Public Sociology in the Digital EraJessie Daniels, PhDRutgers University - Sociology DepartmentMay 2, 2013
Twitter: @JessieNYC#sociology #HigherEd#PhDchat #altmetrics
3public sociology
4"Academics are living in afools paradise if they thinkthey can hold on to theirivory tower.The public is no longerprepare...
6legacy academic scholarship
7learning from journalism
8pre-21st century, analog, closed,removed from the publicsphere, monastic.“legacy”
9This was the only option for publishing.
10We typed words & paragraphs on paper.
11That technology had some problems.
12This was “cut and paste.”
13This is where we would goto find & read information.
14This is how welooked things up.
15Many journals or books not open & accessible.
Measuring “Impact”
How many inches?
19expansion of digital technologies
21changing scholarship
39changing pedagogy
47changing activism
52changing the scholar-activist
59Unique Visitors (each month): ~ 200,000Total Visitors (since 2007): 2.4 million
60Individual Blog Posts: 1,466Comments from readers: 10,173Subscribers: 1,771Authors: 108
62publishing is changing
69how we measuresuccessis changing
New Metrics for Measuring Academic Success
7621st century, digital, open,connected to the publicsphere, worldly.“digital”
79funding is changing
Digital Media Training for Academicsin Collaboration with CUNY J-School
103videos open to anyone
104readings open to anyone
1072004 ASA Presidential Addresszeromentions of “digital” or“Internet”
109reimagining scholarlycommunication for thepublic goodin the digital era
Twitter: @JessieNYC#sociology #PhDchat#highered #altmetricsThank you!If you’d like to continue theconversation:
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
Public Sociology in the Digital Era
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Public Sociology in the Digital Era


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  • Many thanks to Arlene Stein for inviting me, Rutgers Sociology for hosting me, and Steve Grimes for excellent companionship on the ride over... Card Catalog Image from:
  • Please feel empowered to live Tweet if you ’ re so inclined.... I might suggest these hashtags for our conversation today.
  • So.... what is “ public sociology ” ?
  • Clearly, we can ’ t talk about public sociology w/out talking about Burawoy. “ To Advance Sociology Must Not Retreat, ” Chronicle of Higher Education, 2004 Quote from: Image from: Wikipedia
  • In Brazil, Federico Henrique Cardosa, a sociology PhD, professor, author, and activist - became president of Brazil. Cardoso has worked to transform that country into one of the few places in the world where economic prosperity increasing, inequality is declining and human rights protections are expanding. Now that is public sociology that is worth something.
  • I want to draw a parallel... use language that they use in journalism to describe the kinds of changes they are dealing with...and apply it to academia. In journalism, they talk of “ legacy ” news organizations -- such as The Philadelphia Inquirer (now defunct) ~ which was based on print publication and newsstand purchase or home delivery option for economic viabililty. “ Legacy ” journalism. We have our own “ legacy ” model of academia with distinct characteristics...
  • There are many lessons that we can take from the transformations in journalism.... from “ legacy ” to “ born digital ” news organizations. I highly recommend C.W. Anderson ’ s new book, Rebuilding the News, as a kind of harbinger for some of what lay ahead for higher ed in the digital era. When I asked Anderson recently if he saw any parallels between journalism and higher ed, he said, “ how could I not? They are everywhere. ”
  • (Describe...then) I would argue that this is mostly going away, but in piecemeal fashion. What did this look like?
  • This was the only option for publishing. NYPL Image from here:
  • We typed words & paragraphs on paper. Image from here:
  • That technology had some problems. Image from here:
  • This was “ cut and paste. ” Image from here:
  • This is where we would go to find & read information. NYPL Rose Reading Room Image from here:
  • Lovely, but mostly gone now. Card Catalog Image from:
  • Periodicals room - mostly off limits. Image from here:
  • Social Sciences Citation Index tracks the number of times a particular work by an individual author is cited by others in the peer-reviewed literature.
  • People would take rulers, literally, to measure a scholar ’ s entry in the SSCI. Please write your own Freudian joke here...
  • There is definitely change coming in higher ed / academia ~ it ’ s a great time if you can be fluid, learn new things, adapt. I predict it may be less fun for you if this you are attached to old ways of doing things. Image from here:
  • There has been an expansion of digital technologies. For some, this has been ‘ transformative ’ because it is so different than the analog. For others who were “ born digital ” these are simply the way things are. Whichever group you fall into, these digital technologies have already begun transforming scholarly communication.
  • Simply put, the shift from analog to digital is about code.... coding information into binary code of 1 ’ s and 0 ’ s. When this happens, information - data - is easier to move around, edit, analyze. Image from here:
  • The shift from analog to digital & the explosion of different sorts of technologies are already affecting how we do our jobs as sociologists.
