In academia, there is a lot to be gained from being open – publicizing your research, networking, creating and nurturing community, creating scholarship, and finding collaborators, for example. Being a public scholar can boost your reputation by increasing or adding to existing social capital and increasing visibility in what is one of the toughest job markets out there. Being open is also fast becoming an expectation of newer scholars – both as signaled by current trends on social media and as mandated by institutions looking for a bump in their marketability.
But what does being open mean to different demographics? Factors like race, gender, age, and familiarity with tech all play a big role in how open academics can be, and recent cases like Saida Grundy and Steven Salaita make it clear that open is not for everyone, and academic freedom means something very different on the open social web. Being open also means being open to constant and easy scrutiny, and that often means being open to various forms of abuse.
For those at the top of the privilege pyramid, being open is a risk that they can afford to take and are often lauded for taking, without the kinds of repercussions those less privileged experience. Sadly, those who feel like they need to take that risk are often the ones that are most adversely affected by it.
In this presentation, I will talk about my research on scholars who use Twitter both as a venue for creating community and as a medium for scholarly communication. I will talk about Twitter as a platform for performative openness and the digital and emotional labor that academics have to invest in order to achieve the perceived boost to their academic reputation. I will highlight the inequalities that being open reveal – the additional effort required in producing scholarly work and being public scholars, and then dealing with having to read the comments, as it were. The pressure to be open forces scholars to put themselves out there in ways that can be harmful, and the platform feeds this cycle by creating an atmosphere of competition for reputation and social capital.