August 2011 Archives


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While the notion of digital scholarship is not new, the combination of Twitter and digital scholarship is something I've seen only recently. At the 2011 Learning Design Summer Camp, Dr. Christopher Long, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at Penn State, and Lisa Lotito, his undergrad Research Assistant, presented their research cycle and how they "use the collaborative power of digital media to do scholarly research in philosophy" (Long; 2011). For a detailed explanation of their research cycle, read Dr. Long's blog entry titled Collaborative Research in Philosophy.
Dr. Long and Lisa Lotito at the Learning Design Summer Camp

What I am going to describe and discuss in the following paragraphs is Dr. Long and Lisa's use of Twitter in their research cycle. In Dr. Long's own words:

We used direct messaging in Twitter to communicate in a dynamic and asynchronous way that allowed me to request more resources or ask Lisa to look for specific issues in the secondary literature. This was particularly helpful during the two week period when I returned to the primary text to develop the details of my interpretation. I was able to rely on Lisa to help me recall the terms of the debate in the secondary literature on an issue or theme in the dialogue. (Long; 2011)

dig-sch-3a-sharp.jpgAlthough not explicitly stated in the quote above, Dr. Long and Lisa's interaction involved their own shorthand language relying upon each other's understanding of a modified version of intext documentation, text slang (e.g. lol = laughing out loud), and the language of philosophers, all within 140 characters. As evident in the image on the right, asynchronous did not mean delayed responses. The conversation occurs within a relatively short time period of approx. 15 minutes with the first message sent by Dr. Long at 10:59 a.m. on 6/20/11 followed by Lisa's responses at 11:14 and 11:15 a.m. Other affordances of using Twitter for these conversations are the brief, direct, and to the point responses; the privacy of the direct message feature; the ability to work together on a task in real-time without necessarily being in the same location or even time-zone; and finally, the ability to work across platforms and devices (e.g. the image on the right is of an iPhone although Twitter started as a desktop application).

To summarize... 
Affordances of Twitter in Digital Scholarship:
+ Ability to develop own language system with brief, to the point messages
+ Time of responses only dependent on how often participants check Twitter stream/email/texts
+ No expectation that participants are engaged in synchronous discussion
+ Privacy with Direct Messages
+ Real-time messaging not dependent on location
+ Messaging not dependent on device using and/or owned

There are drawbacks, although few:
- Cannot be used for drafting and/or editing scholarly work 
- If participants are engaged in constant synchronous stream, messages could be seen as distracting and inhibitive to productive work

Before Twitter, my guess is Dr. Long would email and/or wait to meet up with his research assistant to discuss ideas and issues with writing OR work through the issues on his own. With Twitter, while deeply immersed in his own interpretations and writing, Dr. Long can bounce ideas off of his research assistant Lisa and receive valuable feedback and possibly sources that he might have looked over. What a change in the way we think about and practice scholarship! But there's one requirement I haven't mentioned yet that if not available could throw this idea out the window....

The competence of Lisa! It is important that research assistants are given the tools and understanding of both the research process and articles/texts of the topic to succeed in this type of system. 

Long, C. P. (2011, July 21). Collaborative research in philosophy. Retrieved from

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