  • Rather than comb through a card catalog, we look things up on Google Scholar.
  • The whole notion of a “ library ” is now one that ’ s digital, distributed..... a real game-changer when it comes to libraries in the digital era. /
  • It ’ s important to have the physical building which we still use.....
  • ...but as scholars, we *expect* ~ even demand ~ that there are digital tools within those libraries that we can use from any location.
  • Digital technologies have changed how we keep track of citations, bibliographies......and, with tools like Zotero, we can create bibliographies, keep track of citations, and share them with others who have similar interests.
  • It ’ s changed how we write.... this is Commentpress....
  • ..which several people in the digital humanities have used.... to compile entire books, including a colleague...
  • Matthew K. Gold ’ s “ Debates in the Digital Humanities, ” an experiment in academic publishing.... and peer-to-peer review. (Read stats.)
  • Another DH scholar who used Commentpress - for her book Planned Obsolescence - writes that these new platforms are changing the way we think about publication, reading and peer review.
  • DH - very much ahead of sociology in their embrace of the digital in scholarly communication.
  • So ahead that there ’ s a national grants-making-org devoted to it.
  • ....and a wikiepedia entry detailing the 20 or so year history of DH.
  • And, when you look for “ digital sociology ” on wikipedia.... *crickets*
  • Some action starting to happen in the UK .... but *just* starting, nascent really.
  • DH - not without its problems...... has really effectively re-invigorated the white-male-cannon of literature.
  • And, now there is a move to “ transformDH ” - which is so so necessary.
  • recent open thread at DH POCO asked if DH was a refuge from r/c/g/s/d ?
  • digital technologies are changing how we teach.....and i don ’ t mean Blackboard (although, that ’ s part of it)
  • The NYTimes declared 2012 the year of the MOOC
  • The term “ MOOC ” coined by Dave Cormier (2008)... there ’ s something to this. “ built for a world where information is everywhere of learning in a networked world ” a way to connect & collaborate promotes life-learning, authentic networks
  • MOOCs - the big buzzword in higher ed right now
  • Lots of corporate players, like Coursera......
  • And, lots of high profile interest in this move, some even calling it a “ revolution ” in the universities.
  • We have our own... .more about that in a moment.
  • The FemTechNet project.
  • digital technologies are also changing activism.....
  • Battle for Seattle....from 1999, much of it was organized online in places that cops didn ’ t know about, part of what made it so effective, because protestors kept showing up in new places that weren ’ t being anticipated by law enforcement.
  • Kahn & Kellner “ New media and internet activism: from the ‘ Battle of Seattle ’ to blogging ” New Media & Society February 2004 vol. 6 no. 1 87-95.
  • March to protest the unlawful, unjust arrest of six African American teens in Jena, Louisiana, referred to as the “ Jena 6. ” The marches of thousands of people were organized largely online in 2006-07).
  • And, Occupy Wall Street which sociologists tend to lionize as a ‘ real ’ social movement....would not have been possible at the scale at which it took off w/out organizing via Internet. image from:
  • digital technologies also changing what it means to be a scholar-activist....
  • Joe R. Feagin and I began discussing establishing a scholarly blog in about 2004-2005. We finally did it in spring, 2007. Early screenshot fromRacism Review, 2007.
  • Joe and I both conceptualize what we ’ re doing with the RR blog as a form of intellectual activism, the work of digitally-engaged scholar-activists. For more on intellectual activism, see PHCollins ’ latest book.
  • The backend... which, if we were going to approach advertisers, is what we would show people.
  • The big numbers.
  • In some ways, these numbers are more important... they ’ re smaller, but they speak to sustained engagement.
  • This is what a “ new post ” looks like in the back-end of WordPress... mostly identical across blogs on this platform. The key here is that blue button on the right.... “ Publish ”
  • Part of what ’ s changing about publishing has to do with changing views of copyright. Beyond my scope here to fully explore copyright, but Larry Lessig explains this. Do watch this talk if you haven ’ t seen it:
  • There is a lot wrong with academic publishing.... and lots of people are seeing that now. What ’ s wrong with it?
  • Graphic content by Jill Cirasella. Graphic designed by Les Larue: /
  • Academics stash their research in places, like JSTOR, that most people can ’ t access.
  • Some even argue it ’ s immoral... Source:
  • Another resource about this....
  • all these changes in scholarship, pedagogy + publishing means that there are ways that the ways we measure success is changing, too.
