Category Archives: Knowledge Streams

Social Media Toolkit

We initially released our JustPublics@365 Social Media Toolkit in December and now we’re pleased to announce you can now read or download it on ISSUU.

ISSUU 2Many academics want to engage in research and produce knowledge that informs progressive social change. Digital media technologies are making it easier for academics to connect their research with people, community groups, and movements who are also trying to bring about social change. Yet, most academics are perplexed about how to share their research with publics beyond the academy.

JustPublics@365 is here to help meet this unmet need, connecting academics and social change agents through digital media for the public good. Our toolkit, available in multiple e-book formats, is an easy way to get started.

Get it three ways:

Engaging Academics and Reimagining Scholarly Communication for the Public Good: A Report

We are pleased to announce the release of “Engaging Academics and Reimagining Scholarly Communication for the Public Good: A Report,” which summarizes the work we accomplished in 2013.

JP365 Report Cover

The report highlights:

Much of the work we produced is available on our website and is all licensed under Creative Commons for reuse (CC BY-NC-SA). We encourage you to incorporate these resources into your own scholarship, activism and teaching.  Please join our email list to stay up-to-date on our latest work!

You can download a PDF of the report here or read it online.

Guide to Good Presentations

One of the traditional forms of presenting academic work is to read a paper. Literally. I’ve seen this done for years. A scholar will stand and read a paper aloud to a group of seemingly intelligent people, as if the mark of an intellectual is how much boredom one can endure.  It’s dreadfully dull as an information delivery mechanism.

This form of presenting academic work has changed to include the use of slides. The problem is that this is often just a glorified version of reading a paper, with far too much text and charts crammed into slides that are impossible to read. This is sometimes referred to as “death by powerpoint.”

We can do better than this. And, indeed, if we’re interested in communicating scholarly ideas with a wider public, we need to get better at this.  Here are some resources for how to do this.

Guidelines for Good Presentation Slides 

Unlearning Restrictions Culture

A few years ago, I was part of a panel called “Copyright, Fair Use and Open License Tools Online”  at the CUNY IT Conference. What I remember most about this session was the discussion. After my colleagues and I had finished our presentations–which outlined ways to alternatively license a work, Open Access issues, and Fair Use–a CUNY faculty member reflected that they hadn’t realized just how much there was to consider when publishing academic work–from the ways one might use an open license, to negotiating green or gold open access to their work with a publisher. This participant wondered why the topic of authors’ rights hadn’t been discussed with them before, and how they might now spread the word to colleagues about the many options that are available.

Librarians at CUNY have been working to fill this gap that our colleague inquired about at that panel in 2011. We’ve been offering authors’ rights workshops at many campus libraries where we begin conversation about what rights and restrictions we all can investigate and negotiate while sharing our work. But I think a bigger piece of this discussion for me has been to try to foster moments in which we feel free to unlearn or re-learn, or where we might feel confident to challenge the status quo, or to shed hegemonic tendencies that keep us from exploring new futures.

Copyright Machine by doctormo

Copyright Machine by doctormo

Those of us involved in the MOOC “The History and Future of (mostly) Higher Education” talked about unlearning in particular during our lunchtime discussion last week. During these discussions, I’ve been thinking back to a formative class I took in high school where we explored the history of the United States through a progression of landmark Supreme Court cases. Not only did it teach me quite a bit about a variety of decisions that have set precedent for our laws today, it also strengthened my ability to see these laws as constructs, as conversations, and as works in progress. I remember realizing in that class more than I ever had before that laws are plastic, and that they can (and often should) be altered. I’ve been feeling really indebted to that teacher (thanks Zanner!) for helping us all to think through what we discussed in that classroom, because our conversations have shaped my approaches since when I contemplate rules, regulations, and governance.

Since last week, I’ve been thinking about how one can foster un-learning, re-learning, or cultivate tendencies to break from tradition and reset our thinking anew. This can be hard with topics that are ingrained, intimidating–or that can be made to feel more permanent than they are, like the law. Like our colleague described at the CUNY IT Conference, it can be difficult to imagine alternatives at times, or to see the full landscape of an issue, rather than just our one perch’s perspective. Copyright is one topic that feels complex and proscribed, and it can be difficult to think our way around all the myriad ways that we have been taught to uphold the sort of permissions culture that it generates. And yet as we move into a world that insists we all become makers and coders and sharers, I think it becomes increasingly important to consider the licenses (or the restrictions, or the permissions) that regulate our activities–not just for the things we make, but also for the things we read, download, share and use.

Mimi & Eunice Dreadful Business Model

Mimi & Eunice Dreadful Business Model

I suppose what I’m really asking here is how, and in what ways, should we re-learn, or unlearn standard approaches to copyright? And what role does this conversation have inside of scholarly communications discourses today? And within libraries? How do those of us who believe in open access or free software share what we know without propagandizing or becoming the next thing to forget, and to unlearn?

Graduate Center CUNY Librarian, Alycia Sellie offers this week’s Topic Series post on Scholarly Communication. How do we unlearn the restrictions copyright law has imposed on our thinking?

Toolkit

We initially released our JustPublics@365 Social Media Toolkit in December and now we’re pleased to announce you can add us to your Kindle.

Toolkit_Amazon

The idea behind the Toolkit is simple.

Many academics want to engage in research and produce knowledge that informs progressive social change. Digital media technologies are making it easier for academics to connect their research with people, community groups, and movements who are also trying to bring about social change. Yet, most academics are perplexed about how to share their research with publics beyond the academy.

JustPublics@365 is here to help meet this unmet need, connecting academics and social change agents through digital media for the public good. Our toolkit, available in multiple e-book formats, is an easy way to get started.

Get it three ways:

Launching New Series on Scholarly Communication

We’re launching a new series on Scholarly Communication in the Digital Era for the Public Good.  As we’ve done with the previous series, we’ll feature guests and highlight work here across traditional silos of academia, activism and journalism and media.

card catalog

(Image Source)

In the 20th century, scholars communicated within relatively small fields of other experts and did so primarily through monographs and peer-reviewed journal articles. Those works of scholarship were discoverable because they were indexed and sorted into card catalogs and bound reference manuals.

These analog forms of scholarly communication are now joined by new modes of digital expression that augment and occasionally supplant earlier forms.  In this final topic series, we will explore changes in the modes and emphases of scholarly communication, examining the shift from book- and journal-centric academic publishing to open access hybrids and alternatives, including film and video.

