I will admit upfront that my perspective on so-called “Academic Twitter” is shaped by the fact that without Twitter – in conjunction with this blog – I would not have a “career” (if that’s what this is) that has any relationship to academia (whatever that is).
We have been talking about academics and Twitter and Academic Twitter because of a recent opinion article at the Chronicle, in which a trio of scholars (Katherine C. Epstein, Irina Dumitrescu, and Rafael Walker) weighed in on the question, “Is Twitter making academe stupid and mean?”
Of the three short pieces, Professor Epstein’s has gotten the most play on Twitter likely because it is the most critical of Twitter and academics who tweet.
Let me start with a general agreement that Twitter, as structured around “engagement” does indeed reward the kind of behavior and discourse that is counterproductive in academic spaces. It can and does bring out the worst in people, and the examples of people (very much including academics) behaving badly are manifest and numerous.
But there are a number of other claims that are not so much wrong in the objective sense, but are so shaped by a world view steeped in a narrow and perhaps over-rosy vew of academia, that they very much fail to capture the dynamics of Academic Twitter.
Prof. Epstein’s broad argument is stated admirably clearly, “Twitter represents the denial of the values that academe is supposed to represent.”
Those values are:
- Critical thinking
- The importance of expertise
- Scholarly rigor and discipline
I am fan of those values, so it looks like Prof. Epstein and I can find some common ground, but I think she stumbles out of the gate with her criticism of Twitter as a poor vehicle for critical thinking.