I reflect on a conversation I had in a week full of conferences at the beginning of September and the development of a tool to help us, as educational developers, monitor the extent of our scholarly engagement.
I asked two colleagues about the extent of their unpaid commitment to self-development and scholarship. Like me, I knew both colleagues to be committed open scholars who frequently commit many hours of their own time to using social media professionally. We noted, with some awkwardness, our FOMO (Fear of missing out) and FOBO (Fear of being off-line). I quote,
“Curiosity drives me”
“Well, I just like it. If I pick up my iPad in the evening and tweet that’s great. I wouldn’t expect my team to do this though.”
The fact is we enjoy being digital scholars, being continually stimulated by connecting our ideas and questions with peers through social media. The problem is we may be establishing a self-exploitative work culture nonetheless. People like us are modelling behaviours that could be interpreted as exploitative or exclusive. How much do we talk with, or in the presence of, our peers about these informal commitments we make? To what extent do these comments imply informal engagement is not only acceptable, but expected and desirable? Do we need to think about devising protocols for acceptable behaviour? Is behaviour relating to the diffusion of boundaries through personal commitment just changing and something we should accept in this digital-social age?
“I would like to do what I’m doing as a paid job” one of my colleagues said. Yes I thought, I have thought that too. But equally, are we losing sight of what we are paid to do? Is social media more of a distraction that undermines the quality of our work?
Conversely, we live at a time of great social change. Scholars who are actively exploring this disrupted world and its meaning for higher education are aware of the opportunities and challenges that this open, digital and socially mediated trend affords them, personally and professionally, and institutionally. Developing an autoethnographic immersion in which we examine the dissolution of long-established boundaries between personal and professional lives seems to be quite a responsible and altruistic thing to do.
I am following up a discussion workshop I ran at ALT-C by writing a paper about the need to manage our professional engagement, as scholars and educational developers, with social media.