22 June 2017

Academics and their Social Media Presence

Thao Nelson from Indiana University wrote an article for Maclean's entitled Dear students, what you post can wreck your life. In this article, Nelson argues that students should think twice about posting any comment on social media that references (1) illegal drugs, sexual posts; (2) incriminating or embarrassing photos or videos; (3) profanity, defamatory or racist comments; (4) politically charged attacks; (5) spelling and grammar issues; or (6) complaining or bad-mouthing. Nelson admonishes:
Would you want a future boss, admissions officer, or blind date to read or see it? If not, don’t post it. If you already have, delete it because social media becomes part of a person’s brand—a brand that can help you or hurt you. If we ask this of our students, what should we be asking ourselves as anthropologists?

Nelson's set of guidelines follow our recent post about The Relationship between Social Justice & Anthropology that included the following sub-texts: (1) What is the connection between anthropology, social justice, and activism? (2) What is the role of anthropologists in the current context of terror and terrorism as it may affect our interlocuters and field sites?

Arguably the most common outlet for activism is social media which raises the next question: What is the role and where are the boundaries for academics who engage as public intellectuals or, are recognized as academics (working for specific institutions that may receive blow back or which are associated with 'said' academic's opinions) in the public sphere?

In Frank Donoghue's article for The Chronicle for Higher Education: #WatchWhatYouSay, after detailing a few high profile cases of academics losing their jobs on account of their posts on social media, Donoghue argues that:
The originators of the concept of academic freedom could not have imagined Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs. Yet clearly the time has come to recognize the impact of social media on academic freedom — and the bottom line seems to be that it has created an environment in which it is increasingly difficult to differentiate private communication from public speech and to parse how that increasingly blurred line affects a professor’s protection under academic freedom. Those cases, which are far from simple, underscore the fact that professors’ audiences now extend far beyond those who attend lectures and read scholarly articles.
In 2015, Elizabeth Raymer wrote an article 'Faculty in Canada may not need rules for using social media, observers say' for University Affairs which argued that Canada's social media context is different from academics in the U.S.. Raymer interviewed academics SFU’s School of Communication including Peter Chow-White who argued that,
"But social media guidelines are more about public behaviour", (...) adding that an assumed part of professional practice is not saying things that are inappropriate. “I’ve heard of social media guidelines for athletes at universities,” said Dr. Chow-White, "but when you’re in the business of ideas, the way we are, that’s your currency. The benefit you can bring to society is an open exchange of ideas."
Returning to the growing support for AltMetrics, are academics prepared? Has there been a shift since Raymer's 2015 article where Chow-White was also quoted as saying: (I'm) not sure professors necessarily need guidelines. We publish on a regular basis; if we can write articles and books … we probably don’t need to be told how to write a 140-character tweet.

We want to hear from you (on social media):
  1. Are you comfortable tweeting, blogging, and/or vlogging in the absence of a peer review process (that would accompany the articles and books that Chow-White describes)?
  2. Do you think Canadian academics require social media guidelines? Note: some Canadian universities or departments within universities have already adopted such guidelines.
  3. In 2017, is there a distinction between personal and professional social media presence?  
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19 June 2017

The Relationship between Social Justice & Anthropology

2017 on a whole has been a deadly year. This post was spurred by the terrorist attacks that we've seen in Western media but on a whole, many people - directly involved in conflict or not - have lost their lives or have been hurt by those labelled as terrorists. For a list of global terrorist incidents (which include those incidents not featured in North American media), you can follow this link.

The relationship between social justice and anthropology has been a topic of scholarly discussion and division within the anthropological community.

As scientists, anthropologists of the past were told to remain as neutral observers in the belief that their presence, if minimized, would not affect the goings-on around them. Yet, anthropologists have long since realized that their presence in the field and with their interlocutors impacts their work. Anthropologists themselves are instruments by which data are collected; as such, we necessarily influence and affect our surroundings and our research.

In addition to this scientific perspective, many anthropologists have been involved with issues of social justice and universal human rights as these topics were and are quite often the fodder for anthropological investigation (i.e. what sparked our research questions and interest). For example, in Deeb and Winegar's dissection of the outcome of the American Anthropological Association vote to boycott Israeli institutions on Savage Minds, they write:
Many anthropologists think that their discipline champions (or should champion) the voices and perspectives of the marginalized, yet some of its practitioners have colluded with colonial and state power. Anthropology has become a heavily feminized discipline since the second wave feminist movement and attracts many non-elite scholars, yet it remains largely white, like academia in general. Anthropology is the most resolutely international of the social sciences in its breadth of research sites and privileging of fieldwork done “elsewhere,” yet anthropologists based in the U.S. mainly cite their colleagues working in U.S. institutions. And anthropologists frequently identify as politically left leaning and critical of capitalism, yet continue to work in increasingly corporatized university environments.
Important themes in this discussion are anthropologists and their role in activism. In a recent discussion, Haley Bryant and Emily Cain provide an Introduction to “Ethnographer as Activist” where they "grapple with ethnography and advocacy in the field". In this piece, the authors discuss ethnography and activism through four lenses: audience, communication, visibility, and care.

When thinking about anthropology being everywhere in the context of recent global events and the increase of media coverage about terror and terrorism in North America and the world, it is at this point that the relationship between social justice, resistance, and the impact of anthropologists in everyday life is a very important discussion to continue.

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15 June 2017

An Anthropologist In Situ: Canadian Engineering Education Association 2017 Conference

As mentioned in our previous blog post, I recently spoke about the potential of bringing anthropological ethics into Engineering classrooms (as per my current teaching role).

I was accepted to speak at the CEEA conference which had Innovation and Diversity in Engineering Education as its theme.

As part of a special symposium on diversity, I wrote a paper on the role of team work workshops in developing a tolerance for diversity and self-reflection.

Below is the paper abstract:
In their quest to find work-ready graduates, employers are increasingly prioritizing graduates with so-called transferable skills. These transferable skills include critical thinking and problem-solving skills, communication skills, and the ability to work in diverse teams. With the plethora of engineering education literature on the topic of developing undergraduates’ teamwork abilities, there are numerous suggestions and little consensus on the best way to develop these skills in engineering classrooms. This paper adds to this literature and provides an overview of group work workshops for first-year undergraduates. The hope for these workshops was to better equip students for future group work activities by providing them easy-to-remember teamwork tools that were first learned and practiced in low-stakes workshop environments. Following their participation in these workshops, students participated in focus groups and feedback demonstrated an appreciation for these workshops as well as the opportunity to self-reflect on their role as a team member. Further, there appeared to be a shift in the awareness and tolerance of the diversity found among group members, which demonstrates a potential area for further investigation. The authors conclude with a call for more research in order to better understand the role of teamwork as a means for developing tolerance toward diversity among first-year undergraduate students. 

Important to Monday's post, these workshops incorporated:
  • The importance of using a holistic perspective to understand how all the parts of Engineering students' come and work together. 
  • Self-reflection to understand the power and privilege of their role and how that role is perceived with the community.
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