Saturday, July 20, 2013

It's Alive! #SocialMedia Musings

Image credit: EDUniverse: It’s Alive!
A New Approach to Communications
May 23, 2010, post rediscovered in Drafts. Let's apply digital electrodes and reconnect to find out if it's still alive. The general observations are still sound, but the links may not be. There are more drafts to check out and perhaps post, as well as back posts worth revisiting. Digital does not have to be ephemeral, posted and forgotten. Indeed, our all time most popular post, 2,489 views, a guest post by Jen Bills about the public service loan forgiveness program, dates back to 2009 ~ and still gets hits, 100+ just last month.

What has changed? Changes have been more quantitative and qualitative. We have more board and regular members blogging, using Facebook, Twitter, added more social media ~ YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, another bookmarking tool ~ and changed feed readers when  Google Reader closed. Far more important than tools, we are adding connections and growing our network that is part of a larger, loosely connected adjunct / contingent faculty network, substantial and growing. 

Briefly recapping the past 3+ years, brings us from then (April 2010) to now (July 2013). The first newsletter, Issue 1, Vol 1, April 27, 2010, included "Highlights of first year's activities" by Peter G. Brown and "NFM opens National HQ in Akron OH and establishes first chapter" by Matt Williams. Also in 2010: Jack Longmate and Franks Cosco developed Program for Change and presented it at COCAL IX in Quebec; we launched the Unemployment Compensation Initiative; future board member Curtis Keyes made news standing up to EWU. 

In 2011: MLA Conference started paying more attention to contingent faculty; Joe Berry and Bob Samuels put on a supplementary Counter Conference; we formed the NFM Foundation 501c(3) for grants, research and programs like the Summit; Health Insurance plan launched; we joined the newly formed Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) and began our collaboration with Delphi; Betsy Smith joined the Board. 

There were no newsletters in 2012, but we had the Summit; Josh Boldt started The Adjunct Project; the NFM Foundation collaborated with the Delphi Project, CFHE, and produced the Professor Staff Report. MLA 2013 was the year of the adjunct; "metro organizing" rules in Boston, D.C. and Pittsburgh; website and newsletter are in the process of moving to the Salsa platform, which also has petition, other action and better membership management features; Ohio and Chicago formed adjunct / contingent faculty groups under the NFM aegis; the board took on new members; the recent NFM Chicago Forum took the opening steps initiating a groundbreaking coalition building program.

Now, back to 2010...

I'd been meaning to blog about "NFM on social media" just in cast anyone missed the Facebook and Twitter buttons in the sidebar to the right, If you're here and reading this, you can't be 100% clueless about blogs. I doubt any internet user, academic or otherwise still is. Perhaps you arrived here by way of Facebook or Twitter. Just in case, I'll schedule a "back to basics" post sometime along the e-way. Until then I refer you to the links at the end of the post. notably The Use of Social Media in Higher Education and Social Media in Plain English.

Whether users of the academic persuasion take social media seriously or just use it casually is another matter. Degrees of enthusiasm vary from driving interest to skepticism. This post is for the confused and skeptical. The digitally driven (already yawning no doubt) can stop here but are welcome to continue, encouraged to add input. 

I started this as a way to think through a post in the works for a community blog and a column for issue two of the NFM newsletter ~ similar purposes with drastically different audiences. Whether or not either or both get published or spiked, thinking "out loud" in writing gets me started on the overview nature of any introduction, first chapter, post or column on any topic for any audience.

The basic questions are:
  • What is it/are they? 
  • Which are most useful / important?
  • How do we (NFM) use it? 
  • and, of course, "why?" 
Either/both "it"/"they" being, of course, social media. The questions are interconnected: answers/s to one determine answers to the others. Perhaps "why" should immediately follow "what" ~ or even precede it. There are more than we need or can possibly use. "Why" guides us to "which." 

Short answers are more challenging than long. Not everyone will have the same answers either. The short version: it's a conversation, a dialogue - not a monologue - using digital communication tools to share information, raise awareness, build relationships, interact with our constituency and others, and, above all, build community. As far as a definitive definition of social media, fuggeddaboutit ~ but please check the links at the end. 

Despite passing for NFM's default geek, I'm distinctly middle of the road on CMC (computer mediated communication), which includes but is not limited to social media. I use it. Like the old saw about driving a car, you don't need to understand the internal combustion engine to get from here to there. You don't have to be a programmer, a techno geek or a Digital Humanist to use social media to connect and communicate. 

References to social media and social networking are everywhere. Not even the academy is safe ground for anyone trying to avoid them, especially not the academy. "Digital Humanities" was the runaway hot topic at MLA 2009, front and center at AHA. The expression "social media" does not mean the same to everyone but - "short version" - refers to a broad range of computer mediated communication applications and platforms. 

At present NFM uses a blog (this one, The New Faculty Majority), a microblog (better known as Twitter, @New FacMajority), social bookmarking, and a social network page (New Faculty Majority on Facebook). In collecting material to blog, tweet and otherwise share online, I use all of them and have set them up so that one feeds into/ connects with the others as well as with the NFM main website. All are interconnected, with the Facebook page, public - no registration or sign up necessary for access - serving as a transfer point by automatically posting blog posts as they update, and sending all posted links to Twitter. No one has to use all of them to stay informed - or to commit your name or email to subscribe to any. Please visit one or all, leave a comment, write on our wall, make suggestions, ask questions.

I use social bookmarking, Google Alerts and a feed reader with interactive features to collect and organize online resources. These, along with the New Faculty Majority (static, Web 1.0) page, a Yahoo group for board communication and discussion, and, of course, email, make up our current online network.

More to come, until then, a few links, some marketing but all valid for organizing and advocacy.
Pay close attention to the part about social media being democratizing and non-hierarchical. You are part of the conversation, not just a member of the audience. Social media is not a magic solution; it's a tool we can use. The price is right too ~ unless letting go of authority and position in a hierarchy is too high a price to pay for having a voice. 

But wait, what authority and position do we have now anyway?


  1. I also do true social media strategy meaning I take a set of problems and come up with a solution that makes everyone happy and gets measurable results. I do community management and I’m good at it. Believe me, there is a lot more to it than Facebooking and Tweeting. I’m also working on two books not including the folders full of notes for future projects.

  2. Cygnis - the content of your comment is all generalization - no details or specifics. I suspect spam to follow as you try to hustle your SEO. If so the filter will nail you. Perhaps though, you have something intelligent to say on the subject. Please relate comments to using social media in higher education and academic labor advocacy.


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