In December 2013 the Social Scholar looked into issues of ethics in regards to social media publishing. Anne Alexander (Cambridge) explored the dangers of ‘publishing’ online and suggested advice to avoid the potential pitfalls.  This ‘archive’ post summarises what Anne said, and contains the video footage.

The video is available from the SAS websiteYouTube, and iTunes


Seminars, workshops, and conferences looking at issues of social media often fall into the trap of only advocating social media tools as always beneficial, leaving it up to the audience to raise their fears and concerns and the speaker trying to defend their supportive stance.  There is certainly a place for such events and a beneficial outcome can be achieved from them. However, this is not what we want the Social Scholar to become.

The seminar is intended as an informal occasion to discuss issues surrounding social media, whether positive appraisals of what these tools can offer or to focus on the difficulties and problems.

The third session of the Social Scholar certainly fell into the second camp. Anne Alexander began with a reminder that more or less all social media tools are owned by companies trying to make a profit. This is an important point and one well worth remembering. Whether or not this fact is something that we should be concerned about is another matter.

Anne-Alexander-370newSecondly, Anne reminded us that although much of social media is transient (i.e. appears then disappears quickly and easily) content rarely vanishes altogether. Whatever you say on Twitter, for example, will stay there, get repeated and often segregated from its original context.

The benefit of social media is in its two-way interactivity and its ability to circumvent traditional gatekeepers within institutions to allow you, as an individual researcher or worker, to talk about the things you do in a freer and more informal way. The downside is just the same. By circumventing the gatekeepers who are there to ensure that all public communications are correct, safe and appropriate, you are more open to negative returns if you make a mistake or post something ill-conceived or controversial.

We have all heard the terror stories of what can happen with an ill-thought tweet.  Is this something that we should worry about?  The answer seems to be yes and no.  Anne argued for self-awareness and an everyday ethical approach to using social media.  Although guidelines from institutions can be useful, she did not want to see those rigidly applied.

Throughout the presentation Anne mentioned various examples.  Here is an annotated list of a few of those:

The next Social Scholar seminar will take place on 19 February 2014.  You are warmly invited to join us. We are very pleased to have two speakers from the Museums sector this time around. Kajsa Hartig, Digital Navigator for the Nordic Museum in Sweden and Kat Box, marketing officer for the Manchester Museum will be talking about how museums use social media and what higher education institutions might learn from that use.

The event takes place in room 103, Senate House (University of London) at 1pm-2pm on Wednesday 19 February 2014.  The seminar is FREE and open to all.

We will also be tweeting from the session on @SASNews using the hashtag #socialscholar.   

For forthcoming events from the Social Scholar check the schedule page. To learn more about the public events held by the School of Advanced Study and our other activities please go to our website