We’ll also explore the ways that social media can serve scholars to connect their work with wider audiences, including non-academic readers, activists, journalists and engaged citizens. What responsibilities do scholars have to shape and reflect public understandings? What can academics do to contribute fully to efforts to enhance the public good?

As part of our series here, we’ll recap the Friday in-person discussions we’re hosting of Cathy Davidson’s meta-MOOC on the future of (mostly) higher education (#FutureEd).  These changes in higher education and scholarly communication are intricately connected to the debates happening around, “open access,” and we’ll feature regular contributions from experts in this area. We’ll talk about the changing landscape of “impact” in scholarly communication, as well as the implications this has for the work we do as academics,  particularly for early career scholars. And, finally, we’ll feature regular interviews with some of today’s leading documentary filmmakers, discussing the many ways that their work traverses scholarship, activism, art, and journalism to create social change.

It’s going to be a great series, we hope you’ll follow along! And, of course, at the end of the series, we’ll bring it all together in one, handy easy-to-read and download format.

JustPublics@365 Toolkit: Social Media Guide for Academics

Academics engage in research and produce knowledge that, intentionally or not, may inform progressive social change.  Digital technologies are making it easier for academics to connect their research with movements and community groups who trying to bring about social change.  However, many academics may still be perplexed about how to use social media.

JustPublics@365 is here to help meet this need, connecting academics and social change agents through social media.   Our toolkit, available in multiple e-book formats, is an easy way to get started.

toolkit cover

Get it three ways:

Podcast Series Launch

This October, JustPublics@365 is launching a podcast series highlighting research by CUNY faculty on issues of social justice and inequality.

The series will feature the work of faculty from the Political Science, Sociology, English, Psychology, Social Work, Anthropology, and Music departments who will share insights from their research as well as how they came to do the research they do and how that research might connect to social justice activism and may have an impact on the world beyond academia.

Scheduled interviews include conversations with Janet Gornick, Juan BattleMargaret ChinMike Fabricant, Michelle Fine, Ashley DawsonFrancis Fox Piven, Victoria Sanford, Leith Mullings and others.

The first podcast, an interview with Janet Gornick, will be released on Monday, October 7.

From Tweet to Blog post to Peer-Reviewed Article: How to be a Scholar Now

Digital media is changing how I do my work as a scholar.  How I work today bares little resemblance to the way I was trained as a scholar, but has everything to do with being fluid with both scholarship and digital technologies.  To illustrate what I mean by this, I describe the process behind a recent article of mine that started with a Tweet at an academic conference, then became a blog post, then a series of blog posts, and was eventually an article in a peer-reviewed journal.

My article, Race and racism in Internet Studies: A review and critique (New Media & Society 15 (5): 695-719), was just published in the August, special issue of New Media & Society on The Rise of Internet Studies, edited by Charles Ess and William Dutton.  The germ of an idea for the paper began at the American Sociology Association Annual Meeting in 2010.  I attended sessions about online discourse and, given my interest in racism in online discourse, I kept expecting some one to bring up this issue.

NoSoMuch_Aug2013 I was disappointed by the lack of attention to racism, or race more generally, in the sessions I attended, and Tweeted that observation, using the hashtag of the conference (#asa2010).  When I consulted the program for the conference I was truly perplexed to find that the only session on race and digital media was the one I’d help organize.  In a lot of ways, a Tweet is just a “soundbite” in 140-characters of text.  And, as the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggests, there’s nothing wrong with a soundbite, especially if you want to reach a wider audience than just other specialists in your field.

That one Tweet – and the lack of scholarship it spoke to – got me thinking about the kinds of sessions I would like to see at the ASA and the sorts of things I thought sociologists should be studying in this area, so I wrote a blog post about it, “Race, Racism & the Internet: 10 Things Sociologists Should be Studying.”  As I usually do now, I shared that blog post via Twitter.

 RRBlogTweet_Aug2010

I got many responses from people who shared their work, and the work of their students, friends and colleagues, with me in the form of comments to the blog or @replies on Twitter. The suggestions for further citations came from people I know almost exclusively through our interactions via the blog or Twitter. That feedback from geographically-remote, institutionally-varied yet digitally-close colleagues got me thinking about expanding that single blog post into a series of posts.  I wanted to review the wide-range of interdisciplinary work happening in what Ess and Dutton call “Internet studies.”   Why bother with this, one might reasonably ask?

Central to this new workflow of scholarship is the blog, Racism Review (RR), which I started in 2007 with Joe Feagin, a past president of the ASA, with the goal of creating an online resource for reliable, scholarly information for journalists, students and members of the general public who are seeking solid evidence-based research and analysis of “race” and racism.  The blog has very much become part of “how to be a scholar” in the current, digital moment.  I use it to post first drafts of ideas, to keep up-to-date on the research literature, and since I firmly believe that writing is thinking, I often use it to work out just what I think about something.  The blog has also become a way to support other scholars both in their research and in teaching.  A number of academics have told us that they use the blog in teaching; one, Kimberley Ducey (Asst. Prof., University of Winnipeg) uses RR blog posts in an instructor’s manual for a traditional intro sociology textbook as lecture suggestions, in-class activities, and essays/assignments.  Through the many guest bloggers we host, I learn about other people’s scholarly work that I might not otherwise know about.  And, the blog has become a mentoring platform, where early career scholars often get started with blogging and then go on to create their own.  The blog is also content-hungry, so I’m always thinking about scholarship that might make an interesting blog post.  So, back to the series of posts.

From late February to early March, 2011, I did a series of blog posts that expanded on the initial “10 Things,” post from August, 2010.  Those posts were all about the current scholarship on race, racism and the Internet with each one focusing on a different sub-field in sociology, including: 1) Internet infrastructure and labor force issues; 2) digital divides and mobile technology; 3) racist social movement groups; 4) social networking sites; 5) dating; 6) housing; and 7) the comments sections of news and sports sites.  This last area, racism in comments sections, prompted a research collaboration with one of the presenters from that 2010 ASA session I organized. The paper from that project eventually appeared in the journal Media, Culture & Society.

