Texting Paine’s *Common Sense*

 

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Over at the Pedagogy & American Literary Studies blog, Clay Zuba, a high school English teacher in Phoenix, shares an assignment he gives his students asking them to use social media to communicate 18th-century texts to 21st century readers.

Here is the assignment:

Dear Student,

Do you ever wonder what the literature of the American revolution might look like if it was distributed through chats and memes????

If so, then you are lucky. This project asks you to convert a passage of revolutionary writing into a style and format (text, video, meme, or maybe something I don’t even know about) that would persuade your peers, and which they would be enthusiastic to read or watch.

Choose a passage from the selections by Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, Red Jacket, or Abigail Adams that we have read this semester. Then, in groups of 2 students, you’ll work together to accomplish the following:

  1. Recreate the passage’s argument and rhetorical choices as a string of text messages, a thread of tweets, a short video suitable for the Tik Tok or the YouTube, or a Meme. Make a script, then execute your choices in new media. Note that you’ll be expanding your original writer’s media choices by including visual and/or auditory persuasion. (15 pts)
  2. Compose a short (300 words or more) essay that articulates your creation’s argument and analyzes the rhetorical choices you’ve made to persuade through image, text, and sound (if applicable) rhetorically persuades. (15 pts)
  3. Present your recreation of the text to our class. Show us the original document, your new media creation, and explain how your creation uses audio, visual, and textual modes of communication to make the original writer’s argument in a format appealing to 21st-century consumers. Suggest what social media platforms would effective in distributing your new creation. (10 pts

Read more here.

Here is one example of what his students produced:

The Conference on Faith and History Is Looking for a Social Media Coordinator (Paid Position)

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The Conference on Faith and History is seeking a Social Media Coordinator.
 
The Social Media Coordinator will work with CFH’s secretaries to communicate to the membership, expand the conference’s social media presence, and empower the CFH’s member historians to communicate more effectively to a broader public.
 
To do so, the Social Media Coordinator will be in charge of the CFH website, Facebook feed, Twitter feed, and monthly newsletter. The CFH would request development of additional social media activity, such as on Instagram and via podcasts and digital video. The expectation would be at least two impressions weekly.
 
The Social Media Coordinator would need competencies in website design and function, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, and emerging digital skills.
 
The Social Media Coordinator position is a year-round position. Annual remuneration is $3,000.

Although open to all CFH members, this position may be of special interest to advanced graduate students and early career academics.

If interested, or if you have questions, please email faithandhistory@gmail.com.

Is Social Media Scholarship?

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Yesterday I was in Northfield, Minnesota where I gave a talk about blogging, The Way of Improvement Leads Home (the blog), and the relationship between social media and civic engagement.  I spoke as part of a series on digital publishing sponsored by faculty and staff from Carleton College and St. Olaf College.  (Thanks to the DeAne Lagerquist for the invitation!)

During our conversation several professors talked to me about the possibility of starting their own blogs.

I don’t pretend to believe that our blogging model at The Way of Improvement Leads Home is normative.  We post a lot here and have developed a unique approach.  So yesterday I tried to suggest some ways that busy academics might make blogging work for them as teachers and scholars.

One model for academic blogging comes from Mark Carrigan in his recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece, “Social Media is Scholarship.”  It is excellent.

Here is a taste:

Before I created a research blog, I used to carry a series of ornate notebooks in which to record my ideas, reflect on what I had read, and sketch out my plans — or rather I tried to carry them. Inevitably I forgot them at the most inopportune moments, reducing me to scribbling notes on scraps of paper, only to fail to transcribe them at a later date. Even when I managed to record my notes, my overly-enthusiastic scrawls often proved indecipherable when I came back to them.

In contrast, my research blog is accessible to me wherever I have a mobile phone or computer. The expectation that others might read my notes forces me to work out what I am trying to say, rather than scribbling down in shorthand ideas that might feel meaningful to me at the time but are often confusing later.

