An interview with Mark Carrigan for the Social Scholar seminar

The second free public #socialscholar seminar on social media features Mark Carrigan talking specifically about ‘blogging’.  The emphasis will be on discussion, with Mark offering practical advice and encouraging us all to share ideas on how to get started as a research blogger.  We asked Mark a few questions ahead of Wednesday to find out more about him and what he has planned for us.

 

Hello Mark, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Mark CarriganI tend to describe myself as a sociologist and an academic technologist. At present I’m working as a consultant on an ESRC funded project at the Open University while finishing off my part-time PhD in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick. I’m a research associate at the LSE’s Public Policy Group and I used to be managing editor of the popular British Politics and Policy Blog based at the PPG. I also train and consult on the use of social media and the qualitative data analysis software NVivo. I guess I use the term ‘academic technologist’ because thus far it’s the least clumsy way I have found of describing the pretty diverse range of work I do beyond my core role as a researcher.

Much of what I’m interested in sociologically has tended to relate indirectly to the internet. So for instance my research on the emergence of the asexual community (people who do not experience sexual attraction) has tried to analyse this in terms of the role which the internet played in allowing geographically dispersed and emotionally isolated people to connect with each other and discuss their experiences. I also co-founded the British Sociological Association’s Digital Sociology Group last year and I’m particularly interested in trying to establish Digital Public Sociology as a practical programme of activity.

 

Why do you think Social Media is useful?

I think this question is too broad really. I’m a big advocate of trying to move beyond categories like ‘social media’ and instead approaching these things as particular tools which, given the prior interests of specific individuals, either will or won’t be useful to them. However this still necessitates some familiarity with what can be done with particular tools. So I’d encourage people to be attentive to the uses which other academics are making of social media, particularly those who work in a similar area or are at the same career stage. Look out for projects which interest you and try to articulate what it is you like about them.

Likewise it’s important to be clear about what you want to get out of using social media tools. I’ve noticed a transition in a relatively short space of time from an attitude of dismissiveness towards academic social media use to one of nervous anticipation. I worry sometimes that the value placed on ‘impact’ and ‘public engagement’ are engendering a fear of missing out in relation to social media. Ultimately, it’s unlikely that you will get much out of it if you’re only doing it because you feel you have to. It’s best to get acquainted with your options, choose one tool which appeals to you and try to follow the example of others as you get started. It’s much better to make a single social media tool a part of your day-to-day working life in a way you enjoy than it is to set up accounts across a range of platforms and subsequently stress yourself out because of your (entirely understandable) inability to keep them updated in a sustained way.

 

What can we expect from you at the Social Scholar?

shutterstock_131556587In keeping with what I’ve argued above, my plan for the session is to focus on the different ways in which academics are using blogging to great effect. I’m going to talk about my own experiences of blogging, both at markcarrigan.net and sociologicalimagination.org, as well as introducing some of the projects I’ve been involved with in the past in one form or another. My intention is start an open discussion about what interest blogging holds for people in the room, what their previous experiences have been and what they’d like to achieve through blogging in the future. I’ll be signposting a lot of blogging projects but I’ll be doing so with the intention of offering examples which can help people who are taking part on the day come to a clearer understanding of why and how they would blog as academics.

 

Mark Carrigan will be talking at the Social Scholar in room 246, Senate House (University of London) at 1pm-2pm on Wednesday 13 November 2013.  The seminar is free and open to all with coffee & tea provided.  Please feel free to join us.  Please RSVP where possible to help us with catering numbers to matt.phillpott@sas.ac.uk.  We will also be tweeting from the session on @SASNews using the hashtag #socialscholar.  For full details check our previous blog post introducing the seminar: Getting started as a Research Blogger: Single Authored or Multi Authored Blogs?  Social Scholar forthcoming event.

To learn more about the public events held by the School of Advanced Study and our other activities please go to our website SAS.ac.uk

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