Thursday, November 1, 2012

My own thoughts about my future research trajectory

This is perhaps a more personal post than previous on this blog. In this post, I express my own thoughts on my own role as a scholar and academic in the landscape of social media research.

I recently reflected on my first publication of an article on Facebook, which was the first research that engaged me and made me come alive (Scale, 2008). I also reflect on my current research on blogs. Back in 2007, I consciously chose to focus on Facebook and social media as an area of specialisation in the first place because, in coming to academia, I saw myself as not being an expert on the areas that my senior colleagues were in and wanted to master an area that they themselves were not experts in. Hence, my decision to target the virgin territory of emerging and new technologies.

This has in fact become my research trajectory for the next decade or so. The research story that I want to tell over the next decade of my life (if all things remain constant) is the story of how social media makes us more human. Instead of destroying our human identity, social media is actually reconstructing how we as human beings deal with meaning, existence and life in the everyday profound and mundane events and moments.

Everything that human beings have been doing for centuries in coping with their existence, grappling with who we are and formulating our identities continue online. Whether it is playing pranks on others (online trolling), gossiping, forming friendships, attacking enemies, to the more positive of telling our stories, sharing our experiences and knowledge, we all as human beings are just doing what what those before us did, but only digitally recording our actions, stories and events in our lives.

I am reminded that posting personal information on Facebook, Twitter or on a blog makes me more human. Such acts presents me as a real person that possess experiences  thoughts, feelings and ideas that another person can relate to. Like for instance, I posted over this week a comment:
"Sometimes you work on and rewrite a paper so much that you get tired of the subject and no longer want to do it."
This attracted number of unexpected like and comments that re-affirmed to me the value of academics blogging. The fact is that scholars and academic persons can be intimidating, especially for their students. Students who see these great lecturers and professors who have many publications and come to class as a repository of knowledge, feel that these persons are sometimes not human. Caribbean students in my experience see such persons as walking encyclopedias, especially if they are able to roll of their tongues the ideas disembodied in books and other publications. However, academics, by posting personal information online can reveal the other side to their identity. That they err, make mistakes and have feelings like everyone else. That they themselves have struggles that their students can relate to.

This is why I guess that I will continue to blog and post personal stuff online despite the fact that we live in a time of surveillance, and where nothing one post on the Internet is truly forgotten. For me the issue is that what we post and share online is just a fraction of ourselves in a moment and does not represent our constantly evolving identity.

When I return to the Caribbean (all things remaining constant), I believe that my task is to be the scholar and expert on how we as a Caribbean people, like  the rest of the globe, appropriate social media to demonstrate and express our humanity, while participating in global documentary practices that leave traces or digital 'foot/hand prints' of who we are, what we have done and how we are connected to and related to the rest of the world.


Scale, Mark-Shane Everett. "Facebook as a Social Search Engine and the Implications for Libraries in the Twenty-first Century." Library Hi Tech 26.4 (2008): 540-56.

No comments:

Post a Comment