At about the same, there was a fortuitous Call for Papers for the Ess & Dutton special issue on Internet studies at 15 years into the field.  So I combined all of the blog posts into one paper, and thought more about what my critique of the field as a whole might be.  For that critique, I ended up revisiting some of Stuart Hall’s earlier writing about the “spectacle” of race in media scholarship and incorporated that with elements of Joe Feagin and Sean Elias’ critique of “racial formation” as a weak theoretical frame for Internet studies.  The paper went into an extended peer review process, I revised it once, and it finally appeared (online ahead of print) in December 2012, and in print in August, 2013.

Except for the very end of this process – submitting the paper to the journal for peer-review – none of this way of working bares the least bit of resemblance to how I was trained to be a scholar.  My primary job as an academic is to create new knowledge, traditionally measured by the number of articles and books I produce. Traditional graduate school training has taught us to think of a “pipeline” of notes, posters, conference papers, journal submissions (and/or, book proposals), revisions, resubmissions and finally, print publication. For me, how to be a scholar now is completely different than when I went to graduate school because of the way that digital media infuses pretty much every step.

This process I’ve described here – from Tweet at an academic conference, to a blog post, to a series of blog posts to a paper that became an article – is just one of many possible iterations of how to be a scholar now using digital media.  Other permutations of how to be a scholar now might include live Tweeting an article you’re reading. Sometimes, when I get pre-set “alerts” in my email about newly published scholarship I’m interested in, I will share a title and a link via Twitter. If, upon reading further, I find the piece especially perspicacious, I may share select sentences via Twitter. If it happens that there’s a current event in the news that the article can help illuminate, then I’ll draft a blog post that incorporates it.

My experience with the germ of an idea shared as a Tweet at an academic conference that became a blog post, then a series of blog posts, and (eventually) a peer-reviewed is just one example of what it means to be a scholar now is changing.  From where I sit, being a scholar now involves creating knowledge in ways that are more open, more fluid, and more easily read by wider audiences.

 

~ This post originally appeared at the LSE Impact Blog.

Illustrated Blogging Advice for Researchers

I really think that you should blog. That whatever is getting in your way, you should shove it aside and just write something.

But let’s be honest, my advice is insufficient. As my last couple of posts went up I could just picture some of you saying, “well sure, it’s easy for you, you draw cartoons.”

So I sought out a little help (or rather, a lot of help). Today’s post features expertise from (and cartoons inspired by)…

  • Seth Godin (sethgodin.typepad.com)
  • Beth Kanter (bethkanter.org)
  • Henry Jenkins (henryjenkins.org)
  • Robert Kosara (eagereyes.org)
  • Jessie Daniels (racismreview.com/blog)
  • Nathan Yau (flowingdata.com)
  • Lisa Wade (thesocietypages.org/socimages)
  • Ewen Le Borgne (km4meu.wordpress.com)
  • Tom Murphy (aviewfromthecave.com)
  • David Henderson (fullcontactphilanthropy.com)
  • Jane Davidson (genuineevaluation.com)
  • Molly Engle (blogs.oregonstate.edu/programevaluation)
  • Jara Dean-Coffey (jcdpartnerships.com/towhatend)
  • Bonnie Koenig (goinginternational.com/blog)
  • Stephanie Evergreen (stephanieevergreen.com/blog)
  • Karen Anderson (ontopoftheboxeval.wordpress.com)
  • Pablo Rodriguez-Bilella (albordedelchaos.com)
  • Chi Yan Lam (chiyanlam.com)
  • Ann Emery (emeryevaluation.com)
  • Sheila B Robinson (sheilabrobinson.com)
  • Molly Hamm (mollyhamm.wordpress.com)
  • Jamie Clearfield (jclearfield.wordpress.com)

The Questions

I asked two questions, other than the slightly leading nature of the questions (woops, I’ll do better next time), I provided no direction on response length or style, so the responses varied greatly.

1. What’s been your biggest blogging challenge (finding the time, picking good topics, the technology, etc.)?

2. What piece of advice would you give (or have already given) to an evaluator or researcher interested in starting a blog?

Advice and challenges change over time, so it was important to me to reach out to bloggers with a wide range of experience. This post would not exist without the expert help. I’ve thanked each blogger, but if you get anything out of their advice, please send them your own appreciation.

***

A little admin before we get started…I’ve been considering putting together an online workshop on blogging for evaluators and researchers.

The basic approach would involve walking through content development, helping you set up the technology, and talking about strategies for reaching an audience. The workshop would take place on the web and include video tutorials and practical lessons.

I would want to do it right, so this would take a lot of work on my part, and I’ll only set this up if there is enough interest. So if you are interested, sign up here to let me know.

Jamie Clearfield

On challenges

I’d say the biggest challenge for me is actually hitting the publish button. Getting an idea that I think is worth writing about is challenging for sure – but I think the bigger issue is believing in the idea enough to actually put it out on the web. The first blog post sat as a draft for a bit and finally it was a “rip the band-aid off” moment…

Hit the damn publish button

Advice

I think the best advice I’ve gotten and would give is to just keep things simple and believe – believe in your ideas and experiences and that there are people who are reading. Don’t over think things too much and have fun.

Jamie Clearfield Advice

Molly Hamm

On challenges

Biggest blogging challenge: Keeping up with all of the information from other bloggers in the field while finding time to create your own contributions. I find that it can be easy to get so involved in following other conversations that you forget to add your own two cents! So you may feel as though you are actively participating in blogging and other e-communities while your own blog sits in silence (yes, I need to update my blog!)

Embarrassing story, blog journal

Advice

Create a regular schedule for blogging and stick to it. This is something that I really need to work on, but I think it’s important to set a realistic writing goal for your blog (number of posts per week, month, etc.) and then reserve a specific day/time per week/month where you commit to writing on a regular basis. This will ensure that you take the time to gather your thoughts and put them out into the blogosphere.

Also it’s useful to have handy a notepad (tdigital or Post-it!) to jot down inspiration/ideas when they hit. Especially useful to write down ideas as you’re sifting through other blog posts, tweets, reports, websites, e-learning, etc. This allows you to constantly use available information to inform your own writing (reading with a purpose that is actually connected to your blog!)

Molly Hamm Advice

Sheila B Robinson

On challenges

My biggest challenge is content. I have lots of ideas that spring to mind, but my challenges lie in:

a.) having enough “meat” to go along with an initial idea to flesh it out and write something I think will be relevant, interesting, helpful or useful to someone, and

b.) having the confidence to put it out there – I hold back sometimes thinking about the fact that lots of people are blogging about similar ideas (after all, the “hot topics” are of interest to lots of us), and wondering if I have enough of an original spin on something to create a viable post.

