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I’m deviating from the DH23 Thing 3 task this week as bibliometrics is not really relevant to me as a communications person not researcher. I was though interested in the Guardian Higher Education chat on altmetrics so have chosen this as the starting point for my blog this week.

I take the probably unremarkable stance that you can use social media and blogging to increase the reach of academic impact but not yet as a measurable indicator of impact. For a start social media metrics are often poorly calculated and even more poorly understood. Moreover, in academia, quantity is rarely a marker of quality – so many retweets and web hits is not usually the goal. A humanities researcher would usually far rather have a few engaged readers than many who don’t give their work attention. And attention span is one of the trials of social media like Twitter. Like most, I retweet things that look interesting even if I haven’t always had time to read the full piece myself, in the hope that one of my followers will have the luxury of a coffee break (it’s almost term time in Cambridge so things are rather frenetic).

Another question that came through in the Guardian discussion and article on altmetrics was whether having a blog or using social media relates to societal impact (think, if you’re not already, REF). Surely it might indicate someone’s influence but you can’t judge the impact without having much more than statistics? You’d want to know who was reading and engaging with content, to know whether it was just the scholars’ family or independent researchers etc. There is a less assured link between research quality and blogs or social media activity which may change as moves continue to open access.

Not entirely unrelated: I often tweet from CRASSH events – as a means of note-taking, passing on nuggets of information to followers who aren’t at the lecture, creating an archive for future reference – and this week at Ludmilla Jordanova’s lecture on Talking about Things I joined Katy Barrett tweeting. If you look at the storify of the event you can see a marked different in our styles of tweeting. From @CRASSHpublicity you get tweets that report on the event whereas from @SpoonsonTrays you get that but also additional commentary and links to other areas of debate and other contexts. I think this difference in content is illuminating in highlighting the problems of using social media to judge impact. Altmetrics needs to move yet further away from measuring numbers of interaction to the content and agents of that interaction.

And to wrap up the reflective framework this week. I just tweeted about this post using #almetrics my tweet now shows up in a feed on the altmetrics manifesto website which makes me wish that this was a better informed and researched piece than it is! Of course the DH23Things programme is meant to move us out of our comfort zone of expertise. But one of the disadvantages of writing this post as a blog rather than say as a comment as part of the Guardian Higher Education chat is that it too comes to seem more of manifesto than it was meant to be. Blogging is a rather risky way to try out new ideas if it isn’t interrogated by comments and conversations with other bloggers. I hope some comments to this piece will be forthcoming.

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