  • We ’ re shifting from ‘ metrics ’ to ‘ altmetrics. ’
  • So, for example, Jeff Jarvis (CUNY colleague) has 120,003 Twitter followers. That ’ s a kind of “ altmetric ” - a measure of his reach and influence. Increasingly, book publishers - even some employers - look for evidence of your reach on particular platforms before awarding book contracts, even some jobs. Less so in academia, but on its way.
  • “ As the volume of academic literature explodes, scholars rely on filters to select the most relevant and significant sources from the rest. Unfortunately, scholarship ’ s three main filters for importance are failing... ” Source:
  • “ No one can read everything.  We rely on filters to make sense of the scholarly literature, but the narrow, traditional filters are being swamped. However, the growth of new, online scholarly tools allows us to make new filters; these altmetrics reflect the broad, rapid impact of scholarship in this burgeoning ecosystem. We call for more tools and research based on altmetrics... ” Source:
  • It might be useful to think about the way scholarship is changing in the digital era - as a shift from 20th c. models of creating “ knowledge products ” - to 21st century model of creating “ knowledge streams. ” With products - you count their impact once - with “ knowledge streams ” – you can also count various aspects of distribution - such as number of downloads, unique visitors to your blog, number of Twitter followers - which can have a much wider impact.
  • These new kinds of knowledge streams (and measurement) don ’ t replace the “ knowledge products ” of traditional academia they augment those. For example, when you write submit a paper to traditional, peer-reviewed journal you want to think about optimizing the title of that paper for search engines. As another example, a peer-reviewed article that gets Tweeted will get more citations in the traditional academic literature.
  • Academic scholarship is being transformed in the digital era. In contrast to the 20th c. legacy model, the emerging, 21st c. model of academic scholarship is digital, open, connected to the public sphere, worldly. This has profound implications for our understanding of public sociology.
  • However, this is not a complete transition from a “ legacy ” past that is behind us, and a “ digital ” present or future. The legacy and the digital are imbricated and overlap in the here and now.
  • We are also living in a global (certainly US, UK + Western Europe) context of ‘ austerity ’ - which is the lie that we ’ re out of money but reflects the reality of economic inequality and that the rich and super-rich will not invest in public goods and services. Image from here:
  • The politics of austerity mean that the funding landscape of higher ed is changing.
  • Political attacks on higher ed in the US are changing the landscape of funding... Screenshot from here:
  • “ ...Coburn managed to prohibit any funds for NSF-funded political science unless it was somehow “ promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States. ” He ’ d tried to put the ax to NSF ’ s political science funds before, and failed. But that tighter definition allowed him to argue that the funds could exist, as long as they weren ’ t squandered. ” Source:
  • A different landscape in the UK, where there is an overall committment to funding higher ed. Still REF means that the funding is tied to demonstrated “ research excellence, ” part of which relies on evidence of “ impact ” on wider publics. Lots of good information on this effort, at the LSE Impact Blog:
  • No longer any broad commitment to funding state-funded public institutions of higher ed, at least when you look at data from state budgets, like this one from GA.... Image from here:
  • ....and a very similar downward trend in funding from Washington State. Every state in the US is following a similar pattern. This means that faculty have to be more entrpreneurial in securing their own funding for research (much like journalists are now considering ways to be entrepreneurial as a response to changing business model in news) . Image from here:
  • And, of course, there ’ s very bad news in academia regarding the way we hire (or don ’ t hire) faculty. 73%=76% of all instructional workforce in higher ed = adjunct faculty. Image from here:
  • Given the grim prospects for legacy tenure-track jobs in the academy, a lot of people w/ PhDs are going to do other things with those skills. Image from here:
  • In academia, as elsewhere, we ’ re faced with competing forces of commercialization vs. democratization (as Robert Darnton, DPLA noted in a recent talk at the GC). The political economy of austerity - up to and including slashes in funding to public institutions of higher ed, the adjunctification of the academic workforce, and the attacks on funding such as the Coburn amendment - point to this broad conflict between forces of commercialization and forces of democratization. I think that we, as academics, sometimes conflate the “ commerce v. democracy “ struggle with the transformation from “ legacy ” to “ digital ” forms of scholarly communication.
  • Given this context, what are academics to do to resist the forces of commercialization? I argue that owning the content of your own professional identity is key to this... For most faculty, their "web presence" is a page on a departmental website that they have no control over and cannot change or update even if they wanted to. "Reclaiming the web" means owning your own domain name and managing it yourself, a move Jim Groom has put forward for students + I argue should be the default strategy for faculty. Too often academics, + especially sociologists want to "resist" commercialization by "refusing" the digital and I think this is misplaced and reflects a misunderstanding of the forces at play here. "reclaiming the web" - and owning our own words, our own professional identity is just one step.