Blog diet program

Advice

I would give someone the same advice I received (from someone you know VERY well!) [ed. note: she's talking about me :) ]

a.) Just do it! You have virtually nothing to lose. I overcame the concerns about “what if I won’t have enough time or enough content, or enough visitors,” etc. by coming to terms with the fact that if I write something, there it is and it’s fine.

If I don’t have time or content, I simply don’t post. If the blog goes by the wayside and I decide to move on to other projects, I’m OK with that. Holding myself to a weekly schedule didn’t work for me for very long after all, and I’m OK with that. It may very well work for others, so I would advise them to try a schedule and see how it goes.

Blogging is somewhat like dieting – you may have to try different strategies; some may work for a short time, or a long time, or not at all, and you have to be willing to change your strategies based on your results. And your expected results are unique to you. Some people diet to lost weight, some to alleviate a health problem, some to feel better. Some people blog for fun and because they enjoy writing; others do it to build a reputation or clientele, or to sell their products.

b.) Some posts will be more interesting and receive more traffic than others, and so be it. Whether you’re Seth Godin, or Sheila Robinson, traffic will ebb and flow and I’ve learned that that is not what it’s all about for me.

Sure, it’s fun to watch the numbers and I get excited when I get more traffic and people are paying attention to my work. Who wouldn’t? But neither am I crushed when a post fails to generate much interest. It’s all fun for me, and the evaluator in me finds it interesting to look at my data and think about what people like and want to read. But I have nothing to sell right now, so my goals may be different from some others.

Sheila Robinson Advice

Ann Emery

On challenges

At first: Nor having anything to write about.

Now: Having way too much to write about.

Live Blogging a Meeting

Advice

Include an image with every post. Images make your content more share-able (aka a mini version of your image will show up when you and others link to your post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, etc.)… which means more views and more appealing, interesting posts.

Get creative. Avoid those generic stock images. Go for screenshots, photos you took yourself, videos, sketches, and cartoons.

Ann Emery

Chi Yan Lam

On challenges

My biggest blogging challenge… probably has to do with finding the time. It takes a real commitment to sit down and produce something of a ‘blah’ quality, let alone something of a ‘wow’ quality. It’s challenging because blogging isn’t particularly accorded any value within academia. (Can it really go no my CV? No.)

I wrote this post for you

Advice

1) I kept a blog for more than a year before gaining any traction. The turning point for me was when I started the 5×52 project. I let go of the idea that I had to write full-length scholarly ‘high-quality’ posts.

I realized that the blog could be a space for my thinking. Instead of insisting on writing for an audience, I wrote for myself. I guess what this boils down to is this: Blogging is simply a platform. There are many successful models of blogging. The important thing is to make blogging goals consistent with one’s goals. Don’t Emulate. Create.

2). I really buy into the whole concept of digitals scholarship. It starts with the belief that no research is good unless communicated. Building on that, I believe that all academics/researchers should engage in knowledge dissemination. For a practical field like ours, it makes sense to engage in digital scholarship — blogging, tweeting, etc…

Chi Yan Lam

Pablo Rodriguez-Bilella

On challenges

Being regular and constant has been my biggest blogging challenge. Some (good) months I can write two or three times what I write in others (bad months). I have also tried to have at least a “light post” each week (smartly call “Viernes Light”), but the issue of regularity has also been present there.

I cannot say that I can´t find good topics to pick, usually the problem has been that there are several good topics I would like to write about them.

I was spam

Advice

Writing a post is usually lot of work, but don´t forget to let the world know about it! You should become a good friend of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and find the smartest way to post in each of them.

For instance, in LinkedIn you should carefully select the groups more appropriate for your topics, and be careful to not spam every group with your messages (you will receive some warnings before being expelled for not following the etiquette).

Pablo Rodriguez-Bella Advice

Karen Anderson (ontopoftheboxeval.wordpress.com)

On challenges

I’ve been blogging for a couple years now and I’d say the fire burns out for me at times and I can’t think of anything fresh or relevant.

Blogger's Block

Advice

Don’t start, it becomes quite the addiction. (lol)
look outside of evaluation for inspiration and tips…places like problogger.
Make efforts to engage and partner with bloggers online and offline.
Consitency is king
Find a niche…quick, you don’t want people guessing what they’ll get from you all the time.
Subscribe and comment on other Eval blogs
Have a larger purpose for your blog, what mark do you want to make, what’s the ‘end goal’?

Karen Anderson Advice

Stephanie Evergreen

On challenges

Opening myself to criticism. Blogging was originally just an outlet for me but as it grew and got attention I realized the world includes people who like to argue and Internet trolls.

Troll Armor

Advice

Choose topics you want to learn more about and use the blog as an excuse to bone up on your skills or knowledge a bit.

Stephanie Evergreen Advice

Bonnie Koenig

On challenges

I haven’t had any particular blogging challenges. Perhaps because I came ‘late to blogging’ compared to many of my colleagues and friends, I asked for a lot of advice before I started blogging and mostly knew what to expect (and perhaps challenges to anticipate).

Heed my words

Advice

Blog when you have something useful to share – don’t be bound by specific timelines and feeling like you ‘have to write something’.

Bonnie Koenig Advice

Jara Dean-Coffey

On challenges

I think it is probably two things:

1) Finding a concentrated amount of time (at 2 to 3 hours) to focus in on a topic and then move in to writing a strong enough drive that requires no more than 30 minutes to refine, and

2) Creating a range of voices that speak to our approach, our experiences and reflections that resonate with a variety of audiences and which compel others to take risks, have confidence in their inherent knowing and to strengthen their intentionality.

There it is behind the couch

Advice

Spend some time looking at other people’s blogs and the blogs they read. Find ones that speak to you in terms of perspective and tone.

Ask yourself a few questions (I have a couple worksheets) such as:
a) why do I want to write,
b) what do I want to write about,
c) who is my audience and what interests them,
d) what is my perspective/voice (expert, trainer, synthesizer….) ..etc.

And now, just write. Make yourself a schedule and commit. It doesn’t get any easier unless you practice. Oh, and part of the value I find in blogging is disciplined reflection on my own practice.

