Thursday, March 10, 2011

Trend: Changing Role of Faculty/ Creating a Web Presence

Miriam Posner and her fellow bloggers make the argument that faculty need to make themselves more visible on the Internet. If they do so, they assert that it will benefit their "scholarship, pedagogy, and even service."

Key Points:

1. Web presence sounds like marketing. Isn't that beneath the dignity of one with an advanced degree? Certainly not, according to the authors.
2. If others are looking at you online (and they are looking at your 'presence') then you need to make sure they see what you want them to see.
3. Start with Google and end with Google.
4. Basics to creating a good presence:
a. when you sign up for web apps or platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) understand what you control and what you don't.
b. be consistent in your persona (voice, image, style)
c. understand that social networking is like potlatch culture--by your works shall ye be known

5. Keep tight control over what is public on public platforms like Facebook.
6. Use Google Profile as you default public page. Keep it simple and consistent as in 4(b) above.
7. Social networks rank high in Google searches so King effective ones. is a worthwhile one because you can store the necessaries there (CV, papers, teaching credo, links), it speaks the speak of academe, it is professional, it allows you to follow others' work (notifies you when colleagues add to their sites) and sends you emails anytime someone 'lands' on your profile page via Google.
8. Consider using LinkedIn in addition to LinkedIn ranks highly in Google and helps you differentiate yourself from others with the same name.
9. Use Twitter if it fits your discipline. For example, in education it is nearly de rigeur to have one because the most influential educators tend to use it heavily for professional development.
10. Use RealSimpleSyndication (RSS) to maintain ties to professional ties and developments within your discipline. Get feeds for:
a. favorite blogs
b. google email alerts
c. Database alerts for research areas
d. twitter feeds
e. Jobs pages like the Chronicle's
f. Calls for papers

Comments to the above article yielded:

11. Buy a domain with your name.
12. Create an page. This is a single page that points others to all your presences on the internet.
13. Create Google Scholar alerts.
14. Consider using Interfolio as a showcase for your work and career.
15. Offers up an alternative to "presence"--make yourself discoverable.
16. Use academic commons tools like Zotero and Mendeley.

Significance and Consequences:

Wouldn't it be fun to create a television series based upon doing web presence makeovers for faculty? I think it would reinforce the idea of faculty as arbiters of academic mojo at a time when we could certainly use a better image. Of course, I am only partly serious in this, but the implications of this article are bigger than its DIY intent. What would it mean if web presence was a part of the tenure process? The authors only assert that it can benefit scholarship, pedagogy, and service. How could it?

Scholarship? The social aspect of Internet life effects most of us. Why wouldn't it help us be better scholars. The efforts of The Center for History and New Media have brought us, a browser-based tool fof gathering research into a database which can in turn be accessed by others. Zotero Commons works with the Internet Archive to share research resources. It also allows for collaborative source sharing and group bibliographic work. Scholarship is becoming increasingly collaborative and web presence/discoverability might make a university much more international in its scope.

Pedagogy? One metaphor for this pedagogy is one developed in David Weinberger's seminal book on the web as social medium, Small Pieces, Loosely Joined. According to Weinberger's theory we are moving from a world of complex institutions that work together like machines. This is fine as long as the parts are maintained, but with the Web we don't have a machine but instead a living, messy network of small pieces that we are bringing together ourselves. So too, our pedagogy is growing into a definable presence that defies boundaries, even mashes them together. This article helps define these boundaries a little more clearly while recognizing that it is still a messy business.

Service? To be discoverable on the web is to acknowledge the service one has already done and to imply the service one can afford to others in the future. That service extends to the community and all of its members, but if you are not known by your good works then opaqueness looks like we are hiding something. It is scary, but also exhilirating and perhaps terrifying, that public money calls us to public service.

Increasingly, parents and students are becoming consumers of this new transparency. How much better would we serve future students and past ones if we were all to follow the advice in this article. And even better what if it was common practice to be this transparent at all levels of university life?


Some view life as a zero sum game, finite and limited by the hours of the day. I suppose if you followed this article's advice you might lose some sleep at first, but I do think that eventually this discoverability would become second nature and lead to productivity of a new order. This is the goal of The Red Balloon Project, to re-imagine undergraduate education. Part of that re-imagination is to make faculty roles fit the world better rather than vice versa.

It is a disruptive act to change your role, but it might be a necessary one if university will survive the dislocations of the 21st century. Below Clayton Christiansen discusses some of these disruptions. It is surprising how many of them call for faculty to change who they are professionally.


Hacker, P. (2011, February 14). Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics. ProfHacker. The Chronicle of Higher Education, . Retrieved March 10, 2011, from

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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