Thursday, September 08, 2016

ASA Tries to Figure Out Social Media

Sociologists took on the task of producing a report on the use of social media in Sociology, which translates easily to other disciplines. There is plenty to like in the report--concern about attacks on women and minorities who are in the public eye, for example, or even just the desire to make sure people get professional credit for work they're doing.

But at the same time it rubs me the wrong way. What I've loved about using social media is the almost total lack of rules or structure. You do what works for you, which may or may not conform to what others are doing. What the report really wants to do is to start dissecting it, quantifying it, creating criteria for it, and somehow transforming it into data for merit, tenure, and promotion.

A criterion for excellence might therefore be the extent to which authors succeed in advancing practical/policy implications/perspectives grounded in sociological research.

As someone who tries to encourage use of social media, I hate the idea of thinking so carefully about whether you're properly "grounded" or fitting criteria. Another criterion they mention is "mastering" the skills of writing for social media. I wouldn't want anyone to spend time trying to figure out what that means--is sarcasm a form of mastery? I don't even know. I just feel like the report is trying too hard.

Perhaps one problem is that as far as I can tell, the chair of the subcommittee that wrote the report actually does not participate in social media at all. Another issue is that the report actually never mentions what problem it is trying to solve, beyond a "vacuum of standards" (that phrase just makes me wince). I'd be more interested to first see a report about the specifics of the problem, if there is one--do professors feel they are getting too little credit? What in fact are they doing?


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