Jara Dean-Coffey

Molly Engle

On challenges

My biggest blogging challenge is what to write…there is so much; yet is it timely, needed, wanted? I have to remember that evaluation is an everyday activity…however obscure. (I ignore the technology unless something goes wrong; I am, after all, a technopeasant.)

The peasants are blogging

Advice

Starting a blog—be passionate about your topic; if you are, you will always be able to write something even if it doesn’t seem timely or needed. (chocolate torte, anyone?)

Molly Engle Advice

Jane Davidson

On challenges

Definitely finding the time! Patricia and I started strong but seem to have been so swamped with other things that it is difficult to get much up on the blog. But, we would rather do good stuff less often than just fill the space for the sake of it.

Personality Removed

Advice

The blogs I love the most are the ones where the bloggers’ personalities and senses of humor shine clearly through. Write good, thought-provoking stuff, but don’t be shy about putting your own signature spin on it.

The nice thing about blogs is that people deliberately opt to tune intoyou – unlike discussion lists, where we have to be conscious of chewing up too much of the airspace. Don’t swamp people with too much content, but make whatever you put out there fun to read! And a cute cartoon will do wonders as well! ;)

Jane Davidson Advice

David Henderson

On challenges

Finding the time is a good excuse, but I am too intimately aware of my stupid internet browsing habits to justifiably argue I don’t have time to blog.

I think more challenging is not to psych myself out. I will regularly start posts all to decide that whatever “insight” I’m writing about feels so plainly obvious to me, that it wouldn’t be valuable to anyone else, and then scrap the post all together.

Too busy mindlessly surfing the web

Advice

There’s a lot of crap and dubious advice out there. I always encourage folks who want to start blogging to not be afraid to elevate their posts above the all too common nonprofit blogging dribble.

I like to think about blogs as light version of a research report or paper. In this framing, blog posts are not totally absolved of the constraints of substantiating arguments and citing sources. The best bloggers are those who I learn from. To that end, I’d advise new bloggers to think about blogging as (at least in part) a teaching platform.

David Henderson Advice

Tom Murphy

On challenges

For me it is still getting over publishing and putting myself out there. Even when I am doing more of a reported story than a blog/opinion I feel a sort of resistance to publishing and the vulnerability that comes with it once it is out there. The other stuff is relatively easy for me at this point, but there is that fear of rejection or failure that immediately follows hitting the publish button.

Handling Vulnerability

Advice

Think of it as an extension of what you are already doing. You are reading and pulling together a lot of information and resources about what you know best. Blogging is a public way to gather that information, make a few notes and share with others.

The benefits are that people will interact with you. It can foster connections and potential suggestions/opportunities that may not have existed prior. Also, there is the fact that there is evidence showing how blogging about research can lead to more citations and reads of published works. As long as the person does not say anything improper, blogging is a great support for a researcher’s work.

Tom Murphy Advice

Ewen Le Borgne

On challenges

Originally it was the discipline to get at blogging and to carve out time for it. It took me 2 years to become a regular blogger but at some point it clicked and became a bit of an addiction – of the nice type though!

No, more recently I find that the challenge has been to precisely reverse the engine and to perhaps blog a bit less but really aim at good quality posts – the wow posts you mentioned. I sometimes post a piece that I know I’m not too happy with – but it’s sometimes difficult to resist the instant gratification of getting a post out there and seeing the reactions.

Toddler Blog

Advice

First off, to find out that they are not alone in this and to look at other testimonials and experiences from other researcher/evaluator bloggers (it’s likely to be much more convincing coming from their peers than from any other source), then to think carefully about the focus of their blog and its relation with their organisation/clients etc. This can become a thorny issue so it deserves a bit of thinking.

The rest is just fly and fly higher, trial and error, reflection all along the way, engagement… and fun! My personal motto if ‘fun, focus and feedback’ and I think it suits blogging pretty well :)

Ewen Le Borgne

Lisa Wade

On challenges

Thinking big picture, one of the biggest and most exciting challenges is change. Adapting to unexpected change started right away.

When we started blogging six years ago, the idea was that it would be a place for my sociology instructor friends to swap images we were using in teaching. As more and more people started reading who weren’t sociologists, we had the opportunity to adapt the site, making it a place for anyone interested in sociological commentary. The result was a lot more work and responsibility, but the reward was proportionally exciting.

Technological change has also offered both opportunities and new demands. When we started, blogs were just blogs. As the years have gone by, the importance of being on Facebook (especially) and Twitter (secondarily so) and the fun possibilities of things like Pinterest have emerged. Now it isn’t just Sociological Images, it’s Sociological Images and its auxiliary sites. These are now all part of the day-to-day work and reward of the site.

Finally, my own career has changed in ways that I never anticipated. The blog has made me more visible as a social commentator and I’ve had wonderful opportunities to speak to journalists, write for well-known outlets, and travel for public speaking.

Together, the rising readership, expanding reach of the site, and the new dimension to my career has required me to adapt many times over. It’s been a fun, but wild ride.

Digital Media Conglomerate

Advice

Academic blogging is, I believe, win-win. As a community, the more we share each others material and try to draw attention to each other, the more social science will become a go-to way of thinking about social problems.

So, if you’re interested in starting a site, think about all other sites as your friend. Borrow their content, let them borrow yours. Talk them up and refer people there. Link and link again.

When we all do our best to draw attention to social science as a lens, more and more people will visit all of our sites. When they do that, the policy makers, voters, and Thanksgiving table debaters all become better able to understand our world and help others understand too. And that’s a wonderful thing.

Lisa Wade Advice

Nathan Yau

On challenges

The biggest challenged with FlowingData is probably maintaining the right balance between academic and casual. If I get too technical, I confuse a lot of readers, but I can’t get too casual, because I might oversimplify concepts that are actually complex.

Minimum Viable Explanation

Advice

It’s really easy to start a blog these days, so you might as well try it out. Some researchers might be worried that the general public will misunderstand findings, but it’s a great chance for you to explain what you do and involve yourself with groups of people who are excited about the same stuff as you.

Nathan Yau Advice

Jessie Daniels

On challenges

I would say that the biggest challenge with blogging has to do with time. And, by this, I don’t mean “finding the time” to blog, but more to do with pacing.

