Academic outreach as click bait: new genres of scholarly social media
How should academics communicate their research to the general public? Maybe through memes, quizzes and click bait?
If you’ve read Chris Rodley’s two part Buzzfeed posts on Post-Structuralism Explained With Hipster Beards you might actually nod and think that might not be such a bad idea. And here is an example of post-publication peer review for that particular piece, snatched from a comment in the Buzzademia Facebook group:
“The post-structuralist via hipster beards list was a powerful piece that was both funny/engaging and helped me better understand post-structuralism. It’s the perfect example for what Buzzademia can and should do!” — Dr. Cheryl E. Ball, Kairos Editor.
Anne Cong-Huyen, Wendy Hsu, Kim Knight, Mark C Marino, Amanda Phillips, Chris Rodley have decided to go for this academic click bait and launch Buzzademia, which is “a peer-reviewed journal 4 Buzzfeed-style scholarship”. Here is the Facebook group, where scholars are discussing how to make quizzes about which feminist theorist you are (here are instructions for creating a quiz on Buzzfeed – and here are other tools for creating Buzzfeed content, which anyone can do) and using Pokemon to understand Deleuze (A thousand Pikachus: Capitalism and Transmedia) And here is the manifesto, published on Buzzfeed as a listicle, of course: 10 Reasons Professors Should Start Writing Buzzfeed Articles.
Mark Marino wrote that listicle, and is also interviewed by the Chronicle, where he explains: “My dream for this is that you eventually get locked in a click-bait loop of scholarly arguments, rather than articles about Disney princesses and what to do in your 20s,” he said.
The internet has of course brought other novel genres of research dissemination. There’s Dance Your PhD (“The dreaded question. “So, what’s your Ph.D. research about?” You take a deep breath and launch into the explanation. People’s eyes begin to glaze over… At times like these, don’t you wish you could just turn to the nearest computer and show people an online video of your Ph.D. thesis interpreted in dance form?”) Here’s one of my favourites from this year’s finalists:
There is standup research, or Forsker GrandPrix, where researchers have four minutes to present their research and a jury picks the best – which I suppose isn’t really an internet thing, but does seem aligned to the soundbites that we share in social media. We could say TED talks and the like are a related genre.
And of course there is blogging and tweeting, which is what I do. But you can also do blogging and tweeting in a way more attuned to a non-academic audience, like Sunniva Rose’s “pink blog” about fashion and nuclear physics. There’s Oxford University Press’s rather excellent Tumblr, which works even better when each post is sandwiched into your Tumblr-feed than when viewed as a standalone blog. My own university has a pretty good Instagram. I’m reading a book by Deborah Lupton right now, and she has wonderful Pinterest boards gathering visual examples of the practices she discusses in her research. She also wrote a blog post about using Pinterest in research.
Any other good examples?