Transcript of "Tweet Research: Aggregating and Sharing Organizational Knowledge Work through Twitter"
Tweet Research: Aggregating and Sharing Organizational Knowledge Work through Twitter
As a scholar in Rhetoric, Writing Studies, and Knowledge Work, I have come to see Twitter as one of the
most effective and agile research technologies I have at my disposal, with tremendous potential for both
knowledge management and transfer. A social media application uniquely poised to take advantage of
increasingly ubiquitous computing technologies, Twitter has helped redefine ambient findability, mobile
connectedness, and affective and locational awareness. But the broader role of Twitter as a research
technology is rapidly emerging, and recent work with undergraduate professional communication students
leverages Twitter in exploring the social dynamics of knowledge work in an age of ubiquitous computing.
As a social act, research is fundamentally rhetorical; contemporary communicative technologies have
become essential to the work of doing research in a variety of professions, and increasingly, mobility and
real-time access have pushed the limits of research beyond the lab, office, classroom, and archive. In
distributed work environments—where such technologies have become commonplace—the agile
aggregation and sharing of information is key to the everyday practices of knowledge workers. When
deployed strategically in the interests of research and knowledge management, Twitter is an application
that is extraordinarily effective at mediating organizational knowledge work, acting as a constantly
shifting conduit of information that has the broader potential of blurring disciplinary and professional
domains of research.
In my Workplace Writing and Organizational Communication course (a required sophomore through
senior level course for majors in the College of Business Administration), we talk consistently about the
role of rhetoric and writing—especially as manifested in digital media environments like Facebook,
Twitter, and corporate blogs—within an organization’s identity, image, and brand management/reputation
strategies. Four of my students and I have taken these core ideas beyond the classroom, and are currently
researching corporate brand management and social media with the goal of presenting our work at a large
regional conference in February, 2009 (the SW/TX PCA/ACA).
One of the ways that we are sharing and disseminating research is by actually using the social media we
are simultaneously studying. For example, I posted the following “tweets” (posts to Twitter) for the
benefit of my Twitter community, in the hopes that they too will contribute to our project:
The hashtag “#3355” in the second tweet allows those of us working or contributing to this research
project to easily aggregate and store information for retrieval and re-use in a way that’s far more agile and
mobile than email. For example, below is a list of recent research I posted with the tag #3355:
Our work not only explores the possibilities of “tweet research” as an infrastructural mediator of
contemporary knowledge work, it allows us to examine Twitter as a ubiquitous computing technology
that can contribute to meaningful sustained learning, knowledge management, and knowledge transfer.
In this sense, we’re using Twitter to track and research professionals in the area that we’re exploring
(such as Jeremiah Owyang, a Senior Social Computing analyst for Forrester Research, Daniela Barbosa of
Dow Jones, Peter West of Continuous Innovation, or Scott Barnes, Rich Platforms Product Manager at
Microsoft), while also deploying Twitter as a tool to collate and share such research. For example, one of
my students is focusing on intercultural issues in social media (and relationships to brand and reputation
management amongst different cultural groups), and as a part of her research, she posts interesting finds
for group use (and that of the larger Twitter community):
These experiences allow our group to develop potentially new approaches to the discursive relationships
between ubiquitous computing and corporate brand management, with the ultimate goal of contributing to
the disciplinary knowledge of Rhetoric and Writing Studies and Professional Communication. Moreover,
this research builds directly from the work that begins in the classroom, exploring and extending theories
of discourse, change, and content management from scholars like Brenton Faber and Bill Hart-Davidson.
Brian J. McNely
University of Texas at El Paso