I have been doing a lot of work in the last couple of years with early career researchers. Of the 40+ researchers that I have worked with in the last six months, I would say that about 1 in 10 was using the affordances provided by online technology effectively; that is, to promote their academic profile, to connect with other academic and industry researchers and to disseminate their research finding things, such as having a professional profile on LinkedIn and/or other research networks (eg wwwacademia.edu), Simple things, like listing their papers on multiple platforms and connecting to colleagues worldwide working in the same field (future sources of collaboration and work).
As Doug Belshaw and Sue Beckingham said at the Digital Literacy conference (ref Beetham & Sharpe 2009), digital literacy is not just about access (‘I have’) or skills (‘I can’) – it is about everyday practice (‘I do’) and attributes (‘I am’). For me, I am someone who strives to develop and stretch my digital literacies. I have to – and I love to. Having worked in learning design and media production, I used to manage large teams of media specialists in business and more recently, at the Open University. But much of the doing (because of the scale of production) was done not by me, but by media and technology specialists. My OU team comprised video producers, writers and editors, software developers, intellectual property specialists, designers and so on. They produced all the courses for the OU’s Faculty of Social Sciences.
Now though, running my own business, I need to be own media production house, my own PR agency, my own features writer. I need to respond immediately, think strategically, stay at the leading edge of career coaching and technology, create compelling stories – and help clients by doing the coaching work itself. Each of these things requires my full attention and it is only through technology that I can keep up.
I suggest that it is only through technology that most of us will be able to keep up. If we fail to keep up, we will be rather lost as society develops, and we might find ourselves having to take the view that we are ‘not interested’, when in fact we have fallen so far behind that we lack the confidence to make a start using new technologies and communication methods in our work. So at least make a start: Google yourself!
I will write more on this another time, but 1 in 10 is… not good. It’s not good for them, their institution or their research field. There is nothing good about being hidden away if you are doing great work. I have been providing food for thought to the researchers I’ve been working with so that they can better manage their online identity.