Notes for Discussion: “Becoming a Public Scholar”

Tomorrow, the English Graduate Student Association here at EMU will be hosting a roundtable discussion entitled “Becoming a Public Scholar: Creating and Maintaining an Effective Scholarly Identity Online.” The first half of the title plays on the dual meaning of “becoming”: both the process of beginning to be and the state of being appropriate in a given context. This suggests the possibilities engendered by engaging in online communities and the risks posed by making our lives available online.

I felt that this is a particularly pressing issue for academics who are around my age, but maybe it’s equally relevant to older and younger scholars as well. I had my first “website” on Geocities when I was ten, maintained a Xanga blog during high school, and have had a Facebook account since 2006. In other words, if someone wanted to find every embarrassing, offensive, or overly personal thing I’ve ever said, they probably could. Now that I’m beginning to blog, tweet, and tumbl (?) in an attempt at professional networking, in spaces that are or could be visible to my students, my professors, potential employers, etc., how I comport myself online seems more important than ever.

I’ve also begun blogging (that’s what this is!) recently, and I wanted to hear from other people to know how blogging has worked for them. Chelsea Lonsdale will be present to talk about her experiences with blogging, and I hope some other people will be willing to share their experiences. I know some other grad students who are starting or will start blogs soon will be there to learn about it.

With those two main topics in mind, here are some of the questions that I’m posing for the discussion:

Social Media

  • How porous is the boundary between personal/private and professional/public?
  • Can I still have fun with social media?
  • What are the best social media sites to use for professional networking?


  • What is a research blog?
  • Should I blog about reading that I’m doing?
  • Should I blog my work in progress?
  • Is blogging a good use of time?
  • Does anyone use blogs anymore?

I also want to discuss, if we have time, the possibility of creating an EGSA blog that could link to student, faculty, and alumni blogs and social media accounts.

Unbeknownst to me at the time that I started thinking about this discussion, but beknownst to me now, there was a Profhacker article a few years ago with an uncannily similar title: “Creating and Maintaining a Professional Presence Online: A Roundup and Reflection.” If one of my students had done that, I’d be talking with them about plagiarism. Anyway, the reason that I found that article is that I’m preparing for the discussion tomorrow and wanted to post some of the resources I’m finding, both for those who are attending and for those who can’t. So there’s that article. There’s also these Profhacker articles (they write about this issue a lot). All of these articles have links to other resources, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here.

I’ll try to take good notes and write a post this weekend about what we discussed.


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