I’ve been blogging at Racism Review since 2007, along with Joe Feagin, the blog’s co-founder (and, long ago, my dissertation chair). Ours is a scholarly blog, so we’re always trying to take some current event or news item and reflect it through the research literature to add a new dimension. The pace of how quickly things happen online and the pace of how slowly scholarly research happens are really at odds with each other. I often find that by the time I’ve really thought deeply about some item rippling through Internet, the moment of when that is ‘new’ has long since passed.

The other challenge that has to do with pacing is thinking about the long haul. We’ve been blogging since April, 2007 which, according to my math, is a little over six years. When we first started it, we tried to blog every day. Posting every single day is a pretty daunting pace to keep up with over a long period of time. To help ease that burden, we’ve tried to enlist as many ‘guest bloggers’ and additional contributors as possible, but sometimes cajoling other academics into blogging presents its own set of challenges. In general, I think we’ve done pretty well keeping it up given that Joe and I have very busy academic lives beyond the blog.

Academic vs blog timing

Advice

I get asked for advice about blogging fairly often and my biggest advice is to figure out what your particular niche or formula is. As I mentioned, at Racism Review, we try to connect current events having to do with race or racism to solid academic research. Having a really very clear, specific idea at the outset about what your contribution will be makes it much easier to get started and to maintain it over time.

Jessie Daniels Advice

Robert Kosara

On challenges

There is an obvious answer here and there is a somewhat deeper one. Of course it’s a challenge to find the time. I could do other things. I could read. I could sleep. I could go for a run.

I think the biggest challenge has been to find the right direction for this blog. After almost six years, I’m still not sure where this thing is going. I keep changing direction. Sometimes, somebody tells me they do or don’t like something. But I don’t have a clearly defined audience like a fashion blog or a technology blog or similar.

It’s not that there aren’t enough good topics, there are more than I could ever write about. Rather, the question is what do I think I can contribute to? I don’t care about just posting links to interesting stuff, others do that already and I can’t bring myself to just summarize what somebody else has done for a link posting.

The challenge is to not let that paralyze you. I keep a list of topics in my todo program, in a folder. When I don’t know what to write, I look through those and pick one. You need to keep writing, and you need to try things to see if they work. A simple posting today, a little visualization project next week, then a book review, etc.

To summarize it in a word, perhaps the biggest challenge is consistency. Consistency in topics, style, and frequency.

Which way to go

Advice

I have three pieces of advice.

1) Don’t worry about the technology. Don’t tinker. Just write.

2) Pick an audience to write for, but don’t get too focused on that. Your audience might change. People you wouldn’t have expected to read your blog will read it. Be prepared to go outside the box and change direction accordingly. But to write reasonably well, you need to have an idea of who you’re writing for.

3) Hang in there. Nobody will read your blog at first. Nobody. After a year, you might have a few readers. Don’t give up. A blog doesn’t just explode onto the Internet (unless you’re incredibly lucky). It’s going to take time. If you give up after a few months with just a few readers, you will never get more.

Robert Kosara Advice

Henry Jenkins

On challenges

Before I started blogging, the biggest concern I had was whether I would have the time to keep up with my blog. The advice I got from Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing) was “make the time.” And he was right.

Reflect and Blog

Advice

For me, a key is integrating the blog into the broader range of activities I am doing, so I am always looking for ways to use the blog in my teaching, my research, my recreation life, my friendships. You need to decide going in how often you are going to blog and stick to it like you would do any other deadline.

On any given day, there is always going to be something more pressing than blogging, so if you do not think of it as a responsibility to yourself and your readers, you will slow down and eventually stop. I think of it as like a journalist putting out a daily edition, i.e. it’s a deadline that must be met.

I put it out at a consistent time on a consistent day and I can count on my fingers the number of times I have missed a deadline since I started my blog in 2006. When I need to take a break, I announce that I am doing so and give myself permission for downtime, but I do not miss a deadline arbitrarily on a day in, day out basis.

Given the complexities of my life, this means I am planning further and further ahead, so I have a fall back if a piece of content fails to materialize. For this to work, I end up balancing between topical issues and ever-green content that I hold in reserve in case I am facing a hole on any given day that needs to be filled.

Henry Jenkins Advice

Beth Kanter

On challenges

I’ve been blogging for ten years now. I love it. I look at it my personal learning time and I try carve out a half hour or hour every day to write about something. This reflection time is so important. But, with that said, what’s hard is to keep up the discipline so I make the time to reflect and write every day. Sometimes with a busy speaking schedule and client work, it is hard to do.

My biggest challenge is when I get bored … when my muse goes into hiding. Sometimes, I’m so excited new developments or new angles on topics that I’ve been writing about – but there are some times that ennui creeps in. What I do is allow myself to write about a slightly different or adjacent topic or recruit guest bloggers and take a break.

Trolling your own posts

Advice

Look at your blogging time as a form of professional development and a commitment to write something regularly. Don’t get caught up with making it perfect either …. a blog is different from writing a research article.

Beth Kanter Advice

Seth Godin

On challenges

Decide on the audience you want and ignore everyone else.

Speaking just to us

Advice

Write every single day. If something you write spreads to the audience you care about, and if it changes them in the way you hope, write more like that.

Seth Godin Advice

Discussion

Are you a blogger, if so, what are your biggest challenges? Have any advice to share, or reiterate?

Not a blogger, why not? What’s holding you back?

Let me know in the comments.

~ This post is by Chris Lysy and  originally appeared at FreshSpectrum; it is re-blogged here with permission.

Jessie Daniels in NYTimes Dialogue on the Meaning of ‘Race’

Many of our efforts here at JustPublics@365 are focused on getting scholars to share their research outside of the walls of academia, particularly through social media and big media. Workshops in our MediaCamp series, such as “Op-Ed Pieces and Pitches: Framing Research for Public Audiences” and “Being Interviewed on Camera: Big Media for Academics,” aim to do just that, and we’re excited with the various successes that we’ve had.

hand

cc-licensed photo “hand” by flickr user JUNG HEE PARK

I’m delighted to report on another success, this time from my colleague Jessie Daniels. Jessie, one of the Co-PIs of JustPublics@365, had a letter co-written with Joe Feagin published in this past weekend’s New York Times as part of the “Sunday Dialogue: The Meaning of ‘Race’”. Coming on the heels of the George Zimmerman trial, Jessie and Joe provide a necessary reminder of the shifting definitions of race and their ramifications within our culture. Congratulations to Jessie and Joe for exemplifying what JP@365 is all about.

