Bibliography in the Age of the Internet, Part I: Managing Online Academic Profiles

[General note of apology: I had intended for these posts to go live as early as two months ago, certainly no later than June. Unfortunately, due to various illnesses, they have been delayed until…now. Your patience in this matter has been greatly appreciated.]

On the docket: Academia.edu, LinkedIn, RoSE

As I mentioned in a previous post, in order to fulfill my bibliography requirement for the PhD, I am required to prepare a paper on the databases and archives with which I will be interacting over the course of my doctoral research. The official question up for grabs: How will these bibliographical resources, archives, and communities relate to/enrich my dissertation project?

Because the use and study of especially online databases and archives already make up a sizeable portion of my research (generally speaking, these spaces are my research), I have reframed/rephrased the question thus: How can I enrich my current use/study of these bibliographical resources, archives, and communities?

I want to begin by talking a bit about managing one’s online academic profile. (Please note: I am by no means an expert on any of these topics, and am still working out some of the details for myself. For some, this series of blogs will seem painfully pedantic. Hopefully everyone can find something of use across these posts, and any ongoing discussion that emerges as a result will prove equally useful to us all, myself included.)

It is my impression (since perusing the brief entry for Academia.edu on Wikipedia) that the majority of academic social-networking sites are designed for, and often limited to, scientists and scientific research (see Epernicus, Quartzy, ResearchGate, VIVO, etc.). For non-scientists, it seems the only profile-driven site for self-promotion at the moment is Academia.edu, a fairly straightforward platform that permits its users to “follow” other users (sort of like Facebook “friending”), share their work (abstracts, talks, papers, etc.) and keep tabs on their own Google stats (Academia.edu emails its users every time their name is used in a Google search, quoting the content, time and location of the search). See the site’s own description below:

Academia.edu helps academics follow the latest research in their field:

  • You can follow what academics in your field are working on
    • the latest papers they are publishing
    • talks they are giving
    • blog posts and status updates they are writing
  • You can create a webpage on Academia.edu, and share your own research. You can:
    • list your research interests, and upload papers and talks
    • get stats on paper views and downloads
    • find what keywords people use to search for you on Google

At present, the capabilities of Academia.edu are fairly limited and unexceptional. Its most useful feature is arguably its prioritization in the Google search algorithm: if you have an Academia.edu account, your Academia.edu profile will always appear as the first hit on any Google search. This can be useful for directing fellow colleagues to your most relevant academic information, instead of your backyard BBQ photos from last weekend, or that OC fansite you developed back in 2008 (or worse yet…). The site was recently successful in garnering some funding, so I guess we’ll wait and see how it develops from here. (Since speaking briefly and informally on Academia.edu in several venues in my department, a number of colleagues have joined the site, thus demonstrating its use, as well, for virtually imaging one’s department.)

By contrast, LinkedIn basically functions as an online CV. Résumé-type information can be entered/uploaded to the site’s fairly sleek interface; unlike Academia.edu, the folks at LinkedIn have definitely worked to improve the appearance and functionality of their platform since launching in May 2003. That having been said, the site is mainly targeted at professional or business marketing/networking, and is not specific to academics. In other words, LinkedIn is not, so to speak, an online “academic” community, rather a professional one. This is not to say academic work is not professional work; in fact, presenting oneself as, you know, a worker among other workers might have its own benefits in terms of how we conceive of academic work.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, in 2011, it’s a good idea to have some kind of monitored, updated online presence as an academic. For those wary of the Internet and its trappings, remember: whether or not you choose to take control of how you are (re)presented online, you are most definitely already “out there.” With every conference, symposium, department event your name and various tidbits of personal information are released into the WWWild. In my opinion, it is better to attempt to control this information than have it control you (yikes…I am tip-toeing dangerously around a much more involved discussion than I have time to sufficiently explore here). Both Academia.edu and LinkedIn offer a centralized source through which you can create, maintain and–mostly–control your online academic profile. In some cases, depending on your department, these platforms (in addition to or as a substitute for Facebook and Twitter accounts, and personal/academic blogs) may be your only means of establishing a profile online; some departments do not provide a similar interface/webpage for creating these profiles, or the management of such profiles often remains beyond one’s control, as is the case in my department.

Finally, I just briefly wanted to mention a related online academic profile project in the works from the folks at UC Santa Barbara, and specifically project-lead Alan Liu. The project/database is called RoSE, or “Research-oriented Social Environment.” Work is ongoing and the site remains, for the time being, closed to the public. Funded as part of the Transliteracies Project, also led by Liu, RoSE presents itself as a means of “tracking and integrating relations between authors and documents in a combined social-document graph…It allows users to learn about an author or idea from the evolving relationships between people-and-documents, people-and-people, and documents-and-documents.” I was present when Liu spoke at greater length about RoSE at last year’s (2010) NeMLA conference in Montreal, QC, and took issue with the leveling or collapse of information or “data” the project presumes. The equation of works with living, working scholars with long-dead novelists and so on seems to me more than slightly problematic. I introduce it, however, 1) because it is a fairly well-funded humanities project (and we all know how rare those are) and 2) because I think RoSE is merely one of many such academic databases that will continue to emerge in coming years, both through and apart from social media.

In conclusion: I will continue to maintain an Academia.edu profile, and hope to improve upon my current LinkedIn profile. I also intend to propose that either/both sites be taken up department-wide and linked through our main webpage, instead of assigning the responsibility of maintaining individual profiles to a single person using a significantly less lucid outline (I think these could be better, and I blame no one that they are not).

Next up: Twitter and Academia

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~ by pamelaingleton on 12 July 2011.

3 Responses to “Bibliography in the Age of the Internet, Part I: Managing Online Academic Profiles”

  1. Good post, Pam! I agree that having the department link to Academia.edu profiles would make great sense.

  2. a thoughtful post! I very much sympathize with your point that, like it or not, our work is represented online, and it is arguably better to exercise whatever degree of control over our presence there that we can. I’ll also look into the idea of linking academia.u profiles to the department website. An inspired idea, I think.

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