Sharing those blog posts through my social-media feeds often leads to useful conversations — at a much earlier stage in the research process than would otherwise be the case. It creates an awareness of what I’m working on, and has often been the first step in eventual invitations to speak or collaborate. The fact that I can categorize and tag my online notes helps me see connections between different projects I am working on, highlighting emerging themes and deepening my understanding of how the topics fit together. Having my notes online also makes them extremely easy to search, providing a fantastic resource when I am writing papers and chapters.

My point is not that everyone should use a research blog. There are many reasons why it might not be suitable for you: (1) Without a smartphone, a blog would be much less useful; (2) some people find that writing by hand actually helps, rather than hinders, the creative process; and (3) many academics are uncomfortable with sharing work-in-progress online with an unknown audience.

Exactly which technology works for which person will depend on many factors. But in my case, moving from a research notebook to a research blog helped me become a more efficient and effective scholar. Rather than being an unwelcome drain, social media has helped me use my time more effectively.

Read the entire piece here.

Should Young Academics Be On Twitter?

f91dc-twitterOliver Bateman, a historian and journalist, explores this question over at The Atlantic.

Here is a taste:

Scholarly research has lent credence to anecdotal claims about social media’s growing importance as a networking tool for academics at all stages of their careers. In a 2012 paper that represented one of the first systematic studies of social media’s impact on academia, George Veletsianos, a professor at Royal Roads University in British Columbia, analyzed the usage patterns of academics. He concluded that “the participation observed on Twitter presents opportunities for … scholarly growth and reflection,” though it was still too early to make a definitive statement about what that might entail. (He also noted, rather tellingly, that “online practices may not be valued or understood by peers and academic institutions even though scholars themselves may have found scholarly value in participating in online spaces.”)

Four years later, the researchers Charles Knight and Linda Kaye evaluated the social-media practices of academics at a large university, determining that these academics’ “use of the [Twitter] platform for enhancing reputation is an implied acknowledgement of the importance of research within higher education and the increasingly public engagement agenda.” Professors on the campus they studied were far more likely to use Twitter for this purpose than they were for pedagogical reasons: “Academics want to use Twitter to inform the wider community of their activities rather than engage their students.” Networking, it seems, is one of social media’s principal purposes for those in academia.  

“Twitter is great for academic networking, because it can be an awesome way for introverts and people who aren’t already in close proximity with the people they want to talk with to start building genuine relationships,” said Jennifer Polk, a friend and academic and career coach who runs the From PhD to Life website. “Of course, it’s all public [unless you adjust your security settings], so you should be professional—whatever that means in your field. And I recognize that in this context, ‘professional’ is a loaded term.”

Read the rest here.

I think Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social media sites are great resources for networking, sharing ideas, and raising questions.  (Perhaps this is simply stating the obvious at this point in my career). Graduate students and young academics should be using them for these purposes.

But I also think graduate students and young academics should always remember that while social media is a very democratic space, academia is not.  Academic life, in order to function properly, must have some degree of hierarchy based on expertise and experience.  In other words, a young scholar who submits a journal article or book for review will inevitably have a senior scholar evaluate the manuscript and make a decision on it.  Senior scholars at colleges universities will often have a lot to say about who gets hired in their departments.  In the course of searches for academic appointments and fellowships that have residency requirements, the search committee will often contact outside scholars who might be familiar with the candidate’s work and sense of collegiality.  And yes, I have been asked about a job or fellowship candidate’s sense of collegiality based on their social media presence.  It has actually happened more than once.

I entertain several of these requests a month.  I have even been in a position where a person argued with me on Twitter in a very unprofessional way and then applied for a job in my history department.  When I saw the application I went back to review the series of tweets this person had written, but they were deleted.  This person did not get the job.  There were stronger applicants in the pool that better served the needs of our department.  But I would be lying if I said that this Twitter exchange did not influence the way I thought about this person’s application. And I can tell a host of other stories like this from other committees on which I have served.