  • Academics (at that handful with tenure) can also say “ no ” to publishing in places that don ’ t allow you to own your own work by retaining copyright.
  • Through blogging, sociologists can also open up a space between research and journalism in ways that are creative, interesting, and contribute to an engaged citizenry.
  • I share this screenshot of my Google scholar profile not as shameless self-promotion, but rather to illustrate how "reclaiming the web" + doing public sociology can work to your advantage in academia. This is part of how I moved back into academia from a detour I took to work in private industry at a tech startup. When I started the RR blog, I was a marginally employed academic, teaching as an adjunct, and trying to get published in “ legacy ” journals. At the same time, I was blogging regularly. Today, I ’ m tenured, full with a host of ‘ legacy ’ publications in traditional venues. But the reality is most people know me through my blog and Twitter presence, not my books or articles.
  • Increasingly, given the grim political economy of “ austerity ” and the many, many under-employed PhDs, I think that the affordances of digital technologies will create more and more entities like this one: / Started by a handful of Columbia U, PhD ’ s working as adjuncts who now run this which is basically fee-based classes in things like “ Visceral Theory: Affect and Embodiment, ” 5 weeks, cost $300.
  • Now, a little about our project, JustPublics@365. 365 = days of year, also address of the Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue. Grad Center tag line: “ The life of the mind in the heart of the city. ” In many ways, the project is a “ public sociology ” initiative.
  • Funded as a 1-year “ experiment, ” $550,000. Basically, like running a startup within a traditional academic institution. Challenging.
  • Doing a number of initiatives, including high profile events, POOC, creating KStreams, hosting MCamp workshops. Main website: /
  • Theorizing the Web (March, 2013) Image source:
  • danah boyd, Adrian Chen More about the event in the NY Observer: Image source:
  • The turn that we hope to make with JP365 is to move beyond simply “ digitizing. ” We ’ re looking to connect research to social justice....and activism in ways that can be tangibly measured.
  • Part of the way we ’ re doing that is by training academics in media + digital media skills through a unique collaboration between JP365, the Graduate Center + the CUNY J-School.
  • Another initiative within JP365 is the open, online course....
  • From “ massive ” to “ participatory, ” and in keeping with the roots of CUNY, truly serving the public through education that ’ s available to everyone.
  • My favorite session... ” What is the future of public housing? ” with longtime NYCHA housing advocate, Ethel Velez.
  • We made sure that all the videos, the real-time livestream as well as the edited, archived videos were open to anyone that wanted to view them (without registration).
  • Likewise, we wanted to make *all* of the readings available to anyone that wanted to read them - even if they didn ’ t have a CUNY login and even if they weren ’ t registered for the course on our site. This sort of commitment to “ openness ” is one of the major distinctions between our efforts and the large, corporate MOOCs, which among other short-comings, are not very “ open. ”
  • Making *all* these readings truly “ open ” turned out to be an enormous amount of work. Doing this work was led by our gracious, heroic, rock star librarians: Polly Thistlethwaite + Shawnta Smith. Incredibly proud of the collaborative effort to make this course truly OPEN. Taken together, the various elements of the JP365 project seek to reimagine scholarly communication in the digital era for the public good, and this is, fundamentally, how I see public sociology.
  • To summarize then, the current state of affairs in higher ed looks something like this. On the one hand, we have the grim political economy of “ austerity, ” declining support for state-funded public education and attacks on other funding mechanisms like NSF. On the other hand, we have these amazing new opportunities to do our work in new ways, and make that work open to a wider publics. In Darnton ’ s terms, we are caught in the middle of the colliding forces of commercialization + democratization at the same time institutions of higher ed are making the transition from “ legacy ” to “ digital ” modes of operation.
  • This is where I ’ m critical of Burawoy ’ s take on “ public sociology ” because it so completely ignores the digital and the way that this is central to thinking about “ public sociology ” in the 21st century. To be fair, under Burawoy the ISA ran an online course....and in his remarks at the BSA meetings (2012) and the podcast following he makes more mention of the potential of the Internet for an engaged, public sociology. Burawoy ’ s lack of attention to the digital is problem is a discipline-wide problem (shocking, really, given the work of people like Manuel Castells). Image from: Wikipedia
  • In my view, this problem is exacerbated by the ASA Executive Office ’ s response to these issues which ranges from, at best, a decided lack of leadership, to - at worst, a very real obstructionism to efforts to bring sociology into the 21st century. To show real 21st c. leadership, the ASA executive ofc should be hiring a Director of Scholarly Communication & Digital Initiatives - as MLA & AHA have done..... From the 2005 ASA Task Force on Public Sociology, the only reference to “ the Internet ” is buried near the end. Here's paragraph, p.23: "The Internet, of course, is a vital communication tool today and for the past year the Task Force has maintained a public sociology web page. Ideally, this would be a link on the ASA web page and in order to institutionalize it, eventually ASA staff should maintain it. ...." That's it. I contend that we must do better than this.
