Making Academia More Social – Opportunities in Social Media

Many academics lament that their books and articles just collect dust on library shelves, never to be seen again.  Now with the rise of the digital age, there is a solution to this problem.  People are constantly reading away on their Ipads or tablets, but contrary to popular opinion, most of the internet lacks good content.  You can only facebook or tweet so much before you get bored.  Internet users need content to read, watch, and listen.

The younger generation that is now growing up with social media and expects that information to be more accessible.  The major problem with current academic publishers is that they are trapped back in the dinosaur age.  When Salon, HuffPost, and others are experimenting with an open access platform, academic journals are stuck with stodgy and stingy article databases.

Really, all of academia is behind the times, but there is still hope.  A number of academics now have blogs such as NeuroAnthropology on PLoSBlogs.  There have been several initiatives like PLoS, eLife, and now the World Economics Association to create open access journals and an open review system.  There was also a conference that KU Journalism hosted.  KU Journalism put a live UStream up for the conference proceedings and created a twitter hash tag to answer questions (link).  UStream has changed since then, so now it is possible to chat directly on UStream.

Hopefully, these recent developments will pave the way for academics to interact with the public.  In the future, it should also bring down publishing costs as it becomes easier and cheaper to create open-access journals.  In addition, conferences could incorporate LiveStream to make conference presentations open to the public and interactive.

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On to Namibia?

As in all good stories, the protagonist will go to a far off and romantic place for the sake of love.  I originally met my fiance in South Africa where we were both students.  I was on study abroad and he was getting his degree in South Africa.  We are finally finishing up our degrees next year, so at last we will be able to marry and be together in the same country.

I still want to further my education by getting an MA and PhD in Sociology at the University of Namibia.  I have seen on various forums in the Chronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere that foreign PhDs are not as highly regarded as American PhDs.  From knowing lots of PhDs here in America, I really cannot see this comparison being valid.  Not to knock American PhDs, but it seems that American programs just have more social capital rather than research excellence.

PhD advisers in the American programs are more likely to be connected with American associations and American journals.  This is not really a function of research excellence, but really a result of American cultural hegemony.  It also helps that America has one of the world’s highest GDPs and is the world’s largest economy.

I went to the American Anthropology Association’s annual meeting in November 2010 as a naive student.  I was really shocked when I only found other Americans there plus some Europeans and one Japanese guy.   In turn, it is also shocking to see that hardly an American students are going to non-Anglophone countries for PhD work.  I could get a PhD in America, but I would be mostly be in America reading about other cultures, instead of actually living in another culture.  Well, most PhD programs have their students study a culture for a year or two, then come back to America to write up the dissertation.

Maybe I am just being fooled by a naive idea that academia is ruled by meritocracy and not oligarchy.  I hope that academia will become more meritocratic in practice in the near future.  This will be partially due to the greater access to digital technology which will help to make research libraries less important and information more accessible.

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What this blog is about : )

I am currently an Anthropology major at the University of South Florida – Tampa.  I have started this blog, because I am interested in continuing research in Anthropology.  I thought about keeping a diary, but that would be kind of boring.  I am looking to create an interactive blog and website to share and debate current social science research.

I don’t want this blog to be completely dry and boring, so I may occasionally add pictures of my travels or talk about my life.

When I was in Ghana, I tried to start a blog on Blogger, but with little success.  I guess that I just didn’t have the commitment nor drive to continue.  Plus the dial-up connection was really slow.

I am now committed to keep-up the blog – thank you broadband.  So, I start my journey from a poor student to a broke professor (hopefully a professor, but not the broke part), I will document my journey through academia and life.

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