Social Media is about building an intentional community… real communities…where you can engage with those topics and people that are important to you.
There are four parts of social media: connection, consumption, curation, and creation. Social media sites and systems can be one, some, or all these such as Facebook where you can follow and comment on what your friends are doing, read and watch what is being shared, share your own interesting finds, or create your own material. Let look at each of these categories in turn with a focus on some of the social media that works best for each of them and see how social media can be used by philosophers.
Social media is about being connected. The social media sites that I discuss all have a connection component but I will focus on three that seem pertinent to philosophers (LinkedIn, Academia.edu, and Google+).
First, the largest and perhaps best site, for professional connection is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is primarily use for making professional connections, having discussions within specifically industries (groups), asking and answering questions, and job searches (both looking for jobs and finding people). Overall LinkedIn is mostly for business connections; yet, as LinkedIn grows there is the possibility that more members of academia will join and make use of this site. A simple overview one how LinkedIn can be used by academia is give by Digital 3.0 101: LinkedIn for Academia. Also, see William Morris’ blog about how having academics on LinkedIn can be helpful for finding experts.
With such groups as The Philosophy Network, History and Philosophy of Science, and Philosophy Majors, a philosopher may engage others in discussions, ask questions, and connecting with other philosophers. A quick review of academic type of groups showed that by searching for “philosophy” that there were over 900 groups. Now philosophy is a board category in common usage but some results include: Erasmus University Rotterdam (an exclusive group for alumni, professors, students, researches, and staff); The Philosophy Network (with over 2,700 members); and Philosophy Majors.
However, the majority of groups are not engage in academic discussion of philosophy and those few groups that do tend to have members outside the academic setting. Seeing that LinkedIn is the premiere professional site for creating and maintaining connection, I see academia using it; however, there is already one professional site for this: Academia.edu.
Academia.edu is self describe as “a platform for academics to share and follow research. Academics upload their papers to share them with other academics in over 100,000 research areas. They can also follow other academics, and see new papers and other research updates from those academics in their News Feeds.” I have seen Academia.edu described at The LinkedIn for Academics (see http://gautamghosh.net/2009/03/04/academiaedu-the-linkedin-for-academics/). Academia.edu provide a means for making connections and following the work of other scholars.
What is Google+…well that is the question that many people are asking and I think that, in general, Google+ is a social media for connecting in a naturalist way with the different social groups such as friends, colleagues, or even students. What is special about Google+ is that being Google, I think, they will continue to integrate their products and services. Also, Google+ offers what they call “Sparks,” which is a means of searching for post and websites on relative topics. Often this search is too broad; yet, I find these searches useful at times.
Living in the U.S., and thus part of a consumer culture, social media has made it easy to consume information, news, and entertainment. Although it is easy to spend many unproductive hours looking for Lego recreations of Henrik Ibsen’s plays on Youtube, there are many productive means of consumption for philosophers.
With a plethora of websites and blogs that contain good philosophical writings and discussions, it can be a daunting task to bookmart and visit each of your favorite sites. However, those days are over because there is a simple way of reading all these by having them delivered to you through the magic of RSS through Goggle Reader. See CommonCraft presentation on RSS in Plain English for help. Basically, sign up for an RSS readers such as Goggle Reader and then subscribe to those blogs that you want to read. When a new blog is posted it will be available in your Goggle Reader.
You can also use an aggregator for your news and social networks. For those of you using an iPad, which is great for consumption, Flipboard works well. There are many services and the point here is to use social media to make is faster and easier to have the information your want on hand.
Curation is the process where a person makes choices on what is interesting and useful to a community. Museums are seen as places where examples of what is best in art and culture are put on display. In social media, what is being curated is information in the form of blogs, websites, and other media. See Is Content Curation the New Community Builder by Eric Brown for more on this topic. Sites such as Philosophy News Services bring together article on philosophy. This differs from aggregation because a person makes choices on which articles are to be include not an automatic search with a logical statements such as “find any tweet that contains the word philosophy.” Find the right group of people who share the kind of content you want to read to save you time looking or if you really like doing the searches, then become a curator yourself and have people follow what you think is useful or interesting.
People who create by writing blogs, posting photos, making e-books, white papers, and even commenting are the springs from which all the other parts of social media often flows. Lets look at two ways to create content with Twitter and Blogging.
Twitter is just a micro-blog of a 140 characters per post that started off with a simple question “what are you doing?” See Common Crafts’ Twitter in Plain English. It has grown into a social media tool for marketing, sharing ideas and photos, following events, and still remains a place for people to say what they had for lunch. There are philosophers, publishing houses, and aggregators all on Twitter. You may want to follow @Routledge_Phil or @Philosophy_Talk to begin with but there are many more.
If you need more than 140 characters at a time for blogging, and lets face it most philosophers do, then setting up your own blog may be the answer. However, before taking on this venture think about what you want from your blog. Do you want to express your thoughts, engage others, build up your reputation, or even be able to write more? All these reason are fine but some take more time. It can be a little hard when you have written a brilliant blog, set back and wait for all the comments and engagement only to find that no one has looked at it. There are lots of blogs with lots of shinning objects pulling at our attention. If you want to be successful, you will need to market your blog. Well, that is, unless all you really want is just to write more and do not care about readers.
Connection, Consumption, Curation, and Creation
Social media permits all levels of engagement from commenting on what your friends have to say to writing content each day for others to read. I have always through that philosophers should engage at many levels with our communities. Social media is a powerful tool for this engagement.