  • Key takeaway: Sociology, as a discipline, must begin to reimagine scholarly communitcation for the public good in the digital era. If public sociology can find a way to be digitally engaged and more fluent in the digital lexicon of the 21st century in which we find ourselves, then, there is hope I believe for sociology to be a force for social good -- that is, an engaged citzenry & a more democratic and EQUAL society. If, instead, sociology chooses to remain invested in a dying legacy system of higher ed, invested in status wars and internecine theoretical debates, it will fade into irrelevancy. And, that will be too bad, not just for sociology as a field of study, but for the wider public sphere and current society which faces a host of problems that sociologists could help address, as the sociologist=president of Brazil - Cardosa - has shown us all. The future of public sociology is up to all of us.
  • Thanks & let's continue the conversation online.
  • Public Sociology in the Digital Era

    1. 1. Public Sociology in the Digital EraJessie Daniels, PhDRutgers University - Sociology DepartmentMay 2, 2013
    2. 2. Twitter: @JessieNYC#sociology #HigherEd#PhDchat #altmetrics
    3. 3. 3public sociology
    4. 4. 4"Academics are living in afools paradise if they thinkthey can hold on to theirivory tower.The public is no longerprepared to subsidize ouracademic pursuits.We have to demonstrate ourpublic worth."~ Michael Burawoy, 2004
    5. 5. 6legacy academic scholarship
    6. 6. 7learning from journalism
    7. 7. 8pre-21st century, analog, closed,removed from the publicsphere, monastic.“legacy”
    8. 8. 9This was the only option for publishing.
    9. 9. 10We typed words & paragraphs on paper.
    10. 10. 11That technology had some problems.
    11. 11. 12This was “cut and paste.”
    12. 12. 13This is where we would goto find & read information.
    13. 13. 14This is how welooked things up.
    14. 14. 15Many journals or books not open & accessible.
    15. 15. Measuring “Impact”
    16. 16. How many inches?
    17. 17. 18
    18. 18. 19expansion of digital technologies
    19. 19. 20
    20. 20. 21changing scholarship
    21. 21. 22
    22. 22. 23
    23. 23. 24
    24. 24. 25
    25. 25. 26
    26. 26. 27
    27. 27. 28
    28. 28. 29
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    30. 30. 32
    31. 31. 33
    32. 32. 34
    33. 33. 35
    34. 34. 36
    35. 35. 37
    36. 36. 38
    37. 37. 39changing pedagogy
    38. 38. 40
    39. 39. 41
    40. 40. 44
    41. 41. 45
    42. 42. 46
    43. 43. 47changing activism
    44. 44. 51
    45. 45. 52changing the scholar-activist
    46. 46. 2004
    47. 47. 57
    48. 48. 58
    49. 49. 59Unique Visitors (each month): ~ 200,000Total Visitors (since 2007): 2.4 million
    50. 50. 60Individual Blog Posts: 1,466Comments from readers: 10,173Subscribers: 1,771Authors: 108
    51. 51. 61
    52. 52. 62publishing is changing
    53. 53. 63
    54. 54. 64
    55. 55. 65
    56. 56. 66
    57. 57. 67
    58. 58. 68
    59. 59. 69how we measuresuccessis changing
    60. 60. 70‘altmetrics’metrics
    61. 61. New Metrics for Measuring Academic Success
    62. 62. 7621st century, digital, open,connected to the publicsphere, worldly.“digital”
    63. 63. 77digitallegacy
    64. 64. 78
    65. 65. 79funding is changing
    66. 66. 80
    67. 67. 81
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    73. 73. 87democracycommerce
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    83. 83. 98
    84. 84. Digital Media Training for Academicsin Collaboration with CUNY J-School
    85. 85. 100
    86. 86. 101
    87. 87. 102
    88. 88. 103videos open to anyone
    89. 89. 104readings open to anyone
    90. 90. 105
    91. 91. 106
    92. 92. 1072004 ASA Presidential Addresszeromentions of “digital” or“Internet”
    93. 93. 108
    94. 94. 109reimagining scholarlycommunication for thepublic goodin the digital era
    95. 95. Twitter: @JessieNYC#sociology #PhDchat#highered #altmetricsThank you!If you’d like to continue theconversation: