So, I was looking at an archaeology blog on the page of the American Anthropological Association, titled Archaeology in North America by Robert Muckle. He has a post titled "Archaeology in 140 characters or less," arguing for the value of Twitter. This is a somewhat odd blog, since the entries seem to be undated. Maybe the post was posted yesterday, or maybe it was put up ten years ago. I skimmed through the post and didn't see anything that might make me want to go back to Twitter.
But I did follow a link for post that supposedly tells scholars about the useful features of Twitter. This is Matt Shipman, in a 2012 post called "Scientists: Social Media Is Not Necessarily a Waste of Time"
on Scilogs. Here is Shipman's list of useful things about Twitter, and my remarks from the peanut gallery.
- "Discovering content online that is timely and relevant to my research and career."
- Tried that, found nothing. -MES
- "Discovering (and being discovered by) potential collaborators.
- Didn't find any collaborators -MES
- "Invitations to give research seminars and other talks, or to chair/moderate conference sessions, often involving free travel and honoraria.
- I get enough bogus invitations through email. I did not get any useful invitations on Twitter - MES
- "Invitations to write book chapters.
- Again, I get bogus requests through email, and none through Twitter. I would assume off the bat that any invitation through Twitter was not serious. -MES
- "Familiarity with disseminating the results of research to a broader audience using social media, which can help satisfy NSF's requirements for 'Broader Impacts' statements in grant proposals.
- I'm not sure just what the claim is here. I try to communicate my results to a broader audience, using websites, blogs, and various kinds of publicity outlets. So is using Twitter supposed to improve my outreach activity? This is one area where Twitter might be useful, and it is one reason I didn't cancel my account. -MES
- "Job and consultancy offers.
- Not looking for a job. No offers through Twitter. -MES
- "Content for my CV to demonstrate communication skills and outreach savvy.
- Again, what is the claim here? That I should put "Twitter account" on my CV to impress people? Give me a break. My blogs and websites are on my CV. -MES
- "Direct access to important people in science and government.
- Yeah, I need to communicate with Barack Obama so I'll try Twitter. Or maybe I missed a tweet from Steven Hawking. -MES
- "Access to papers using #icanhazpdf (especially helpful now that I'm at a small non-profit research institution instead of a university department or large museum).
- So maybe someone with another institutional setting might find something here. But I get the papers I need through my university affiliation. -MES
- "Getting near-instantaneous answers to questions ranging from technical troubleshooting to polls.
- I guess I just don't know how to do this. Maybe it is useful, I have no idea. -MES
- "Last but not least, an incredible amount of support and camaraderie, which has been especially helpful during my recent career transitions and a transatlantic, urban-to-rural move."
- I have support and camraderie from other sources. -MES
When I did use Twitter, I asked around about what I should do with it. Someone from my university suggested I use it to publicize my blog posts. I started doing that, but it seemed like wasting time. When I stopped using Twitter, a staffer in my department offered to Tweet for my blog posts. But then I posted one that was deemed too edgy for my program: "How to give a bad presentation at a conference." I was told that people might get the wrong idea and think I was promoting poor professional standards. Well, anyone dumb enough to think that was not someone I cared about. Now we have some new staff people, and they will tweet my blog posts if I ask them.
Maybe if I were a new scholar, not particularly well socialized professionally (that is, unfamiliar with Google-Scholar, with Contents Alerts, and such), I might find something on Twitter that is intellectually useful. Or maybe I am just a cranky old-guard dinosaur who doesn't keep up with what is happening in the world today. Twitter may be fine for the lads (quoting Bronze Age Orientation Day here), but for scholarship and research, I just don't get it.