Scholarly Control of the Twitter Conversation

The scholars are aflutter over Twitter.  Who owns information presented at academic conferences?  How do we control the flow of information?  This week brought some interesting dialog about the matter from from Pete Rorabaugh who has aggregated the relevant posts.  I like the focused perspective of Kathleen Fitzpatrick.

While every professional group has to sort this out on their own, it’s interesting to watch it play out.  You can’t control conversation.  Social platforms don’t change the responsibility of those who work with information.  Those consuming information have a responsibility to consider the source.  Those delivering information also have a responsibility.   And just as in the old days, the information I share is at the mercy of those who hold it or interpret it.

While this conversation vilifies Twitter, the dialog shouldn’t be about a communication platform, but about a way of communicating.  Ideas now move in real-time.  And when that happens there’s always the risk that something may be misunderstood.  There’s are also remarkable benefits that typically outweigh those risks.

If we proscribe Twitter is it then okay to share via Instagram, Path, Facebook, Google+, SMS text, Tumblr or Posterous?  And what if my research group works on Socialcast?  What if I keep my notes on Evernote and then share my notes with a panel of 18 friends who also attended the meeting?  What if I write the information down and photocopy it?  What if I write the ideas on a cocktail napkin, and someone takes it?  What about discussion in the men’s room?

My mother once told me that if you don’t want something to get out, keep your mouth shut.  My 13-year-old now feeling his way in social networks understands this.  I think scholars can somehow get their hands around it.

Another option is to hoard you’ve brilliance until you’ve got it all figured out.  Good luck with that.  What the technofatalistic Twitter prohibitionists don’t understand is that effective ideation doesn’t happen in isolation.

You can’t control the conversation.


One thought on “Scholarly Control of the Twitter Conversation

  1. Kirsten Ostherr says:

    Nicely put, Bryan. It’s not the technology, but what you do with it. Unintended effects, both good and bad, will always be a part of any open communication process. We have to be willing to live with a certain amount of risk. The key is that there are intelligent risks, and not-so-smart risks – being in the conversation is the only way to figure it out.


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