In the best of all possible worlds, decisions about publishing and teaching jobs should be made entirely on the merits of a candidate’s scholarship or teaching, but we do not live in the best of all possible worlds.  Young academics should have this in mind whenever they tweet or post.  I am often amazed when I see graduate students picking fights on Twitter or Facebook with senior people who one day might have to make a decision about the course of their future career.  Hopefully, for the sake of the candidate, that senior scholar will lay aside their memory of these social media exchanges and judge the candidate on the merits of their work.  But to do so requires a superior degree of discipline and professionalism.

A Few Reasons Why Historians Should Consider Twitter

5bf22-twitter-logo-hashtagI am sold on Twitter. (You can follow me @johnfea1).  I rarely use my feed to post personal or mundane things about my life (although some may beg to differ).  Instead, I use it professionally–to promote my work at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, share links and the tweets of others, provide coverage of history conferences and lectures, and network with other historically-minded people.

I follow a lot of people on Twitter.  I do this for two reasons.  First, I am always looking for links that I can use on this blog.  Second, I am generally curious about the ideas of like-minded people.  I follow a lot of K-12 history teachers because they often share some great resources that I can pass along to the students in my “Teaching History” course or even re-purpose for my own courses.  I follow clergy because I want to get a better sense of their world so that I can be more effective in bringing historical thinking to local congregations. I follow #twitterstorians because so many of them are doing incredible things in their teaching and scholarship.

So needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed “Motorcityclio” recent post about historians, social media, and networking.  Here is what she has to say about Twitter:

Filling your Twitter feed with university departments, scholars, and academic publications is easy enough, but what do you do once you’ve developed an academic social network? Like networking at a conference, you need to be a bit more proactive than we, as academics, are sometimes comfortable with. The good news is that we can still hide behind our computer screens to a certain extent! So here are six ways to use social media to build your network.

  1. Promote yourself. Have a new publication? Get mentioned on your department website? Find something exciting in the archive? Tweet it! Promoting yourself – or even just congratulating yourself on very real accomplishments – can feel icky. But, as we’re all often told, the only way to get yourself out there is to put yourself out there. You’ll be amazed by how much support you get!
  2. Use hashtags. There are TONS of academic hashtags out there. There are hashtags that can connect you with other scholars in your field and with other graduate students. Some of my favorites are #PhDchat and #PhDlife (this one is usually pretty hilarious). If you have other favorites, leave them in the comments!
  3. Interact with other scholars. I have used Twitter to chat with other scholars about their work, my work, the Olympics, the election, running socks, and a lot of other things. Building a network shouldn’t just be about having somewhere to discuss your project or the job market (although it’s great for these things – I just had a chat with a PhD candidate in English about the job market today!). It should also be about building support, in many forms.
  4. Get help! I contacted one of my former students – Amanda Sterling, now the Social Media Coordinator at the Corning Museum of Glass – for any input she might have on this post, and she made the excellent suggestion of using Twitter for help with research. As Amanda says, “Whether you need to pull contemporary material directly or you need help tracking something down, social media can help you with your work.” If we’re all willing to travel to archives to track stuff down, why not use the networks of lots of other academics to help?
  5. Establish yourself. Amanda also suggested that using Twitter to promote yourself and your work, and to engage in discussions with other scholars, helps to establish yourself as an expert in your field. This is particularly useful when you consider how long publication can take. Let everyone know you’ve already arrived!
  6. Follow conferences. Finally, Amanda points out that given that most conferences now actively cultivate hashtags associated with the conference and sometimes panels, you can “attend” conferences that you might not be able to afford to see in person. This is another way to keep yourself current on new scholarship and find people who are interested in the same things you are.

Read the entire post here.

Who are the #Twitterstorians?

