I’ve already shared this bit of personal news with a few friends and colleagues, but I thought I’d blog about it as well — especially since I’m woefully behind on my Iron Blogger schedule. ;-)

After a fairly long time in the making, I have been awarded a three-year research grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for the project Networking, visibility, information: a study of digital genres of scholarly communication and the motives of their users (summary in German on the DFG’s site). The project investigates new forms of scholarly communication (especially blogging and Twitter) and their role for academia. My key concerns are usage motives, i.e. why scholars use blogs and Twitter, and how these motives correspond with usage practices (how they blog and tweet), rather than how many researchers use these channels of communication or what makes them refrain from using them (see this blog post and the study mentioned in it for that kind of work). My main methods will be qualitative interviews with a sample of 20-25 blogging and/or tweeting academics, along with in-depth content analysis of the material they post in these channels over a prolonged period (>1 year). Identifying usage patterns and relating them to the participants’ narrative about their use will be another key objective. Ultimately, I hope to find a (tentative) answer to the question what role blogs and Twitter may play for the future of digital scholarship, and whether they will remain a niche phenomenon or become mainstream over time.

The project follows up on my work on corporate blogging and connects strongly to what we have been doing at the Junior Researchers Group “Science and the Internet” over the past year, but the focus on interviews should result in a more user-centric analysis. As someone who has been doing (applied) linguistic analysis to make inferences about social processes, I feel much more comfortable actually talking to the people I want to study, rather than just crunching numbers on how they tweet. Big data social science research is obviously and understandably en vogue these days, but I hope to find a good synergy between qualitative and quantitative approaches in my project.

My new institutional home for the next three years will be the Berlin School of Library and Information Science at Humboldt University. I’m grateful to Michael Seadle for supporting my project and really look forward to working with my new colleagues at IBI (that’s the German acronym, which, as far as I can tell, is preferred to its more entertaining English equivalent). I also look forward to working with colleagues from the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) where I’m currently supporting the project Regulation Watch. Finally, I plan to keep in close contact with the colleagues in Düsseldorf, both at the Junior Researchers Group and the Department of English Language and Linguistics, where I have learned virtually everything I know about being a researcher. I am especially indebted to Dieter Stein for his enduring support and for his contagious enthusiasm for all aspects of scholarship.

Sic itur ad astra! :-)

For an overview of previous work I’ve done in this direction, have a look at my publications.

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Microblogging services such as Twitter and FriendFeed appear to be steadily gaining popularity among academics for work-related purposes (communication at conferences, discussion of publications, casual conversation). As part of a larger project on the evolution of scholarly communication I am today launching a study of academic uses of Twitter across disciplines.

One component of this study will be a corpus of tweets by international scholars from different fields over the course of one year. This corpus will be assembled via the account @scientwists, an automated user controlled via the Twitter API, and made available in the public domain after completion. The @scientwists account will follow a list of scholars put together from several sources, starting with this list assembled by David Bradley.*

The corpus will be anonymized, i.e. user names will not be legible. It will also be possible to exclude individual posts from the corpus via use of the hashtag #exclude. However, if you receive a notification that @scientwists is following you and you would prefer for your tweets not to be included in the corpus at all, please simply block @scientwists.

If you have questions or suggestions, please be sure to contact me on Twitter or via email.

- Cornelius Puschmann, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf (about me)

Note: if you are not an academic and are being followed by @scientwists2 you have been randomly included in the control group for this study. Please block @scientwists2 if you prefer your tweets not to be used.

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