Social Media Neophyte

It is quite easy to confuse an interest with a proficiency: the tone deaf musicologist; the lousy home cook chef; and perhaps the perpetual ‘noob’ gamer, are cases where an interest is not necessarily accompanied with a raw ability or talent, but it doesn’t preclude the development of certain types of expertise in the interest. In a recent convergence of research interests, one that involves taking a close look at ‘social media’, I’ve managed to achieve a new level of personal irony, as my interest vastly outweighs my proficiency in terms of use.

I use Twitter as a research tool and to follow conversations and trends, but I’m a sparse ‘tweeter’. I have an extensive list of blogs that I access daily via my RSS reader but I am not a prolific blogger. I’m always behind on answering my email and I do my best to avoid Facebook. I frequently check out news and forum sites like Reddit, but I don’t leave many comments (I do dish out plenty of up votes). Yet the lack of proficiency in producing a prolific online self doesn’t limit the desire to understand others’ use of social media, or from being effective and competent in my research and thinking about its impact on culture and social interaction.

As part of a research group looking at the construction of the online persona I’ve been contributing to the design of different models for analysing the processes of communication and identity management involved in the use of technologies that aid in our performance of a social role. The methodology for the persona study is a mixture of participant observation, interview and case study analysis of Deakin academics, with one to one meetings for practical demonstrations, discussions, further interviews and recommendations over three months as participants set their own course for expanding their academic persona online.

The first stage was to hold a general meeting for all the participants to brief them on the project and conduct a persona ‘audit’: a means of collecting a small amount of useful data, to give us a glimpse into between how academics wanted to use social media and how they are actually using it. The term ‘audit’ is a playful nod to Marilyn Strathern’s ‘Tyranny of Transparency‘, but used in this case as a process, a revealing measure, one with potential subversive and radical potential.

The meeting was very revealing as the different understandings of ‘social media’, and the discussion that followed led to this post where I argue that not only should email, LMS, the phone and the office and the desktop PC itself be considered as social media, but we as academics need to argue for the labor involved in the construction of an academic persona, especially when it brings attention let alone prestige to the University.

The second stage is working with the participant to see what methods are useful to them in expanding their use of social media to better suit what they want to project as part of their online academic persona. As part of that process I’ve been thinking about my own use of social media and about my relationship to games that have a strong social media component.

I really enjoyed Chris Chesher’s presentation at the GAME conference and his take on the way games studies can contribute back to the fields from where it developed, offering different theoretical models and accounts for the understanding of other mediated objects, technologies and practices. What are the experiences and observations I have on the gamer persona that are relevant to the academic persona? Does a gamer persona impact positively or negative on an academic persona, are they complimentary and what can one learn from the other?
I’m looking forward to examining these ideas further.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s