really useful to read and share information. I like that sharing. But you have to say why things are useful and share things appropriately. Be constructive and helpful. How do you foster that evolution of mindset?

A – Peter) In terms of timing often social media saves me time – quick tweets when your mind is blank is great compared for filtering through all the inbox.

Comment) I work for JISC CETIS advising educational organisations on technology. We started trying out Yammer. Social MEdia has been great for us. We tried Yammer as we thought that closedness could be useful but it didn’t work at all. We like being open I guess. We can’t get people to engage with it. People like social networking tools.

Comment) When we started using Yammer we trialled it as a mini group then rolled out. Then people felt slightly left out and very interested in finding out more.

Comment) I’m really interested in visualising connections. I’m just getting into social network analysis – the betweeness and centrality, connecting to different nodes. Very interesting particularly for academic practice. Why use Twitter? Well yes, because it’s there but how do you quantify what’s innovative? We are starting to give a view of what we do, how people use it, and doing some gap analysis of networks we are not using.

A – Chris) You can’t teach without students clapping at the end of a presentation. You see Scotrail – they just get slagged off.

If you moan about Scotrail you get retweeted by Scotfail

A – Chris) You feel weird about negative comments in public. Sometimes keeping that stuff private is disingenuous. Sometimes people need to know that stuff. People seem to be obsessed with having growing Twitter followers but it’s fine to be stable. If we can’t afford to have a comment is it just another rhetorical issue. For organisational use you were describving that is an economic strategic thing.

COmment) we all tweet individually. There has been no policy in place but that’s generally fine. There was one comment that was a daft mistake but that was difficult. We just have to deal with it, it’s human nature. We just need to acknowledge that it’s just disposable. You don’t want to look at Twitter all day but it’s important for professional standing to some. We’re all just learning. In ten years time those that have been free about sharing information will have shifted things on.

A – Chris) The conversation afford an awareness and sensitivity

Comment) We had some students forgetting how public Facebook what – we had some really inflammatory comments on  the riots. They were removed but a screen print had been blogged

Comment) But that is a learning possibility

Peter) I follow @DianainHeaven and the guy who runs that takes it as a compliment when people unfollow him for being offensive. I had a bad day last week and I was so annoyed by all the chirpy perky comments on Facebook!

Comment) My work social media and my personal social media are very very different. You meet people online and socially and I rarely mention my work in those contexts.

Chris) Digital architectures have a real impact – these terms and conditions and legislatory aspects guide us, it’s not material architectures.

Jen) As much as we try to separate personal and professional the direction of travel is towards a blend. This concept of personal branding is difficult… what do we lose and what do we gain there, you don’t want to get lost in the happy cloud.

Chris) How do you read the signals here – I have a friend with depression and his comments can look lighter in tone than they are but those that know them well can read those.

Comment) I do share happy stuff in Facebook and have other support for the bad stuff. But the more we expose that the better.

Peter) Interestingly the first edit of my video had swearing when I noted the direct messages were showing. I showed Facebook and that is more private.

Comment) My friends on Facebook are so vulgar and crude and I always think twice about adding work colleagues as friends.

Peter) On twitter I conciously merge identities – knowing about me as a person helps understand me as an academic. I have a friend who tweets far too much of his personal gym habits but I just skip them.

Comment) On Twitter you have some control. On Facebook you can’t control what people say.

Comment) Professionally the only distinct professional space is LinkedIn. With Facebook it’s both work and personal for me. But it’s been really interesting to see it naturally evolve into a personal space over the last two years. Google+ lets you circle or corral people so there is potential. But I tend to go direct to Twitter.

William) The people in my Google+ circle is mostly people from Twitter. There is a big overlap. I did enjoy a tweet recently – “Google+ it’s the place where your parents aren’t”. I did try to invite my mum, dad and sister when they had invites but they didn’t engage with it. But my biggest mistake on Facebook was making friends with my sister! All the rest of the family piled in. But I’ve switched off showing all my friends in Google+ – more privacy options. Much more granular control there. In Facebook you accidentally break cover

Peter) Does anyone know how the items show up in your newsfeed – they are shaping friendships!

Comment) People think LinkedIn and Facebook are great for recruitment but I worry they haven’t thought about what to add.

Peter) Twitter and Facebook great when students are at University they rely on word of mouth to choose their university

Comment) I had an exchange with a student when we set up our Facebook page, they were concerned we might be there as a person and were alarmed at that but obviously it’s better to be a page and keep out of our students lives

William) When you start using Twitter as an organisation it’s very broadcast but you gradually start to reply back. There was a recent ruling that you could receive Freedom of Information requests via Twitter which requires a certain sort of engagement. Indeed there is an allegation of evading FOI via gmail against Micheal Gove by Andy Burnham at the moment.

Comment) We certainly decided that comments coming in on the live chat service could be FOI requests.

Peter) Social media will become important because of FOI actually.

Comment) We had Facebook creating us a page before we were on Facebook automatically. It still has more likes than us in fact! We’ll be resolving that through a development partner now. But it was strange – you probably should take ownership of your spaces but you have to do that properly

William) We haven’t officially registered our FourSquare location but I did grab it so it connected to useful information. Our tips include a recommendation for the lovely views from the floor we are on right now!

COmment) I am doing a distance learning course with a US institution. It looks a lot like Facebook but there is NO privacy. The assumption is that everyone is in the programme, anyone can post on your wall. Interestingly the UK students also have a hidden Facebook group rather than use it…

Chris) Self-regulation is interesting. There was a movement – see Adam Curtis’ Machines Look Over Us with Love and Grace – that technology will regulate itself and technology will see us through…

[Please note my battery died just before the end. Final comments, audio and some images to follow in the next few days]

Update: Related Links

If you are interested in reading more about this event, seeing the full Twitter archive etc. then these links should be useful:

And there have been several blog posts about the event by attendees:

 September 21, 2011  Posted by at 3:34 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs, Social Media at EDINA Tagged with: , , , ,  Add comments

  3 Responses to “Social Media & Academia (#socac) Liveblog”

  1. […] – teaching and learning, the library and community engagement. Nicola Osbourne (@suchprettyeyes) live blogged during the session and her account really captures the varied discussion that took […]

  2. […] fascinating projects, and a useful discussion was well and truly stimulated.  The live blog is here.  Below is some of my continued reflection on social media in […]

  3. […] The whole event was liveblogged: […]

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