Full content of the letter is below (original NYTimes link):

Mr. Hodge raises an important question about how to simultaneously destroy the myth and remedy the harm of the myth of “race.” But Mr. Hodge, like almost everyone else, is operating routinely out of a particular way of seeing that filters and distorts everything about “race.” It is what we refer to as the white racial frame, and extensive social science research demonstrates the myriad ways that laws, politics, culture and social relationships are embedded in it. It makes whoever gets considered “white,” by definition, all right.

Who is and is not considered “white” shifts and changes. In 1916 hearings on an immigration bill before Congress, social science experts of the day testified that southern Italians were a different “race,” decidedly not “white,” were incapable of assimilation, and therefore should be barred from entering. So, indeed, “race” is in one sense an “arbitrary … classification imposed on a continuum of physical differences,” but it also systematically and consistently works to the advantage of some (mostly whites) and to the disadvantage of those classified as “others.”

The harm of white racism is real, and takes the lives of black and brown on a daily basis, decade after decade: Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, James Byrd Jr., Yusef Hawkins, Emmett Till and so many others. The danger in trying to dismantle the myth of “race” before we are ready to remedy the harm of racism is that we will do neither.

JESSIE DANIELS
JOE R. FEAGIN
New York, July 18, 2013

The writers, professors at CUNY Graduate Center and Texas A&M University, respectively, are the co-founders of the scholarly blog Racism Review.

“Reading the Riots” : Academic-Journalism Partnership

Partnerships between academic social science researchers and journalists hold great promise for addressing inequality.  At a meeting earlier this month at the London School of Economics (LSE), Professor Tim Newburn of the LSE discussed the Reading the Riots project. This project was run jointly with The Guardian with the aim to produce evidence-based research that would help explain why the rioting spread across England in the summer of 2011. The slides are below and the full podcast of the event is available.  It’s definitely worth a listen to hear Newburn describe the opportunities and challenges of this unique academic-journalism partnership.

As Newburn describes, one of the key opportunities the partnership with The Guardian provided traditional academic researchers is reach.  The readership of The Guardian far exceeds that of any academic publication by several orders of magnitude and that’s really a game-changer for social science research.  At the most basic level, it means that academics need to think about who they want to speak to (and with) when moving beyond the narrow scope of other specialists.

Among the challenges that Newburn enumerates are the radically different pace of work for academics and journalists.  Journalists are trained to write quickly to meet deadlines.  Academics, well, we like the sound of deadlines as they “whoosh” passed and are accustomed to a much, much slower pace of producing writing (aside: I think this is part of why blogging proves so challenging for many academics).

Newburn also points to some of the interesting methodological issues that arose during this collaboration. He observes that academics and journalists are often engaged in the same practices (e.g., interviewing people, analyzing data), but that academics are often mired in contemplating “how” we engage in these research practices. (Following Newburn’s remarks, the podcast of the event continues with an interesting discussion about “impacts,” something that we’re very interested in here at JustPublics@365.)

In our own academic-journalism partnership between The Graduate Center and the CUNY J-School, I’ve been delighted and amazed at the success of this collaboration around creating the MediaCamp workshops. These workshops offer skill–building in media and digital media  combine research and digital media for the public good. We haven’t yet attempted collaborating around a specific research topic, such as the Reading the Riots project, but perhaps that will be next.

What Newburn’s Reading the Riots project and our own MediaCamp workshops mean to me is that there is a new kind of space opening that combines the best of both research and journalism.  In this hybrid space, academics and journalists will increasingly collaborate, borrow and remix methods from both fields, and at least potentially, reach wider audiences beyond the narrow range of specialists. Perhaps most exciting to me, is the idea that academic-journalism collaborations could be an innovative way to address issues of social inequality.

Flickr for Visual Data Research and Analysis

In the spring term of 2013, CUNY sociology Professors Juan Battle and Bill Kornblum offered a unique course called CUNY As a Lab, in which MA and PhD students at the Graduate Center conducted research about CUNY itself. Together, the class documented the wide variation in student experience across the wide array of CUNY institutions. JustPublics@365 helped CUNY As a Lab students collect, store, share, and analyze visual data using the online digital photo storing and sharing site Flickr. While there are many ways to collect and store visual data, I want to highlight some of the tools that made Flickr especially useful for research and teaching.

How did we use Flickr?

In small groups, CUNY As a Lab students used multiple research methods to profile each of the 23 CUNY colleges. They profiled campuses using history, ethnography, demographic analysis, interviews, and observations about campus space. As students conducted research on their respective campuses they uploaded pictures to a Flickr account shared by everyone in the class. Photos from each campus were grouped into “sets”. In order to preserve confidentiality of research participants, the Flickr account was kept private so only students in the class could see it.

Why visual data?

Visual data is different from “data visualization” which usually involves representing abstracted quantitative data in creative ways. The visual data collected by CUNY As a Lab students was digital photographs which students analyzed for clues about life on any given CUNY campus. Because the Flickr account was shared, students could also analyze each other’s photos during the research process for insight into what their peers thought was important to document. This helped students to generate ideas about what they wanted to capture in their photos.

Why Flickr?

Flickr is a great place to store photos if only because it is free, open, and easy to use. It allows users to choose from a range of licenses for each of their photos, including a license which allows people to contribute to a commons of photos with “no known restrictions” which can be used and shared by anyone. Often people don’t know that the photos they find using a Google image search can’t necessarily be used and shared freely due to copyright restrictions.  Flickr offers many open access photos, and makes it clear which ones are free to use and which aren’t.

Beyond being a great place to store photos, Flickr offers a number functions which make it a potentially rich tool for pedagogy and research practice. For the purposes of CUNY As a Lab we focused on annotating, tagging, mapping, and sorting photos into sets. As students uploaded photos to their campus sets, they came up with tags which conveyed themes that were represented in their photos.

Tagging is kind of the equivalent of coding.  That is, the process by which social researchers identify and keep track of themes in their qualitative data shares much in common with “tagging” in social media. After students had tagged (or, coded) their photos they could click on any given tag and a Flickr-generated group of photos with the same tag from all campus sets was produced. This allowed students to compare themes like “common area,” “leisure,” “activities,” and “security” across campuses. The following Flickr-generated tag cloud indicates the range of tags students came up with:

Flickr-generated tag cloud

Flickr-generated tag cloud

Another feature offered by Flickr is the opportunity to annotate photos. If tagging photos is like coding, annotating is like taking field notes. Some students made notes on particular sectioned-off parts of their photos to draw attention to what they thought was important about the photo. Flickr allows notes to be tagged by theme and linked together. We didn’t take full advantage of that in CUNY As a Lab, but here’s a link to a great idea for an exercise that does.