Jason Kelly of IUPUI’s Arts and Humanities Institute has assembled a list of #twitterstorians. Here is a taste of his introduction to the list:

Back in 2007, Katrina Gulliver created the #twitterstorians hashtag. After I joined Twitter, I remember checking her blog regularly to see the growing list of historians on Twitter. With the explosion of users over the past several years, the ability to keep track of all the #twitterstorians has become impossible. There is no longer a running list. So, when new historians show up on Twitter, they have to figure out for themselves who they should follow. This is not necessarily a problem. With more individuals on Twitter, they have more people from whom to seek advice and more hashtags to help direct their focus (e.g. #publichistory, #histsci, #histmed, #dhist, #envhist, #digitalhistory). Plus, there’s some really good guides andanalysis to help newbies find their way.
Still, there is something really fantastic about a list to consult. So, I’ve decided to put one together. There is no way for me to make it comprehensive. Because of this, I decided to compile my list by metrics. Using the Brand24 package, I looked for #twitterstorians who were both active and whose posts reached a relatively large audience.

Christian Historians and Social Media: Part Five

Over at Religion in American History, Jonathan Den Hartog wraps up a week’s work of coverage of the Christian Historians and Social Media panel at the biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History

For an introduction to the session and the series of posts that have appeared this week, see Jonathan Den Hartog’s post at Historical Conversations.  I also live-tweeted the session from the platform. You can read those tweets @johnfea1 or #cfh2014.  You can also read my contribution to the roundtable here.  Chris Gehrz’s contribution to the roundtable can be found at his blog, The Pietist Schoolman.  And Paul Putz weight in here.

Here is a taste of Jonathan’s wrap-up:

In the session, we were fortunate to have some live-tweeting going on. Some of it even came from our panelists! Chris Gehrz collected the relevant tweets here. For even more, you can follow the twitter hashtag #CFH2014. (This may generate some reflection on how a live-tweeted session may be communicated differently to the twitterverse than as experienced by participants.)

We have also had some web feed-back, with reflections from Warren Throckmortonand John Wilsey.

We wanted to use the Comments section of this post as a final place for interaction. If this conversation is of interest anywhere, it should be to the readers of and contributors to this blog.

So, with all of that background material, the digital floor is now open for comments and questions.

Christian Historians and Social Media: Part One

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This past weekend I participated in a session on social media at the biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History. It was a great session and I had fun being a part of it. For those of you who were not able to attend, the participants in the session will be posting their short talks at their respective blogs. Today, session chair Jonathan Den Hartog has posted his opening remarks at Historical Conversations.  I will post my remarks here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home on Wednesday.  Chris Gehrz will post his presentation on Thursday at The Pietist Schoolman, and Paul Putz will share his thoughts on his personal blog.  Finally, on Monday Den Hartog will summarize the session at Religion in American History.

Here is a taste of Den Hartog’s remarks:

Further, this development of history and social media is reshaping academic practice and perception. There is a growing conversation about what to do with social media in the academic historical realm. Our conversation today is thus part of a larger conversation going on in other venues. For example…
*Last September (a full year ago–practically ancient history!), Heather Cox Richardson appeared on the blog of the (now-suspended) Historical Society to ask, “Should Historians Use Twitter?” and argued in the affirmative
*At the Organization of American Historians’ meeting last April, a panel considered, “Is Blogging Scholarship?”
*Similarly, at the American Historical Association this coming January, a panel will consider “Blogging and the Future of Scholarship.”
*But, if you miss that one, you can attend on the same week-end two panels sponsored by the American Society of Church History, with one entitled, “The Digital Humanities and the Study of Christianity in Late Antiquity: Reflections on a Disciplinary Intersection” and another entitled, “American Religion Online: How Digital Projects Can Change How We Teach, Research, and Interpret Religious History.”
Clearly, there is a conversation going on, that I believe we can add to.
Stay tuned.  Tomorrow this piece of paper will be turned into a blog post

AHA Seeking New Director of Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives

The American Historical Association is seeking a Director of Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives. The Director of Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives will oversee the AHA’s communications with members and other constituencies. This includes print and digital publishing, web design, information management, and membership – all part of a strategy to enable the American Historical Association’s programs and activities to take maximum advantage of the new digital environments in which historians work. The AHA seeks a scholar with the skills and vision to help lead the development of the AHA as the nation’s most important hub for the work of professional historians in the 21st century.
Key responsibilities include:

