Today I attended (if that’s the right word) my first webinar entitled “Supporting researcher engagement with social tools”. The session was presented by Alan Cann (Leicester University) and hosted by Netskills. When I first logged in to the webinar I was concerned about whether I would be able to follow the discussion as there was a webcam of Alan, the slides and a chat box where participants could post questions or comments. When attending a conference I am always in awe of people who can listen and tweet at the same time, I am yet to master this skill. Despite my inital concerns I was able to keep up and what followed was a really interesting discussion on how, through the use of social media, researchers can improve the quality of their work as these tools facilitate their ability to find, use and disseminate information. Alan and some colleagues at the International Centre for Guidance Studies have written Social media: a guide for researchers which hopes to enable people to make informed decisions about getting the most out of social media. They took quite a broad definition of social tools, covering these aspects:
- Communicative (e.g. twitter, LinkedIn)
- Collaborative (e.g. Delicious, CiteUlike)
- Multimedia (e.g. Flickr, Second Life)
(for a full list of what they classed a social media go to page 7 of Social media: a guide for researchers).
Alan presented some case studies of researchers who feel that using social tools has made them better at what they do, using them has become an integral part of their working life which has resulted in to name a few; effective data sharing, information being found much more quickly, networks are established with respected individuals. In fact one participant of the webinar cited an example where she has had a proposal, which was written in collaboration with someone they met on twitter – they have not met face to face -, accepted.
There was a discussion about the differences between visitors and residents of social media. Alan suggests that some people feel like they don’t have anything relevant to say or contribute so ‘lurk’ on the parameters of these tools. Sometimes I feel like that, a lurker, reading blog posts and not commenting, not tweeting in response to a discussion and this is something I need to redress, hopefully in part by participating in #cpd23, it’s a confidence thing.
There was also a look at some of the criticisms levelled at social media; privacy, banality, work-life balance. It was nice to see a couple of people comment that they don’t mind the banal aspects as it makes the person seem more ‘human’ and can give an alternative perspective on that person’s life , their ideas and motivations. (Good to know when my tweets are probably high in the banal quotient ).
Alan also talked about good and bad networks and I think this is the key thing I am taking from the webinar – it’s not about the social tools themselves, it’s about how they are used to create the right network, an effective network.