One of the most visually compelling outcomes of the use of Flickr in CUNY As a Lab was the  Flickr-generated map of New York City with CUNY campus locations tagged. Here’s a frame which encompasses all the locations tagged in photos of CUNY City College:

Flickr Maps function

Flickr Maps function

Reflections

Most students who responded to my survey of the class reported that they hadn’t collected visual data for research purposes before their CUNY As a Lab research, and all agreed that the collection and coding of visual data enhanced their projects. One student commented that:

[Using Flickr] “gave me an additional frame of reference when thinking back and analyzing my data.”

Most responded that they had spent time looking at each others’ photos during the research process and that the open, collaborative nature of the Flickr account enhanced their own research. The process wasn’t perfect.  A number of students commented that there could have been more parameters set for the collection of photos. One great suggestion that emerged from the class survey was that the instructor could specify a set of tags or themes beforehand that students would then go out and look for. As one student commented, this could make for a more cohesive research and photo-browsing experience.

Students used photos in their final presentations about each campus. The following slides are from CUNY As a Lab students Rachael Benavidez and Amy Blair’s final presentation about CUNY Community Colleges in Queens. Many students chose to document the outdoor spaces of their respective campuses, which made for really interesting comparisons of the range of physical environments on CUNY campuses:

Slide from student Rachael Benavidez's final project

Slide from student Rachael Benavidez’s final project

In the slide below, the same students captured a theme that was reiterated in their interview data, that access to advisement is slow and difficult at both LaGuardia and Queensborough Community Colleges:

Slide from student Rachael Benavidez's final project

Slide from student Rachael Benavidez’s final project

While we know that photos enhance our ability to communicate ideas, the use of Flickr in CUNY As a Lab suggests that the process of collecting, coding, and organizing photos can also be useful before the presentation stage. Organizing visual data can be an opportunity for a class to collaboratively clarify and organize their ideas, and learn from each other’s work in the process.

If you’re interested in this technique and would like to learn how to take better photos with your mobile device, you might consider taking one of these workshops designed to help you do that: Smart Photos with Smartphones.

For Whom Do We Write?

C. Wright Mills once wrote about being at a party of sociology grad students at Columbia who were working on the PhDs. “After they’d introduced themselves, I’d ask: What are you working on?” It would always be something like ‘The Impact of Work-Play Relationships among Lower Income Families on the South Side of the Block on 112th St between Amsterdam and Broadway.’ And then I would ask: Why?”

C. Wright Mills(Image of Mills from here)

Mills called the tendency to conceive of one’s work in narrow terms “abstracted empiricism.” In contrast, he believed that the task of sociology should be to encourage public discussion of things that really matter. He called for a bigger, bolder sociology, one that would take on the big issues of the day, in a fashion that was engaging, and that would help people living in an increasingly complex world to make sense of their lives.

I remember that when I first encountered Mills as an undergraduate, he had an enormous impact upon me. I was captivated by his idea of a “sociological imagination” that would allow individuals to see the connection between personal troubles and public issues, biography and history.

But is it possible to channel Mills’ spirit to reimagine sociology, and sociological writing, today?

As sociologists we write to convey ideas, change the way people think, and influence public opinion. We also write to assert our scholarly authority and to advance our careers. But there’s a tension between these two sets of goals. We advance our careers by publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and by speaking to others like ourselves–not by influencing the broader public.

But these goals were not always at odds with one another. In 1895, in the first issue of the American Journal of Sociology, founding editor Albion Small described the goal of the journal as follows:

[This journal will] attempt to translate sociology into the language of  ordinary life . . . It is not . .. essential to the scientific or even the technical character of thought that it be made up of abstractly formulated principles.  On the contrary, the aim of science should be to show the meaning of familiar things, not to construct … a kingdom for itself in which, if familiar things are admitted, they are obscured under an impenetrable disguise of artificial expression.

Writing in sociology journals, at least through the 1940s and 1950s, was essayistic, dialogical, and marked by the author’s presence. But over the next few decades, it came to resemble natural science journals—with growing attention paid to literature reviews, charts, and tables, and methodologically driven articles–what Ben Agger calls “secret writing.” Professionalization went hand in hand with an emphasis upon quantitative analysis of empirical “facts” and an aspiration to a natural science model; sociological writing came to emulate the scientific journal article.

Mills feared these trends. The use of specialized language, addressing concerns that are mainly disciplinary in origin—the “private” as opposed to the “public” intellectual would, he believed, lead to intellectual introversion. Rather than valuing small incremental increases in knowledge, we should do “big picture” research, he believed. He saw sociology as an activist project and believed that a sociological imagination could “counter the drift toward conformity, homogenization, and instrumental rationality.” Critical, publicly engaged sociologists, he believed, could lead the way to a better society.

Today the field of sociology is larger and more decentralized than it was even in Mills’ day. Hierarchies of prestige are reflected in the rankings of academic journals and graduate departments. When competition for employment and promotion is fierce, greater rewards accrue to those who adopt professional identities that conform closely to hegemonic understandings of the discipline. Since academic advancement is securely mainly through publishing and communicating with other experts, professional intellectuals have little incentive to translate their work to broader publics. When professional gatekeepers pronounce upon the student who is and isn’t doing important work, and indeed, who is and isn’t doing “sociology,” students and faculty internalize these standards and receive rewards for adhering to them.

Over the past decade, those who are looking for an alternative have gravitated toward what some call “public sociology.” Public sociology is not a specialty, a set of theories, or a methodology: it is a way of thinking about one’s work that shifts conceptions of audience, and values the importance of clear communication.

I’ve written about some of these issues. See, for example, “Discipline and Publish: Public Sociology in an Age of Professionalization,” in Bureaucratic culture and escalating world problems: Advancing the Sociological imagination, edited by Knottnerus JD, Phillips B (2009): 156-71.

I’m also co-authoring a primer for those wishing to do public sociology, and in periodic posts I’ll share some of this work in progress.

~ Arlene Stein is Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, and co-editor of Contexts, a quarterly magazine of the American Sociological Association. This post is a re-blog from here.