Academics operate semi-autonomously: On one level they are believed to be independent experts in their field of study and both impart their knowledge to students and to other academics. On another level, they are employees in an elaborate system of higher education where the expectations are constantly there to connect to university strategic plans and to adopt the discourse of their institution in order that they might rise in the ranks and esteem within their microworlds. The contemporary academic identity can resemble what has emerged in the world of entertainment, sport and politics: a career driven by recognition, a sense of trying to draw attention to one’s work, and a constant effort to build reputation. By implication, the university benefits from the success that their academics achieve in reaching for these ends.
Very little research has engaged how academics manage their reputation and their personas in this elaborate higher education prestige economy. Academics work to define their identities as teachers and there are efforts by individual academics to build their teaching persona. Likewise, academics generally try to produce a research persona that may intersect with their teaching identities, but is constituted quite differently through connection to peers and evaluation by leaders in their fields. They may even try to build a reputation for “service” and administration within their institution that defines a third kind of persona. Overlaying all of this work is the way that reputations can be built has shifted somewhat in the era of online culture and social media. The contemporary academic now must often build a persona through the techniques of connection and networking that are now privileged in the knowledge economy. With universities imagining that they are operating at the centre of the production of the future of the knowledge economy, academics are now at the forefront of online reputation management - in other words, they need to construct their public persona online.
This paper reports a study of 15 academics and how they are managing and building their online academic persona. The study operated with a certain pragmatism: it asked academics what they were currently doing online and asked what they would like to do to manage their reputations. Through a longitudinal study of their online engagements, the study looked at how they could alter/improve their management and reputation online. This paper will include commentary from one of the participants in the project and then an open discussion about the contemporary academic persona.
Field of Research
200102 Communication Technology and Digital Media Studies 200212 Screen and Media Culture
Socio Economic Objective
970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
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