The Academics R Different: Geeks in social media

Forget about The Rich. The Academics are different from the rest of us. Why do professors, researchers and other over-educated wonks blog? The reasons have little to do with building a Twitter following, landing a book deal or educating (entertaining?) the masses. The answer will surprise no one who's ever zoned out in a lecture hall.

You can yank the Ph.D. out of the lecture hall but you can't yank the lecture hall out of...

So found Dr. Inger Mewburn, Director of Research Training at Australian National University and her colleagues when they decided to check out their fellow Ph.D.s and friends (i.e. peer groups) in the blogosphere:
In a content analysis of 100 academic blogs, Mewburn and Thomson found that far from tapping in to new audiences, networks, and ways of writing, academics end up writing for each other in 'virtual staff rooms' where information and advice to other practitioners is shared in a hybrid public/private community. Science Daily
In other words the professorial types didn't take up blogging to expand their platform or practice writing to people who don't watch the BBC or worry about the declining critical thinking skills of post-secondary students today. First and foremost the brainy bloggers post because they are pissed about something in their workplace if not higher education in general according to Mewburn et al.:
Our frequency analysis shows that out of the 100 blogs we analysed, the two most common types of content were academic cultural critique (41% of blogs contained this kind of content), closely followed by research dissemination (40%). In descending order, the rest were: academic practices (34%), information (24%), self-help advice (17%), technical advice (15%), personal (8%), teaching advice (7%) and career advice (4%).
Did the academics lay off the jargon? Did they loosen up the pedantic discourse? Not so much. More than half favored an essay format and almost that much, a formal essay:

52% Informal essay 
41% Formal essay  
41% Reportage 
28% Pedagogic (i.e. a lecture)
14% Satirical (from the disillusioned adjunct lecturer making minimum wage?) 
  9% Confidential (proof that Ph.D.s are people too)

For some reason the researchers expected the bloggers to loosen up a bit and enjoy the medium more. I wouldn't expect many boob jokes or much celebrity gossip given most academic bloggers (73%) aren't writing for you or me but talking amongst themselves: 

73% Other Academics
38% Professionals
17% The Educated Public
15% Students
 6%  Researchers

Anyone been on ScienceBlogs recently? Great discussions but not many posts there for the average person much less the mom with little time or patience for parsing of arcane details. I do love me a good intellectual romp but too bad they aren't more, I don't know, accessible? Too bad they often aren't in the parenting media.

Now there are some very engaging academic blogs out there. Know any? What's your favorite?

Here's one for those of you still in or still traumatized by academia, especially those in dissertation hell. Let me introduce you to The Thesis Whisperer. I'm in love with The Whisperer and I don't even need to follow APA-style anymore. Forget old boyfriends, and trust me, it's not like there isn't a sociopath or two in that lot, I can go on and on about how professors, committees, faculty advisors et al. done me wrong! Someday I will tell you about the imploding yam.

Maybe if I'd had social media to soothe me back in the day I still might be holed up on a college campus and then (shakes head, shivers) we'd have never met.

And yes I've lost control of my fonts. I don't like this Mac business. Sighing for my ailing Dell.


Barbara TherExtras said...

Hehe. "talking among themselves" That would be be you & me, right, Polly?

The translation of our wisdom into cyberspace is perhaps less than consumer friendly. But at least a met & have someone to talk with. :-) Tis lonely in the ivory tower.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Ditto, Barbara. Lonely and stuffy!

andrea said...

I can't comment on your nose but your blog isn't stuffy! Makes my non-academic brain happy.

Another brainy blog I've been learning a lot from lately is Skeptical Raptor. He keeps busy refuting anti-vax myths. Good stuff. But glad you're at it again, missed your wit and snark.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hey Andrea, thanks for withholding commenting on my nose, and the recommendation. Have to check the Raptor out.