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What does it mean for the academy if increasing numbers of academics become ensnared within the twittering machine? Many people have experienced social media in a way which suggests it overturns existing hierarchies, eliminating the status distinctions that we continually encounter in academic life. There is a superficial plausibility to this claim. As Drezner (2018: 91) notes, ‘Senior scholars who join social media to advertise their scholarly work must confront the reality that despite their hard-earned academic prestige, there will be graduate students with more Twitter followers’. Furthermore, the platforms themselves make it easier to interact across these status distinctions…


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It’s been less than a decade since Martin Weller published The Digital Scholar, a book which excited myself and many others in its promise of a transformation of scholarly practice facilitated by digital technology. It was obvious to me as a PhD student at the time that I wanted to be a digital scholar and Weller’s vision of a slightly nomadic intellectual, working in the open and across disciplinary barriers was a huge influence over my ensuing work and how I tried to carry it out.

There’s an obvious sense in which we were already digital scholars, in so far…


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There’s a peculiar kind of exhaustion which comes from spending an afternoon staring at Zoom. I’m mentally drained but I would be if I’d spent a few hours in face to face meetings. My back hurts but it probably would have after a long meeting in an uncomfortable chair. I’ve got a vague headache but that’s probably from a few hours without hydration, as oddly I’m less likely to remember to bring water with me in my own house than I am when at work.

It’s hard to pin down why Zoom, which I’m using here to stand for video…


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In common with over a third of the world’s population, I have spent the last week confined to my home after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced long-anticipated lockdown measures in which anyone who could work from home was ordered to do so. I say ‘long-anticipated’ but in reality I am talking about a matter of days, reflecting the unnerving temporality of this global crisis in which slow days confined to the house are combined with an accelerating unravelling which would have sounded like science fiction if described only a month earlier.

This crisis has escalated so quickly that it…


I wrote two years ago about my desire to escape what Richard Seymour calls The Twittering Machine. It’s a term which Seymour used in a series of blog posts, invoking a painting of Paul Klee. As Dominic Pettman describes it in his book Infinite Distraction:

This painting depicts largely featherless avian creatures, attached to a thin wire, which is itself connected to a hand crank. The legs and torsos of these highly abstract birds are as thin as the wire they are perched upon, and could even conceivably be extensions of it. Their provenance seems neither entirely organic nor completely…


Social media platforms are filled with multimedia. This hasn’t always been the case and many people have experienced it as a gradual transition, the kind which can easily escape your notice as the service you use every day subtly changes in character. The reasons for this are relatively clear. Mobile internet speeds and access have rapidly increased and it’s simply much more viable to send and receive video than was previously the case. Platforms like Instagram (2010), Snapchat (2011), Vine (2012) and TikTok (2016) have multimedia at the heart of what they do. Partly in response to these challengers, established…


This is an extract from Social Media for Academics 2. I’m posting it to coincide with my own social media sabbatical.

The social media sabbatical is an increasingly common occurrence for academics, even if many would see a name like this for what they’re doing as somewhat cringeworthy. Obviously the name doesn’t matter though. What’s important is recognising when a break from social media would be beneficial to you and developing techniques for ensuring you see out the intended sabbatical period, even if returning to social media might prove tempting to you. I say this as someone who has intermittently…


This is an extract from Social Media for Academics 2. If you like it please consider buying the book!

Social media hasn’t created the celebrity academic but it has made it a category to which a greater number and range of people might aspire. It can be a gateway to the familiar markers of esteem associated with being a well-known scholar: paid speaking invitations, opportunities for media collaboration, requests for endorsements, extensive publication opportunities, paid reviewing work, invitations to join working groups, etc. These might be supplemented by requests which reflect popularity while nonetheless being less welcome, such as endless…


What does it mean to take Twitter seriously as a form of intellectual production? This is the question I’ve been asking myself a lot in the last few weeks, as I start what I hope will be an extensive break from a platform I’ve been using daily for years. My immediate motivation for this is that I’ve just stepped down from running a large social media presence which involved me scheduling 50+ updates every day. However it reflects a growing ambivalence I have felt about Twitter, with the platform inspiring and frustrating me in equal measure. I want a break…


There’s a wonderful essay by the playwright Alan Bennet in the London Review of Books, written 35+ years ago, reflecting on his fascination with Erving Goffman’s micro-sociology. His preoccupation was with the minutiae of everyday conduct, identified and described so astutely in Goffman’s work. Sociological observations in this register highlight our commonality, helping us see that individual experiences we assumed to be idiosyncratic are in fact shared by others.

But while sociology itself remains arcane, this power is mere latency, standing as “a secret between me and the author” with the incidents in question “our private joke”. As Bennett puts…

Mark Carrigan

Digital Sociologist at University of Cambridge. Researching Social Media and (Higher) Education. Notebook: www.markcarrigan.net

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