Social media monsters and saviors

I’ve been doing research for a chapter on evaluating content in blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, and today I’ve been thinking about social media as a part of the scholarly information cycle.

It occurs to me that I’ve been a bad blogger. Well, I *know* I’ve been a bad blogger…On some level, the idea of blogging bothers me, because my quotidian ideas shouldn’t be published every day (for all the world to see, ha ha). But in the process of scholarly research and writing, blogging or social media posting can play an important role. A blog can be my writer’s notebook, where I post the development of my ideas.

So here’s what’s interesting to me today.

Social media is dangerous. It’s become part of the 24 hour news cycle, which, as Jacques Barzun warns in The Modern Researcher, has led to the perfect storm of fiction solidifying into fact by constant repetition and easy, credulous consumption. Falsification of fact is on the increase, because, as an npr interview with the founder of factcheck.org pointed out the other day, the consequences of lying aren’t so great, especially for most authors of social media. Social media encourages bite-sized presentation of information. This encourages simplification of concepts. This dumbs down discourse.

Those are the bads.

The goods? I’m digging them out as I plough through these books and articles.

It’s democratic. Journalists are more in touch with their readers. They can receive feedback and tips and they develop their story ideas. They learn about stories from populations they were unfamiliar with, so they can give voice to the unheard. Academics can develop their ideas at every step of their thinking process by interacting with others interested in the same issues, so their ideas can be more refined at the point of writing. Researchers have access to a trove of data, of *unmediated* data, straight from the mouths (fingers) of the people. Forget leading questions and interference of the interviewer. Researchers can read intimate details about the lives of people from all corners of the planet, in every subculture, in their own words. Because of the bite-sized nature of Twitter and Facebook posts, as well as tools such as hashtags, they can easily identify themes and crunch data. New findings rise to the surface. It’s an amazing amount of information to work with.

But where do we need to be skeptical? How do we evaluate social media? how is it different than evaluation of traditional media. More to come as the readings gel into a thesis.

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About dawnemsellem

I am a librarian. I am very curious about all things. Try me! I haven't been bored yet.
This entry was posted in information literacy, social media. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Social media monsters and saviors

  1. I don’t tweet, but here’s a post from today that may qualify as part of the “scholarly information cycle” … and interest a Barnard alumna:

    http://gentlerereader.com/2012/01/25/ping-pong-with-mortimer-adler/

    Even if it qualifies as social media, I’m pretty sure that it’s not dangerous. Best wishes, good librarian.

    John

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