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Thing 5: Professional networks

March 1, 2013

Thing 5: Professional Networks

A medieval network

(Detail from London, British Library, MS Royal 13 B VIII, folio 8v – issued by the British Library under a Public Domain Mark.)

This image is of barnacled geese emerging from a tree. I’ve included it here as a representation of the weird way academic talent is nurtured and the crazy anachronism of digital networking and medieval studies. No? Ok, it’s a stretch, but I wanted to add something from the British Library’s Illuminated Manuscripts Catalogue and I couldn’t find a medieval spider in a web! (Very soon, I’ll post something on the BL’s sensible decision to put these images in the public domain.)

Our task for Thing 5 was to explore LinkedIn and Academia.edu. I wasn’t on either site so setting up my profiles was painfully time-consuming. Afterwards I found that my internet search results were improved so I suppose that’s a positive. I had a quick look at the networking capabilities on LinkedIn, but I don’t think I’ll be using them. LinkedIn has a poor reputation among my friends and colleagues in all professions. Complaints about random and useless contacts from recruiters, advertisers and strangers were common. Even my friends in marketing think it is a bit of a joke so I can’t imagine it will be much use for expanding my academic network. However, my marketing friends did insist that I have to have a LinkedIn profile, especially when job-seeking. It’s the Google-factor, apparently. So I will keep my static profile, but networking on the site does not seem a worthwhile use of my limited time.

Unsurprisingly academia.edu seems far more useful as an online CV because of the ability to add publications. It’s especially helpful to be able to add the ‘grey’ papers, e.g. conference presentations, since at this stage in my career I don’t have many ‘white?/black?/real?’ papers out yet. Initially I was also enamoured of the ‘feed’ that shows papers recently uploaded in my general research areas. But I soon realised that hardly any were truly relevant and reading them was just one more way to waste time on the internet. Potentially far more useful is the ‘follow’ function. I followed some of my peers and three more senior academics who have been very kind and encouraging over the last couple of years. I also followed one other academic who is working on two books very close to my own research interests. This last ‘connect’ makes me nervous as I’ve never met this person so it feels akin to stalking – I hope it is seen as a mark of respect and interest as I intended. It will be some time before I know whether my use of Academia.edu is constructive. As an online CV it seems useful, as an interactive tool for asking questions etc, I’m not convinced. I can contact most of my peers via other existing networks and a wider community via twitter. And the biggest limitation is that medievalists are noticeable by their absence. So rather than use Academia.edu as an interactive tool, I’m using it as a place where someone can view my CV and find links to my more interactive sites such as twitter and, eventually, this blog.

A postscript: Just when I thought I was done with online networking, a new site starts being heavily promoted: Global Academic Talent – it looks like a mixture of LinkedIn and Academia.edu with a bit of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ bling sprinkled on top. The main strength and purpose of GAT, according to its marketing emails, is to make us academics ‘visible to thousands of global news, conference and recruitment organisations who are looking for [our] expertise.’ Great …. but really? If someone wants experts, it wouldn’t take more than a couple of  searches and emails to find us, would it? We’re on LinkedIn after all. I have zero-interest in filling out yet another new online profile any time soon, but I’ll keep an eye on GAT and see what happens.

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From → DH 23 Things

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