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Nathan Palmer, Georgia Southern University
“Professors, We Need You!” exclaimed Nicholas Kristof in a New York Times op-ed. While almost no professional academic would disagree with the idea that scholars should engage with the public, it’s really hard to know how, when, and where to start engaging them. A growing and thriving community of scholars are answering Kristof’s call by using social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, blogging platforms) to engage the public, find a broader audience for their research, and to do his or her research. At the same time, you can’t open up The Chronicle of Higher Education without seeing a story about a scholar who got burned by their use of social media. Given this climate of uncertainty, it’s not surprising many sociologists are unsure of how to proceed.
Well good news, friends! The ASA Task Force on Using Media to Increase the Visibility of Sociological Research (formerly the Social Media Task Force) is here to help provide some guidance. On Friday, August 15, there will be a pre-conference workshop on social media where attendees at various levels of experience can learn how to use social media to seize its promise and dodge its potential pitfalls.
These workshops will help you build a wide variety of skills, including how to use social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, blogging platforms), how to do on-camera interviews, how to get an op-ed published, and more. You can register for this pre-conference workshop through the ASA website. This day-long event is a collaboration of the ASA Task Force and JustPublics@365.
The Social Media Pre-Conference workshops will be closely modeled after the workshops offered by JustPublics@365, a project funded by the Ford Foundation and led by sociologist Jessie Daniels (City University of New York). The goal of the JustPublics@365 project is to connect academics, journalists, and activists in ways that foster transformation on issues of social justice.
If you cannot attend the pre-conference workshops, there will be two additional workshops offered during the meeting in San Francisco. On Saturday, I will lead a Blogging 101 workshop where you can learn everything from uploading a photo to your blog to strategies for growing your blog’s readership. On Sunday, Tressie McMillan Cottom (PhD candidate, Emory University) will host a workshop on writing op-ed articles and getting them published. All the pre-conference workshops are free and open to anyone who registers for them. Members need to sign up on the ASA website when registering for the Annual Meeting; please do sign up early since space will fill quickly. Check the conference program for rooms and locations.
In addition to the workshops, a “blogging area” will be available in The Hub, located in the exhibit hall. The Hub features tables, outlets, technical support at the ready, and everything else a social media user could want. This will also be a great place for social media novices to have their questions answered and learn from more experienced colleagues.
ASA provides complimentary basic bandwidth wireless Internet access to meeting attendees in the session rooms during the Annual Meeting. For those of you considering incorporating videos into your presentations, keep in mind that the basic bandwidth is sufficient to allow web browsing, access to the Annual Meeting app information, and e-mail access, but it will not support streaming data (including Skype or FaceTime).
In ASA sessions, some members of the audience may use Twitter or other forms of social media to share the results of papers presented. In rare instances people might wish to record sessions; if you prefer that audio recordings or video recordings not occur, please share your request with the audience. ASA encourages all program participants to be sensitive to the requests of others.
The ASA Social Media Task Force, convened by ASA president Annette Lareau (University of Pennsylvania), was renamed the Task Force on Using Media to Increase the Visibility of Sociological Research and extended to 2017 at the March ASA Council meeting. “The world is changing rapidly. I am often asked by sociologists how to go about getting research into the public eye,” President Lareau said when asked why she created the ASA Task Force on Social Media. “I feel that sociological research has much to offer the world. Since social media is an important way in which information is communicated, I’d like to see sociologists take full advantage of these opportunities.”
The Task Force has been working with the ASA leadership to build a community site that will serve as a hub for online skill development and resources for scholars who are interested in ramping up their digital media skills but are unable to attend the workshops. The site is still in beta and will be officially launched later this summer. The Task Force has also been working with ASA staff on some redesigns of the ASA website and on ideas how ASA can facilitate greater engagement by sociologists in the public sphere through social media.
For more information on the Annual Meeting workshops and to learn how scholars are using social media, visit the JustPublics@365 website (justpublics365.commons.gc.cuny.edu/about/) and ASA Social Media Hub (mediacamp.gc.cuny.edu). I’d also be happy to field your questions at email@example.com or on Twitter @SociologySource.
Kristof, Nicholas. 2014. “Professors, We Need You!” New York Times, February 15, Pp SR11.