  • Play leadership role for team developing new research, communication, networking, job market, and other professional tools for historians via a full-service AHA digital environment
  • Oversee all communication relating to AHA membership activities, and AHA digital and print publications (not including American Historical Review)
  • Supervise (directly or indirectly) seven staff members
  • Serve as liaison to the business operations of the American Historical Review
  • Oversee AHA relationships with publishers
  • Provide expertise on issues relating to scholarly publishing
  • Coordinate the efforts of the AHA’s governing Council and standing committees, including working
    with the Executive Director to organize Council activities
  • Oversee all information technology purchases, maintenance, and staffing/consultant support
  • Represent the Association in meetings and activities relevant to areas of responsibility

For additional details on the position, and how to submit an application, see the complete description of the position.

Academic Tweeting

When do I use Twitter?  First, I have all the blog posts from The Way of Improvement Leads Home sent directly to my Twitter feed (follow me @johnfea1).  Second, I occasionally tweet academic conferences. For example, I was the top tweeter at this year’s American Historical Association conference in New Orleans.

I rarely post a random tweet that has nothing to do with a conference or the blog.  I thus use Twitter primarily, and almost solely, for professional purposes. Since I joined Twitter about a year ago, the number of people who read The Way of Improvement Leads Home has grown considerably. 

Over at The Junto, Joseph Adelman explores some of the positive aspects and the negative aspects of academic tweeting.  Here is a taste:

On the other hand, I like to think of myself as relatively clear on some of the drawbacks of Twitter. First of all, it takes time. We all get exactly 168 hours a week, unless you’ve figured out some sort of wormhole thing that you haven’t shared with the rest of us. Time on Twitter is time you are not doing something else. And yes, it’s not the place for nuance—at least once a month I end up in a conversation that goes off in a silly/bad direction because it’s hard to get one’s point across in a sophisticated way in 140 characters. It has also in the past year or so (at least on my feed) seemed to become a bit more of a closed loop. That is, it’s become a bit harder to my mind to offer unorthodox opinions. I still find it an enormously useful service, but lately I’ve found it somewhat less welcoming. I don’t think it reflects well on the humanities, nor does it bode well for the possibilities of the service. But that may be a topic for another post. 

How to be a Social Media Historian

Naomi Lloyd-Jones is learning how to be a #socialmediahistorian.  In this post at the Journal of Victorian Culture Online she describes her recent experience at a conference on history and social media. (HT: AHA on Facebook). A taste:

Concerns were however raised about the danger of putting research into the public domain, and the attendant problems of it being pilfered by others or damaging the chances of having the work published in an academic format. The rebuttal was that a blog can in a sense ‘time stamp’ your ideas, and clearly mark them out as your own, before anyone else gets there first. Further, as one participant noted, a tweet can be fleeting and quickly disappear into a feed, whereas a blog post will withstand the Google test. The style of a blog will also invariably be different from that of a thesis or article, and will allow you to demonstrate that you can write in an accessible manner. And for those who do not see their path as being that of the traditional academic, a blog can be instrumental in bringing the kind of attention needed to forge ahead with a more media-focused career. My friend Fern Riddell, who serves as the Journal of Victorian Culture’s online film editor, maintains that her use of blogging and Twitter has been invaluable in securing work on both television and radio. Blogging can breed blogging, and the guest blog can both help you build a relationship with a journal, publisher of institution, and open your ideas up to a new audience. Image sharing websites, favoured by the National Archives in particular, can add an extra dimension to your social media presence (although beware of copyright pitfalls!), as can communities such as Academia.edu and The Women’s Room. Just as Isabel Holowaty described the ‘plugging in’ of the Bodleian History Faculty Library’s feeds into several other media outlets, it seems that individual historians too must plug in and plog on.

Lloyd-Jones also relays some blogging tips for historians:

  1. Post on a frequent basis
  2. Be informative
  3. Write in a lively manner
  4. Include pictures
  5. Include links
  6. Know your audience
  7. Don’t be afraid to ‘plog’ (meaning to plug your blog – a glorious new word that I hope gains parlance)